German Citizen's Force on Samoa 1914

  The few German civilians on Samoa were not officially called up as reservists at the outbreak of the First World War, but about 50 German traders, planters and officials formed a citizens force ("Bürgerwehr"). This was organised into three detachments - one guarded the wireless station and the other two took turns serving as coastal guards. As German Samoa surrendered to the New Zealand invasion of 1914 without a struggle, the Bürgerwehr saw no action and were disbanded shortly afterwards.

Uniforms of the German Citizens Force
I have so far only seen one small photograph of the Citizens Force ("Bürgerwehr"). From it, it seems that like reservists in New Guinea, East Africa and Cameroon they wore a mixture of khaki military style uniforms in this case probably from their own sources.

Many variations are shown within the small unit in the original photograph, with no two dressed the same. Their tunics are all of different designs and shades. Most wear slouch hats while some wear white tropical helmets, or civilian trilby hats. Some wear their trousers loose while others are tucked into high boots or gaiters. What unites them is that most wear the old 1871 single ammunition pouch worn at the front centre of the belt, as used by the Samoan Polizeitruppe. At least some also wore armbands in the imperial colours, Bürgerwehr soldier Erich Scheurmann is described as wearing just such an armband.

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of an Officer or NCO of the Bürgerwehr. Like the other soldiers in the photograph he wears a khaki tunic. He has matching khaki trousers a, civilian white tropical helmet and short boots with gaiters. Most if not all is probably privately purchased.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a Soldier of the Bürgerwehr. Like the other soldiers in the photograph he wears a rough khaki tunic, non-matching trousers and a form of slouch hat. He carries a single 1871 ammunition pouch hung below his naval other ranks belt buckle.  It is difficult to tell for certain if marks of the right arms of the men in the one blurred photograph of the Bürgerwehr are imperial armbands or just creases in the sleeves.

Recommended External Link - Erste und letzte Tage Deutsch-Samoas

Figure 1
Citizens Force
Samoa 1914

Figure 2
Citizens Force
Samoa 1914

Naval Other Ranks Belt Buckle
(See Belt Buckle Details Page)
Photo © Doppler Collection


Armband in Imperial Colours
(See Identification Brassard Details Page)
© Doppler Collection


Thanks to Per Finsted for his research on this page


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