Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

1909 TILL 1913 OTTOMAN POLICE AUTO MACHINE GUN CARRIER

The 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' in Turkish Service

Prior to WW1, the Ottoman Police had a four-vechicle squadron of the French Hotchkiss Company produced machine-gun armed, un-armoured cars, called the ‘1909 Automitrailleuse' (which translates into ‘self-gun car’).

  • This vehicle was a civilian touring car, converted with the rear sedan seat removed and replaced with a platform to mount a machine-gun equipped with an armoured plate shield.
  • This platform was surrounded by a bulwark (which acted as a barrier to people climbing-up). Neither this, nor the rest of the vehicle had any armoured protection.

Right - A 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' on the streets of Constantinople. 

 

Sometime in 1909, Sultan Abdul Hamid II placed an order with the French arms manufacturer – Hotchkiss, to build four protected cars, quite similar to the 1902 ‘Charron-Girardot et Voigt Automitrailleuse’ (which had been a Paris Exhibition concept car, first displayed in December, 1902). Most references cite: ‘these cars while in transit to reach Sultan's army, were captured by the Young Turks, a revolutionary group, and used against the Sultan himself’.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II, a year earlier in June 1908, had been stripped of his autocratic powers during a military coup led by the so-called ‘Young Turks’.

  • In the following year – 1909 – in an event that became known historically as the ‘Countercoup of 1909’, Sultan Abdul Hamid II made a bid for a return to absolute power, and dismantle the newly established Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire, and replace it with a new autocracy under himself.
  • The purchase of the Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse', in March 1909 appears to have been an important part of SultanAbdul Hamid II attempted to seize power.
  • The Turkish 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' mainly saw action during the riots which led to Abdul Hamid II being finally deposed, and replaced by his brother Mehmed V (On April 13, 1909). 

Right - As can be seen, there was a basic crew.

  • The driver, in this case an officer identifiable by the epaulette bridles, and lace stripe on the cuff (seen on Police uniforms from 1876, which were still being worn as late as 1913).
  • The auto-mechanic seated beside the driver, is wearing a white fatigue jacket. Up-top, is seated the machine-gun operator. He is also wearing a white fatigue jacket.
  • Other pictures show the machine-gun operator in full police uniform, from 1876 (still being worn in 1913). 

Pictures commonly show either an Ottoman Gendarme, or Imperial Army officer (identifiable by the lamb wool kalpak headgear he is wearing), sitting topside, and talking to another officer driving the car. He is not part of the crew, as he is additional and possibly there as an observer as most of the period pictures show a number of officers and dignitaries always around, or ridding on the 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' when it was being photographed.

Above - There is much debate among collectors as to the identity of various officers, pictured with the 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse'. The only evidence is the French caption on a colourised photo-postcard, appearing to read: “Automobier bllridé & elom motor de Cherkei Pacha”, it also could be "Chetket Pacha" [1].

This caption is somewhat ambiguous, and possibly has one of two meanings: Assuming, that the reference is to a ‘Cherkei Pacha’ (that is a dignitary named, and titled Pasha Cherkei’);

  • May be Cherkei, or the Circassians, which were a tribal irregular cavalry regiment serving in the Ottoman Army from the 1860s.
  • This 1897 account seems to imply a history of Circassian Tribal unrest.
  • The 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' were being used in a role (manned by Police, Army, or Gendarmes) to suppress Circassian Tribal unrest, sometime between 1909, and 1913. It is also suggested that the name/title ‘Cherkei Pacha’, could have been a nickname for the Pasha, or governor who was dealing with the Circassians.

There is this news report: “Recent Refugees.—The Circassians are in many respects the most interesting race in AsiaticTurkey.After the Russian conquest of the Caucasus, large numbers of the Mohammedan Circassians took refuge inTurkey,where the government promised them welcome and lands. Most of the immigrants learned to repent bitterly of having trusted a Turkish government promise. The officials, who were entrusted with the duty of settling them, went about their task in the usual style, promising always, performing nothing, aiming only at plundering the refugees of whatever they possessed. But the Circassians were not so submissive as Turks. Most of them took to robbery, and seized what they could find. One band, as I was told, who had been several times cheated by the Pasha at Amasia with promises of land, seized him in the government house, and compelled him by threats of death to execute a deed settling them on land in the district.” (Impressions of Turkey during twelve years' wanderings; Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, G.P. Putnam's sons, 1897)

If it is "Chetket Pacha", then there is a clearer connection to the 1877 veteran of the Russo-Tukish War who led the relief of Plevna (22 Sept, 1877), and whom is mentioned (this time spelt as "Chef Ket Pasha" in a period Australian newspaper report), in relation to the 1910 Albanian Revolt where he had his Turkish Army Headquarters in Prishtina (Kosovo). The Albanian revolt was severely repressed by the Turkish Army, between May and June 1910, in several of the major cities.

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[1] This has also been translated as: "Automobile blindé & etat-major de Chetket Pacha" (maybe Chefket); that is armoured vehicle & head quarter of Chefket ... [Chetket] ... Pacha".

Operation of Turkish 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse'

Some evidence suggests that the Ottomans had developed support facilities for the motor-cars they were buying, as a Turkish WW1-wartime produced Pioneer/Engineering troops tool-weapon (discussed in Flaherty, C. (2013) WW1 Turkish Grenades and Pioneers. The Armourer Militaria Magazine, Issue 114 (January-February): 63-67), has the inscription - ‘Produced by 2nd Automobile Company’, suggesting a pre-war auto-motor repair company (in this case, converting to wartime weapons manufacture).

Armament

The 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' main armament was a single, French made 1900 Hotchkiss 8mm machine-gun.

French Design

Historically, French development of the machine-gun armed cars after 1900, began in 1904 with the French Army purchase of a ‘Panhard & Levassor’ 24 hp touring car, and used it as an un-armed reconnaissance vehicle during the 1905 manoeuvres.

  • In 1906, Captain H. Genty converted this vehicle into a motorized machine-gun carrier (or Auto-Mitrailleuse), by simply mounting a light machine-gun on a pivot behind the rear seat. This vehicle was intensively tried by the French cavalry through the years 1906-07 (this became known as the Panhard-Genty car).
  • France, faced with tribal uprisings in North Africa, sent the Panhard-Genty car. Highly praised in Algeria by the French Command there, several more touring cars were converted into Panhard-Genty cars between 1908 and 1911, and sent to deal with tribal disturbances in Morocco.
  • The 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' was specifically designed as a motorized machine-gun carrier, following the 1902 ‘Charron-Girardot’ exhibition concept. It was intended for the type of role the Panhard-Genty cars had been used.
  • The Turkish use of 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' was very much intended for dealing with civilian unrest. For this reason, the several photographs (including one colourised photo-postcard) that exist of the four 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse', are pictured in the streets of Constantinople, driven and manned by Police officers, till around 1913.
  • Beyond the photographs, and the French caption on the colourised photo-postcard (Above), nothing is actually known about these cars, how they were used or by whom. What can be deduced from these images is the subject of this article.

It is clear that these cars were not in service by 1914. It is likely that these cars were worn-out (similarly the French versions appeared to have had a lifespan of three to four years). As well, the experiences against the Royal Italian Army, which had used several Fiats armouer cars, as well as ‘Isotta Fraschinis’ (armouer cars) in the Italo-Turkish War in Lybia, 1911, would have demonstarated these were outdated.

Distinction Between Turkish Cars (1909-1913)

Above - The colourised photo-postcard shows the typical colour scheme, in particular the vehicles all appear to have been factory finished in white.

  • The colour of the driver’s uniform is shown as a dark blue jacket, with green collar and shoulder boards (indicating a Police uniform).
  • Judging by the pictures, the same officer driver is photographed in most of the pictures.
  • He is likely pictured driving one of two different vehicles. One was distinguished by a small pendent Turkish flag; the other often pictured (above), is identifiable as the crew liked storing their cavalry swords, which were issued to each Policeman in the brackets that support the drivers’ rain cover.

A third 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' was photographed, having several distinguishing features, such as no machine gun and the driver’s rain cover has side flanges. The driver is also different he is taller than the other driver (in fact so tall, he cannot wear his fez), and wears spectacles. This suggests that there were only two qualified drivers to operate these; and at the time, few cars were owned in Turkey prior to 1908.

The fact that the third 1909 Hotchkiss 'Automitrailleuse' photographed has no machine-gun fitted suggest that this may have been intended as a purely command car role, with an officer directing the other car with voice or hand signals. As well, it was likely there were only two cars operational at one time, with a third awaiting use (with only two full crews available); and a forth in mechanical repair.

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