Photos of Johann-Baptist Zehetmayr of the
East Asian Occupation Brigade and the Cameroon


Unteroffizier Johann-Baptist Zehetmayr, East Asian Field Artillery Battery, 1909
This photograph was taken in April 1909 as Zehetmayr was promoted to Unteroffizier and as the East Asian Occupation Brigade was disbanded and returned to Germany. He wears the 1904 Field Grey Summer Uniform with the collar lace, cuff lace and arm chevron of an Unteroffizier in imperial colours. He wears the 1904 Bortfeldt tropical helmet in field grey with a black hatband edged in red for the artillery. Note the 1904 field grey helmets were smaller than the previous 1900 khaki helmets. His weapon is a curved artillery sabre.
Photo © Karl Zetmeir



The two photographs on this page show Johann-Baptist Zehetmayr. They were sent to us by Karl Zetmeir who was doing some family history research and came across his great-grandfather's nephew. The photograph above shows Zehetmayr in 1909 as an Unteroffizier in the East Asian Artillery Battery. The photograph at the bottom of the page shows him along with other officers and NCOs of the Cameroon Schutztruppe in about 1915.

From Johann-Baptist's service record along with several letters and documents belonging to him it has been possible to piece together much of his life history. He was born in Unterhaching, Bavaria on 30th September 1883. His father had served as a cook in the Bavarian army during the Franco-Prussian War. Johann-Baptist himself joined the Bavarian army on 24th October 1903, probably in an artillery regiment.

In 1907 he volunteered for service in China where he served in the field artillery battery of the East Asian Detachment. He was promoted to Unteroffizier on 3rd April 1909 just as the Detachment was being disbanded two days later. He returned to Germany, arriving at  Cuxhaven on board the postal steamer "Prinz-Regent Luitpold". It believed that he continued service in the 6th Battery of the 1st Bavarian Foot Artillery Regiment ("Kgl. Bayer. 1. Fußartillerie-Regt. vakant Bothmer") until volunteering again for overseas service.

This time he was given a two year posting as a Polizeimeister of the Cameroon Polizeitruppe on 2nd April 1914. When the First World War broke out a few months later he was transferred along with most of the Polizeitruppe to the Schutztruppe, probably serving in the 4. Feldkompagnie (originally the Expeditionary/Survey company based at Soppo). In a postcard he mentions a twelve day march from Duala to Ossidinge (modern Mamfe) so it is clear that he served in the Western part of the colony.

In 1915 he was promoted to Feldwebel (although his post war documents have him listed as a Vizefeldwebel so this promotion may have been a temporary wartime appointment). Along with most of the remaining Cameroon Schutztruppe, rather then surrender to the enemy he retreated into the neutral Spanish colony of Rio Muni and spent at least some of the war on the Spanish island of Fernando Po. He may have then been transferred to Spain along with many of his German comrades.

Johann-Baptist was an avid photographer and had an entire album of photographs of his time in Cameroon. Unfortunately the whereabouts of most of these photographs is now unknown. Those that remain are shown here. After the war he returned to Africa, though he did consider moving to the United States at one point. He died of Blackwater Fever in Bata, Equatorial Guinea on 7th April 1932.

For his wartime service he was awarded the Prussian Iron Cross, second class (as of 15th March 1919), the Bavarian Military Merit Cross, second class with swords (as of 23rd October 1920) and the Colonial Service Medal (as of 22nd March 1922).

Officers and NCOs of the Cameroon Schutztruppe c1915-16
This photograph shows Johann-Baptist Zehetmayr (marked with XX) and other members of the Cameroon Schutztruppe after their internment in the Spanish colony of Rio Muni. The officer in a khaki uniform in the centre is a Spanish colonial officer. The Schutztruppe personnel all wear the 1896 white tropical uniform. NCO chevrons can be seen on at least two of the men (the man in the centre with a Südwester hat has the single chevron of an Unteroffizier and the one on the far right has the four chevrons of a Feldwebel). Most of the Schutztruppe have khaki tropical helmets. Zehetmayr and the Feldwebel on the far right appear to have white tropical helmets, presumably because they are originally from the Polizeitruppe. Two soldiers have the grey field cap with red hatband and piping for Cameroon. One has a simple trilby hat. It may be that he is a civilian official. As mentioned before the Unteroffizier in the centre wears a grey felt Südwester hat with edging in red for Cameroon. Zehetmayr and the man next to him wear short white boots to match their uniforms while most of the others wear Schutztruppe black leather short boots.
© Karl Zetmeir

A Postcard Sent by Johann-Baptist Zehetmayr to his Home from Peking, China in 1908

A Letter Sent to Johann-Baptist Zehetmayr from America while he was in Internment in Spanish Fernando Po

Please respect Karl Zetmeir's generosity in sharing these photographs with us by not re-using them without 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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