Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

1853 TILL 1856 OTTOMAN ARMY UNIFORMS

Ottoman Army Rank Insignia Transition From 1853 

At the end of 1853, the abolition of 'orders', led to an 'eight-year' gap (ending in 1861), where officers are still in service holding the older orders, which are withdrawn as individuals were promoted, retired or died. During the Crimean War period, a temporary/experimental system was in place that operated as a set of basic rank-bands where officers wore the same uniform/rank insignia.

C.A. Norman notes [1]. that Ottoman officers almost invariably wore a 'passant' or epaulet loop of gold lace on either shoulder near the sleeve seam, which seems to have served as a mark of officer status (there are no indications that epaulets were ever attached to these, except possibly in some Guard units).

  • Apart from these simple devices there is no indication of any system of officer's rank insignia in use in the Ottoman army; both Vanson and Constantin Guys commented on the apparent lack of any form of rank insignia among the Ottoman officers.
  • Typically, the epaulettes were only fitted for ceremonial roles. However, the Ottoman practice of not wearing rank is well documented [2].

Right - An infantry junior officer, whose rank-band is identified by the red tape chevron on the collar. Often referred to as NCOs, these were the ‘Bascavus’ (Sergeant-major), ‘Bascavus Muavini’ (Assistant Sergeant-major), and Cavus (Sergeant), and all three ranks wore the exact same collar distinction.

Only the ‘Onbasi’ (normally translated as Corporal) whom held a rank in Army but was not regarded as a junior officer [3]. In fact, the Onbasi was the only actual NCO in the imperial army, in this period. He may have been identified as well with the red tape chevron on the collar.

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[1] C.A. Norman. Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era (Soldiers of the Queen: Issue 85); Flaherty, C. (2011) Ottoman Uniforms of the Crimean War. SOTQ. Issue 147 (December): 16-27; Flaherty, C. (2012) Abdülmecid I Period Ottoman Uniforms of the Crimean Era: A Review Commentary on C.A. Norman’s ‘Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era’. The War Correspondent Vol. 30, No. 2 (July 2012): 6-29.

[2] For instance, it was recorded in WW1 that, “in action there has been a tendency on the part of officers to discard all badges of rank.” (British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 136).

[3] Askeri Müze ve Kültür Sitesti Komutanligi. (1986) Osmanli askeri teskilat ve kiyafetleri: 1876-1908 [Ottoman military organization and uniforms] Yayinlari: 16.

Crimean War Turkish Officer's Uniforms

Various officers' uniforms were originally described by General Vanson, which he illustrated, identifying wearing 'light' or 'lightish blue' tunics, with 'darker blue' trousers [1].

  • I take this to mean the tunics were simply faded, which would be much more likely with a plain indigo dye than with the mixed shade. And in the C.A. Norman study he states: 'I think in using the term - Prussian blue, Vanson was trying to indicate the use by a few officers of the darker mixed shade, either for practical reasons or simply to be stylish'.
  • The term 'Prussian blue' is generally taken to refer to a very dark shade with a bit of black added to the dye to retard fading and discolouration, a practice which had become normal in most western armies by this period. By contrast, most sources would seem to suggest that the Ottoman army continued to use a plain unmixed indigo dye for their uniforms till quite late in the century (the contemporary Spanish army, which followed the same practice, referred to the shade as 'Turkish blue').

Ottoman officers were depicted leading troops wearing the 'old' uniform, while the description quotes the other ranks as wearing the 'new' uniform in 'plain blue', with seven brass buttons down the front of the tunic, flapped cuffs, no rear pocket flaps, no trim on the trouser seams, and white crossbelts (the latter apparently rather unusual with the 'new' uniform). C.A Norman notes, that the officer's uniforms in both cases being virtually identical despite what their men might be wearing [2]. Infantry Offices are depicted with almost identical uniforms:

  • Tunic and trousers Prussian Blue, generally nine gilt buttons down the front;
  • Red tape edging the front opening, bottom of collar, (rear) pocket flaps, cuffs and trousers;
  • Straight-bladed swords for subaltern officers'.
  • Some figures differs only in carrying a scimitar instead of a straight-bladed sword.
  • As well, have no piping on the trouser seams.
  • Collar and cuffs would be dark blue.
  • Shoulder 'passants' gold.
  • Boots black.
  • The fez red with a dark blue (less commonly, black) tassel.
  • The waistbelt depicted appears so commonly in the GEN. Vanson's sketches of officers it might almost be considered a 'standard' model; he described it as of gold lace with a red centre line and red Morrocco lining.

GEN. Vanson notes on Crimean War uniforms [3]:

  • In these it was noted that the officer's tunic would normally be trimmed with red tape, often in a pattern similar to that worn by their men but not invariably so, with the exception that officers seem never to have worn the 'flapped' cuff of the men's 'new' uniform (they are invariably depicted with plain round cuffs, even when their men have 'flaps').
  • The uniform was frequently somewhat more elaborately trimmed than that of the other ranks, frequently with a red piping or tape down the front opening of the tunic or on the trouser seams.
  • Officers also seem to have more commonly worn entirely red collars and, less commonly, cuffs, though these still remained a distinct minority.

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[1] [2] [3] C.A. Norman. Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era (Soldiers of the Queen: Issue 85).

Ottoman Generals

Right - The 1850s Imperial Court uniform of an Ottoman Pasha.

  • Regardless of rank, all Pasha wore a similar garment.
  • They represented the elite of the Ottoman political establishment.
  • Were only outranked by the “Vizier-I-Azam”, who was the Grand Vizier, effectively the prime minister (but also often taking the field as Generalissimo instead of the Sultan); and the Khedive of Egypt.
  • These senior officers were all in the immediate court of the Emperor, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
  • The only indication of rank, is the neck-order he is wearing.

Crimean War Turkish Battalion Imams

Urquhart, states that the Battalion Imams in the 1850s, "wear a sword and the same uniform as the other officers". The addition of a fez wrapped in a green turban, or a green keffiyeh (the traditional Arab cloth headdress) under a fez (with it wrapped around the base). These was in keeping with green hat, originally worn by the 1826 Imam [1].

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[1] It should be noted that the significance of the green hat/turban/keffiyeh, at the time “denotes a man who has religious privileges” (The War Office. (2008) 1915 Notes on the Turkish Army: With a Short Vocabulary of Turkish Words and Phrases. N & M Press: 19).

Ottoman Officer Wearing Traditional Armour 

Army Surgeons and Apothecaries

According to the account given in the Berliner Stadt- und Landbote (1832),: "The surgeons wear a light-blue coat, with a low collar and carmine cuffs. Field apothecaries have plain ash-coloured coats". [1]

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[1] Knotel, R. Knoetl, H. Sieg, H. (1980) Uniforms of the World - A Compendium of Army, Navy And Air Force Uniforms 1700 - 1937. Arms Armour Press, London: 430-431.

Omar Pasha and his Staff (1853 - 1856)

Right - An Imtiyaz Order (1839), often worn by Omar Latas or Mihajlo Latas, better known as Omar Pasha. He was an Ottoman general and governor. Born in Austria, to Orthodox Christian parents, and was initially an Austrian soldier. Faced with charges of embezzlement, he fled to Ottoman Bosnia and converted to Islam, He joined the Ottoman army, reaching a high rank. He crushed several rebellions throughout the Empire, and was a commander in the Crimean War.

The 1854 Szathmari photographs, in combination with the original photograph-captions show the following:

  • Omar Pasha's Staff Officers all wore a hussar tunic with the exact same gold flogging, and cuff details as Omar Pasha himself.
  • It appears the collar distinctions were different for the Captain; whereas the Major, and Colonel wore identical uniforms - conforming to the 'band of ranks'.

Sanjakdar and Sultan's Standard

Imperial Guard Infantry

Line Infantry

Ottoman Imperial Army, infantry and artillery uniforms in the 1850s went through a period of rapid change. General Vanson in the Crimea illustrates these [1]. Broadly, the Ottoman Army in 1854-55 wore four different series of uniforms:

  • Older shell-jackets.
  • Two versions of long skirted tunics. Basically, a universal pattern, for all Army ranks, which itself had begun service from the 1850s, identical to the Napoleonic period Prussian Landwher 'Litewka'.
  • Introduced in 1856 a 'smart' looking new pattern tunic, with short skirts following British and French tunic patterns.

Right - Crimean War Turkish Soldiers, from an 1854 Szathmari photograph wearing a short tunic introduced for general service wear throughout the Army, with red tape edging to the cuffs, collar and along the button holes.

C.A. Norman notes) General Vanson described a Turkish infantryman (of the 1st Division Debarking at Kamiesch, 7 April 1855), as wearing the 'new' uniform [2]:

  • The tunic and trousers would be dark blue.
  • The bottom of the collar, shoulderstraps, top of the cuffs and cuff flaps edged with red tape, brass buttons, black belts with brass plate.
  • The boots are unshaded but appear to be of 'Western' type, presumably black.
  • A unit number is occasionally depicted on the shoulderstraps,(which should be in red cloth cut out numerals applique sewn to the board).
  • Infantry other ranks trousers were generally worn loose over the boots, seldom with any trim on the outer seam.
  • The same variations of trim might occur on the tunic collar as worn on the 'old' uniform, though cuffs tend to be more standardized.
  • The rear of the other ranks tunic was generally plain, with two buttons at the back of the waist, a slit up the centre seam of the skirts to the waist, rarely with pocket flaps or coloured trim.

Infantryman, were noted by GEN. Vanson [3], wearing more-or-less standard 'old' uniform, consisting of a dark blue jacket and trousers, the bottom of the collar, shoulder straps and top of the cuffs edged with red tape; the cuffs are dearly open up the rear seem.

  • While this would seem to have been the most common pattern, variations in trim occurred, most notably on the collar, which might be edged on all sides with red tape, or on the top and front only, sometimes with variations in the width of the tape.
  • The lower legs are covered by stockings with native shoes; unfortunately, Vanson rarely noted stocking colours, though in one set of notes he quotes them as 'brown' (C.A. Norman’s emphasis).

The Ottoman soldiers depicted wearing garments not unlike the traditional mens' pants, which can still be seen used in traditional folk men’s costumes from Bulgaria:

  • The “Benevretsi”: A woollen long and narrow set of pants, which incorporate a tightly fitting “Nogavitsi” (legging) that partly covers the slippers.
  • A type of pants called a ‘Dimii’: These are broader in the upper areas, and have short legs. This is often worn with a pair of slip-on wool felt boot-socks (which C.A. Norman mistakenly identifies as leggings [4]). The wearer then puts on slippers, and may wind black tap around the boot-socks in order to secure these more.

Right - Specific to the 4th Anatolian Corps, the Infantry wore yellow (instead of red) cuffs on coats (September 1854 Orders of Mushir Ismail Pasha - to have been read to the troops):

  • The edging of the clothing of the army of Anatolia will in future be red instead of yellow.
  • Officers will wear black cravats.
  • The tassel of the fez will in future be worn on the left side over the ear.

The uniforms would have retained red tape down the coat's front. The collars could have been mactching yellow, or could have stayed red, or blue with red tape [2].

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[1] C.A. Norman. Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era (Soldiers of the Queen: Issue 85).

[2] Russian period sources give red facings on jackets in Anatolian Corps in 1853.

White Summer Uniform; Fez and Phrygian Cap (Winter Soft Wool Fleece Cap)

Right - Description of the white summer uniform (1855). This was a general service uniforms worn by all soldiers, in the infantry, artillery and cavalry.

The tall ‘tar-bucket’ fez of the 1840s had by the Crimean war been replaced by a low rounded red 'chechia' –type of Fez, with dark blue tassel. This had no lining or blocking, and was made with thick red felt. Only the military wore bass tassel buttons (Right).

The fez was commonly worn over a white cotton skullcap (for religeous purposes), which appears as a narrow white edging at the bottom of the fez in illustrations

C.A. Norman (General Vanson) described a 'stocking cap', or 'Phrygian cap', a soft wool fleece cap; which appears in a number of his drawings [1]. These were cold-weather headgear with a headband detailed in the original drawings to indicate a 'nappy' material, possibly fur or some sort of plush. and more commonly it is depicted as flat and plain, but shaded darker than the body of the cap.

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[1] C.A. Norman. Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era (Soldiers of the Queen: Issue 85).

Infantry Equipment

Right - C.A. Norman describes the standard infantry equipments [1]:

  • What appears to be a cap pouch is worn on the right front of the waistbelt, flanked by a second pouch of unknown function.
  • A small 'squiggley' line is depicted on the right breast; conceivably a touch-hole needle on a chain or cord?

Right - An Ottoman cartridge box plate from the 1840s-1850s period.

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[1] C.A. Norman. Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era (Soldiers of the Queen: Issue 85).

Chasseurs

The GEN. Vanson illustration of an NCO from a drawing entitled 'Chasseurs of the Army of the Danube, 12 April, 1855' was discussed by C. A. Norman who notes ‘there has been some question raised among different sources as to the status and function of chasseur battalions in the Turkish army during this period, and even whether they existed at all.’ [1]

  • Vanson depicted some figures he designated as 'Chasseurs', though he sheds no further light on the matter.
  • These 'chasseurs' typically wear the 'new' uniform with late-model French waistbelt equipment, and are armed with what appear to be French rifled 'carabines' with sabre bayonets.

In the spring of 1853, the major reform was the raising of special companies. It was decided to bring together the most mobile and clever soldiers of each battalion in a special "chasseur" companies (one of eight). This followed with the formation of separate battalions of chasseurs (one on the Guards), others at army corps homes in Rumelian, Anatolian and Arabistan. Battalions in Eupatoria, in April 1855 appear to wear dark blue (however, this appears to have been more dark green in colour) long-skirted tunics of French pattern. Dark blue [green] pantaloons with red piping completed the costume.

Instead of the fez, a green 'Phrygian cap', soft wool fleece cap which was the Army's cold weather headgear was worn.  The Guard and Arabistan battalions in Kars, November 1855, also wore these fur caps with green cloth top; dark blue tunics; as well as dark blue special [i.e. to knees] cloaks. Additionally, the 4th Anatolian Corps, Infantry: yellow (instead of the red) cuffs on coats (order of 1854).

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[1] C.A. Norman. Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era (Soldiers of the Queen: Issue 85).

Music Corps

Right - A colour drawing titled 'Turkish Infantry of the Army of Omer Pasha; Crimea, April 1855'. The original General Vanson description/drawing of a drummer [1]:

  • A red fez with dark blue tassel,
  • Dark blue tunic, including all facings, a white tape or piping edging the bottom of the collar, front opening, shoulder straps, top of the cuffs and only three sides of the cuff flaps (the top and front of the collar being piped dark blue), brass buttons.
  • Wearing dark blue trousers tucked into medium brown high gaiters with brown shoes. With black belts with brass plate, the drum bandolier having black drumstick loops.

The drum is described as brass with plain brown hoops, and white tightening cords, and carrying straps [2].

The 1854 Szathmari photographs, showing the Music Corps (which may be the earlier version), was likely a red uniform.

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[1] [2] C.A. Norman. Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era (Soldiers of the Queen: Issue 85).

Sappers

Right - A 1850s period illustration of the Turkish troops storming Fort Shefketil, which depicts a squad of Turkish Army Sappers, lead by a Sapper officer.

  • It appears an attempt has been made to illustrate these soldiers wearing a long red cap.
  • If this is Fez, then it appears to have a large red tassel.

This cap also has a clear resemblance to the traditional red caps of the Bostancis, or ‘Boustangees’ who had doubled as the sultan’s Janissary executioners, and his gardeners.

The Boustangees troops had become the first recruits for the Modern Army infantry, who continued to wear this cap into the 1820s.  Other features of the sapper's uniform:

  • A long blue frockcoat.
  • Red collar and cuffs, and plain blue shoulder boards.
  • Red breeches.

The sappers also carry on a shoulder strap the leather harness for their axes slung over their backs, as a further distinction.

The sapper officers appear to wear an identical uniform to the other sappers, with epaulettes. In particular, wears either the traditional Boustangees’  red cap, or the early type of cold weather lamb wool cap (discussed above).

Winter Uniforms

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