The first German soldiers in South West
Africa in 1889, the Francois-truppe carried brown leather M1871 box
ammunition pouches. These continued in use by some dismounted
troops until decades later. In the early 1890s the mounted Schutztruppe
were wearing bandoliers of ammunition over their shoulders. The new
recruits of 1894 brought with them a prototype of the new style of
mounted equipment that was to follow.
From the late 1890s, the Schutztruppe in South West Africa
used a unique all in one pattern of personal equipment which
incorporated ammunition pouches, a water bottle holder and a bayonet
frog on a belt supported by shoulder straps that crossed at the
back. This equipment was known in German as "Patronengürtel mit
Schultertrageriemen" or ammunition pouches with
This equipment was ideal for their roles
mounted infantry. Like cavalry, they did not need to carry a
backpack, bread bag or blanket as these could be carried on the
horse. Unlike cavalry, they did not need a sword or lance for
mounted fighting but they did need to personally carry ammunition, their bayonet and a water
bottle to hand for their intended dismounted role in action.
Thus the South West African Schutztruppe
equipment consisted of a leather harness complete with 12 ammunition
pouches- round the front and back and up each shoulder strap. Each
pouch held two clips of five rounds and had a leather a strap
holding down the pouch flap. On the left hip
was riveted a bayonet frog and on the right, a brass loop to
attach a water bottle. The equipment buckled at the back with an
open buckle. Because this equipment was designed for mounted troops
where the horse (or camel) could carry much of the load, no
provision was made for back packs, tent sections, blankets, canteens
or bread bags.
From there on a basic pattern was
consistent but there were three general modifications. I have no
accurate dating of the modifications other than through period
The first type had all twelve ammunition pouches in a continuous run
around the waist and had no pouches on the shoulder straps.
The second version had a gap in the pouches on either side for
easier access to the water bottle and bayonet leaving only
ten pouches on the belt. It then the added the two
pouches to the front of the the shoulder straps.
The third pattern retained the
pouch placement but added metal fasteners buttons to hold the pouches down.
Peter Ellis of Leather Rebels (a modern Professional
Wrestling Belt making firm) for his opinion of the
manufacture of the equipment. He said, "From
what I can see, they were made using vegetable tan
leather hides, brown leather dye finished with probably
a wax-based coating for durability and to make them
resistant to the elements, heat/cold and waterproof.
These must have been stitched by hand using a large
industrial scale sewing machine."
This style of equipment
was never issued to the regular German army in Europe. It was
however worn by mounted troops of the Schutztruppe in Cameroon. When
worn in Cameroon the harness was worn in a slightly different
fashion with the straps crossing over the front as well as the back.
It was also used by the Marine Infantry in East Africa during the
Maji-Maji Rebellion 1905-06.
Large stocks of this equipment were captured by
South African forces when German South West Africa surrendered in
1915. It was thereafter used by them on campaign against the
Schutztruppe in East Africa.