✠ Special thanks to Andrew Davies in his support this post! ✠
The photograph here shows Heer Soldaten of the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK), seen standing happily around in their camp in the field, in Homs, Syria. Taken in March 1941.
The photograph is taken in März (March) 1941, Homs which is located in Syria. The Soldaten seen here are a part of the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK), this early of a date in Homs suggests that they are in the area as a part of a rest and stationing before moving on to their next destination. It is notable to mention that there was no nearny fighting to Homs which supports the theory that the Sodlaten seen here are to be resting and awaiting further orders to move on (Maybe this is why they seem so happy, relaxing in a hot climate!). It is likely that the Soldaten seen here would be apart of Germanys involvement in the Anglo-Iraqi War. Whilst the Anglo-Iraqi War with Germanys involvement didn't start until mainly until May 1941 it is possible that DAK forces as seen here were seen based on standby. Not much is easily available and documented on this so it makes this photograph and story a rare and crisp insight into behind the lines activities.
Germany was willing to recognise the independence of Iraq from the British Empire. This recognition was welcomed by the Independent fighting factions of the Rashid Ali regime and with this later Luftwaffe air aid was sent to fight against the British. With this there had also been discussions on war material being sent to support the Iraqis and other Arab factions in fighting the British. Britain caught interceptions of these talks through Italian diplomatic transmissions. Vichy France (A French State) which controlled neighbouring Syria (The area in which the Soldaten are seen here at Homs) formed a agreement with Germany with its attempts to get long-term French benefits from the deal. Vichy was also eager to make this agreement as it had a regime with an authoritarian, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and traditionalist ideology. In immediate response to the Paris Protocols that were negotiated around this time in Paris, it was declared that Vichy was to release war materials, some of which included the likes of Aircraft to be transported to the Iraqis. The state of Vichy also agreed to allow the passage of other weapons and materials from Northern Syria to Germany, in addition to loaning several airbases in Northern Syria too. It is theorised that between the 9th of May up until the end of the month some 100 German aircraft and some 20 Italian aircraft arrived in Iraq.
With this it is also theorised specifically due to their location the DAK seen here would be stationed for later support in the Syrian- Lebanon Campaign, which was also known as Operation Exporter. The Operation would start until June and July of 1941 however this is when fighting between Allied and Axis forces became more notable.
The photograph shows the Heer members of the DAK happily posing for a photograph in their 'Tropenanzug' (Tropical Tunic). This Tropenanzug being seen as a M40 made with lightweight HBT Drillich material, either in a light sage-green or a sand-tan colour. The tunic also seen with a Heer breast eagle and collar litzen. The tunics would become bleached in colour due to the climates affects; the sun, heat, desert air and the washing of tunics all played their part to fade the tunics. However seen here so early in the war the tunics don't appear to have much bleaching but have some dust that can be seen on a few of the Soldaten seen pictured. Notably worn underneath the lightweight tunic, worn is a shirt and tie. This not only being smart but also lightweight and breathable too.
The Soldaten are also seen wearing the Iconic tropical head-dress known as the Tropische Kopfbedeckung, this was standard issue to all ranks when German forces were sent to North Afika in 1941. The Tropische Kopfbedeckung were made and shaped out of cork with cloth wrapped around it. Seen on the sides of the Tropische Kopfbedeckung are metal decals. These are seen both sides in this shot, the right bears the Tri colour (Red, White and Black) in a shield and the other side bears a shield with an Reichsadler holding as swastika in the other side. Notably these are seen as the same decals on metal helmets. These Sun helmets were quickly discarded, although they may look aesthetically pleasing and smart they were infarct cumbersome and its actual physical protection qualities in terms of a helmet were small. With this DAK Soldaten favoured the Einheitsfeldmütze (Uniform field cap). The Einheitsfeldmütze is seen in wear four left from the centre. These Einheitsfeldmütze were lightweight and breathable, seen with a cockade and eagle above on the centre of the cap. Seen being worn on top the Tropische Kopfbedeckung are large dust goggles, these were essential to keeping dust from the eyes of the Soldaten in these conditions and allowing them to see clearer through the dust. Lastly notable about the kit worn by the DAK Soldaten seen here is the canvas and leather high laced up tropical boots. These too were unique to these climates, jackboots and low-boots were also used later in the war.
The shoulder boards of the DAK Soldaten seen here are mostly not in clear view however most notable seen kneeling in the centre with one of the decals in view is a feldwebel. seen also wearing gloves, likely leather and an award (likely as sports award) with feldpspanges above his breast pocket. The rest of the Soldaten are seen grouped for this photograph that was sent home to their families of their expeditions far from home in a climate and country that was not only new to the Soldaten seen pictured but would have been such a shock to the families and friends back home. This was as transport to other distant countries wasn't as Widley available as it is in modern times. With this the reverse information (As seen above) adds to the humour and feel of this photographs. The reverse reads as:
Nachtlager bei Homs März 1941. Unter Palmen sieht besser aus als in Wirklichkeit.
This translates to:
Camp for the night at Homs in March 1941. Looks better under palm trees than in reality.
This detailing the camp in which they are resting at with the humour saying to family and friends back home that the grand palm trees that can be seen in the background blowing in the breeze look better in the photo than they do in reality inferring that the sight in person isn't as exciting as it may appear to be.
Regardless of this, the photograph seen here is not only a rare example of DAK Soldaten seen early war in Tropische Kopfbedeckung but is a detailed study showing kameraden together in a different climate and front of combat not usually seen. The quality of DAK as photographs is quite difficult as most were faded or damaged due to the conditions in which they were photographed. Most that did survive were often also overexposed due to the brightness of the area and climate. This is a stunning photograph field with humour to their families far from home about the Palm tree of their time in Homs.