Hohenzollern was the last and biggest of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s royal yachts to actually see use. It was put into service in 1893. His grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I, was a much more modest man, and not anywhere near as flamboyant as his grandson. His royal yacht was a paddle wheeler! Whether it was opulent yachts such as the Hohenzollern, or the many uniforms and headdresses he owned, Wilhelm II was certainly over the top. Nothing stated that more than the royal yacht. It was Wilhelm II’s desire that Germany become a major sea power to equal England. Again, nothing stated those desires more than the Hohenzollern. She was essentially a floating palace. She sailed all over Europe for Wilhelm II and his family’s state visits or just for vacations. The Hohenzollern even made a trip to New York, although the Kaiser did not sail with her. More than 6,000 people visited her while she was docked in New York early during the 20th Century.
The officers and men who served aboard the S.M.Y. Hohenzollern were the cream of the German Navy. Their status was somewhat similar to that of the Regiment der Garde du Corps (GdC) on land. Officers selected to serve aboard the Hohenzollern were marked for advancement and promotion once they had served their stint aboard the royal yacht. As with the GdC, the enlisted men and NCO’s were men of the highest conduct level and character. To serve aboard the Hohenzollern and attend the royal family was an honor, indeed. One of the most respected jobs aboard was assignment to the Kaiser’s launch. The launch was stored aboard the yacht, then used to ferry people to other vessels or the shore. Naturally, the sailors who manned the launch needed to look impressive, since they were the first German representatives foreigners saw, after the Kaiser himself. They would provide a strong first impression of the Kaiserliche Marine’s caliber. They had to be sharply dressed, impeccably neat, and striking, to say the least. The fortunate chosen men were honored to wear a special patch on their left tunic sleeves. [We will return to this a bit later in our description].
Our offering today is the tunic for the Chief Petty Officer (Chief Boatswain’s Mate) who commanded the Hohenzollern’s launch, and supervised the enlisted men who worked with him. The tunic is dunkel-blau (dark-blue). It is double breasted, with a double row of gilt, Navy buttons. It sports twin white kragenspiegel at the collar. The tunic has no shoulder straps. The tunic’s exterior is in excellent condition. One very small period repair appears on the left shoulder, which we will highlight in the photographs accompanying the description. The two devices sewn on the tunic’s left sleeve are what make the tunic historically important. The lower of the two is a stamped metal device on a patch, consisting of a fouled anchor beneath a Hohenzollern Crown. It measures 5″ x 3 1/2.” This indicates the petty officer’s rank. Directly above it is the very rare patch mentioned earlier. It is oval in shape, measuring 3 1/2″ x 3.” It is blue, with a yellow frame. Within the frame is a magnificent, yellow, embroidered Hohenzollern Crown over a pair of crossed, yellow, embroidered großadmiral’s batons.
Only men serving aboard the launch were entitled to wear this patch. [I believe the other sailors who served aboard the Hohenzollern had their own different patch. This one was extra special]. Inside the tunic is a wool lining, with black silk sleeves. Two pockets are on the tunic’s left and right side. A magnificent, gold-embroidered, set of initials appears on a black silk patch. As best as we can determine, the intricate initials read “CG.” They are attached to the left side inner pocket. It might help those of you are interested in researching the original owner’s identity. I date the tunic from the period of 1901 to 1914 for the following reasons. Wilhelm II did not promote himself to Großadmiral until 1901. The crossed batons on the special patch indicate this rank. The Hohenzollern was pulled from service in 1914, right after the start of WW I. While she was armed, it was only lightly. Also, with WW I beginning, the time for light-hearted cruising was past.
This is an incredibly beautiful and rare tunic. If you are a serious naval collector, it would make a great addition to your collection.