For successive generations of British people, German militarism was symbolised by the spiked Pickelhaube helmets of the Prussian ‘Hun’ and the coal-scuttle Stahlhelme which became general throughout the Weimar Reichswehr and Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Camel-dung brown shirts are not so salient in the sumptuary roll of terror. The Storm Section (or SA) acquired them as a job lot of army surplus: they had been destined for General von Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops in German East Africa, one of the colonies Germany forfeited under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
According to David Olusoga and Casper W Erichsen, the shirts were the least of the connections between Germany’s belated ventures into overseas empire and the well-known horrors of the Nazi regime. As they acknowledge, this linkage was evident to a few perspicacious contemporary opponents of Nazism, such as