The Schutztruppe (protection troops) was the African colonial armed force of Imperial Germany from the late 1800s to 1918 when Germany lost its colonies. Like other colonial forces the Schutztruppe consisted of volunteered European officers, medical and veterinarian officers and NCOs whilst the regulars were enlisted locals. In German East Africa they became famous as Askari. Additional police forces also existed in the colonies. Control of the colonies in New Guinea and in the German-held South Pacific Islands was exercised by small police detachments, while Kiautschou was under control of the navy.

The colonial force for German East Africa was established by an act of the Reichstag on March 22, 1891, the colonial forces for German West Africa and German Southwest Africa on June 9, 1895. The Schutztruppe was not a part of the Reichsheer or the Kaiserliche Marine. Till 1896 the force was administered by the Reichsmarineamt, then a supreme command was formed: the Oberkommando der Schutztruppen. It was accommodated in the Mauerstr. 45/46, Berlin in direct proximity to the German Colonial Office. German military laws and the German military discipline applied to the Schutztruppe.

In 1914 there were three Schutztruppe commands, one in each of the German colonies in East-, West-, and Southwest-Africa.

German East Africa

see also: East African Campaign (World War I)

At the Outbreak of World War I the Schutztruppe in German East Africa consisted of 14 companies totalling 2,500 men with its headquarters in Dar es Salaam and reached 14,000 personnel and many more porters and laborers. They were commanded by Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck and went on to become the last German unit to surrender in World War I.

Each of the 14 field companies (feldkompagnien) consisted of 160 (expandable to 200) men on three Zuge (platoons) of 50 to 60 men each, plus a band. Each Kompagnie also had a 250 man porter corps attached to it plus a civilian auxiliary called Ruga-ruga, who were native irregulars.

  • 1 Kompagnie: Aruscha
  • 2 Kompagnie: Iringa and Unbena
  • 3 Kompagnie: Lindi
  • 4 Kompagnie: Kilimatinde and Ssingidda
  • 5 Kompagnie: Massoko
  • 6 Kompagnie: Udjidiji and Kassulo
  • 7 Kompagnie: Bukoba, Ussuwi and Kifumbiro
  • 8 Kompagnie: Tabora
  • 9 Kompagnie: Usumbura
  • 10 Kompagnie: Daressalam
  • 11 Kompagnie: Kissenji and Mruhengeri
  • 12 Kompagnie: Mahenge
  • 13 Kompagnie: Kondoa Irangi
  • 14 Kompagnie: Muansa and Ikoma

Additionally in Daressalam: a recruitment depot, a signal department and quartermaster.

Overall strength was 68 officers, 42 physicians, 150 German officials, ammunition technicians and NCOs and 2472 African soldiers.

During the war companies 15 to 30 were added plus A through H temporary companies, 1st through 8th reserve companies, and 1st through 8th Schutzenkompagnie (rifle companies), These last were originally formed of white settlers but became racially mixed units as the war went on. Additionally numerous small detachments were also formed.

German Southwest Africa

The Schutztruppe in German Southwest Africa was structured in 12 companies of mounted infantry totalling 1,500 men, primarily Germans. The 7th Company, stationed in the northern desert area of the colony, was mounted on specially imported camels. A single unit, called the 'Bastard' or 'Baster' Company of non-local natives was raised and did serve. Relations between the Germans and the Africans in this colony had deteriorated to the point that no local Africans would serve. However many Boers and Afrikaans did join to renew their fight against Great Britain.

The colonial forces for German Southwest Africa consisted of soldiers of the Army and the Navy (and also Austrians), which had announced themselves voluntarily from their regiments for the troop. Before the shipment to Africa the volunteers were prepared on German training bases for their special tasks. Such a base was for example in Karlsruhe. Because of the often damp-hot conditions on the upper Rhine one provided here for an early acclimatization.

The structure of the Southwest African detachment was as following:

German Southwest Africa command at Windhuk with court, intendantur (administration & headquarters), medical office and Vermessungstrupp (surveying and mapping)

North district command: Windhuk

  • 1. Kompagnie: Rain stone, Seeis
  • 4. Kompagnie (mg): Okanjande
  • 6. Kompagnie: Outjo and Otavi
  • 2. Battery: Johann Albrechts height
  • Traffic course 1: Karibib
  • Office for provisions: Karibib
  • Horse depot: Okawayo
  • Artillery and train depot: Windhuk
  • Clothing depot: Windhuk
  • Ortskommandantur: Windhuk
  • Ortskommandantur and office for provisions: Swakopmund

South district command: Keetmanshoop

  • 2. Kompagnie: Ukamas
  • 3. Kompagnie: Kanus
  • 5. Kompagnie (mg): Chamis and Churutabis
  • 7. and 8 Kompagnie: Gochas and Arahoab (camel riders and mg), military hospital.
  • 1. Battery: Narubis
  • 3. Battery: Wreath/ring place Gibeon
  • Traffic course 2: Keetmanshoop
  • Artillery and train depot: Keetmanshoop
  • Military hospital - and medical depot: Keetmanshoop
  • Clothing depot: Keetmanshoop
  • Office for provisions: Keetmanshoop
  • Garrison administration: Keetmanshoop
  • Horse depot: Out
  • Camel stud: Kalkfontain
  • Ortskommandantur and office for provisions: Loading and cutting bay

At the outbreak of World War I the force had a total strength of 90 officers, 22 physicians, 9 veterinarians, 59 officials, ammunition technician, 342 NCOs and 1444 German soldiers.

German West Africa

German West Africa consisted of the two colonies German Cameroon and German Togoland

In Cameroon in 1914 there were 12 companies stationed totalling 1,600 men with its headquarters in Soppo. The troop was estblished in 1894 out of the police force formed three years prior.

The structure of the Cameroon detachment was as following:

Central Command: Soppo

  1. Kompagnie (master company) and artillery detachement: Duala
  2. Kompagnie: Bamenda, Wum and Kentu
  3. Kompagnie: Mora and Kusseri
  4. Kompagnie (expedition company): Soppo
  5. Kompagnie: Buar and Carnot
  6. Kompagnie: Mbaiki, Nola and Nguku
  7. Kompagnie: Garua, Nassarau (Nassarao), Mubi, Marua, Lere
  8. Kompagnie: Ngaundere
  9. Kompagnie: Dume and Baturi
  10. Kompagnie: Ojem and Mimwoul
  11. Kompagnie: Akoafim, Ngarabinsam and Minkebe
  12. Kompagnie: Bumo, Fianga, Would ferment and Schoa

Total strength of 61 officers, 17 physicians, 23 officials, ammunition technician, 98 German NCOs, 1550 African soldiers

In Togoland there were no forces of the Schutztruppe stationed before World War I. However, 1,000 or so were raised during the war. By the end of August 1914, all had surrendered to invading French and British forces. In the pre-war era a police force controled the country.


  • German colonial encyclopedia, 1920, volume III, S. 321 FF. [1]
  • Werner Kopf: The German colonial force 1889/1918, Dörfler publishing house
  • Wolfgang Reith: The command authorities of the imperial colonial force in the homeland into German soldier yearbook 2000 and 2001 (2 parts) sign publishing house, Munich
  • Thomas Morlang: Askari und Fitafita. 'Farbige' Söldner in den deutsche Kolonien, Berlin 2008

External links

German language sites:

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