Thursday, December 22, 2016

Owikokorero Officer Casualties and Medical Personnel in Bivouac.

I've been looking for an un-watermarked version of this historic image for a long time.  It was taken during the German-Herero War in 1904 shortly after the battle of Owikokorero, where an advanced party from Major von Glasnapp's Ostabteilung was ambushed and took very heavy casualties,   10 out of 11 officers in the engagement were hit, with 7 outright fatalities.  The Major commandant was lightly wounded in the head, and the other two more seriously wounded officers appear in this image, along with some of the expedition's medical personnel.

Lying in the cot is Oberleuntnant zur See Friedrich Hermann, part of the Landungskorps from S.M.S. "Habicht".  He was in charge of a machine gun section and was shot through the left shoulder and also in the left hip.  Seated to his right is Marine-Leutnant Theobald Schäfer, who was also adjutant of the Ostabteilung.  He was shot through the bone of his left underarm and also in the buttocks.

They are attended by several known medical officers.  Standing in the rear at right is Marine-Assistenzartz Dr. Janßen.  Seated third from the right is one-year Schutztruppe medical volunteer (Einjährig-freiwilliger) Dr. Kräger, and seated to his right is Marine-Stabsartz Dr. Wiemann.  Following the death at Owikokorero of Marine-Oberassistensartz Dr. Wilhelm Belden of the Landungskorps from S.M.S. "Habicht", these were the three senior medical personnel attached to the Ostabteilung along with a 30 man medical department.  Possibly the other Germans in the image were part of that hospital section.

The two native auxiliaries remain unidentified.  They could be orderlies or batmen (bambuse) or they could be soldiers serving with the column.  They do not appear to be wounded.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Images of Native Auxilaries in German Service in DSWA

The participation of some indigenous people on the German side was awkward fact of the colonial wars in southwest Africa between 1904-1908.  The bulk of the German forces used in these conflicts were imperial Schutztruppen on detached service from their parent units, augmented by local reserves from the settler population, along with certain marine and naval elements that deployed at the outbreak of the Herero War.  Nonetheless,  there were three native auxiliary units - the Rehoboth Bastards, the Witbooi Orlam (ǀKhowesin) and a half company of Bethanie Orlam (ǃAman) - that fought alongside the Germans in 1904.  There were also indigenous people who accompanied the Schutztruppe in the capacity of officer's servants (bamusen), wagon drivers (treibern), and occasionally even as soldiers attached to predominantly white units, as depicted in the photograph above.  Standing at the far right is a soldier identified as farbiger (colored) Abraham.

The following images from German archives and period publications depict native auxilaries with the Schutztruppe in DSWA both prior to the German-Herero war and during that conflict.  Some of them served with the Germans prior to 1904 and against them afterwards.  The Witboois and some of the Bethanie men fought against the Germans during the Nama War of 1904-1908 after serving with them against the Herero. The Rehoboth Bastards fought by their side throughout, but so did individual Hereros..

Witbooi native auxiliaries (at right) in Okahandja in 1904
Mounted Witboois 1904
Witboois in Windhuk
Baster Company

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Askari Releases Mounted Schutztruppen

Askari Miniatures has filled a much needed gap in 28mm Colonial German wargaming with the release this March of four sets of Mounted Schutztruppen - horses and camels.  They are the same excellent quality as previous releases of Schutztruppen in this scale, which run closer to 26mm than true 28mm but still work with the larger scale.  The sets includes six troopers on either horses or camels, and a 3 person command pack with bugler, NCO and officer for each time of mounted troops.  One interesting feature is the ability to include rifles either in their scabbards or withdrawn.

I plan to pick up several of these sets.  Mounted officers are very rare in this scale from any current manufacturer, as indeed are mounted troops.  The camel riders will only be used in the final expedition of the Nama War in 1908, though they were around in SWA afterwards.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Schutztruppe Feldwebel Shoulder Insignia

Reproduction DSWA Feldwebel Shoulder Insignia
Here is a modern recreation of the shoulder insignia of a senior NCO in the Deutsch Südwestafrika Schutztruppe.  The feldwebel was the highest level NCO in Imperial Germany and functioned as Company Sergeant Major.  The triangular chevron with four metallic silver stripes (with blue cloth backing for DSWA) was worn by the feldwebel on the left shoulder as a detachable shoulder patch with hooks at the corners.  However, such chevrons were only worn with the tropical uniforms (either white or khaki (feldrock) and also the kord litewka.  The home and kord waffenrock uniforms, on the other hand, featured collar and cuff rank insignia instead. 

The diligent painter, therefore, should indicate NCO rank based on the appropriate style for the uniform. Senior NCOs (feldwebel or vice-feldwebel) also wore the closed sword knot without fringe (Portapee), as seen on the feldwebel in the image, below.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Heliography and Funkentelegraphy in the Herero War

"The headquarters took its place behind the lead company and sent up a balloon antenna. With this we hoped to make contact with v.d. Heyde and v. Estorff. Rückforth set up his heliograph and began to exchange signals with Auer on the Waterberg. Auer was able to report about all he was able to see below him." - Major Max Bayer
Heliograph team in Southwest Africa

At the very outset of the German-Herero War in 1904, the Southwest Africa protectorate's single telegraph line along the train tracks from Swakopmund to Windhuk was cut in several places. Protecting these vital links from further sabotage tied down considerable resources, including heavy automatic weapons that could otherwise have been deployed against the Hereros. 

Communication between isolated commands over vast distances and across varied topography in this region would require portable, wireless technologies.  The Germans came to rely on two different systems during the war with the Herero: one with its roots in the armies of antiquity and the other a product of the modern age. Neither offered a perfect solution, and both would later be supplanted by subsequent advances in radio development, but together they had advantages that the Germans came to appreciate and which ultimately influenced the course of the decisive action at the Waterburg in August 1904.

The heliograph was a simple concept that used mirrors to direct the rays of the sun and communicate between observers using Morse Code.  It required no other power source and was mounted on a simple surveyor's tripod.  While reliance on the sun restricted heliography to daylight conditions with clear skies, it was well suited to the highveld and arid conditions of southern Africa. 

The British had uses heliographs during the Zulu War in 1879 and in the Sudan in the 1880s, while the American General Nelson Miles employed them during his campaign against Geronimo.  Both the British and the Boers employed heliography during the 2nd Boer War (1899-1902), and it may have been this conflict that caused Imperial Germany to reconsider investing in this technology.  They adapted the British Mark V heliograph with additional refinements in 1900, and initially used them in Southwest Africa at fixed stations to communicate with distant outposts that were not yet served by telegraph lines. 

As long as the receiver's location remained fixed or could be identified by the sender, sending messages this way was a reliable means of communication, bu there were disadvantages for its use in the field.  Heliography required a clear line of sight between sender and receiver, ideally transmitted from high elevation, but the dense thornfeld along the Swakop River and its drainages to the North and East of Okahandja offered few natural eminences, forcing troops in the field to improvise signal stations atop termite hills and thorn trees.  Von Glasenapp's Ostabteilung spent over a month maneuvering in pursuit of the Herero and was seldom in one place long enough to establish heliograph contact with the station atop Kaiser Wilhelmberg at Okahandja or with Winhuk via a heliograph station at Seeis, requiring riders to carry messages part of the way.  Intermittent heliograph communication delayed reporting the defeat of von Glasenapp's section back to headquarters, and it was impossible at this stage for mobile sections to coordinate their efforts, even when separated by as little as 50 miles, because the low topography and dense thorns prevented signalers for fixing the position of their counterparts.

During the build up of troops under Lothar von Trotha in May and  June, 1904, the Germans added wireless radio communications capacity in the form of three (some sources say four)  funkentelegraph equipped carts and wagons, each able deploy either a 12 ft2 kite or a 350 ft3 hydrogen-filled balloon to extend its antenna in the field.    Four commissioned officers, four NCOs and 27 men assigned to these wireless sections departed Hamburg on April 30th in the transport "Herzog", arriving at Swakopmund on May 24th, 1904. 

The portable wireless stations or funkenstationen were first used against the Herero during the Waterburg campaign that August, where their relative strengths and weaknesses soon became apparent.

Each wireless station required at least three two wheeled support vehicles, which together transported a broad array of equipment, including gasoline powered generating plant, cable drum for hauling the balloon, the receiving apparatus, and the hydrogen tanks and balloon.  The Germans found two wheeled cars less stable and prone to tipping than four wheeled wagons, and each weighted nearly a ton when loaded.  High winds tore kites and prevented the balloons from reaching an ideal elevation, and the balloons themselves, soaring well above the thorn trees, clearly marked the location of the units they served and made them attractive targets for Herero rifles.

The converging German sections that fought below the Waterburg included several that were wireless equipped, including the headquarters section (von Muhlenfels), von Heyde's and von Estorff's sections.  While these allowed sporadic communication among these separate German elements, it was the simpler heliograph technology that played the divisive part in establishing communication between them, for Oberleutnant Richard Volkmann who was stationed to the North of the plateau wisely dispatched Lt. Auer. with a heliograph to the top of the Waterberg where he was able to communication with the various sections far below.

After the battle the wireless units were soon taken offline for servicing as the campaign against the Herero was winding down and war with the Nama shifted German attention to the south.  While these initial funkenstationen were down for repairs, an additional three units arrived from Germany and were deployed in the field.   The heliograph was a necessary supplement, and unlike the original wireless units remained in use by signal corps in many armies well after World War II.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New Skirmish Scenario "Incident at Osona": Armored Trains and Herero Rifles (Part IV)

Download .pdf  of Playtest Version Here
Here is the play test version of a new German-Herero War skirmish scenario I have developed for use with the Jones/Alvarado Herero Wars Scenario and Rules book (based on TSATF Rules system).  It follows on the Ambush at Uitkomst scenario I developed in collaboration with Roy Jones last year.  Previous posts on this blog in the Armored Trains and Herero Rifles in 1904 category provide the historical documentation and assumptions that inform the design of this scenario.

The German force has two significant assets that require careful handling in order to function property and upon which the success of their expedition to relieve Okahandja depends.  They have a train pushed by paired Zwillinge engines and open cars with sides that have been hastily reenforced with sandbags.  In addition two 32 Schutztruppen (4 foot elements in game terms), the train carries a machine gun in one of its open cars.  Maintaining proper speed, avoiding derailment and keeping the machine gun on line, all the while repairing sabotaged sections of track under enemy fire, presents a significant challenge for the German player, as indeed was the case during the historical Maschinengewehr-Expedition on which this scenario is based.  The train crew members are essential, and the loss of all four puts the train out of commission and means certain defeat.

The Hereros have excellent cover in the dense bushes, among nearby steep cliffs and within a large stone house, but perhaps not quite enough riflemen to pour on a devastating fire and disable track simultaneously.  In the actual fight at Osona, the tracks were broken in three places before the Germans arrived and the Hereros had perhaps as much as a 7:1 advantage in riflemen.  The numbers are reduced for this scenario, and not all of the 8 Herero Foot units are available when play begins.

Until it has been play tested, I'm not sure that I have the forces balanced appropriately, and am eager to see how new rules I have developed for causing and spotting track sabotage, derailment, track repair, train movement and cover will function.  If you decide to give this scenario a try, I would be grateful for detailed feedback on your results.  Further updates to the scenario will be posted here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

WTB 28mm HLBS German Colonial Sets

The Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company (HLBS) stopped making its 28mm German Colonial line before I had the chance to start collecting them, so I have been haunting eBay and various message boards for the last couple of years with decent results. 

I think the following is a near complete list of the old HLBS German Colonial Range, including set numbers and descriptions. 

GC1 Schutztruppe in slouch hat with colonial service cartridge belt (5 different figures)
GC1a Command Group (3 different figures)
GC2 Schutztruppe in peaked cap w/neck curtain, with colonial service cartridge belt (5 different figures)
GC2a Command Group (3 different figures)
GC3 Marines (seebatailon) in Pith Helmet with standard cartridge pouches (5 different figures)
GC3a Command Group (3 different figures)
GC4 Schutztruppe in Tropenhelm with standard cartridge pouches (5 different figures)
GC4a Command Group (3 different figures)
GC5 Askari in Fez with standard cartridge pouches (5 different figures)
GC6 Askari in Fez with standard cartridge pouches (5 different figures)
GC6a Askari N.C.O.s (3 different figures)
GC7 schutztruppe with maxim with colonial service cartridge belt (2 figures with gun&tripod)
GC8 Seebatailon with Maxim in Pith helmet with standard cartridge pouches (2 figures with gun&tripod)
GC9 Askari with Maxim (2 figures with gun&tripod)
GCM1 Camel Corps in slouch hat with colonial service cartridge belt (2 different figures and 2 different camels)
GCM2 Camel Corps (2 differing poses to GCM1)
GCM3 Camel Corps Command (2 different figures and 2 different camels)
GCM4 2 baggage Camels
GCM5 2 Kneeling Camels, with saddles for dismounted troops with holder
GCM6 Mounted Infantry, in slouch hat with colonial service cartridge belt (2 different figures and horse poses)
GCM7 Mounted Infantry (2 differing poses to GCM6)
GCM8 Mounted Infantry Command (2 different figures on two different horses)
GCM9 Two dismounted horses and holder

I have plenty of dismounted slouch hatted Schutztruppen (GC1 and GC1a) and machine gunners (GC7),  though I wouldn't say no to adding more.  I have 26 mounted Schutztruppen (GCM6, GCM7, GCM9),  including 2 commanders (GCM8), and would like to have another 3 sets including the command set.  I have a large number of Askaris (GC5, GC6, GC6a, GC9) and Asia Corps types in peaked cap (feldmutze) (GC2 and GC2a) that will be useful for East Africa/ the Middle East.

What I still do not have nearly enough of, and would dearly like to acquire, are HLBS Schutztruppen or Marines in pith helmets and tropenhelms (GC3, GC3a, GC4, GC48, GC8), and Schutztruppen mounted on camels (GCM1, GCM2, GCM3, GCM4 or GCM5).  

I will gladly acquire individual figures or entire collections in this range, painted or unpainted.  Message me in the comments if interested and I'll make you a good offer.