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Baron Richard
von Stutterheim

Commander of the British German Legion

Keith Tankard
Knowledge4Africa.com
Updated: 7 October 2009
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Baron von Stutterheim was born in Helmstadt in August 1815. He was apparently christened with a full clutch of names: Richard Carl Gustav Ludwig Wilhelm Julius.

He became a Major-General in the British Army in command of the British German Legion which was recruited to serve in the Crimean War. Once the war was over, he was commissioned to lead the legionnaires as military settlers in British Kaffraria.

The Baron had gained his military experience in a Hussar Regiment. After he had apparently shot and killed a fellow soldier during a duel, he fled Germany to join the British Foreign Legion which fought for a time in Spain during the First Carlist War.

He returned to Germany in 1839 to resume his military career there.

When the Crimean War erupted in 1854, the Baron offered -- and was commissioned -- to recruit some 10,000 German soldiers for a new Foreign Legion. They were to be called the British German Legion. He set up his base on the island of Heligoland and was then placed at the head of this new fighting force.

The war, however, ended before the Legion saw battle. The legionnaires were due one year's full pay upon disbandment but, because the majority could have been imprisoned for treason if they returned to Germany, they were offered instead the chance to become military settlers in British Kaffraria.

Some 2,350 legionnaires availed themselves of this offer. The Baron was again asked to lead this settlement.

It would appear that the Baron was not popular with his officers. Indeed, strain between him and his staff led to severe problems in Colchester, where the Legion was based prior to embarking for British Kaffraria.

These problems appeared to continue once the Legion was in South Africa because the Baron resigned suddenly on 13 October 1857, after having served only six months of his contract -- although he cited family troubles as a reason for his hasty return to Germany.

While in South Africa, the Baron made his headquarters at Dohne Post -- or what the amaXhosa called Cumakala -- which was immediately renamed Stutterheimstadt or Stutterheim.

He was known to rule strictly. Legionnaires found guilty of desertion were incarcerated for six months to a year, whereas as soon as he left South Africa, the imprisonment was lessened to a mere seven days.

The Baron returned to Germany and settled in Braunschweig before purchasing an estate in Silesia. He then became heavily involved in an expensive social life and in gambling. This bankrupted him and forced him to leave his estate.

He thereupon returned to Braunschweig. He was offered a commission in the Prussian army but turned it down on the grounds that he was worthy of more than was being offered.

His love for gambling continued, however, and eventually -- broken by bankruptcy -- he committed suicide in Wiesbaden in 1872.

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