Vizefeldwebel Buschan, a South West African Schutztruppe NCO



Photo © Karsten Herzogenrath


This is a posed studio photograph taken in Salzbrunn, Germany probably in late 1906. It shows Vizefeldwebel Friedrich Otto Buschan shortly after his return from South West Africa.

He wears a standard 1897 Schutztruppe Home Uniform in pale grey with the collar, Swedish style cuffs and piping down the front and rear skirts in blue for South West Africa. The shoulder straps are twisted cords in the imperial colours. It has white Litzen on the collar and cuffs and white metal buttons bearing the imperial crown. The trousers are matching pale grey with blue piping down the edge.

His rank is shown by the use of white metallic lace around the collar and cuffs, a button towards the rear of his collar Litzen and also by the fact he carries a sword (only worn by those of Vizefeldwebel and above the the Schutztruppe and army). The sword has an imperial eagle on the hilt and a sword knot in white metallic lace again with the imperial colours.

He wears three medals in the form of their ribbons only on his left breast. The most senior is the top left ribbon in black and white for the Prussian "Militärehrenzeichen 2. Klasse" (which Buschan was later also awarded in the first class for his bravery in action against the Bondelzwart-Hottentotten). To its side is the yellow ribbon of the "Centenarmedaille" (which appears a darker shade due to the orthochromatic photography of the time) and below them both is the "Dienstauszeichnung 1. Klasse". Buschan was later also awarded the "Südwestafrika-Denkmünze für Kämpfer". It was only instituted by Kaiser Wilhelm II in March 1907, while this photograph was probably taken in late 1906.

His headdress is the peaked field cap in matching grey with hatband and piping in blue for South West Africa with a small imperial cockade and a black leather peak.


Friedrich Otto Buschan was born on 23rd August 1873 in Sorau, Prussia. By trade he was a brick-layer but on 11th October 1894 he joined the army in the 14th company of the 12th Prussian Grenadiers ("Grenadier Regiment Prinz Karl von Preußen (2.brandenburgisches) Nr. 12"). On 27th March 1896 he joined the South West African Schutztruppe with whom he served for ten years, firstly in the 3.Feldkompagnie under the command of Hauptmann von Koppy, later in the 8. Feldkompagnie of the II. Feldregiment. He saw combat on several occasions and it is recorded that between 1903-06 he took part in the following actions- 19th/20th November 1903 Sandfontein (against the Bondelzwart-Hottentotten), 5th October 1904 Hurub, 14th November 1904 Spitzkopp, 15th December 1904 Koes, 5th January 1905 Gochas and 7th January 1905 Urikuribis.  His service in the Schutztruppe ended early due to ill health and he retired from the army on 30th November 1906. During the First World War he served in the 1st company of the 2.Ersatz-Bataillon of the Landwehr Inf-Regt. Nr. 52 and later (from 28th March 1917) to the "Militärgefangenen-Arbeiterkompanie" as a Prisoner of War camp guard.

His dates of promotion through the NCO ranks of the Schutztruppe were-

27th January 1898 überzähliger Gefreiter
27th January 1900 etatsmäßiger Gefreiter
27th August 1900 überzähliger Unteroffizier
1st July 1902 etatsmäßiger Unteroffizier
7th January 1905 Vizefeldwebel


NOTE- The terms "überzähliger" and "etatsmäßiger" refer to officers and NCOs rank appointments within the official establishment of a unit. Überzählig means supernumerary (above the establishment) and etatsmäßig means numerary (within the establishment). A soldier could be promoted but if there was no opening in the unit for an extra person of that rank he would have to wait until a position was free before taking up the post.

  Two close ups of the photograph. Note the collar and cuffs with Litzen and rank lace (and just visible on the wearer's left collar, a rank button). Note also the medal ribbons, sword with an imperial eagle on the hilt and sword knot.


Thanks very much to Karsten Herzogenrath for sharing this photograph with us. Please respect his generosity by not reproducing it without prior permission. Thanks also to "Abus" on the Axis History Forum for enlightening me on the differences between "überzähliger" and "etatsmäßiger" rank appointments.

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.

Back to Main Menu for German Colonial Uniforms