German South West African Schutztruppe Artillery Battery



Photo © Karsten Herzogenrath


This is a photograph of the Mountain Gun Battery of the South West African Schutztruppe taken in Okahandja in 1903. The unit appears fairly typically dressed, mostly in the 1896 Schutztruppe Khaki Uniform piped in blue and the grey Südwester Hat with hatband and edging also in blue for South West Africa. Close examination reveals some interesting insignia and details.

  A close up of the photograph showing two gunners, a mountain gun and a pair of shells standing on an ammunition box.

As described above they wear Südwester hats and 1896 khaki uniforms. Note that while most of the Schutztruppe of South West Africa were mounted infantry and wore the unique equipment pattern including ammunition pouches, these artillerymen are wearing brown leather belts with imperial other ranks belt buckles.

Two NCOs. The one on the left wears the single white metallic lace chevron of an Unteroffizier on his upper left arm, while the one of the right has the single collar button of a Gefreiter.

What is most curious here is the crossed cannon with flaming grenade insignia worn on the upper left arm of the Gefreiter. I have have never seen the same insignia in another unit, not in period illustrations or uniform regulations. It may possibly be a locally produced version of the gun layer's insignia (see Specialist Insignia Page). I have no idea what colour it may have been made in.

Note that the gunner in the photograph below is wearing another gun layer badge. Especially note that this badge appears to be quite different in shape, with shorter gun barrels and a more decorated grenade flame. This leads one to conclude that they may have been locally made rather than massed produced in Germany.

  The two officers, Joachim von Heydebreck on the left and Freiherr von Hirschberg on the right. Both wear white 1896 Schutztruppe Uniforms with blue piping. This is curious as although these white uniforms were authorised in 1896 for the Schutztruppe in East Africa and Cameroon, they were not authorised for use in South West Africa until 1913. This is not the only period photograph to show Schutztruppe officers in South West Africa wearing the uniform prior to 1913. Both officers carry curved artillery swords. It appears that Von Heydebreck's has the standard grip of an other ranks artillery sword while von Hirschberg has the hilt of an officers sword. Von Heydebreck wears the Südwester hat, while von Hirschberg wears the corduroy peaked cap with hatband in blue for South West Africa and a small imperial cockade. Note the officers shoulder straps. Neither shows their exact rank clearly in this photograph. They wear khaki riding breeches and leather gaiters with short leather boots.
Two more gunners. Note the one on the left is wearing musicians swallows nests in blue with white lace.  
  Three African Auxiliaries seen on the top right side of the photograph. Another three can be seen on the other side. They wear the same uniform as their German counterparts. One has shoulder straps while the other two do not. Note that one also wears the same gun layer insignia as noted on some of the German gunners.

Joachim von Heydebreck (1861-1914) was the son of Generalleutnant Hennig von Heydenbreck, born in Schwedt in Brandenburg. He served in the 2nd Prussian Guard Field Artillery Regt ("2. Garde-Feldartillerie Regiment") and was promoted to Premier Lieutenant  in 1893. In 1896 he transferred to the Schutztruppe for South West Africa He served throughout the Herero and Nama Rebellions. In 1907 he returned to Germany to marry Ruth von Werder, then returned to South West Africa. In 1911 he became deputy commander and then in 1912 commander of the South West African Schutztruppe. On the outbreak of the First World War he organised the mobilisation of German forces and defence of the colony's borders including the defeat of South African forces at the Battle of Sandfontein in September 1914. Two months later he was mortally wounded in a accident involving the test firing of a rifle grenade.
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Please respect the generosity of Karsten Herzogenrath 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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