Ottoman Uniforms Ottoman Uniforms  

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE UNIFORMS & INSIGNIA: 1800 till 1918

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Introduction

I am Chris Flaherty, and welcome to Ottoman Uniforms. This is a website intended to give an insight into the uniforms of the Ottoman Turkish Imperial Army and Navy, from its early beginning as a Modern Army, in 1800 till the end of the Great War, in 1918 for the English speaking wargamer, modeler or military historian.

  • This is a non-political historical exploration of the various uniforms that developed over a 120 period. Until recently there has been very little available in the English language on the uniforms, flags and insignia worn by Ottoman Turkish forces covering the full period 1800 - 1918.
  • This study identifies over 460 different uniforms worn by the Ottoman Turkish army, and navy from 1800 till 1918, with examples taken from surviving uniforms, period illustrations, written descriptions, and photographs.

Many of the terms, phrases and spellings of ranks are also used, to preserve what may have been original pronunciations.

  • For instance, between 1880 and 1916 commonly the Ottoman rank of major, is written in German, and British references as ‘Bimbashi’. Whereas in modern Turkish it is correctly spelled as Binbashi (from the Turkish – a chief of a thousand).
  • In this particular case, it is known that ‘Bimbashi’ is actually soldier Arabic, a pidgin of Arabic which developed among the Anglo-Egyptian military (used typically between 1870  and 1920).

Ottoman and Related Countries Uniform History Studies

In addition, some smaller studies have been undertaken:

SPECIAL PAGE UNIFORMS STUDIES

MILITARIA FOR SALE

As well, there is a small sellection of spare WW1 Turkish militaria For Sale.

100 YEAR ANZAC DAY (25 APRIL 2015) ANNIVERSARY

The 2015 ANZAC Day in Australia, will represent 100 years since the original landing. In 1915. C.E.W.Bean, the Australian war correspondent records vividly the first time that the ANZACs saw a Turkish soldier, sighting a ‘lonely figure on the skyline [1] [2]. My painting records that moment (Chris Flaherty, 2012):

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[1] Bean, C.E.W. (1924) Volume II - The Story of Anzac: from 4 May, 1915 to the evacuation.

[2] My research into C.E.W.Bean, began with Flaherty, C.J; Roberts, M. (1989) ANZAC Symbolism, Journal of Australian Studies. (13)24: 52-69. This particular article has been selected as part of the commemorations for the centenary of World War One; the Journal of Australian Studies is issuing an electronic issue on the war (going live in early 2015), titled - Symbols, Soldiers, and Society: The Anzac Centenary. This volume contains selected articles published in the journal over the last 40 years, to be republished in a single online issue, and including a new historiographical essay, written by Professor Peter Stanley, that will contextualise these articles.

Completed Dardanelles Defence (1885)

A small team of four officers under the leadership of Colonel Kaehler (including Captains Kamphövener, von Hobe, and von Ristow) dispatched on April 29, 1882 to serve in the Ottoman Army.

  • Right - Ristow Pasha's uniform [1]. This is for the rank of “Generaux de Division (Feriks)”.
  • There is a Gallipoli Connection, with this uniform as it is known that after 1885, Ristow Pasha directed completion of the final defensive system for the Dardanelles (CDSG Newsletter, February 2009).

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[1] Ristow Pasha, became a ‘Ferik’, in command of the Imperial Army Field Artillery, from 1885, till 1890 when he died from an accident holidaying in Germany.

Turkish Forces at Gallipoli, Morning of DAY 1 (25 April 1915)

Peter Williams, ‘The Battle of ANZAC Ridge: 25 April 1915’,(Australian Military History Publications, Loftus NSW,2007). "In several unit war diaries there are references to being attacked that day by Ottoman soldiers in blue uniforms". 

Right - An extract from this 1908-09 German publication clearly shows the Imperial Army infantry wearing the 1876 pattern of blue service tunic, as a 'Parade Tunic'.

It should also be noted, that 'The British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press (Nashville), states (p.63): "On mobilisation, 1914, all sorts of uniforms made their appearance, ... blue cotton" (which is clearly referring to blue coloured cotton summer uniforms, which were also normally white).

Turkish Nordenfelt 25mm Gun

One of the Turkish Nordenfelt 25mm four-barrel guns taken at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, the fire from which many British and Commonwealth soldiers mistakenly thought were machine guns. These Nordenfelt guns were operated by the fortress artillery.

Right -A four-barrel Nordenfelt in Harbiye Military Museum, Istanbul.

  • This particular gun, is on a ship's mount, and has then been mated with locally manufactured field carriage.
  • Mounted on a field carriage, was still in use in 1915 as the main armament (used in the same manner as a heavy machine gun – by the Imperial Ottoman Navy, as there was a shortage of MGs throughout the fleet).
  • Likely accompanying a ships landing party.

This web site Ottoman Navy at Gallipoli lists the Ottoman Navy ships in the Dardanelles campaign 1915, and this notes that the Mesudiye /Messoudich (as it is identified in the December, 1914 Australian newspaper), had no MGs allotted . While the destroyers: Gayret-i Vataniye, and Muavenet-i Milliye do not have any MGs either. The standard allotment seems to be two-four guns pership (six at the most), or two earlier Nordenfelt guns per ship; however, note that the Turgut Reis, and Barbaros Hayreddin both state-of-the-art German ships had 12 guns each - which in the Australian paper was listed as four guns only (reflecting the 'standard' navy allotment), pointing to a redistribution of the German MG throughout the fleet, to give to ships that either did not have any, or needed to up-gun from the Nordenfelt guns. This would have left the remaining Nordenfelt guns mounted on field carriages, being used by ship's landing parties (which was part of the traditional tactics training since the 1880s when these weapons were introduced).

A) Turkish 37mm Maxim-Nordenfeldt Guns

Extracted from a photograph of Turkish war material captured at Ramadie (British captured Ramadie on 29 September 1917). A British soldier expects two Turkish 37mm calibre the water-cooled, belt-fed Maxim-Nordenfeldt guns, still on ships' mounts (one still fitted with its shield).

 

These type of guns also came mounted on a field carriage.

Cannon Heard in Constantinople

An extracted paragraph from a 1908 US newspaper, reporting how gun-fire from the Dardanelles/Gallipoli can be heard as far away as Constantinople. It is likely, that on the day of landing at Gallipoli, 1915 Turkish people experienced this as well. CEW Bean records vividly the first time that the ANZACs saw a Turkish soldier, sighting a ‘lonely figure on the skyline’ (painted above), and from the Rod Wilson collection in Australia, we have one of only a few known examples of a WW1-wartime manufactured tunics of a soldier, in Ottoman Turkish Imperial Army (the 'Asakr-i Shahaneh' in Ottoman). The Turkish tunic was salvaged as blanketing on the day of the Gallipoli landing (25 April 1915).

Onbasi 27th Infantry Imperial Army

The tunic was taken at Gallipoli during the landing day 25 April, 1915 / 12 Nisan, 1331 (in the Ottoman’s Rumi calendar, and 12 Jamada al-Thany 1333: Hijri calendar, which the Ottoman Turkish used dually with the Rumi dates). It had been used as a blanket to cover and to stave-off shock for a wounded Australian officer. He was injured in a clash between his battalion and the 27th Infantry Regiment, Imperial Army. In the late afternoon of the landing. It is also clear from reading accounts of the battle that the jacket is very likely from an Onbasi of the 27th Infantry, Imperial Army. The tunic still has a largish (now mostly washed out) stain on the outside ofthe rear which may well have been blood. It also has the Australian officers’ rank, name and unit crudely written in large letters on the inside of the liner in what appears to be black Indian ink. This appears to agree with the blanket story as this was probably written by one of his soldiers or Medical Corps personnel as means of identifying the unconscious or semi conscious casualty during the confusion of the first day on ANZAC.

  • The tunic was likely intended for an Onbasi (a corporal), as this has shoulder boards. As well, as there are no gold or silver tape bars displayed to indicate a higher rank.

The Turkish soldier's 1913 Kabalak, originally belonged to an Australian soldier, from 'C' Squadron 8th Australian Light Horse. He embarked from Egypt for Gallipoli on the 16 May 1915 and was later hospitalised at ANZAC Cove (4 August 1915) with diarrhoea/dysentery, from where he was sent to Mudros then Malta then Epsom in England. This spared him from taking part in the charge at the Nek which destroyed much of the 8th ALH regiment. This suggests that the Kabalak was souvenired between mid May and early August 1915. The Australian soldier, joined the 5th Infantry Battalion Australian Imperial Force in England and served the rest of the war in France and Belgium, winning the Military Medal, and was mentioned in despatches (later being seriously wounded in the leg). He later became a Lieulenant in the 5th Battalion AIF.

A) Turkish Tunic's Manufacture 1914-1915

The Rod Wilson tunic is recognisable as having been made in an Imperial Army workshop (one from Beersheba, 1917 is illustrated), and is a roughly tacked together item, produced as the Ottoman Turkish Empire faced its greatest challenge - the prospects of an Allied invasion, some 297 km from Constantinople.

  • In December, 1914 and January, 1915 according to British intelligence assessments – “estimated 160,000 net loss in killed, died, captured or permanently disabled in the Caucases” [1].
    • This represented some 30% of the Imperial Army as it stood in October, 1914. The tremendous losses of men and materials had to be replaced quickly.
  • This explains the crude construction of the Rod Wilson tunic, which is typical from the start of 1915. It was made sometime between October (1914 – when the Imperial Army expanded from its pre –war level of 200,000, to its full strength of 450,000), and the Gallipoli landing when it was used for blanketing the wounded.
  • The pattern used to make it was based on the Ottoman's military supply office issued large colour drawings. These were cartoon like drawings (illustrated from an Italian Royal Army manual on the Ottoman Turkish Imperial Army from 1911), as most people at the time could not read.
  • Makers then looked at the drawings of the uniforms and insignia, and made items from these drawings according to their interpretation.
    • There is an interesting account in Irfan Orga's autobiographical ‘Portrait of a Turkish Family’, where Ottoman logistics officers when the war started purchased all the available cloth needed for the Imperial Army in Constantinople.
  • This produced many atypical versions of uniforms, in different types of cloth and colours; of which this tunic is an example.

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[1] British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 10.

B) Turkish Soldier's Equipment

With the Rod Wilson tunic, is the post-1909 Ottoman Turkish ‘Imperial Army’ buckle (Type ‘B’), with its change in script style, between it and earlier versions.

Worn on the belt - a pair of German made M1909 Mauser 45-round cartridge pouch, supplied to the Ottoman Turkish Army, and seems to correlate with a series of munitions orders, from Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabrik in Karlsruhe, at the plants of Erhart and Polne.

  • A large number of these pouches appear to have been procured by the Ottoman Turkish Army in 1909. The reverse is marked with a German manufacturers stamp "MAURY & Co / OFFENBACH a/M" and the Hijri date of 1327 (which is written in Ottoman Turkish as ۱۳۲۷), which equals the European date of 1909.

Above - Post-1909 German made Ottoman ‘Imperial Army’: ‘Type-A’ version buckle (with leather pull-tab attached). As well, includes a belt-clip. It is said that this buckle was souvenired by “Karl Elsum, English Yeomanry at Gallipoli”.

Australian War Memorial Gallipoli Gallery Turkish Soldier

Right - This WW1 Turkish uniform, on display in the Australian War Memorial: Gallipoli Gallery, for more than 30 years, has been largely treated as 'display prop'. It is intended to show a typical Ottoman soldier in 1915. In 1919, the Australian War Records Section in Palestine, collected a number of full sets of Turkish uniforms to serve as an example of the general appearance of the WW1 Ottoman soldier who fought the ANZACs. And three of these jackets are documented in the AWM collection:

However, this tunic (on display in the Australian War Memorial: Gallipoli Gallery), is identical to these other 'collection' jackets. And, as well as the rest of the uniform and equipment is being currently entered into the AWM online collection descriptions, acknowledged as original uniform items.

The headgear, is an exact replica, of an original (too fragile for display), made by the Australian War Memorial staff, in the 1980s. This is the WW1-Wartime Turkish Soldiers' Bashlik.

Additionally, all the soldiers' equipment and weapons are original items; and the use of a German manufactured canvas backpack, would also be consistent with Turkish soldiers after 1917.

The Battle on Day 1 (25 April 1915)

On the day of the landing, facing the initial landing of the ANZAC Corps was a company of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment (Imperial Army 9th Division). The reaction of the commander of the 9th Division was to send the two remaining battalions of the 27th Regiment (1st and 3rd ) to reinforce them. Crucially, the soldiers of the 27th Regiment using ‘evasion tactics’ skilfully drew the ANZAC troops ever deeper into the gullies, and broken ground of the Gallipoli fatally disorganising them. Mustafa Kemal, commander of the 19th Division which was in reserve, only a few miles from the landing, was instructed to send a single battalion as well. However, reports reached Mustafa Kemal that the Australians were making for the peaks of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, and he was convinced the landing was not a feint. As a result, he made a decision that probably doomed the ANZAC landing to failure, if not defeat - he personally led the entire 57th Regiment forward to counter-attack. Prior to committing the 57th Regiment, Mustafa Kemal issued his famous order – "I do not expect you to attack, I order you to die! In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can take our place!"

Day 1 (25 April 1915) Stalemate

Notwithstanding the numerical superiority of the ANZAC troops (who by the afternoon had landed the bulk of its invasion force, a total of three Brigades), the tenacity and aggressive attacks of the 57th and 27th Infantry forced the ANZAC troops to take up defensive lines by the evening of DAY 1, and thus the British and Commonwealth landing was stalemated, and would remain so for the entire campaign until the final evacuation.

1915 Turkish Army Mortars & Mortar Troops

Left - This Turkish mortar made in 1857, was removed from the ruins of fort Seddulbahir at Cape Helles by a British naval officer in 1915 (Imperial War Museum collection). For later Turkish mortar types see this page. In 1915, many mortar weapons used by British, French and Turkish Armies dated from the mid-19th century. In January 1915, the Stokes trench mortar was introduced, in response, to the German Minenwerfer (mine launcher), a heavy trench mortar developed for use by engineer troops well before WW1. 

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