Rittmeister Ernst von Heynitz
of the Johanniter Order and German Red Cross



Photo © Karsten Herzogenrath

Close up of a Tunic Button
Note the Johanniter Cross

Close up of the Medal Bar

Close up of the Shoulder Strap
with two pips for Rittmeister

Von Heynitz wearing a Schutztruppe Greatcoat
Photo from Wikipedia

  This photograph shows Rittmeister Ernst von Heynitz in Schutztruppe uniform with Johanniter insignia.

The Johanniter Order, of which von Heynitz was a member, was a German Protestant chivalric order dating back to the 11th Century. The order was patronised by Prussian royalty and by the late 19th Century was devoted entirely to charitable works and care of the sick. As such von Heynitz was in command of the German Red Cross volunteers during the Herero Rebellion.

Von Heynitz wears the Schutztruppe grey felt Südwester hat with a small Johanniter Order Cross badge at the front. I have not yet seen another officer with this insignia. It is uncertain if his hatband is blue for South West Africa from this black and white photograph.

The tunic is the Schutztruppe officer's corduroy Interimsrock. The buttons do not have the Schutztruppe imperial crown but again the Johanniter Cross.

The officers shoulder straps have the two pips of a cavalry captain "Rittmeister" the backing colour for the strap would be the same as the hatband and edging.

His medals are seen from left to right in order of seniority-

 - Saxon Albrecht Order, second class with swords
 - German Franco-Prussian War Medal ("Kriegsdenkmünze 1870-71")
 - Saxon Cross for the Austro-Prussian War ("Erinnerungskreuz 1866")
 - Saxon Cross for the Second Schleswig War  ("Erinnerungskreuz 1863-64")
 - Prussian Wilhelm I Centenary Medal

The Wilhelm I Centenary Medal was issued to all servicemen in the Prussian army and Imperial service (such as the Schutztruppe and Imperial Navy) in 1898. It was also awarded to all living veterans of the Wars of Unification from Prussia or the other German states. It was in this last category as a Saxon veteran of the Franco-Prussian War that Von Heynitz got his award.

Von Heynitz wears a Schutztruppe officer's belt in white metallic lace with two red stripes and a single black stripe along its length.

The photograph at the bottom left show von Heynitz again in Schutztruppe uniform with his unique Johanniter Südwester hat but this time wearing a Schutztruppe officer's double breasted greatcoat.

It has the same Rittmeister shoulder straps as the tunic in the main photograph but close examination shows the buttons on the greatcoat to be standard Schutztruppe buttons with the Imperial crown rather than the Johanniter buttons of the tunic.


Georg Friedrich Ernst von Heynitz (1840-1912) was born into a landowning family in the Kingdom of Saxony. He joined the Saxon Army and served in the 1864 War against Denmark, the 1866 War against Prussia and the 1870-71 against France, ending up as a Rittmeister of the Saxon Garde-Reiter-Regiment. Heynitz was also a member of the Order of St John, Bailiwick of Brandenburg or "Johanniter-Orden" which was dedicated to medical and charitable works.

In 1898 he moved to South West Africa where he bought a farm and bred horses for the Schutztruppe. With the outbreak of the Herero Rebellion in 1904 he took over control of the German Red Cross and Schutztruppe field hospitals in South West Africa and later that year returned to Germany to recruit nurses. While he was away his farm was raided and looted by the Herero.

He went back to South West Africa for a year in 1907-08. Upon his return to Germany in 1908 he was made a "Rechtsritter" of the Johanniter Order. He set himself the task of raising funds and means to build hospitals in South West Africa. After many difficulties the hospital in Keetmanshoop opened in 1913, a year after Heynitz's death.

External Link - Wikipedia.de


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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