August 1914 the New Zealand authorities set up a
camp on Somes Island (also known as Matiu) in
Wellington Harbour for the internment of German
and Austro-Hungarian potential reservists living in New
Zealand. The camp
had 80 prisoners in 1914, by 1918 that number
had grown to 313 including the crew of the raiding
ships SMS Seeadler. Conditions at the camp were
harsh, with reported beatings and considerable
resentment between the prisoners and their
guards. In 1918 the New Zealand government
launched an official enquiry into conditions there but
cleared their officials of any wrong doing.
photograph shows German internees on Somes
Island parading on the Kaiser's birthday on 27 January 1917 with wooden dummy rifles in what
looks like full pre-war German army uniforms.
examination shows that these are not imperial
German army uniforms but replicas improvised
from other altered uniform parts. Some have the
wrong number of tunic buttons, some have
irregular Pickelhaube shapes and insignia while
the musician on the left has breast pockets.
None of these variations occurred on genuine
pre-war German army uniforms.
Yet it seems
quite some effort has been made to replicate the
uniforms of particular units, presumably in each
case that of which the wearer did his military
service in. The drummer in the photograph has
musicians swallows nests and the uniform of a
Prussian line Jäger Battalion.
In the close up below the
discrepancies in styles of uniform
and Pickelhaube can be seen more clearly. The figure
on the left has a uniform in the style of the Prussian
Foot/Grenadier Guards with a Guards Eagle on his
Pickelhaube, Swedish style cuffs and Litzen on both
collar and cuffs. The others are in the style of line
regiments. They each have different regimental numbers or
ciphers on their shoulder straps though
none can be quite read. The figure on the far right has
a Bavarian coat of arms on his Pickelhaube, again no doubt
in imitation of his parent regiment.