German East African Polizeitruppe 1892-1914

Figure 1
Polizeitruppe Wachtmeister

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4


Background to the East African Polizeitruppe
The police force ("Polizeitruppe") of German East Africa was formed on 1st March 1892. Prior to then police duties had been carried out by members of the Wissmanntruppe/Schutztruppe. From 1894/95, the Polizeitruppe were a separate force from the Schutztruppe, coming under the command of the colonial governor, rather than the Schutztruppe's military command.

They were primarily intended for police duties, collecting taxes and maintaining law and order, although they did at times take part in combat actions during times of rebellion and war in the colony. Many of the Polizeitruppe other ranks were former Schutztruppe askaris and while they were armed with the same Jägerbüsche 71 rifles (and later Maxim machine guns- and at least one period photograph shows them using artillery- see right), they were not fully trained up to Schutztruppe standards and were considered as second class soldiers. On the outbreak of the First World War they were incorporated into the Schutztruppe, forming additional Feldkompagnien.

Uniforms of the German Officers and NCOs of the Polizeitruppe of East Africa
The First Police Officers in East Africa
I have seen no photographs of Schutztruppe officers and NCOs on police duty prior to 1892. It seems reasonable to assume they would have worn their Schutztruppe Uniforms, possibly sometimes with the addition of a red sash worn over the right shoulder as worn by their askaris and by their counterparts in South West Africa at this time. I have likewise seen no photographs or uniform regulations for the Polizeitruppe dating from their formation in 1892. As the first Polizeitruppe NCOs were drafted from the Schutztruppe it again seems reasonable to assume they continued to wear Schutztruppe uniform until issued new Polizeitruppe uniforms.

White Tropical Uniform
Later a white tropical uniform (see right) was introduced specifically for the Polizeitruppe of most colonies. The tunic was based on the Schutztruppe 1896 tunic but without the blue piping. It had a stand and fall collar, four buttoned pleated patch pockets (the breast ones of which were slightly sloped inwards) with six brass buttons down the front each bearing the imperial crown. Privately purchased tunics often had slight variations such as higher standing collars, five buttons rather than six or omitting the hip pockets. Matching white trousers were worn.

Khaki Tropical Uniform
On active service a khaki uniform identical in cut and insignia to the white uniform was authorised. It appears from photographs that Polizeitruppe officers and NCOs sometimes wore a combination of the white and khaki uniforms and that mounted personnel may have worn corduroy riding breeches.

Rank Insignia
The rank insignia of the German NCOs and and officers in the Polizeitruppe of all colonies was worn on the shoulder straps on a red backing and consisted of yellow metallic thread edging and possibly a brass imperial eagle. The exact insignia for each rank is still a mystery to me, please email me here if you have any information to help on this topic.

Tropical Helmet
White tropical helmets were worn with an imperial cockade on the front. On 27th October 1906 a small yellow metal eagle was authorised to be worn above the cockade. On 16th March 1912 a cord in the imperial colours was authorised to be worn around the hatband for those with Wachtmeister rank. Khaki covers were worn over the white tropical helmets on active service.
Recommended Reading - "Tropenhelme der kaiserliche Marine, der Ostasiatischen Truppen und der Schutzruppen" by Ulrich Schiers (see Book Reviews Page)

Field Cap
Field caps worn by the Polizeitruppe were authorised in grey with black leather chinstraps and peaks, red hatbands and piping, and a small imperial cockade on the front. White field caps to match the white tropical uniform were also worn with the same peak, hatband and cockade.

Short brown leather boots were worn, sometimes with leather gaiters. White leather shoes were worn on parade.

Weapons and Equipment
Germans of all ranks in the Polizeitruppe were entitled to carry a sword. These are often seen in photographs but were probably not carried in action. Pistols were presumably carried in action as the side arm of preference, though I have found no records of which pistols or revolvers were issued. Most photographs show the Polizeitruppe officers wearing very little equipment, often simply an other ranks Schutztruppe belt- plain brown leather with an imperial belt buckle (see
Belt Buckle Details Page).

  Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a German Polizeitruppe NCO taken sometime between 1906 and 1914. He wears the white tropical uniform described above along with a white tropical helmet bearing an imperial eagle (authorised in 1906) and imperial cockade. He does not appear to be wearing the imperial coloured cord around the helmet band (authorised in 1912). He wears the white tropical uniform without piping as worn by German Polizeitruppe NCOs in most colonies. Curiously it appears that he has a rank chevron on his left sleeve, not usually worn by the Polizeitruppe. Perhaps it shows his previous Schutztruppe rank, if he was one of the personnel transferred from the Schutztruppe prior to 1906 when police NCOs were recruited from Germany. Or perhaps it is to show his equivalent Schutztruppe rank while serving alongside them. His police rank ("Wachtmeister") is shown on his red shoulder straps with yellow metallic braid. He carries a sword on parade, but presumably would not have done so in action. His trousers and shoes are in matching white as also only worn on parade.
Uniforms of the Askaris of the Polizeitruppe of East Africa  
The askaris of the Polizeitruppe wore the same uniforms as those of the Schutztruppe (see Schutztruppe Askaris 1890-96 and Schutztruppe Askaris 1896-1914) but with several small differences.

The first Polizeitruppe were only distinguished from the Schutztruppe by the wearing a a red sash over the right shoulder. The red sash was a distinguishing item worn by police forces in several German colonies (see South West African Landespolizei, Cameroon Polizeitruppe and Togo Polizeitruppe pages).

Later a white oval patch with a red letter "P" was worn on the upper left arm. The sash was generally discarded although at least one period photograph shows a Polizeitruppe askari wearing both the red sash and oval patch together.

The eagle worn on the front of the tarbush headdress was also larger than that of the Schutztruppe and made of yellow metal rather than the Schutztruppe's white metal. Tunic buttons for the Polizeitruppe were also yellow metal, again rather than white metal buttons as worn by Schutztruppe askaris.

When the First World War broke out the Polizeitruppe were incorporated into the Schutztruppe to form additional Feldkompagnien. Their Polizeitruppe insignia would presumably have been removed at this time (I have so far not seen any "P" badges worn on the arm in photographs taken after August 1914) and gradually their appearance would have become as irregular as that of other Schutztruppe askaris during the war (see Schutztruppe Askaris 1914-18).



Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a Sudanese Schutztruppe Askari in Police service taken in about 1891. He wears the short lived white askari parade uniform (see Schutztruppe Askaris 1890-96), dark blue/grey puttees and brown leather boots. His headdress seems to be some from of loose turban. He is armed with a Jägerbüsche 71 rifle and his equipment consists of a single large box ammunition pouch suspended on a brown leather belt. In short, he is dressed fairly typically for a Schutztruppe askari of the period, only the red sash worn over the right shoulder shows that he is currently on police duty.

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of a Polizeitruppe Askari taken around the time of the Maji-Maji Rebellion in 1905. He wears the red felt fez with black tassel issued to all askaris for off duty or light duty wear instead of the tarbush. He wears the khaki uniform worn by all askaris from the early 1890s onwards with white oval Polizeitruppe patch on the upper left arm. He wears the same brown leather equipment with a plain brass belt buckle as worn by the Schutztruppe but as a policeman involved in light duties (in the photograph upon which this illustration is based he is escorting African prisoners) he only carries one 1895 ammunition pouch for his Jägerbüsche 71 rifle. Like Schutztruppe askaris of the period he wears dark/blue grey puttees. Although like the Schutztruppe most Polizeitruppe askaris wore boots, this particular askari does not either through preference or shortage. 

Figure 4 is based on a photograph of a Polizeitruppe Askari NCO taken in 1914, either shortly before or after the outbreak of the First World War. He wears the same khaki uniform, tarbush, grey puttees, brown boots and equipment as worn by Schutztruppe askaris of the period but with a larger yellow metal eagle on his tarbush and a white oval Polizeitruppe patch above his rank chevron. His single red chevron denotes him as an Ombascha or Lance Corporal. Rank insignia for Polizeitruppe askari NCOs was the same as for Schutztruppe askaris (see NCO Rank Insignia Page).


German East African Polizeitruppe c1906-14
Note the German NCO on the far left of the group. He is wearing a regulation white tropical helmet on which can be seen two badges. They would have been a small brass imperial eagle (authorised in 1906) and a small imperial cockade. His tunic is the standard white tropical tunic, similar to the Schutztruppe 1896 white tunic but without the piping, and with brass buttons. His shoulder straps display his rank and would be edged in Polizeitruppe red. He wears khaki riding breeches tucked into brown leather gaiters and ankle boots. He wears a brown leather belt fastened with a Schutztruppe other ranks belt buckle.

The askaris are wearing standard uniform for the East African Polizeitruppe of this period. They wore the same uniform khaki tarbush and uniform with blue-grey puttees and brown leather boots and equipment as the Schutztruppe askaris but were distinguished by a white oval patch with a red letter P, worn on the upper left arm and a noticeably larger eagle worn on the front of the tarbush headdress made of yellow metal rather than the Schutztruppe's white metal. Tunic buttons for the Polizeitruppe were also yellow metal. Note also that the askari NCO standing directly behind the German NCO in the photograph has his "P" badge partially obscured by his NCO red chevrons (see NCO Rank Insignia Page) and also has marksmanship bars around his cuff (see Specialist Insignia Page)
(see Full Version of this Photograph) Photo © Tobias Weber



Polizeitruppe Askari
Note the large tarbush eagle, arm patch and lack of footwear.
He is armed with a Jagerbush 71 rifle and S71/84 bayonet
Photo from Bundesarchiv / WikiCommons


Polizeitruppe Askari
Note the large tarbush eagle, arm patch and red
sash across the chest.
Photo © Peter Klein

Polizeitruppe Askari
These askaris are working with JB71 rifles under the watchful eyes of their NCOs. They wear the khaki uniform with the white oval P patch
and red fezzes. Note the rank chevrons of the NCO on the right.
Photo from Bundersarchiv / Wikipedia


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