Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Herero Kapitän in the Coat of the Kaiser's Guard

In June, 1894, a succession dispute over the Herero chieftaincy of Okahandja turned violent.  Samuel Maharero, son of the dead chieftain Maharero Tjiamuaha, had a weaker claim under the laws of Herero inheritance than his other rivals.  Samuel and his followers were driven out of Okahandja and took refuge on a hilltop at Osona, about a dozen miles to the South.  There they ran up a German flag and waited for military aid from the colonial authorities who had backed Samuel as Herero paramount chief.  When the soldiers arrived from Windhuk, they were greeted by Samuel's cousin and veld-cornet Assa Riarua, wearing "a uniform of the German Kaiser's French Guard regiment (Jan-Bart Gewald 1999:57)."

Assa Riarua's appearance must indeed have been very striking in the Prussian cuirassier uniform of the elite Imperial Body Guard.  The regular uniform was almost cream colored white wool piped with red.  It had a red stand up collar, facings and cuffs that for the enlisted men were trimmed with white tape and for the officers in heavy silver bullion.  It is not known how Assa came by the uniform, whether it was an enlisted man's or officer's, nor whether it was complete or only included the coat.  Perhaps it was sold to him by a German trader.  The men who served in the Kaiser's guard were all at least six feet tall, and judging from a contemporary photograph taken of Assa in the late 1890s the coat would have been large for him.

A decade later during the German-Herero war, Assa fought in a German uniform and carried a sword.  By that time, his old cuirassier koller may have seen better days, but since we have a description of him wearing it in the 1890s I've decided to paint a mounted figure of Assa in the coat of the Kaiser's bodyguard.

The full uniform, it would have included the gilt helmet of the Guard du Corps, possibly

even surmounted by its ceremonial eagle with outstretched wings instead of a spike.  That seems a stretch, both from an historical point of view and as a practical matter to find a suitable figure to represent an African wearing this uniform.  There is better documentation, though, for a spiked cork sun helmet such as the Schutztruppe wore before 1896.  There is even an image from 1904 of a "Bambuse" - a German officer's native orderly - standing at a railroad siding and wearing what is probably the Schutztruppe tropical helmet authorized in 1891.  I have selected a figure to use for Assa Riarua who is wearing one as well.

I'm very fond of the sculpting that Paul Hicks has done for Empress Miniatures and its Anglo-Zulu War line, and  have used his Natal Native Horse figures (sans the spears in their shoulder quivers) for mounted Hereros.  For Assa Riarua, though, I wanted something special and selected one of two figures in a set of Mounted Natal Carbineers.







The cuffs of this figure are pointed, but a little green stuff helped to modify it satisfactorily.  I painted up Assa Riarua in the koller and trousers of an enlisted soldier in the Garde du Corps, mixing Vallejo Sand Yellow and White to get the color of his proud but well worn off white wool uniform.  I painted the old 1891 Schutztruppe spiked pith helmet with Vallejo New Wood for the darker colors, working up through German Ochre Orange with a touch of Dark Sand.  I'm pleased with the finished product, which unfortunately I had to photograph inside with the flash rather than in natural light, but the end result is a proud Herero commander in one of the most unusual uniforms ever to grace a colonial Africa gaming table.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Images of Seesoldaten from DSWA in 1904

The Marine infantry or Seebataillon companies that arrived in German Southwest Africa in February, 1904 saw heavy service in the months to follow.  Those in the 1st Company suffered the most, taking early casualties at Swartklippe and then joining the ill-fated expedition of the Ostabteilung under marine Major von Glasenapp during which they lost dozens of men fighting as the rearguard or nachspitze at Okaharui.  The 4th Company also served in the Ostabteilung, while the 3rd was initially with Major Estorff's Westabteilung and fought a hard engagement at Otjihinamaparero and a skirmish near the Omatako Mountains on the way back to Okahandja to where Estorff joined forces with Governor Leutwein's main section or Hauptabteilung. The 2nd Company fought at Klein-Barmen and also joined the Hauptabteilung.  

Seesoldaten with the Ostabteilung traveling in open rail trucks
(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)
Typhus devastated the 1st and 4th companies, and the remnants of these units along with a detachment from the 3rd company served at Waterburg under Graf von Brockdorff.  Members of the Seebataillon's Maschinengewehre Zug under Oberieutenant zur See Wossidlo later garrisoned Fort Namutoni at the very edge of German settlement in the far north of the colony.  The Seebataillon also provided medical staff to the German forces.

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)
There are more images of the Seebataillon forces in DSWA than I have located for the sailors in Landungskorps Habicht that I wrote about in the previous post.  Most of these are from the 1st or 4th Companies, though there is at least one from the 3rd Company with Estorffs Westabgteilung.  In this image at left, the overall commander of the Seebataillon in DSWA, Oberst Dürr can be seen together with his staff and naval officers on board the troop ransport ship en route to the colony.

Marine uniforms can be distinguished from those of the Schutztruppe by their bordtfeld tropenhelms (with or without helmet plates) or the white bands on the visored feldmutz that appear lighter in period photographs than the cornflower blue of the Schutztruppe.  Instead of cord shoulder straps in imperial colors, seesoldaten wore detachable white shoulder boards with a gold crown and crossed anchors, but these appear to have been removed while on campaign. There are also differences in NCO insignia.

Crossing the Black Nossob
(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)
Sometimes other types of equipment typical of the Seebatallion can be seen in the photographs, such as naval bread bags with belt clips worn by seesoldaten in the Ostabteilung, shown in the image above as marines in the 1st or 4th company cross the ephemeral Black Nossob river. In the image, below, an NCO from the 3rd Seebataillon Company (seated at right, possibly a vice-feldwebel based on his uniform collar and cuff insignia) and a detachment of marines posted near Omaruru prepare a meal while others stand watch.

Seesoldaten from the 3rd Company
(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)
Below, another group of seesoldaten, this time from the 1st or 4th company,  contrives to heat numerous kettles over a single campfire.

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)

















The shoulder boards of the marines in the next two images are quite distinct.  The senior NCO in the first picture, identified as feldwebel Peters, as indicated by his collar and cuff insignia.  They were both taken at Otjosazu near Okahandja. The other pictures show seesoldaten (including a junior and senior NCO), in an open train car, and another marine with a pet zebra.  Most of these pictures are made available by the University of Frankfort and are part of its outstanding digital library.

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)
(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)
(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)
Marines served both machine cannons (maschinenkanonen) and machine guns (machinengewehre) in southwest Africa during 1904.  Two machine guns were assigned to a section under Oberleutnant zur See Wossidlo, and dispatched north to Grootfontein in June, 1904 along with Oberleutnant von Zülow's 3rd Schutztruppe Company.  Here they met up with the District Commander Oberleutnant Richard D. Volkmann, who featured prominently a series of posts early this year on the Battle of Uitkomst.  Wossidlo had previously served with Estorff, and would later deploy his machine guns to  help defend the heliograph station which Volkmann ordered Lt. Auer to establish at the top of the Waterberg prior to the battles there in August.  In the photograph, below, taken in Grootfontein that June, Wossidlo wears his blue naval officer's coat.  From left to right, adults in this image are identified as Oberlt. Böttlin (in charge of the Bastard Abteilung); Lt. Lehman (field artillery); Frau Gathmann; Oberlt. Richard Volkmann; Werner (possibly Oberarzt Dr. Werner); Theodor Gathmann; Frau Kühnehold; Oberlt. z. See Wossidlo; Lt. Freiherr von Reibnitz; Oberlt. von Madai (field artillery) and Oberlt. v. Zülow.

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Images of the Landsungskorps from S.M.S. "Habicht" in DSWA in 1904

A detachment of sailors from SMS "Habicht" was the first reenforcement to arrive in German Southwest Africa at the outbreak of the 1904 war with the Herero.   Landungskorps "Habitcht" guarded railway stations along the narrow gauge line between Swakopmund and Okahandja and fought several sharp actions at Liewenberg at Groß-Barmen.  Sailors from "Habicht" helped serve in a Machinenkanonen section with Ludwig von Estorff's Westabteilung.  Dr. Belden and two sailors from "Habitcht" were killed, and Oberleutnant zur See Friedrich Hermann, was wounded at Owikokorero with the Ostabteilung. Several more died of typhus.

Several sailors visible, in both blue and white uniforms, 2 with the 1902 Bordtfeld Tropenhelm
(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)


Images of sailors from Landungskorps "Habicht" are few and far between.  Those that I have been able to discover show a mix of uniforms (the white Arbeitsbluse, winter blues and perhaps even work shirts stained khaki with a dye of coffee and tobacco) and head wear (naval caps, Bordtfeld tropenhelms and even a Sudwester or two).  If there is a unifying feature it is the blue, removable naval collar, with or without a black neckerchief , and an open, V necked blouse.

Here is an image of Waldau station on the railway line a few kilometers west of Okahandja before the war began, followed by one after it had been burned and was reoccupied and fortified by Schutztruppen and sailors from the Landungskorps.  You can see two sailors in the second image, one in a Sudwester hat, and the corrugated sheet metal used to make the burned out station defensible.

Waldau Station, 1903
(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)



Many of the sailors in the Landungskorps served automatic artillery pieces, including machine cannon (maschinenkanonen), revolver cannons (revolverkanonen) and machine guns (maschinenegewehre).  The following image from Okasise station on the railway line on June 30, 1904 includes a revolverkanone crew and gun platform, and includes a significant number of sailors from the Landungskorps (and one or more officers).

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)


A close up of the gun crew in this photograph (from the digital library of Goethe Universität, Frankfort am Main, which has a wealth of period images), reveals soldiers in their winter blues - appropriate for this time of year in the southern Hemisphere - and summer whites or work blouses.  The officer in front strikes a jaunty pose.

Small detachments of Sailors from the Landungskorps also served machine guns and other automatic cannons with Estorff's Westabteilung at Omaruru and with Glasenapp's Ostabteilung.  One of the former is shown, below, at the grave of  Leutnant Erich Georg Kuno Freiherr von Woellwarth-Lauterburg who died of wounds received during the siege of Omaruru on February 14th, 1904.

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)

Another sailor stands at a pair of graves, unfortunately just too pixelated for me to determine their names, in the image below. His collar is darker than his blouse but the shirt is no longer white.  It may be an example of one of the sailor uniforms that was stained khaki with coffee and tobacco.  It is just possible that the same sailor, in different clothing, appears in this photograph as the one above.  Hard to tell, but there is a resemblance...

(Photo from database maintained by Goethe Universität Frankfort am Main)