PHOTOGRAPH – ORIGINAL – ASKARI ABTEILUNG NR 117 – AFRICA
This is an original photograph that measures 5.5” x 3.75.” “Askari Abteilung Nr 117” is penciled in on the postcard’s reverse. Askaris were African troops who served under white German officers and NCO’s as members of the Schutztruppen (protection forces). Prior to WW I, they were a cross between police and military. Once the war began, they made up a major part of Africa’s Imperial German Army. They were very good soldiers, in fact. They particularly served with distinction under Generalmajor Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck’s WW I command in German East Africa. Along with the Kleiner Kreuzer S.M.S. Königsberg’s sailors who fought with them, the Askaris and their German commanders led more than 100,000 British troops on a chase all over East Africa. [PLEASE NOTE: von Llettow Vorbeck and his men did not surrender to the British until AFTER WW I ended].
I am very fond of one story about these troops. In the 1960’s the West German government felt that the Askaris had not been properly compensated for their service and sent a group to Tanzania to pay the old gentlemen. The question was, how could they differentiate the REAL soldiers from others who might be looking for pay that they did not deserve? The idea was brought forward that brooms should be presented to the men, then they would be given, in German, the same commands that they had received more than 40 years before. The “real” Askaris were able to execute these commands without hesitation, and were paid their long overdue just compensation!
Our photo presents a mounted German officer/NCO attended by a detachment of approximately twelve Askaris.