Skirmish of the colonial protective force in German Southwest Africa (mounted infantry of the protection force)
The picture shows German officers and a native soldier of the Schutztruppe in German Southwest Africa, modern-day Namibia. The force is apparently defending a fortification. The officers and the native soldier are standing in the same line but only the soldier is looking at the viewer.
The text on the back mourns the loss of most of the German colonies, highlighting that only German East Africa still fights the Entente’s colonial troops. It emphasises the important role of the 'loyal coloured troops' and that defeat had happened only due to the greater numbers in the Allied forces. The text reads that one day the war in Europe will be won and the 'dependencies' will be German once more.
The Schutztruppen in Germany's African colonies consisted mainly of German officers and African soldiers. French and British troops had already taken Togo in August 1914. South Africa fought the 5,000 soldiers of the Schutztruppe in German Southwest Africa, seizing the capital of Windhoek in May 1915. Cameroon fell in 1916. In German East Africa, the war continued until November 1918. It was only when Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, commander of the local Schutztruppe, had been informed of the ceasefire in Europe by a British peace envoy did he end the guerrilla war that is 7,500 soldiers had been fighting since 1914. Von Lettow-Vorbeck was the only German commander to invade British colonies during the war and so he was celebrated upon his return to Berlin. His colonial soldiers were honoured as brave subjects of the Kaiser.
German propaganda regarding colonial troops was divided. On one hand, they were associated with negative connotations and called 'devils' or 'black shame'. The Entente was accused of training Africans, Asians, and Canadian Indians in modern warfare, which was seen as a threat to white supremacy. As such, it was thought that all civilised nations should refrain from deploying colonial soldiers.
Yet on the other hand, the Germans painted a positive picture of colonial troops when it came to justifying the need to convince prisoners of war to defect or obtain colonies. Whereas colonial troops in East Africa were mostly portrayed in a positive light, colonial soldiers on the Western front were often described and depicted by the use of racial stereotypes. This picture highlights the positive role that the colonial troops played for the German empire.