The Seebatallione [sea battalions] were naval infantry troops or marines serving in the Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n navy, the navy of the North German Confederation
North German Confederation
The North German Confederation 1866–71, was a federation of 22 independent states of northern Germany. It was formed by a constitution accepted by the member states in 1867 and controlled military and foreign policy. It included the new Reichstag, a parliament elected by universal manhood...

, the Imperial German Navy, the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

, and briefly in the modern Federal German Navy, the Bundesmarine.

Establishment and history

The first Seebatallion was organized on 13 May 1852 as the Royal Prussian Marinier-Korps at Stettin. This formation provided small contingents of marines to perform traditional functions such as protecting officers, general policing aboard warships and limited amphibious shore intrusions. The Seebatallion in 1870 had a strength of 22 officers and 680 non-commissioned officers and men. Battalion headquarters was then located at Kiel
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...


After the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

 more or less ignored the navy as it did “not fit his intentions.” Bismarck’s continental policies sought to avoid colonial or naval entanglements and he would oppose plans to further develop navy forces. With the creation of the Imperial Admiralty, Prussian army Generalleutnant Albrecht von Stosch
Albrecht von Stosch
Albrecht von Stosch was a German General der Infanterie and Admiral who served as first Chief of the newly created Imperial German admiralty from 1872 to 1883....

 was appointed chief. Stosch had no experience in naval matters, but “nevertheless, brought significant administrative talents to his new post.” He also perceived military power to emanate “from the tip of an army bayonet.”

Stosch ended the practice of placing marines aboard warships. Instead he adopted a concept that became known as Infanterieismus. He would train seamen as naval infantry, qualified in using small arms and competent in infantry tactics and amphibious operations. That approach would position the Seebatallion as a compact, self-contained organization, roughly equivalent to the British Royal Marine Light Infantry. Enlargement of the battalion to six companies allowed a reorganization and the transfer of half of the battalion to Wilhelmshaven to form the II. Seebatallion. Both battalions were then increased in size to four companies. Scheduled exchanges of officers from the Prussian army brought current tactical thinking to the sea battalions.

After the successful occupation of Kiautschou
Jiaozhou Bay concession
The Kiautschou Bay concession was a German colonial concession in Imperial China which existed from 1898 to 1914. It had an area of 552 km², it was located around Jiaozhou Bay on the southern coast of the Shandong Peninsula, which lay in the imperial province of Shandong in northern China.Jiaozhou...

 in China on 14 November 1897 by the navy’s East Asia Cruiser Division
German East Asia Squadron
The German East Asia Squadron was a German Navy cruiser squadron which operated mainly in the Pacific Ocean between the 1870s and 1914...

 in a flawless demonstration of Infanterieismus, two companies from the first and two companies from the second battalion were combined to populate a third formation, the III. Seebatallion. This new battalion arrived at Tsingtao on 26 January 1898 to garrison the East Asian Station of the imperial navy. It was and remained the only all-German unit with permanent status in an overseas protectorate.

Units and garrisons in 1912

  • I. Seebatallion at Kiel
    Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

     on the Baltic
  • II. Seebatallion at Wilhelmshaven
    Wilhelmshaven is a coastal town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the western side of the Jade Bight, a bay of the North Sea.-History:...

     on the North Sea
  • III. Seebatallion at Tsingtao (with its replacement and training base at Cuxhaven)

Additional small formations were the East Asian Marine Detachment (OMD) at Peking
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 and Tientsin, and a company composed of personnel from I. and II. Seebatallions as Marine-Detachment in internationally occupied Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...



Since the mid-1880s Seebatallion troops were frequently used as temporary intervention forces, mostly in the colonies. A company was sent in 1884 to German Kamerun. During the Boxer rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in China from 1900 to 1901, the first and second Seebatallion, reinforced by an engineer company and field artillery battery, comprised the German contingent to the international relief force. In 1904-1908 during the Herero and Nama
Nama may mean:* Nama band, a Greek music group* Nama , a genus of plants in the family Hydrophyllaceae* Holy Name in Indian religions* Nama , a hero in ? folklore who built an ark to save his family from a flood...

 revolt, a formation in battalion strength supported the Schutztruppe
Schutztruppe was the African colonial armed force of Imperial Germany from the late 19th century to 1918, when Germany lost its colonies. Similar to other colonial forces, the Schutztruppe consisted of volunteer European commissioned and non-commissioned officers, medical and veterinary officers. ...

 in German South West Africa; during 1905-1906 a Seebatallion detachment served in German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

 during the Maji Maji
Maji Maji Rebellion
The Maji Maji Rebellion, sometimes called the Maji Maji War, was a violent African resistance to colonial rule in the German colony of Tanganyika, an uprising by several African indigenous communities in German East Africa against the German rule in response to a German policy designed to force...


World War I

The outbreak of the Great War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 saw the rapid expansion of marine forces into division size units. Drawing on Seebatallion reservists and conscripts, the naval infantry brigade under Generalmajor von Wiechmann grew into the first Marine Division; an additional Marine Division was formed in November 1914. These two divisions formed Marine-Korps-Flandern [Marine Corps Flanders] under Admiral Ludwig von Schröder (known in Germany as the "Lion of Flanders"). In early February 1917 a third Marine Division was organized thus giving the naval infantry corps a strength of 60-70,000 men.

Marine units fought in 1914 at Tsingtao and Antwerp, in 1915 at Ypres, in 1916 on the Somme, in 1917 in Flanders and during the 1918 offensive battles in northern France.

World War II

The Marine-Stoßtrupp-Kompanie was formed in March 1938. It initially consisted of two infantry platoons, one engineer platoon and one weapons platoon with a total strength about 250 men. On 1 September 1939 it took part in the Battle of Westerplatte
Battle of Westerplatte
The Battle of Westerplatte was the very first battle that took place after Germany invaded Poland and World War II began in Europe. During the first week of September 1939, a Military Transit Depot on the peninsula of Westerplatte, manned by fewer than 200 Polish soldiers, held out for seven days...


In 1940 the unit was expanded to six companies as Marine-Stoßtrupp-Abteilung. The formation participated in the occupation of Normandy and the Channel Islands.


In April 1958 a marine engineer battalion was raised for the Federal German Navy and was initially under the command of the destroyer forces commander. After several reorganizations, the amphibious groups of the federal navy were dissolved or reassigned in 1993.

Footnotes and references

  • Gottschall, Terrell D. By Order of the Kaiser. Otto von Diederichs and the Rise of the Imperial German Navy, 1865-1902. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003. ISBN 1-55750-309-5
  • Nuhn, Walter. Kolonialpolitik und die Marine. Bonn: Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 2002. ISBN 3-7637-6241-8

External links

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