Thursday, July 13, 2017

Kord Waffenrock M1896: Kaiserliche Schutztruppe Deutsch-Südwestafrika

From Die Deutschen Kolonial und Schutztruppen von 1889 bis 1918
One of the most distinctive uniforms used in German Southwest Africa during the period of the Herero and Nama wars and for some years before and after was the model 1896 corduroy waffenrock.
I've decided to try to recreate this uniform tunic, and possibly fashion a complete reenacting impression for a sergeant of the landsturm, which presents a number of challenges, the most significant of which is that I do not have an original uniform to examine in person.   There are, however, many contemporary images, as well as photographs of surviving examples, and by examining the differences between the Prussian M1895 waffenrock on which it is based, I believe a credible interpretation may be achieved.   I have also been able to source most of the trimmings needed to complete this coat as well, and have every expectation that I will be able to gather the materials I require.

Prussian Field Artillery M1895 waffenrock,
rear view
The imperial German waffenrock went through a number of iterations during the 19th century.  The model 1895 Prussian waffenrock was the basis both for the Schutztruppe gray Home Uniform and corduroy waffenrock tunic and trousers that were issued to soldiers in Southwest Africa as a suitable winter weight alternative to wool or tropical khaki.  The DSWA Schutztruppe variant differed in several respects from the basic Prussian design.  It featured a stand and fall collar, Swedish cuffs and piping in cornflower blue: the color prescribed for the troops of the Southwest Africa colony. Because the Schutztruppe were imperial troops, it had white metal buttons with the imperial crown.  It also featured a single white Litzen (silver metallic for senior NCOs and officers) with an internal red stripe on the 5cm collar and two on each cuff.  For my sergeant's impression, I will need to add 2cm wide silver lace on the front edge and bottom of the collar and the edge of the cuffs, along with a large white metal NCO's collar button.  There were eight buttons down the front of the uniform, and an internal cloth drawstring at the waist to adjust the fit.  There were also 2 buttons on the cuffs and s split vent with an internal, small white metal button attached with four holes as a closure.

I'm less certain about the top buttons on the rear flaps of the tunic, and whether these should be imperial crown belt hooks or not.  I have a pair just in case.  All the imperial buttons were pressed through the fabric and attached with what look like split brass rings.  The collar was closed by one or two long hooks that also attached to a brass ring.  Button holes were hand sewn but the rest of the tunic was machine stitched.

The issued waffenrock was lined.  I doubt that the skirts were in black cotton or silk like the Prussian waffenrock..  My interpretation will have white linen lining above the skirts (with an internal pocket at the left breast) and heavy khaki poplin to line the skirts.   The back of the tunic has a working vent which allows access to two skirt pockets.  The skirt flaps and the open edge of the tunic are piped in cornflower blue. There were reinforcement bars stitched at the top, rear of the cuff adjustment slits and above the rear vent of the tunic.

The enlisted Schutztruppe uniforms also had shoulder boards made from white mohair cord with imperial black and red chevrons backed with cornflower blue wool.  I was able to get some reproduction cord and will make the shoulder-boards myself.  Officers had silver bullion cord with imperial black and red chevrons.

Aside from these details, sourcing the uniform fabric has been challenging.  I am going with wool felt in cornflower blue for the collar, cuffs and shoulder board backing.  I've requested a swatch of the Hainsworth True Heritage brown khaki whipcord uniform fabric. Contemproary Germans called corduroy trousers Manchesterhosen after the famous English corduroy manufacturing center, and the color sandfarben specified for field service was variously colored sandy brown corduroy that lightened in the desert sun.  I have an original M1893 canteen cover made from brown corduroy and if the Hainsworth stuff is a close match, that is what I'll use.

As a junior NCO (Unteroffizier ohne Portapee), there is no difference between the insignia on my kord waffenrock and that of a vice-feldwebel.  These ranks are distinguished by bayonet knots.  Unteroffiziers and Sergeants wore a troddel knot in imperial colors, and I have one of those though I do not yet own an appropriate bayonet.  Senior NCOs and Officers were entitled to the more ornate Portapee, which was worn by the vice-feldwebel and feldwebel with a sword while on parade and on the bayonet when on campaign.  Those for DSWA were closed knots with white metallic lace with the lanyard threaded in imperial black and red colors.  I do not have one of these.  On very rare occassions, an historic image shows an unteroffizer wearing both the kord waffenrock and a detachable shoulder chevron such as were worn on the kord litewka and khaki feldrock uniforms, but this was not according to regulation.

I'm far too old to depict the young regular army volunteers who customarily served 3 year terms in the Schutztruppe in southwest Africa.   My impression, should I ever complete it, will be of a reservist from the Landsturm, an old retired member of the Protection Force who settled down int he colony and was called up during the Herero uprising.  I'll wear a mix of uniform types and Schutztruppe kit, which was quite common even for regular Schutztruppen while on campaign.

If anyone reading this post has firsthand knowledge or documentation for the lining of the kord waffenrock, whether it had belt hooks or not at the top of the vent flaps, and what specific fabric comprised the collar, cuffs shoulder-board backing, I would be deeply appreciative of your sharing you knowledge and source material.

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