Death’s Head pennant from the Marne, and its echos

Leib-Husaren-Regiment Königin Viktoria von Preussen Nr. 2 pennant german hussar captured at Marne 1914This 26-inch long, 13-inch wide cavalry pennant came currently on display at the Imperial War Museum in London may look like it comes from the Napoleonic period but in fact is a century newer.

From 1889 all cavalry units of the Imperial German Army carried lances and each was fitted with a pennant, the colors indicating the state from which the regiment was recruited. The two regiments of “Death’s Head Hussars” were however the exception, having a skull and crossbones (Totenkopf) design. That of 1 Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr.1 adopted a white Totenkopf on black, whilst 2 Leib-Husaren-Regiment “Königin Viktoria von Preußen” Nr. 2 featured reversed colors, black on white.

On active service the pennant was conventionally rolled around the shaft of the lance.

This lance pennant was picked up on the Battlefield of The Marne in 1914 where both of the above regiments saw action together in the Hussar Brigade.

Transferred to the Eastern Front in autumn 1914, the brigade fought first in Galicia and in the Battle of Riga and were involved in the occupation of the islands Oesel and Dago. After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Russia on 3 March 1918, the units remained as occupation forces in Russia, returning in January 1919 to Danzig, they were disbanded after 178 years service though their lineage, flags, and trophies were retained in the 2nd Squadron of the 5th (Prussian) Reiter (Mounted) Regiment in the Reichswehr stationed at Stolpe throughout the 1920s and 30s.

The Wermacht distanced themselves from much of the old Imperial trappings and the hussars were not reconstituted after 1935– though of course the Totenkopfhusaren skull went on to greater infamy in the Nazi regime.

Princess Viktoria Luise, only daughter and the last child of Wilhelm II, and a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, as noted from the unit’s title was the honorary colonel of the regiment and regularly inspected the hussars, complete in her uniform. The unit dated back to 1741 when Fredrick III founded it as Husaren-Regiment (H 5).


Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia wears the uniform of the Leib Husaren Regt Nr. 2. in these photos from around 1910

Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia wears the uniform of the Leib Husaren Regt Nr. 2. in these photos from around 1910

If the busby (fur shako hat) looks familiar, it is very similar to the one was famously worn by 1 Leib-Husaren-Regiments Nr. 1 vet, German Field Marshal August von Mackensen throughout his career.

August von Mackensen in der Uniform des 1. Leib-Husaren-Regiments Nr. 1

Now that’s a mustache only a Kaiser could love. He won the Iron Cross around his throat as a volunteer with the 2nd Life Hussars Regiment during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and went on to command the 1st regiment in 1893, continuing to wear the uniform the rest of his service career. Note the black silk cover denoting the busby is that of the 1st Life Hussars. In the images above the silk is white.

During the Nazi era, Von Mackensen remained a committed and unreformed monarchist and appeared at official functions in his First World War uniform just as a particular “eat shit” to the little corporal.

Former Prussian & German Field Marshall August von Mackensen during his 95th birthday 1944

He lived past the last Reich, passing away Nov 1945 at age 95.

Among his nicknames was “The Last Hussar.”

Viktoria Luise, the final Regimentschefin und Oberst à la suite of the Regiment, passed away in 1980 in Hanover, reportedly still quite an equestrian even late into her life.

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