German New Guinea Polizeitruppe Officers

Figure 1
Colonial Official
New Guinea c1900

Figure 2
Police Officer
Rabaul 1914

Figure 3
Police NCO
Caroline Islands c1910


Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a German Colonial Official, Dr Heinrich Albert Schnee, taken in German New Guinea in either 1899 or 1900 and is typical of the appearance of German Officials and Police ("Polizeitruppe") Officers of this period. He wears a white tropical helmet possibly of private purchase without insignia. His tropical khaki tunic has a standing collar, five buttons down the front, two hip pockets and single breast pocket on the left side- very similar to that worn by the East Asian Expeditionary Corps. Other photos of Polizeitruppe officers around this period on the Marshalls and other islands show the same style of tunic being worn. Schnee wears a watch on a chain from his second button into his breast pocket. The trousers are matching khaki but the shoes would match a white uniform better. He is armed with a hunting rifle and in the original photograph is accompanied by several Polizeitruppe dressed in sarongs and field caps all armed with the Jägerbüsche '71 rifle (see New Guinea Polizeitruppe Page).

Dr Heinrich Albert Schnee (1871-1949) started his career in the Foreign Office. He served as a colonial official, as judge and deputy Governor in German New Guinea between 1899 and 1900 before being transferred to Samoa and then back to the Colonial Office in Berlin. In 1912 he was appointed governor of German East Africa. Throughout the First World War he argued with Lettow-Vorbeck, the commander of the Schutztruppe about wartime policies and the general conduct of the war although they both returned home after the war to heroes' welcomes. Schnee went on to write several books on the German colonies and was president of the German Colonial League which strove in vain to re-establish Germany's claim on the colonies. He was killed in a car crash in Berlin in 1949.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a German Polizeitruppe Officer on New Guinea taken during a training exercise immediately prior to the Australian invasion of 1914. He wears the white tropical tunic which was standard for German Polizeitruppe officers on New Guinea and the smaller Pacific islands from about 1900 onwards. It was similar in cut to the 1896 white and khaki uniforms of the Schutztruppe and Polizeitruppe officers in Africa (see 1896 Schutztruppe Khaki Uniform Details Page), having a stand and fall collar, six buttons down the front and four buttoned patch pockets- the upper ones of which were pleated and slightly sloped inwards. The only difference from Schutztruppe uniforms was that the Polizeitruppe uniforms had brass buttons rather than white metal ones, no blue piping and different shoulder straps. The details of Polizeitruppe shoulder straps and their ranks are still a mystery to me. A similar khaki uniform may also have been worn by Polizeitruppe officers in German New Guinea but has not so far been confirmed in photographs. This officer wears khaki trousers either from issued stocks or personal purchase.

The tropical helmet worn here was again standard wear for Polizeitruppe officers. Although they can't be made out in the original photograph the tropical helmet would have had a small brass imperial eagle above a small imperial cockade. Around the hatband twisted cord in imperial colours or silver may have been worn but it is difficult to be certain from the few photographs that exist and certainly some helmets were worn without any cords around the hatband. A peaked field cap was also authorised for Polizeitruppe officers, it was white with a black leather peak, red (for Polizeitruppe) hatband and piping and a single small imperial cockade.

In 1912 green was officially authorised as the piping colour of New Guinea to be worn on peaked caps, Südwester hats and as piping on the home uniforms, by members of the Schutztruppe and Colonial Office (and therefore possibly also the Polizeitruppe) attached to German New Guinea. It is doubtful that these new uniform details were implemented on New Guinea before the First World War broke out and no photographic evidence has so far emerged to prove otherwise.

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of a German Polizeitruppe Officer, Polizeimeister Otto Beyer, taken on the Caroline Islands. Beyer is wearing the regulation white tropical uniform (white tropical helmet, white shirt and trousers), but without the tunic. This casual approach to uniformity was common among officers of the New Guinea Polizeitruppe and even more so on the smaller islands. While most Polizeitruppe officers in New Guinea are seen in photos with their trousers worn loose over their shoes, Beyer is wearing more practical leather boots and puttees. It is impossible to tell the colour of the puttees from the original black and white photograph. I can only speculate that they may have been of the same dark blue/grey colour as worn by African Polizeitruppe officers of the early 1900's, although they may have been obtained from any source and made from cloth any other darkish colour from grey to brown.


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