The Imperial German Army in China


Background to the German Involvement in China
As well as scrambling for Africa, the major powers also took a keen interest in China. Unlike Africa where the European powers divided almost the whole continent into colonies, China remained a sovereign state but under constant pressure from the European powers and Japan to grant territory and trading concessions. The Chinese were defeated in a number of wars they fought against foreign encroachment in the 19th Century- the First Opium War (against Britain in 1839-42), the Second Opium War (against Britain and France 1856-60), the Sino-Japanese War (with Japan in 1894-95) and most notably the Boxer Rebellion (against Britain, France, Russia, the United States, Italy, Japan, Austria-Hungary and Germany 1900-01). Each defeat led to greater humiliation for China and more concessions granted to the foreign powers.

Germany's part in this scramble for China started when two German missionaries were murdered in China in 1897. Their reaction was to seize Kiaochow (known as "Kiautschou" in German, now usually known as Jiaozhou) with the port of Tsingtao (spelled "Tsingtau" in German, now known as Qingdao) for use as a naval base and trading port. Tsingtao was governed and garrisoned by the Imperial German navy. The garrison consisted of Naval Artillery batteries and the III. Seebataillon of Marine Infantry (see Seebataillon History Page).

When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in the Summer of 1900, the III. Seebataillon sent a small group of soldiers to Peking and Tientsin to try to protect German interests, while the majority stayed to prevent rebellious outbreaks in Tsingtao. The siege of the foreign legations in Peking soon convinced Germany and other European Powers that more forces were urgently needed to be sent to China. The first troops to arrive from Germany were the I. and II. Seebataillone, soon followed by the East Asian Expeditionary Corps.

The East Asian Expeditionary Corps
The East Asian Expeditionary Corps ("Ostasiatische Expeditionskorps") was a large force about 15,000 in total made up of volunteers from the regular German army reformed into new units for service in China in the Summer of 1900. Such was the number of volunteers that many were turned down, only the best were accepted. The Expeditionary Corps was put under the command of Generalfeldmarschal Graf von Waldersee and consisted of-

  6 Infantry Regiments ("1.-6. Ostasiatische Infanterie Regimenter") each consisting of nine companies (though the 5th and 6th Regiments had only eight companies each).
1 Light Infantry Company ("Ostasiatische Jäger Kompanie")
1 Cavalry Regiment ("Ostasiatische Reiter Regiment") consisting of four squadrons.
1 Field Artillery Regiment ("Ostasiatische Feld Artillerie Regiment") consisting of eight batteries.
1 Heavy Howitzer Artillery Battalion ("Ostasiatische Batallion schwerer Feldhaubitzen") consisting of two batteries.
1 Pioneer Battalion ("Ostasiatische Pionier Batallion") consisting of three companies.
1 Train Battalion ("Ostasiatische Eisenbahn Batallion") consisting of three companies.
1 Medical Company ("Ostasiatische Sanitäts Kompanie")
6 Field Hospitals ("1.-6. Ostasiatische Feldlazarette")
Plus additional support units such as a telegraph unit, field bakeries, depot teams, munitions columns, postal workers and Field Marshall von Waldersee's personal staff and bodyguard.

The Expeditionary Corps arrived in China between September and October 1900 and was thus too late to take part in any of the major actions of the war. It did however fight several smaller actions against remaining pockets of rebellion and was then employed in garrison duties occupying various key locations in China.

The East Asian Occupation Brigade
In 1901 with the Boxer Rebellion defeated, the East Asian Expeditionary Corps was disbanded and mostly recalled to Germany. A much smaller force of about 3,600 remained to occupy positions in various Chinese cities (including Peking, Tientsin, Shanghai, Shan Hai Kwan, Lanfang, Tangku and Yangtsun). This newly organised force was renamed the East Asian Occupation Brigade ("Ostasiatische Besatzungsbrigade") as of the 17th May 1901 and consisted of-

  3 Infantry Regiments ("1.-3. Ostasiatische Infanterie Regiment")
1 Squadron of Mounted Infantry ("Ostasiatische Eskadron Jäger zu Pferd")
3 Batteries of Field Artillery ("1.-3. Ostasiatische Feld Artillerie Abteilung"), two of field artillery and one (the 2nd Battery) of mountain guns.
1 Pioneer Company ("Ostasiatische Pionier-Kompanie") with a telegraph detachment.
1 Train Company ("Ostasiatische Train-Kompanie") with a horse hospital
1 Medical Half Company ("Ostasiatische Sanitäts-Halbkompanie")
2 Field Hospitals ("1.-2. Ostasiatische  Feldlazarette")
1 Depot Unit ("Ostasiatisches Etappen Kommandantur")

As the threat of rebellion further diminished in China so the Occupation Brigade was downsized. On the 1st May 1902 the 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Artillery Battery, horse hospital, Medical Half Company and Depot Unit were disbanded. On the 11th December 1902 the 2nd (Mountain) Artillery Battery and 2nd Field Hospital were disbanded.

The East Asian Detachment
On 6th March1906 the Occupation Brigade was renamed the East Asian Detachment ("Ostasiatische Detachement") and again partially disbanded down to a strength of 1,100 troops organised as 4 Infantry Companies and one Field Artillery Battery. These troops were based at Peking and Tientsin.

On 5th April 1909 the Germany Army Detachment was withdrawn entirely and replaced by the naval East Asian Marine Detachment ("Ostasiatische Marine-Detachement") see Seebataillon History Page.

Main Sources
"Uniformierung und Austrüstung der Ostasiatischen Truppen des Deutschen Reiches 1900-1909" by Jürgen Kraus in Zeitschrift für Heereskunde Nos 375, 382 and 389 (unsure of last edition number)
"Tropenhelme der kaiserliche Marine, der Ostasiatischen Truppen und der Schutztruppen" by Ulrich Schiers, published by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Heereskunde
"Deutsches Ostasiatisches Expeditionskorps 1900-01"- illustrated plates by Eberhard Hettler
The Boxer Aufstand website
The Traditionsverband website
Marine Infanterie website
The Axis History Forum Discussion on the
Ostasiatische ExpeditionsKorps - special thanks to Peter H, Markus and Mike Blake.


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