Space 1889: Schutzgebiet Westdioscuria

Germany is a dynamic actor in the late 19th century, a new great power that wants to establish its place among the old ones. There is little canon
Space 1889 material on the German presence on Mars, so this article is an attempt to rectify that shortcoming.

The Germany military became interested in establishing a presence on Mars at the end of the 1870s, when they saw what advantages the British had gained from the Red Planet, like liftwood airships that could topple the military balance in Europe. The General Staff wanted bases close to the Astusapes, an area with the precious liftwood.

Western Dioscuria with the cities of Dioscuria, Protonilus, and Ismenilus seemed to be a proper place in which to place troops and airships. It was reasonably close to Astusapes, while it at the same time did not belong to the sphere of influence of some other major political actor. In the mid-1880s Bismarck offered the three sergals (city princes) protection against foreign enemies together with domestic autonomy in return for German base rights, control over the cities’ foreign policies, and trade advantages. The three cities were relatively weak and their sergals feared that they would involuntarily drawn into the triangular power struggles between the Boreosyrtis League, Great Britain, and the Oenotrian League. They saw advantages with the German offer and accepted it (how gratefully is hard to say though); in 1887 the Schutzgebiet Westdioscuria was formally established by the signing of three protectorate treaties.

Each city, headed by its autocratic sergal, handles its own internal matters, but the jurisdiction is limited for human residents. For instance, German citizens are not subject to local penal codes, but only to German. The cities are similar in culture and share a common language, the sibilant Dioscurian. The German Foreign Minister appoints the senior German official, der Reichskommissar, residing in Dioscuria, with responsibility for military matters of the protectorate and its relations to other political entities on Mars. He has of course also a significant influence on domestic matters and the three sergals usually listen carefully to his advice. The current Reichskommissar is Curd-Friedrich Graf von Wartburg, appointed in 1888.

Kaiser Wilhelm II is young, restless and ambitious, a man determined to prove his mettle as the ruler of a rising empire. So he has a personal interest in Germany’s acquisition of colonies in faraway places. The Germans are attentive to what uses their industry may have for the resources found in their colonies. Like the United States, Germany is right now in a period of explosive industrial expansion at home. No other European country has a faster growth in GNP. The Kaiser’s goal is to overtake Great Britain as Europe’s biggest industrial power soon after the turn of the century. The resources of Venus and Mars are important in this process.

The military and political establishments in Germany are dominated by the Junker nobility so ambitious individuals of the rapidly growing bourgeoisie find too few opportunities there. Instead they can make careers in the colonies, where the emphasis is put on competence rather than on heritage. Every year, the Foreign Ministry picks the best from the multitude of applicants that want to go abroad. This has given Germany the most well-run colonial administrations in the solar system, be it in Africa, on Mars or on Venus. The Germans treat their foreign dependencies in a broadminded manner compared to most other European nations. The purpose of these possessions is to make Germany stronger and richer and assure her of “her rightful place in the sun”. The German colonial service claims that the best way to achieve it is by treating the natives decently and provide them with, e.g., clinics, schools and a sensible administration.

Archaeology is a major field in the German academia. Many scholars have earned great fame for excavations in Mesopotamia and the Aegean. Martian archaeology is a growing field at Germany’s universities and many young men and women venture into the ruins of the Red Planet in search of explanations why its ancient advanced civilization declined so badly. (The unspoken corollary is of course whether Earth, too, could suffer such a fate.) They also believe that their efforts prove the greatness of German science and culture to fellow western countries. Once again, the emperor cannot resist to interfere personally, e.g. by economic support and more or less appreciated advice.* Hence Germany’s plans for Mars entail extensive geological and archaeological surveys; government surveyors turn up in the most unexpected locations.

The Germans have chosen to deal with natives in local languages. The official language of the German East Africa administration is Swahili and in Westdioscuria it is Dioscurian. All officers and NCOs of native units and all civilian officials must possess adequate language skills. They are also expected to learn about native cultures and how Canal Martians think, simply because such knowledge makes it much easier to rule the protectorate. Some causes for the Sepoy mutiny in India in the 1850s were due to the lack of understanding the British had for their Hindu and Muslim subjects and the Germans do not wish to repeat that error.

Such flexible attitudes should, however, not be mistaken for softness. The Germans deal harshly with any attempts to destabilize or threaten their presence on Mars. Since they have guaranteed armed protection to the cities of Westdioscuria, such will be provided in doses strong enough to deter potential trouble-makers. The Hill Martian tribes around the protectorate learned that lesson in the second half of the 1880s, when their raids on outlying Canal Martian villages were avenged with impunity by German forces. The vicious Karshekoat tribe was hunted almost to extinction in 1888 and its remnants had to flee to the Syrtis Lapis area to survive.

A Schutztruppe detachment skirmishing with a band of Hill Martian marauders.

Each of the Westdioscurian cities has a locally raised militia battalion, led by German officers and armed with modern rifles. (The Germans use the African designation Askari for their native Martian soldiers, too.) Each city also contains one detachment of the 1. Schutztruppe Westdioscuria and one of the 1. Marsianisches Husarenbataillon, both exclusively human units.

1. Schutztruppe Westdioscuria: This battalion-sized infantry unit was organized to serve German interests om Mars already in 1882, before the establishment of the protectorate. The field uniform is sand-colored and includes an Australian style bush-hat. Soldiers and officers carry a zivios, a Dioscurian blade, as their special mark of recognition. The unit contains a sprinkling of Austrians, Swedes, Finns and Norwegians who have been lured to Mars with the prospect of adventure. All artillery pieces and machine guns of the colonial forces belong to this battalion.

1. Marsianisches Husarenbataillion: This light cavalry unit, mounted on gashants, was established in 1887. It is trained for long-range reconnaissance in the wilderness. The hussars’ field uniform resemble that of the 1. Schutztruppe.

The Marsgendarmerie is a company-sized mounted constabulary charged with upholding law and order in the wilderness between the protectorate’s three cities. It is commanded by German police officers and the gendarmes are a mix of humans, canal martians and hill martians. It reports to the Reichskommissar. The gendarmes get paramilitary training and are armed with army carbines and revolvers. Their dark green uniform is designed on the Schutztruppe pattern.

The Martian flotilla of the Imperial German Navy is led by Kapitän zur See (navy captain) Diedrich Fritze. The cruiser Hamburg (commanded by Fregattenkapitän (commander) Lothar Berger) and the gunboat Marienburg (commanded by Kapitänleutnant (lieutenant) Johann Prien) are based in Dioscuria. The kites of the three cities are also under German command. Since there is no naval infantry in the German navy on Mars, Schutztruppe detachments are assigned to the ships when necessary.

The Marienburg is a brand new ship. She is small, unusually fast and look somewhat like the British Aphid class. There are rumors that her steam engine is of a novel design.

The German army and navy units on Mars are organized together in the Wehrkommando Mars under major-general Helmut Schulmeister in Dioscuria. He takes his orders both from the Reichskommissar and from the General Staff in Berlin, something that has caused friction both between the General Staff and the Foreign Ministry and between Graf von Wartburg and Schulmeister personally. Further, the navy officers dislike being commanded by an army officer and that has also been the source of some troubles.

Germany’s colonial venture on Mars attracts not only Germans. Of the several thousand Red Men living in Westdioscuria in 1890, only half are Germans. Businessmen of all terrestrial nationalities are welcome, few questions asked, as long as they contribute to the well-being of the protectorate and profess a reasonable loyalty to the Kaiser: Armenian shopkeepers, Hasidic jewelers, Swedish engineers, Dutch traders, Persian caravaneers, American arms merchants, etc. Also, many of the German officials here served earlier in the African colonies and therefore they often have arrived with African servants.

Mars is such an overwhelming place that most off-world immigrants feel a need to bond with fellow humans. Therefore inter-human prejudices grow weaker because they pose a danger to communal survival in this utterly alien environment. The Red Men live together closely in certain city districts and keep wary eyes on their Canal Martian neighbors. Intolerance is here mainly between species, and not so much between human nationalities.

The Germans have serious long-term plans for improving the economy of their protectorate. The canal between the three cities dried out thousands of years ago and since then a lot of inter-city transport is by caravan, a method that the Germans consider inappropriate for the 19th century. Faster and cheaper transports would encourage trade and promote growth. The corps of engineers of the German army have begun preparations to build a railroad along the dry canal between the cities. During 1889, various suitable routes will be surveyed and facilities to make tracks will be established. The construction is scheduled to begin in 1890. The engines and the cars should also be built on Mars, since it would be expensive to transport them from Earth. Several engineers are currently working on solving that problem.

The airship flotilla will increase in size during the next few years; emperor Wilhelm does not want Germany to lag behind Great Britain and France. The main limiting factor is the lack of liftwood and major-general Schulmeister therefore plans to send expeditions into the Astusapes to deal with the High Martians and to secure a good supply of the precious timber.

*A period German joke: “The Lord knows all, the Emperor knows best.”

Copyright © 1996-2014 Anders Blixt
Space: 1889 is Frank Chadwick’s registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring

10 thoughts on “Space 1889: Schutzgebiet Westdioscuria

  1. Lovely description! 🙂

    …one question though: that uniform is very similar to the tropical one used by German Schutztruppen in their African colonies, but Dioscuria is only marginally further south than Polodaar. Wouldn’t something a bit warmer be more suitable…?

    /Orm E.

    • …no, hang on a second – those aren’t German tropical uniforms after all; I’ve gotten them all mixed up… the question about warmth remains though :-/

      /Orm E.

      • It must have been an unusually warm summer day when that skirmish took place. I am sure that the artillerymen have their coats stowed in the supply wagons. 🙂

        • It is possible that the caption is purely for propaganda purposes, and these troops are actually “military advisors” assisting the Oenotrian Empire. If you examine the picture carefully you must agree that the terrain resembles that found in the warmer Aerian Hills, southwest of Syrtis Major. Her Majesty will not be amused!

      • Try loading and firing a light cannon for more than a few rounds and you would be sweating, no matter what the climate.

  2. Was this posted elsewhere before? I recall reading it in the ’90s. 🙂 It is very different in tone form the Challenge magazine articles! Challenge #58 “Dioscuria” James L. Cambias [Description of the Martian city-state Dioscuria] and Challenge #59 “Escape From Dioscuria” James L. Cambias [Adventure using the city described in 58]. They also have a different commander for the Hamburg. Thanks for writing this, great work!

    • I wrote this piece for a Swedish RPG magazine in the early 1990s, basing it on peripheral events in our long-running Mars campaign. I am glad that you appreciate it.

  3. Hi, great stuff. I play the german version of Space from the Uhrwerk Verlag. They added some more informations to the Germans on Mars. Great inspirations though.

    • Thanks for your appreciation. This blog has been up and running for almost ten years, and this S1889 post is its most visited post. I couldn’t have imagined that when I translated and published it.

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