Imperial German Marines - Landungskorps & Seebataillon
There’s confusion as to who the German Marines were, and some mistakenly think that there were no German Marines, and that the word “Marine” must be referring to sailors and naval landing parties. Before the Great War there were sailors who would form a naval landing party or landing corps (Landungskorps) during a colonial war or expedition. Up into at least the Great War major warships carried one or two small cannon or howitzers for use by the landing parties.
The United States was the first Power to make a treaty with Samoa. The treaties of Germany and Great Britain with Samoa were concluded in the following year; but the Germans outstripped the other Powers in trade and in planting. The increase of their commercial interests led to friction with the natives. Hostilities ensued; and a party of German marines, who had been sent ashore to protect German property, were ambushed by Mataafa's forces and many of them killed and wounded. A state of war with Samoa was then announced by Prince Bismarck; and the German minister at Washington complained that the force by which the German marines were attacked was commanded by an American named Klein.
This allegation has often been repeated by writers, who have inferred from it that the attack was due to American inspiration. It was shown, however, by subsequent investigation that Klein, who was in no way connected with the public service, was a correspondent of the American press, who had visited Samoa merely in the pursuit of his profession. He swore that he advised the natives not to fire, and hailed the German boats to warn them of their danger; that the German marines fired first, and that he did not advise the Samoans to return the fire. On December 2, 1899, the Samoa Island group was divided, the United States receiving the island of Tutuila and its dependencies, while Germany took the rest.
Between 30 May 1900 and 29 June 1901 German marines and civilians took part in the defence of the Foreign Legations in Peking (Beijing) during the two and a half months siege by the ‘Boxers’. The alliance fielded a force numbering 54,000 of whom 300 were German soldiers and 600 German marines with five German warships giving support.
In addition to the Landungskorps, temporarily serving as infantry, the Imperial German Navy had a force specifically dedicated to fighting on land. These men were specially trained as infantry. At the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War the North German Navy had one battalion of Marines stationed at Kiel. The Seebataillon (“Sea Battalion”) had been established on 13 May 1852, und by 1870 its strength had increased to 22 officers und 680 men in five marine infantry companies. When the German Empire was established in 1871, the Navy of the North German Federation became the Imperial German Navy. The strength of the Seebataillon was increased to six companies. By 1873 the German Marine Corps numbered 2000 men, commanded by a Colonel Commandant, their brigade consisted of two regiments, armed with the needle gun. The uniform is of dark blue, greatly resembling that of the US Marines.
On 01 October 1886 the Seebataillon was split into two half-battalions, stationed at Kiel und Wilhelmshaven. Battalion Headquarters remained with the I. Halbbataillon at Kiel. The II. Halbbataillon at Wilhelmshaven was commanded by the most senior company commander there. By Imperial Order of 12 March 1889 both half-battalions were increased to marine battalions with four companies each.
By 1895 they no longer were even based on warships. The Schutztruppen, the Expedition Korps, and III. SeeBataillon of the Imperial German Marines were the forces assigned to protect Germanys far-flung Colonial possessions in Africa and China. The troops were called Seesoldaten (“Sea soldiers”) and fought organized in Marine-Infanterie-Kompagnien [“Naval Infantry Companies”]. The III. Seebataillon was raised on 03 December 1897 from Detachments of I. Seebataillon (1. und 2. Kompanie) and II. Seebataillon (3. und 4. Kompanie), and it was deployed to the German Protectorate of Kiautschou in China. The Imperial German Marines prior to World War I was organised into two Sea Battalions based in Germany [I. Seebataillon – Kiel and II. Seebataillon – Wilhelmshaven], one Sea Battalion based in the great German Naval base at Tsingtau [Kiautschou] (German Trust Territory in China, had a Depot Battalion in Germany), plus smaller Detachments in Skutari and Peking.
The 1st and 2nd Matrosen (Sailors) Regiments along with naval artillery batteries and naval air squadrons were stationed in Flanders along the Belgian coast from 1914-18. The regiments were quickly expanded to divisional strength and along with the Naval Infantry Division (formed from the Seebatallione) became the Marinekorps Flandern.
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