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Imperial German Marines (Germany)

Colours of the Sea Battalions (1871-1918)

Last modified: 2013-12-13 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: sea battalions | imperial german marines |
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First and Third Sea Battalion Colours
Fahnen der Seebataillone Nr.1 und Nr.3

[1st Seabattalion (Kiel)]
Colour of 1st Seabattalion
[3rd Seabattalion (Tsingtau)]
Colour of 3rd Seabattalion

images by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 24 Jul 2011

"The cloth of these Colours is a single piece of heavy white silk measuring height and width of 1.4 metres. The orange central field carries the German imperial eagle surrounded by a green laurel wreath. In each of the four corners are the interlaced initials "W.I." (Wilhelm Imperator) embroidered in silver and defaced with an ensign with a gold imperial crown chased with precious stones. A golden laurel wreath is intertwined around each of these corner ornaments and between the corners are flaming grenades. The colour staff is white with a golden spearhead; from it hangs the streamer of the War Service Medal of 1870/71, ending in a silver, black, and red intertwined tassels. In the finial is the imperial cypher, while the letters "S.B." (Seebataillon) are engraved on the ring. The flag is fixed to the staff by 101 golden nails.
To carry the Colour, a colour sling and holder, in the style adopted by the army (bandoleer with cover), are used, going from the left shoulder to the right hip. The cloth strip [of the sling] is white and the braid trim is yellow. Without cover it is only allowed to present the colour in peace with the flag unfurled. It is to be born that way that it is lying on the cover."
Source: Schlawe 1913, p. 131
Joseph McMillan, 5 Dec 2001

Not only the East Asian colours but also the flags of the Sea Battalions took part in the Chinese campaign. So flags of the Sea Battalions have the ribbon of the China medal with the clip for the march on Peking.

The flag of the 2nd Sea Battalion even took part in the war of the colonies, though the conditions for the display of a flag by the colonial troops were not good. A combined Sea Battalion got for this flag the ribbon of the South Africa medal with the inscription "Hereroland" on the battle honour scrolls.

When WW1 broke out the 1st Sea Battalion was in Kiel, the 2nd in Wilhelmshaven, the 3rd in Tsingtau. The flag of the 3rd battalion was destroyed after the capitulation of Tsingtau, forced by the twentyfold superiority of the Japanese and the total lack of munitions. Only the finial, the flag ring, a piece of the bandoleer and the flag ribbon, a present from Prince Heinrich of Prussia, was saved in a plane by the "Aviator of Tsingtau", Gunther Plüschow.

The first two sea battalions made the cadre of the 1st or, as the case may be, 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment and carried their flags on the battlefields of Flanders [in WW1]."

I have just remembered that there was a question in Santiago Dotor's note on the website, about the relationship between the Sea Battalions [Marines] and the East Asian regiments which I may be able to help with.
The initial German military response to the Boxer Rebellion was to "send in the marines" and this involved troops from the 1st Sea Battalion, who were sent to Peking to guard the German legation, alongside sailors and marines from the other "Allied" nations.
Following this, a large force was raised in Germany, the "Germany China Marine Expeditionary Force', 2,528 men, consisting 1st and 2nd Seabattalions [Marine Battalions] and supporting elements. This was then increased in size to become the "German East Asian Expeditionary Corps" initially 11,500 men, formed in Germany from volunteers from the whole German army. Reinforcements of another 7,700 all ranks were subsequently added. It was this force which contained the six East Asia infantry regiments and attached artillery etc. The Sea Battalions were also brigaded into it. Field Marshal Count of Waldersee was appointed C-I-C of all Allied troops in China.
Eventually the force was reduced in size and became the "East Asian Occupation Brigade."
Mike Blake, 20 Oct 2006

Note on Images: My images are mainly based upon the description in Schlawe 1913, the images in Neubecker 1933 and Lezius 1935. I used Ernst-Heinrich Schmidt: "FeldzeichenTeil I Das Königlich Preußische Gardekorps", Rastatt 1982, being volume 3 of the series "Schriften des Wehrgeschichtlichen Museums im Schlo? Rastatt" for details like wreaths, grenades etc. - Klaus-Michael Schneider, 24 Jul 2012

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