German Navy in the Tropics

Figure 1
Naval Officer
East Asian Squadron
Samoa c1910

Figure 2
Naval Officer
SMS Swalbe
German East Africa 1889

Figure 3
Naval Officer
SMS Königsberg
German East Africa 1914

Figure 4
Naval Officer
German East Africa 1918

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a Naval Officer from one of the ships of the East Asian Squadron taken in Samoa in about 1910. He wears the standard white officers uniform as worn on board ship in the tropics and also on land. It consists of a white cotton pocketless tunic (see below right) although some similar tunics may have have hip and a single breast pocket, with six brass buttons, a standing collar and naval rank insignia on his shoulder straps. With it he wears matching white cotton trousers and shoes. Likewise his naval cap is also in white (see right). This officer is clearly not dressed for action. In action he may have worn a belt and pistol and probably a tropical helmet.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a Naval Officer from the Landing Party of the SMS Swalbe (Swallow) taken in 1889 in Bagamoyo, German East Africa during the Abushiri Rebellion. He wears a blue naval officers double breasted jacket with rank shown as brass bars under an Imperial crown on the lower cuffs. He wears a white naval tropical helmet with an Imperial cockade on the front. He is armed with a pistol in a Sam Brown style belt and an officers' sword. 

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of a Naval Officer from the SMS Königsberg taken in German East Africa early in the First World War. He (like several other officers in the original photograph) wears a white naval tropical helmet with Imperial cockade and a khaki naval officers uniform with rank on the braided shoulder straps. He is armed with a Luger 04 naval pistol and has its distinctive ammunition pouch worn on a Sam Brown style belt. Items such as the sword and neat shirt and tie under the tunic were soon given up under combat conditions in the East African campaign.

Figure 4 is based on a photograph of a Naval Officer probably originally from the SMS Königsberg now fully incorporated into the Schutztruppe taken along with other Schutztruppe officers in November 1918 just after von Lettow-Vorbeck's surrender. Typically for this late stage in the war he wears a mixture of naval and other uniforms. He retains his naval officer's peaked cap (with gold wreath surrounding an imperial black/white/red cockade) but without its wire retaining band around the top to hold its shape. He has a loosely worn naval khaki tunic (with naval officer's embroidered shoulder straps). His shorts are certainly not regulation and may be either captured British stock or cut down versions of his original uniform. Likewise the puttees are not naval issue and may also be either Schutztruppe, captured or improvised stock. As a prisoner of war he carries no equipment but during the war he would probably have worn a pistol belt at least.

Naval Officer's White Cap
(See Naval Uniforms Details Page)
IWM Collection

Naval Officers White Tunic
(See White Naval Tunic Page)
Photo Copyright Doppler


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