The Shanghai Volunteer Corps at Tsingtao 1914

Photo from the Library of Congress Collection

This is a very curious photograph. I first saw it published in "Die Deutsche Schutztruppe 1889/1918" by Werner Haupt captioned as men of the Tsingtau Landsturm in 1914. This version of the same photograph from the US Library of Congress has it captioned as "Defenders of Tsingtau". One would expect these men then to wear the uniforms of the III. Seebataillon. A closer inspection of their uniforms and equipment show that they were clearly not equipped at Tsingtao.

They are armed with the British Lee Metford Mark II rifle and have British 1903 Bandolier Equipment. While their tunics are of German cut with eight buttons down the front, pointed cuffs and German styled shoulder straps (with a crowned "H" monogram), they are probably made from British or Australian dark khaki. Their field caps look British but have a German imperial cockade above an eight pointed star badge with a scroll underlining it (see close up below). These are the uniforms of the German company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. The star cap badge is the international SVC badge and the "H" monogram on the shoulder strap is that of the German "Prinz Heinrich" company.

If this photograph was in fact taken at Tsingtao in 1914 these men must be some of those that made the trek from Shanghai to Tsingtao from the SVC to enlist as reservists for the defence of Tsingtao on the outbreak of the First World War. At least 40 Germans of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps are known to have served at the Siege of Tsingtao. They are mentioned as Prisoners of War in the diary of Paul Beushausen as having served in the 7. Kompagnie of the III. Seebataillon, a wartime formed unit of reservists and volunteers. It is not recorded if these men were re-equipped with Seebataillon uniforms and weapons at some stage or if they served as seen here in their Shanghai uniforms with British rifles.

Recommended Links
Our own page on the Shanghai Volunteer Corps
Tsingtau Info
The Diary of Paul Beushausen who mentions the SVC at Tsingtao
The Story of Wilhelm Meller an SVC soldier who served at Tsingtao
An article on Lee Metford Rifles on Military Rifles
An article on British 1903 Bandoliers at Karkee Web
This photo is discussed on the Pickelhaubes Forum

Thanks to Hans-Joachim Schmidt of the excellent Tsingtau Info website for his help on this topic.


Close Up of an NCO
Note the Imperial German cockade on the cap, the German NCOs large collar button and the British Rifle, Bandoliers and bayonet.

Close Up of a Volunteer
Note the SVC badge on the cap, the clear view of the Bandoliers and Lee-Metford rifle and the monogram of Prinz Heinrich of Prussia on the shoulder strap.

Close Up of a Volunteer
Again note the SVC badge on the cap, the clear view of the Bandoliers and the monogrammed shoulder strap insignia.

All photographs from the Library of Congress Collection

Please contact me here if you have other photographs of the German colonies or the soldiers and sailors that served there. I am especially keen to hear from people with family photograph collections and am always happy to try to assist in identifying uniforms, units, places and dates for family history research.

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