A German "Boer" Actor



Photo © Anonymous Private Owner


This is a very curious photograph. The uniform with its standing collar and coloured shoulder straps fits no known descriptions of Imperial German overseas troops. His headdress appears to be a Südwester or possibly a straw hat worn the wrong way around with a cockade, possibly in Imperial German colours. The equipment and weapons are the most telling however. The ammunition bandolier seems to have its bullets at amateurish irregular intervals and the bullets do not appear to be real under closer examination. Similarly the pistol holster does not appear to contain a bulky pistol and the rifle is not of an easily recognisable pattern.

No clues could at first be found to solve this mystery, then Johan Wolfaardt (of the War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein) of the Boer Republics Museum came up with a very plausible solution. He hypothesises that "this picture was taken in 1900, in Germany, possibly in Cologne. The reason I'm saying this, is that the uniform and bandolier are similar to those produced for a welcoming commando that received President Paul Kruger on his visit there, as well as those worn in the production of the play “Der Freiheitkampfe des Burens” (The Boer Struggle for Freedom). The rifles used in these two productions were inert, as were the bullets."

Paul Kruger (1825-1904) was president of the Boer Transvaal Republic when the Second Anglo Boer War broke out in 1899, by 1900 with British troops advancing President Kruger was forced into exile in Europe arriving in Marseilles aboard the Dutch battle cruiser “De Gelderland” which had picked him up from Portuguese Mozambique. As he travelled, he was cordially greeted by President Émile Loubet of France, King Leopold II of Belgium and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. President Kruger was welcomed into Cologne, Germany but was not met by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was according to the German Chancellor Bethman-Hollweg out hunting at the time. President Kruger later lived in the Netherlands and France before settling near Montreux in Switzerland where he died in 1904. His body was returned home and buried in Pretoria.

Please respect the generosity of the Anonymous Private Owner in sharing this photograph and information with us by not reproducing it without prior permission. 

Please contact me here if you have other photographs of the German colonies or the soldiers and sailors that served there. I am especially keen to hear from people with family photograph collections and am always happy to try to assist in identifying uniforms, units, places and dates for family history research.

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