print preview

Back Special topics

Current dossier: The 1898 military uniform

What did the members of the Swiss military wear at the beginning of the First World War? The Library Am Guisanplatz has put together a documentation on the last multi-coloured uniform.

22.01.2018 | Manuel Bigler

The picture shows General Ulrich Wille and Chief of General Staff Theophil Sprecher von Bernegg, as well as ten other high-ranking officers, on horseback and wearing the General Staff uniform. You can clearly see the distinguishing features mentioned in Article 45 of the 1898 clothing regulation. For example, the men are wearing dark-blue tunics with gold buttons, and the black caps are offset with golden pompoms. The collar is adorned in scarlet, which continues in a 45-50 millimetre-wide vertical stripe down the side of the trousers. The General’s cap distinguishes itself from the others by a 16 millimetre-wide golden band, which circles the upper part of the headwear.
The top leaders of the Swiss military on horseback, wearing the last multi-coloured uniform, around 1914-15 (Military postcard collection of The Library Am Guisanplatz, No. 38)

On mobilisation of the Swiss military in 1914, the soldiers still wore multi-coloured tunics and other noticeable accessories.The regulations valid [SJI1] at the time had been issued 16 years previously, which is why this outfit is known as the ‘1898 military uniform’. The standard field-grey uniform was only introduced gradually from 1915.

The Library Am Guisanplatz holds numerous media documenting the development of the Swiss military uniform. Besides books, articles and photographs, a collection of regulations and official documents on the theme is also available in the library. Some of the documents have been digitised. You can find a list of them in the attachment. This information allows you to download individual documents straight from our online catalogue. The catalogue also contains the regulation describing the 1898 military uniform

The most important reference material on the history of the Swiss military uniform is by Jürg Burlet and Hans-Rudolf Bigler. Number 29 of the publication series, which is also online, provides a good overview of the last multi-coloured uniform as well. 

Besides the BiG, other institutions documenting the history of the Swiss military uniform are the National Museum in Zurich, the Swiss Federal Archives in Bern and the Foundation for Historical Swiss Army Objects in Thun. The National Museum has a comprehensive collection of military uniforms (see first link), as does the HSAO Foundation (see second link). If you are interested in learning more about the origin of the 1898 military uniform, it is worthwhile consulting the Swiss Federal Archives (see third link).

Back Special topics

Library Am Guisanplatz Information and Documentation Services
Papiermühlestrasse 21a
CH-3003 Bern
+41 58 464 50 95

Contact form

Library Am Guisanplatz

Information and Documentation Services
Papiermühlestrasse 21a
CH-3003 Bern