Bayonet and Sword Knots of the German Colonial and Overseas Forces


Several different types of bayonet and sword knot were used by the Imperial German armed forces, depending on rank and type of unit. They were colour coded to give information about the owners unit for other ranks or state or imperial origins for NCOs and officers. The different German overseas forces wore variations on those themes (each described more fully below).

The size and shape of bayonet and sword knots varied considerably, even more so with officers privately made sword knots.

Other Ranks Bayonet Knots "Troddel"

Troddel Knots of the 4th, 5th and 6th Companies
Note the variations in size and shape
(Wehrgeschichtliches Museum Collection, Rastatt)

  The Troddel was a coloured woollen knot, worn looped around the bayonet frog by other ranks and NCOs up to the rank of Sergeant.

In the regular German Infantry, other ranks and Lance Corporals ("Gefreiter") wore Troddel knots in company and battalion coded colours (see Company Colour Chart below).

This system also applied to other dismounted troops such as pioneer companies and dismounted personnel in artillery batteries (though as artillery batteries were organised in threes within each Abteilung, the infantry fourth, eighth and twelfth company knots were not used).

Units too small for company organisation or extra-numerary troops wore white Troddel knots.



Junior NCOs Bayonet Knot "Troddel"

Troddel Knots for Prussian and Imperial NCOs
(Wehrgeschichtliches Museum Collection, Rastatt)

  Junior NCOs (with the rank of Corporal or Sergeant- "Unteroffizier" and "Sergeant" respectively) wore Troddel knots in state colours in the regular army. Junior NCOs in the Schutztruppe, Marine Infantry and East Asian Occupation Brigade wore their Troddel knots in imperial colours.
Mounted Other Ranks Sword Knot "Faustriemen"

Faustriemen of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Squadrons
(Wehrgeschichtliches Museum Collection, Rastatt)

  Mounted other ranks and NCOs of the regular German army that carried a sword or sabre (such as the cavalry and field artillery) wore a sword knot known as the "Faustriemen". This consisted of a leather strap ending with a woollen loop above a fringed woollen knot.

The loop and knot for other ranks were in coded colours for the different squadrons or batteries. In the regular German army the 1st-5th squadrons of each cavalry regiment wore white, red, yellow, blue or green knots respectively, all with brown loops. The 1st-4th batteries with each artillery Abteilung wore white, red, yellow or blue knots respectively, with the three Abteilungen that made up an artillery regiment being distinguished by white, red or yellow loops respectively. The knot's fringe was always white. NCO Faustriemen were like the Troddel in state or imperial colours.

This type of sword knot was not commonly seen in the colonies and overseas as there was very little cavalry or mounted artillery there. The few exceptions are the cavalry and field artillery of overseas army units (such as the East Asian Expeditionary Corps and Occupation Brigade, thje Pascha Expeditions and Georgian Legiion) and the Field Artillery Battery of the III. Seebataillon.

Officers and Senior NCOs Sword Knot "Portepee"

Portepee Sword Knots
Again note the variations in size and shape
(Wehrgeschichtliches Museum Collection, Rastatt)

  Officers and NCOs above the rank of Sergeant ("Vize-Feldwebel" and "Feldwebel") wore a Portepee sword knot woven in metallic thread around the hilt of the sword with a closed rather than fringed knot. Hence senior NCOs were known in German as "Unteroffizier mit Portepee" (NCO with sword knot), while junior NCOs were referred to as "Unteroffizier ohne Portepee" (NCO without sword knot).

The metallic thread of the Portepee and its lanyard was in state colours for the regular army and imperial colours (white metallic lace with black and red threads striped throughout) for the Schutztruppe, Navy, Marine Infantry and East Asian Occupation Brigade. Colonial officials and Polizeitruppe officers wore Portepee knots in yellow metallic lace.


Variations for Different Overseas Forces

South West African Schutztruppe
The first German troops in South West Africa, the "Truppe des Reichs-Kommissars", did not carry bayonets but instead had bowie style knives. These were not worn with bayonet knots.

When bayonets and their Troddel knots were later issued to the Schutztruppe, they were in company colours for other ranks, numbering from 1 up to 12 by 1914. During the temporary expansion of the Schutztruppe grouped into regiments during the Herero War 1904-07, other ranks Troddel knots were coded to match the new units.

Junior NCOs Troddel knots were in imperial colours. One year volunteers also wore Troddel knots in imperial colours in a slightly different pattern to those of the junior NCOs.

Portepee sword knots for officers and senior NCOs were in white metallic cord with threads of red and black.

East African and Cameroon Schutztruppe
African other ranks in the Schutztruppe did not carry bayonet knots. German junior NCOs Troddel knots were in imperial colours. Portepee sword knots for officers and senior NCOs were in white metallic cord with threads of red and black.

African and other locally recruited other ranks in the Polizeitruppe for East Africa, Cameroon, Togo, New Guinea, Samoa and Tsingtao did not carry bayonet knots. German Polizeitruppe NCOs from the rank of Sergeant carried swords. Sergeants wore Faustriemen knots in imperial colours and ranks from Wachtmeister upwards wore officials Portepee knots in yellow metallic lace. Sergeants who had previously held Portepee rank in the Schutztruppe were entitled to retain the Portepee in Polizeitruppe service.

German NCOs commanding the Tsingtao Polizeitruppe were members of the III. Seebataillon and wore Marine Infantry bayonet and swords knots as described below.

The South West African Landespolizei rarely used bayonets and did not use bayonet knots. From the rank of Sergeant upwards a sword and sword knot was carried. The first Landespolizei uniform regulations of 1905 authorised the same Faustriemen sword knot in imperial colours for Sergeants and a Portepee in yellow metallic lace for Wachtmeister and upwards as worn by the Polizeitruppe of other colonies.

In 1907 new regulations authorised a new Faustriemen for the Sergeant. It is described as like those for Light Infantry NCOs "Oberjäger". This confusing as the Oberjäger carried an all green Troddel with white metallic threads, rather than a Faustriemen. The Landespolizei Faustriemen in most period photographs are white with a green loop at the top. The Wachtmeister and upwards retained thier old yellow metallic lace Portepee. Period photographs show that swords knots of the Landespolizei varied in style shape and colour. In addition, Sergeants who had previously held Portepee rank in the Schutztruppe were entitled to retain the Portepee in Landespolizei service.
Recommended Reading- "Unter dem Kreuz des Südens" by S Schepp

Marine Infantry- Seebataillone
Other ranks Troddel knots were in company coded colours. Judging from period photographs it seems that each Seebataillon numbered its companies from 1-4 (or higher in the case of the III. Seebataillon), rather than adding the different battalions' companies together in numerical order 1-12 (or higher) as the army did with battalions within the same regiment. Junior NCOs Troddel knots and were in imperial colours.

Mounted other ranks of the III. Seebataillon field artillery battery ("Marine Feld Batterie") wore Faustriemen sword knots in white for the 1st (and only) battery. Junior NCOs Faustriemen knots were in imperial colours.

Portepee sword knots for officers and senior NCOs were in white metallic cord with threads of red and black.

Imperial Navy
Other ranks and junior NCOs did not usually wear bayonets or knots. When ships landing parties carried bayonets they do not appear from period photographs to have used bayonet knots.

Portepee sword knots for officers and senior NCOs were in white metallic cord with threads of red and black.

East Asian Expeditionary Corps
Other ranks Troddel knots for the infantry, dismounted artillery, pioneers and train troops were in company (or battery) coded colours, or plain white for extra regimental troops. The light infantry company ("Jäger Kompagnie") carried plain dark green bayonet knots as they did in the regular army.

Other ranks of the East Asian Cavalry Regiment carried Faustriemen sword knots in squadron colours (though there were only four squadrons in the East Asian Cavalry Regiment). Mounted other ranks in the East Asian Artillery Regiment carried battery colour coded Faustriemen sword knots (though again they were under-strength by regular army standards, having only eight batteries in the East Asian Artillery Regiment rather than nine).

Junior NCOs Troddel and Faustriemen knots were in state colours (for example black/white for Prussia, blue/white for Bavaria, green/white for Saxony, black/red for Württemberg, yellow/red for Baden). Junior Jäger NCOs ("Oberjäger") wore dark green Troddel knots with white metallic threads, as they did in the regular army.

Portepee sword knots for officers and senior NCOs of all arms of service were in metallic cord with threads in state colours.

East Asian Occupation Brigade
When new regulations came in the
East Asian Expeditionary Corps in February 1901 (and remained in service for the renamed Occupation Brigade), state distinctions were replaced by imperial ones. Junior NCOs Troddel and Faustriemen knots were now in imperial colours and Portepee knots for officers and senior NCOs were in white metallic cord also with threads in imperial colours.

Other ranks Troddel and Faustriemen knots remained in company (or squadron or battery) coded colours, though as the units were slowly disbanded less variations were needed (for example all other ranks of cavalry of the Occupation Brigade wore white sword knots, as there was only one squadron).

German Troops in the Ottoman Empire
German personnel serving within the Ottoman army do not appear from photographs to have commonly worn bayonet knots. Some officers wore Ottoman sword knots (very similar to the German ones but in yellow metallic thread with crimson threads for senior officers and staff) with Ottoman uniforms, others may have kept their German army swords and knots.

German Army units serving alongside Ottoman units such as the Pascha I & II Expeditions and the Georgian Legion carried standard German army bayonet and sword knots in company (or squadron or battery) colour coded for other ranks and in state colours for NCOs and officers. Later in the war fewer bayonet knots were worn generally.

Swords were of course not usually worn in action and officially discarded from 1915. After that date some officers, including Liman von Saunders carried bayonets with officers sword knots attached to them.

Schutztruppe NCO Troddel Knot
on a kS98 bayonet from the South West African Schutztruppe
(See South West African Bayonets Page)
Photo © Nate Freidlander

A Naval Officers Portepee Knot
on a Dress Sword from the depot unit of the III. Seebataillon
(See Swords Page)
Photo © Dow Cross

Schutztruppe NCO Troddel Knot
on a bayonet frog
Photo © Roy Williams


Bayonet Knot Company Colour Coding

1st Company
(1.Ko- I.Bt)

2nd Company
(2.Ko- I.Bt)

3rd Company
(3.Ko- I.Bt)

4th Company
(4.Ko- I.Bt)

5th Company
(1.Ko- II.Bt)

6th Company
(2.Ko- II.Bt)

7th Company
(3.Ko- II.Bt)

8th Company
(4.Ko- II.Bt)

9th Company
(1.Ko- III.Bt)

10th Company
(2.Ko- III.Bt)

11th Company
(3.Ko- III.Bt)

12th Company
(4.Ko- III.Bt)

For more on different company and state colours for bayonet and sword knots see the Pickelhaubes Forum


Period Photographs

Other Ranks Bayonet Knot - "Troddel"
worn by
Seesoldat Heckenbücker
of the III. Seebataillon
© Freddy Rudolf and Zylgwyn Heckenbücker
Other Ranks Sword Knot - "Faustriemen""
worn by
Sergeant Treptor
of the Pascha I Artillery
Photo © Roy Williams
Officers Sword Knot - "Portepee"
worn by Vizefeldwebel Buschan
of the South West African Schutztruppe
Photo © Karsten Herzogenrath

Please contact me here if you have more information or photos on this topic. 

Back to Main Menu for German Colonial Uniforms