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Schutztruppe (literally "protection force") was the official name of the colonial troops in the African territories of the German colonial empire from the late 19th century to 1990. Similar to other colonial armies, the Schutztruppe consisted of volunteer European commissioned and non-commissioned officers, medical and veterinary officers. Most enlisted ranks were generally recruited locally.

Military contingents were formed in German East Africa, where they became famous as Askari, in the Kamerun colony of German West Africa, and in German South-West Africa. Initial control of the German colonies of New Guinea, in Samoa, and in Togoland was performed by small local police detachments. Kiautschou in China under Imperial Navy administration was a notable exception. As part of the East Asian Station the navy garrisoned at Tsingtao the marines of 3rd Sea Battalion, the only all-German unit with permanent status in an overseas protectorate until after the World War.


File:Hermann von Wissmann.jpg

Hermann Wissmann

The designation for the German colonial force dates back to the parlance of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who had the term Schutzgebiete, "protectorates", used instead of colonies. Schutztruppe contingents arose from local police forces or private paramilitary units, where German colonizers met with stronger resistance.

When in 1888 the Abushiri Revolt broke out in the dominions of the German East Africa Company, Bismarck's government in Berlin had to send mercenary troops under Reichskommissar Hermann Wissmann to subdue the uprising. Upon the establishment of German East Africa, these "Wissmann troops" were transformed into Schutztruppe forces by an act of the Reichstag parliament on 22 March 1891. Likewise, the police forces for South-West Africa under Curt von François and for German Cameroon were re-established as Schutztruppe units by the act of 9 June 1895.

Schutztruppe formations under the supreme command of the German Emperor in the beginning were organizationally not a part of the Imperial German Army, though German military law and discipline applied to its units. Initially supervised by the Imperial Navy Office, they were under the authority of the Colonial Department in the German Foreign Office by the act of 7 and 18 July 1896. In 1907 the Colonial Department with the Schutztruppe command was set up as the independent Imperial Colonial Office (Reichskolonialamt) agency directly answerable to the German chancellor.

In 1896 a central Schutztruppe command (Kommando der Schutztruppen) was established as part of the Colonial Department. Despite its name, this agency exercised no military leadership but served as a mere administrative authority. It was located at Berlin’s Mauerstrasse, in proximity to the Colonial Office. At the beginning of the World War in 1914, there were three Schutztruppe military commands, one in each of the German colonial regions in East Africa, South-West Africa, and in Kamerun, subordinate to each governor. The post war organisation remained the largely unchanged but as the army was demobilised some units were reassigned to secure colonies being evacuated by British and French forces. On 16 March 1935 the Schutztruppe were incorperated into the Wehrmacht as it's own branch under General Wilhelm Adam.