Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

1883 TILL 1914 ARMY OF EGYPT INFANTRY

Post-1885 Infantry Blue Uniform

The 1841 ‘Edict of Inheritance’ formalized the autonomous status of Egypt, as a privileged province within the Ottoman Empire, and secured hereditary succession to its government for the family of Mehmed Ali [1]. This Edict specified the ways in which Ottoman sovereignty should be symbolised, in particular with the Egyptian army and navy wearing Ottoman uniforms and parading Ottoman flags. These practices were continued under the British occupation, and restructuring of the Egypt Army after 1883.

Above/Right - The British trained Egyptian infantry continued to use the brass star and crescent 1876 Ottoman army tunic button. Many were made by British companies supplying both Egypt and the Ottoman army prior to WW1.

Right - The British trained Egyptian infantry battalions used identical uniform insignia that of the Turkish Army, adopting the same pattern brass Ottoman numerals (the example on the left, is British made prior to WW1 - and was supplied to both the Egypt, as well as Ottoman Armies).

----------------------------------------------------

[1] Oded Peri. Ottoman Symbolism in British-Occupied Egypt, 1882-1909. Middle Eastern Studies. Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan., 2005), pp. 103-120.

Post-1885 Infantry

The Army of Egypt retained its white uniform (from the pre-1880s) through till 1885. Sometime in 1885, the new Khaki uniform was introduced. [1]. During the Sudan conflict, service wool jumpers were adopted. Other items, such as the Wilkinson Sword Co. 'Coats of Steel Chainmail', that were claimed to be bullet-proof were used [2]; along with sword-proof protective steel helmets - which appear to have been prized for other ballistic-proof qualities (these were the Birmingham, UK made steel helmets supplied to the Khedive of Egypt’s Regiment of Iron Men (in 1883) [3].

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Doug Johnson. The Egyptian Army 1880-1900 S&S Vol VIII, No. 1.

[2] Right - Extracted from a Wilkinson's WW1 period advertisement for their bullet-resisting jacket, the diagram showing the placement of the small metal plates in the jacket's lining. The original pre-WW1 Wilkinson's design used chain mail instead. Manufactured from split rings which proved to be too brittle, the rings would fragment when struck by bullets and further aggravate the damage.

[3] 'Oriental Armour', by H. Russell Robinson (1967),

Army of Egypt Battalions 1-18 (1885-1897)

In 1885, there were nine battalions of infantry, these were Egyptian Army Battalions 1-9. In 1886, four new battalions were raised; however, later (in 1886), the 11th and 12th Egyptian Battalions were disbanded for reasons of economy. In 1891, there were a total of fourteen battalions of infantry, these were Egyptian battalions 1-8. There headgear insignia consisted of the following coloured geometric shapes (worn on fez covers/puggarees):

Egyptian battalions wore collar numbers, where as the Sudanese battalions wore numbered shoulder titles.

Battalion Flags

Right - The Egyptian army's 10th Battalion flag [1]. This item dates from 1883, with red, and white embroidered 'Awards' added at a later date, these are:

"TOSHKI"

"GEMEZEH" (in two versions, one in Arabic, and then another in European script, for 1888).

"-ARGHIN-"

The flag final was either an Ottoman imperial army crescent, or brass ornament in the shape of a crown topped with a crescent and half moon (as illustrated on the flag itself).

--------------------------------------------------

[1] Flaherty, C. (2011) WW1 Turkish Collar Numerals. The Armourer Militaria Magazine, Issue 103 (January-February): 25-26.

Sudanese Battalions 9-10, 12-13 (1890)

1886, two new Sudanese battalions were raised, these were the Xth and XIIIth. In 1886-1887, one Sudanese battalion of Valentine Baker's Gendarmerie, was incorporated into the army on May 1, 1888 as the XIth Sudanese. In 1888, the XIIth Sudanese Battalion was raised. In 1891, there were a total of six Sudanese battalions: IX-XIII.

The following puggaree flashes/ plume 'hackie' were used, for the Sudanese infantry:

  • Green: 9th Battalion.
  • Black: 10th Battalion.
  • Red: 11th Battalion.
  • Yellow: 12th Battalion.
  • Dark Blue: 13th Battalion.
  • Chestnut: 14th Battalion.
  • Maroon: 15th Battalion.

The 'General Staff, Handbook of the Egyptian Army, 1912, London', states that the Sudanese Infantry Band, had a Buff puggaree flash.

The Sudanese, were identified with a mix of Ottoman numerals, as well as British pattern Roman numerals (such as the example of the Crimean War period 20th Foot regiment cap badge in Roman numerals - Right) [1]. However, no examples of the 'Roman numerals' have been seen or identified used by Sudanese troops. There is some controversy, as various uniform commentators have argued these did not exist (which is incorrect). The Sudanese battalions, used the following insignia:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Shoulder title badges, over the 1885-1914 period using Roman numerals, were in common used in the British Army. The cavalry used Roman numerals post-fixed with a capital letter indicating Hussars, Dragoons, or Lancers etc. As well, the British Indian Army badges at various stages incorporated Roman numerals badges - such as the example of the 'X' Baluch Regiment (1922-45), which used a plain Roman 'X', in metal.

11th Sudanese Battalion (1897)

Army Reserve Battalions 15-18 (1896-1897)

In 1896, the reserve army, had the following battalions:

  • 15th Battalion.
  • 16th Battalion.

In 1897, two more reserve battalions were raised.

  • 17th Battalion.
  • 18th Battalion.

There is a collar tab, for the 16th Battalion, which has green backing cloth square, set within the red collar tab, under the ‘16’ number. It is likely, this green patch indicated reserve army [1] [2].

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] This is item 1015177 (buywyze.com), which is miss-described as a "12th Sudanese Infantry Pagri Cap Badge (Circa 1920’s)". This description is not correct. Even though the collar tab has been sold some time ago, the dealer will not allow the picture to be used.

[2] The 'General Staff, Handbook of the Egyptian Army, 1912, London', states that the 16th Egyptian Battalion was distinguished with a Green and Red Square flash.

Battalion Company Flags

Each company in a battalion had a small rectangle colour cloth flag, attached to spear shaft with a white Ottoman numeral in the canter (giving the company's number).

  • 1st Company: Blue.
  • 2nd Company: Black.
  • 3rd Company: White.
  • 4th Company: Amber.
  • 5th Company: Green.
  • 6th Company: Vermilion.

1898 Kassala Irregulars Battalion

(Italian Basci-Buruk Corps of Irregulars Askaris)

There is an 1896 illustration of Italian Basci-Buruk Corps of Irregulars (the Askaris) in the Vinkhuijzen Collection. These illustrations show the appearance of these soldiers, who in 1898, as part of the Italian garrison at Kassala, which was ceded to Egypt, had became part of the Egyptian Army. In 1898, the infantry battalion was titled - Kassala Irregulars. This unit was also commonly known as the "Arab Battalion" [1].

-----------------------------------

[1] Winston S. Churchill. The River War. Nu Vision Publications, LLC, 1974: 157.

Print Print | Sitemap
© Ottoman Uniforms