This very curious Schutztruppe tunic
clearly shows the improvisation and lack of regulation in
uniformity of the German troops during the latter stages of the
East African campaign during the First World War. It was
captured from the Schutztruppe in 1916 by Charles
Groves Wright Anderson VC MC during his service with the 3rd Battalion, Kings African
Rifles in East Africa (who was awarded the Military Cross for his
service in this campaign).
The tunic was purchased from the Anderson family by a friend of
the current owner into whose possession it came soon after.
tunic is similar in original cut to the 1896 Khaki Schutztruppe
tunic (see 1896 Schutztruppe
Tunic Details Page) but without the blue piping. This blue
piping was removed from regulation uniforms after 1913 which
could explain its not being on this tunic, although many German
tunics still in use during the First World War retained their
piping. The tunic may originally have been a privately purchase
item as the higher standing collar, slightly pointed pocket
flaps and buttons on the rear skirts were not seen on regulation
issued items. Slight changes to the regulations such as these
were common amongst privately purchased uniforms worn by
officers and senior NCOs. Variations in colour are also seen on
privately purchased items but this tunic's pale appearance may
also be due to exposure to the elements while on campaign.
Several modifications have been made to the tunic during its
time on campaign in East Africa. Most noticeable of these is the
fact that the sleeves have been cut short. The buttons on the
chest pockets and on the rear skirts appear to be original in
white metal with the imperial crown, but the buttons fastening
the front have been removed and the tunic altered to have a
concealed front. This may possibly have been done by a field
tailor in the Schutztruppe if several buttons had been lost and
if ownership of the tunic passed to a smaller man (or possibly
if the wearer had lost significant amount of body weight while
Perhaps the most interesting
features on this tunic are the evidence of combat and battle
damage. Roughly stitched field repairs cover some rather nasty
holes and the blood stains are self evident.
The insignia on the tunic is also very interesting although some
of it may be post-war additions. Rank (in the case a
shown in the form of three separate faded metallic lace chevrons
on the upper left arm. Schutztruppe rank chevrons were usually
grouped together on a blue background (again see the
1896 Schutztruppe Tunic Details
Page) but these may have been made in wartime East Africa
when regulations could not always be followed due to shortages.
Curiously this rank lace also edges the front and lower edges of
the collar. Schutztruppe NCOs did not usually wear such lace on
their khaki uniforms (although it was worn on the home uniform).
The shoulder straps are those
from a 1910 field grey uniform from the 55th Westphalian Infantry Regiment
("Infanterie-Regt. Graf Bülow von Dennewitz (6.Westfälisches)
Nr.55") of the regular imperial German army. They are
clearly a post war addition.
The Iron Cross second class worn
on the tunic has wear similar to that of the tunic and so may be
original. The only second class Iron Crosses issued in German
East Africa were awarded to members of the crew of the SMS
Königsberg who were incorporated into the Schutztruppe after the
ship was sunk.
In all it is a curious and unique
survivor of the East African
Additional Note: As commander of the 2/19th Battalion AIF, during the
invasion of Malaya in 1942, Charles Anderson conducted a fighting withdrawal to Parit Sulong during which he and his men were cut off and
suffered heavy casualties. Anderson led them through four days
of heavy fighting in a bid to reach Allied lines. For his
leadership, his protection of his own wounded men, and for
repeatedly risking his own life Anderson was awarded the
Victoria Cross. He later spent three years in a Japanese
Prisoner of War camp.