The Mystery of the Embroidered or Printed Askari Tarbush Eagles

Askari Tarbush with an embroidered Eagle
Photo © Bruce Wenzel


German East African Schutztruppe Askari Tarbush
The most commonly worn headdress of the German East African Askaris from the official formation of the Schutztruppe in 1891 to the First World War was the Tarbush (or Tarbusch in German).

It consisted of a wicker frame with a khaki cover which included a neckshade. At first brass numbers on the front of the Tarbush identified each Field Company. Later a small white metal Imperial Eagle badge was worn. This was the most commonly seen variant during the opening stages of the First World War.

The Polizeitruppe wore a larger brass imperial eagle. Other photos from the colonial era show the the Tarbush worn without any insignia.


Embroidered or Printed Eagle Askari Tarbush
Another type of Askari Tarbush that has appeared in modern collections, museum s and online auctions is the Tarbush with a printed or embroidered eagle.

The eagle in this case is not the Imperial eagle of the Schutztruppe but the upturned winged eagle of the Prussian dragoon regiments. No period photographs have yet shown askaris wearing such insignia.


Shout At The Devil Askari Tarbush
The 1976 film 'Shout at the Devil' starring Roger Moore and Lee Marvin is set in German East Africa during the First World War and is very loosely based on events surrounding the true story of the for and the and the sinking of the SMS Königsberg in the Rufiji Delta in 1915.

The costume department for the film probably based their research on blurred photographs of German East African askaris and made what they thought were reasonable facsimiles, albeit with an embroidered Prussian Dragoon eagle rather than a metal badge of an Imperial Eagle. The other error that the film Tarbushes made was having a red inside lining on the neckshade. But from a distance the askaris didn't look too bad in the film.

It was only when these 1970s film props (with their red linings removed) entered auction houses, museums and private collections labelled as genuine First World War militaria that the confusion began.

This is an example of an innocent film prop can alter modern collections and historical research. These items rightfully belong in a collection of film memorabilia.



East African Schutztruppe Tarbush
with small metal Imperial Eagle
Bavarian Army Museum Collection, Ingoldstadt

Askari NCO in the film Shout at the Devil
Note the embroidered Dragoon Eagle

Display at the 1914-18 Museum at Meaux, France with a possible Shout At the Devil Tarbush
While I'm sure that most of the items displayed at the museum are of genuine First World War origin, askari tarbush hat looks more like those used in the film 'Shout At The Devil' rather than those used by the Schutztruppe before and during the First World War. I emailed the museum to let them know my suspicions but heard nothing back.
See Histoire et Defense for more photographs from this very interesting exhibition.
Thanks to
Frédéric Coune for permission to show his photograph.


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

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