Schutztruppe Machine Gun Crew



Photo ©  Gilles Sigro

This is a posed photograph taken South West Africa, sometime between 1905 and 1915, but most likely at the earlier end of that scale. It shows a Schutztruppe Maxim machine gun crew cleaning and oiling their weapon. Maxim machine guns were first issued to the Schutztruppe of South West Africa during the Herero Rebellion around 1905.

The crew all wear corduroy peaked caps (with black leather peaks and hatbands and piping in blue for South West Africa and a small imperial cockade at the front - see right) and some wear 1900 Corduroy Litewkas (with stand and fall collars, concealed buttons down the front and on the four pockets, with braided shoulder straps in the imperial colours- see right) and matching corduroy trousers. Although at first glance the group appear to be similarly dressed they all have very slight variations of issue uniforms along with some unofficial additions that seem to have been typical of the Schutztruppe on active service. These variations can be seen more clearly when examining the close up photographs below.

The first figure standing on the left, wears shirt sleeve order. Note that his trousers are held up with a leather belt and that his gaiters fasten on the side with a short strap.

The second figure, sitting is dressed the same.

The third figure wears the 1900 corduroy Litewka tunic in a shade of brown/grey matching his peaked cap. He wears riding boots rather than gaiters.

The fourth figure, oiling the machine gun, wears shirtsleeves too, but notice his trousers are held up with braces rather than a belt and that his gaiters are of a different pattern with a longer fastening strap going right around them.

The fifth figure also wears a 1900 corduroy Litewka (dotted with oil stains) but of a noticeably lighter shade than his comrade and than his peaked cap. Manufacturing differences meant that corduroy uniforms in South West Africa did vary greatly in shade from grey/brown to pale khaki. Once issued, the African sun then bleached uniforms further off colour. This fifth figure wears riding boots.

The sixth figure in the group, kneeling at the right hand side is dressed most irregularly. He is wearing a woollen jumper, almost certainly privately purchased and not of regulation issue. His corduroy uniform trousers are tucked into woollen socks above his ankle boots.

Schutztruppe Corduroy Cap
(See Rödelsee Museum Collection Page)
© Arne Schöfert

Schutztruppe Corduroy Litewka
(See Swakopmund Museum Page)
Photo © Phil Buhler




Please respect the generosity of Gilles Sigro 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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