Swakopmund Museum, Namibia 2019
Photos by Chris Dale

These photographs were taken on my first trip to Namibia in 2019 and concentrate mainly on the legendary German colonial sections of the museum. While the colonial section was my main point of interest the museum also has exhibits on many aspects of Namibia from wildlife to medicine; prehistoric culture to naval history.

A visit is highly recommended. It's located next to the lighthouse on Strand Street on the beach front at Swakopmund, Namibia. They also have a museum shop with a great German colonial book collection and a bar and cafe.

Official Swakopmund Museum Website - with details of opening hours and tickets prices.

There are also older photos of this collection taken by Phil Buhler and Greg Gerardi at the Swakopmund Museum 1990s page of this website.



Display Case of German Colonial Uniforms
I had heard stories of and seen small photos of the legendary collection of Schutztruppe uniforms at the Swakopmund Museum. That was my main reason for visiting Namibia. I had also heard reports that the uniforms on display were not period items but those of veterans made after the First World War. Let's take a closer look at the uniforms and items one by one and examine the rumours that these are not of original South West African Schutztruppe stock.

1 Schutztruppe Sergeants Home Uniform

2 Schutztruppe Sergeants Greatcoat

3 Schutztruppe Veterans Tunic

4 Schutztruppe Khaki Drill Uniform

5 Schutztruppe Kord Litewka

6 Naval Uniform of the SMS Wittelsbach

1 Schutztruppe Sergeants Home Uniform and Südwester Hat
This is standard privately made South West African Schutztruppe NCOs 1897 home uniform. The tunic has blue facing for South West Africa, medal bar, aiguillette cords and the collar and cuff lace and collar button of Sergeant. The trousers are matching as is the Südwester hat. It is worn with a brown leather belt with a Schutztruppe NCOs sword. All show signs of wear and tear and appear to be of genuine pre-1914 Schutztruppe origin.

The medal bar shows the South West African Medal, the Colonial Medal and the Kaiser Wilhelm I centenary medal. The ribbons are especially battered and may have been removed from the bar and reassembled at some point.

The boots worn by this figure are black leather riding boots and are not likely to have been original to this uniform as Schutztruppe regulations stated brown leather boots be worn. 

2 Schutztruppe Sergeants Greatcoat
This is a very rare Schutztruppe NCOs greatcoat. It is standard to regulations, made of grey cloth with blue shoulder straps and collar patches bearing the Schutztruppe Litzen and above that a stripe of NCO lace. It appears to be genuine pre-war Schutztruppe issue and was mostly likely originally owned by the same Sergeant as the grey home uniform described above.

3 Schutztruppe Veterans Tunic
Although this tunic is labelled as being of Schutztruppe issue, from the cut we see that it is in fact a veterans tunic, made in the 1920s or early 1930s and worn by a member of the Deutsche Kolonialkriegerbund or DKKB. The tell tale signs are that it is made in the cut of an 1896 Khaki Drill Tunic but out of corduroy. The breast pockets flaps are also scalloped rather than straight as on the Schutztruppe uniform.

4 Schutztruppe Khaki Drill Uniform
This a standard other ranks 1896 khaki tunic with all the correct Schutztruppe piping, buttons and shoulder straps. It shows small signs of wear and tear. This tunic appears to be genuine pre-war Schutztruppe issue.

5 Schutztruppe Kord Litewka with Field Cap
This a standard other ranks 1900 khaki corduroy Litewka tunic with Schutztruppe shoulder straps. It shows small signs of wear and tear and is shown wearing the third pattern of Schutztruppe Mounted Equipment. Displayed above it is a matching Schutztruppe corduroy peaked field cap with and imperial cockade and blue hatband and piping. It also has some wear and what looks like a tar stain smudging the front. All these items appears to be genuine pre-1914 Schutztruppe issue.

My only point of contention is that while they all appear to be genuine Schutztruppe uniform, the tunic is labelled by the Museum as having belonged to the Marine Infantry. Schutztruppe uniforms were issued to the Marine Infantry in South West Africa during the Herero Rebellion but their Kord Litwekas had grey collars and cuffs, which this one does not. Also the corduroy field cap has the Schutztruppe blue, rather than Marine Infantry grey hatband. To me this all seems to be a Schutztruppe uniform rather than Marine Infantry issue.

6 Naval Uniform and Cap of the SMS Wittelsbach
This is an imperial naval uniform, consisting of a parade Affenjacke with the anchor insignia of  an Obermaat or Meistersmaat, naval neck tie collar and blue naval cap with a tally for SMS Wittelsbach. While this uniform appears to be totally genuine pre-war imperial naval issue, the SMS Wittelsbach never served in Africa. Perhaps a veteran of the ship moved to South West Africa after his naval service?

7 East African Schutztruppe Südwester
This hat has the white hatband and edging of the East African Schutztruppe. This is therefore not of South West African Schutztruppe origin but was worn by a member of the East African Schutztruppe, possibly one who later moved to South West Africa.

8 Unknown Südwester with Grey Hatband and Edging
Again this hat appears in excellent condition and is labelled as being from the South West African Schutztruppe. Yet of course the South West African Schutztruppe had blue hatbands and edging, yet this hat has grey. The very first Südwester hats issued in 1889 had grey hatbands, yet from its excellent condition I would guess this is probably not that old and has not seen service in the field for any length of time. The Marine Infantry also wore grey hatbands during the Herero War, again it seems in uncannily good condition for that role. The other option is that the Pfadfinder (a German Youth Organisation in South West Africa in the 1930s) also wore grey hatbands (as seen on an example in the Tsumeb Museum in Namibia). It can only be a guess but this latter option seems more likely than the former two.

9 Landespolizei Südwester
This item appears entirely genuine with a large gilded Imperial crown yet its pristine condition makes it unlikely to have seen service in a desert outpost. It may be an officers newly purchased hat that never left his desk job or more likely a post war replica worn by a veteran.


Summary of Authenticity
In my opinion most of these items are genuine Imperial German pre-war manufacture, with a few from veterans of the immediate post-war era. Nothing looks like a modern replica or fake and to my mind the study of antique veterans uniforms is of equal historical interest to that of the Schutztruppe themselves. It is also nearly impossible to tell sometimes between pre-war and post-war privately made items as they were usually made by the same tailors to the same design. This has caused great confusion in private collections and museums alike.






Veterans in Swakopmund c1930s
This is a very curious photograph as it shows four of the uniforms in the museum's collection perhaps being worn by their original owners. From left to right the uniforms are:

The Sergeant's Schutztruppe home uniform with medal bar (with more medals than currently displayed), sword and Südwester; though he has different boots and gaiters, than those currently displayed in the Swakopmund Museum. This man looks elderly and so could well be the original owner of this uniform.

The next figure wears the DKKB veterans cord uniform with aiguillette cords and a medal bar. Although a medal bar is not currently displayed with this uniform, photographs by Phil Buhler from 2001 show that it did used to be. 

Next to him is a man in the Schutztruppe Kord Litewka, mounted equipment and the corduroy field cap also seen on display in Swakopmund today.

The man on the right is wearing the sailor's Affenjacke uniform with cap and tally from the SMS Wittelsbach.
Photos © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv


1 Schutztruppe Sergeants Home Uniform

2 Schutztruppe Sergeants Greatcoat

5 Schutztruppe Kord Litewka

5 Corduroy Field Cap

6 Naval Cap of the SMS Wittelsbach

7 East African Schutztruppe Südwester

8 Unknown Südwester with Grey Edging

9 Landespolizei Südwester

Swakopmund Museum Collection, 2001
Note the veterans tunic on the left with a medal bar that is no longer on display.
Photo by Phil Buhler



Other German Colonial Items in the Swakopmund Museum
Aside from the uniforms seen above the museum has loads of German artefacts; weapons, medals, trophies, banknotes and utensils from day to day life.

German South West African Fireman's Helmet

Landespolizei Roth-Sauer Pistol

Bayonet for a Portuguese Mauser-Vergueiro Rifle, captured at Fort Naulila Angola 1914

Detail of the Third Pattern Schutztruppe Mounted Equipment

Detail of the Third Pattern Schutztruppe Mounted Equipment and Mauser G98 cartridge clip.

Senior Doctor's Epaulettes

Flag of the German Customs Office at Swakopmund

Replacement Wartime Banknotes signed by Governor Seitz

Schutztruppe Officers Sword

Schutztruppe Rifles (JB71, G88, K88, G98 and K98)

Schutztruppe Heliograph

Commemorative Cup from the Schutztruppe 7th Camel Company

Sergeant Rank Insignia on the collar of the Schutztruppe 1897 Home Grey Uniform

Schutztruppe Veterans Corduroy Tunic Collar

Schutztruppe NCOs Greatcoat Collar

Schutztruppe NCOs Corduroy Field Cap

Medal Bar of a Schutztruppe Officer (see here for full description of awards)

In short, a visit to the Swakopmund Museum, Namibia is highly recommended, as is a locally brewed German style Hefe-Weizen Bier on the beach front outside the museum!

Official Swakopmund Museum Website
with details of opening hours and tickets prices


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

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