Naval Machine Gunners in German East Africa



Photo © Peter Klein


This is a photograph of a naval machine gun unit in operation in German East Africa. It is quite probably a unit from the SMS Königsberg. From the way the officer is making himself such an easy target, mounted in a white uniform with a sword, it would seem this photograph was more likely taken during a training exercise than in action.

The machine gunners wear white naval summer uniforms with blue collars and khaki Bortfeldt tropical helmets. Note the gaiters just visible in the long grass. They carry light equipment, ammunition pouches, water bottles and an S98 bayonet on their belts and bread bags on shoulder straps can all be seen. Note the naval rank insignia on the sleeve of the NCO behind the gunners. Unfortunately his rank cannot be clearly made out. Their machine gun is most likely the Maxim 1905.

The officer is mounted on a mule and wears a white naval officers uniform with rank insignia on his shoulder straps. He wears a white Bortfeldt helmet with gold cords around the hatband and a small imperial cockade on the front (though the cockade is not visible in this photograph). He wears khaki riding breeches tucked into leather gaiters. He also carries a naval officers sword with the sword knot ("Portepee") just visible. Naval officers sword knots were in white metallic lace with black and red threads).



Detail of the same Photograph

Please respect the generosity of Peter Klein in sharing this photograph 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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