Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

1909 TILL 1914 OTTOMAN ARMY UNIFORMS, AND BRANCH OF SERVICE COLORS (1909 TILL 1916)

1909 Dress Blue Uniform

Right - The basic pattern for the new 1909 imperial army dress blue uniforms, for officers. It is likely that all officers regardless of branch of service wore the same universal pattern dress blue uniform. These tunics came with red or dark blue (red piping added) collars and cuffs. However, a version with green collars and cuffs (for the newly organised Machine Gun Branch), is known to exist.

No other colours have been seen for the cavalry (grey), or engineers (light blue).

Senior Officers wore an additional knotted gold cord below the gold cuff, and collar tape.

  • The Sultan, was distinguished with a double-row of gold cuff, and collar tape.
  • Otherwise rank was shown with shoulder cords (introduced in 1909), which were also intended for the new field brown uniforms; as well as with the 1876 period epaulettes (which were still in use), and a new set of post-1909 epaulettes.

Right - The 1909 officers' dress sabre was a German-patterned 'P' guard lightweight curve-bladed sword, generally:

  • Without a sharpened edge, or point. As it was purely intended for display only.
  • Many of these are made in Germany. As well there are Ottoman made versions. There are many design variations made, however, this did not reflect any distinction in rank.
  • The overall length is 39 inches.
  • Has a metal scabbard. Some 1909 officers' dress sabre scabbard have provision for two sword strap rings rather than the usual one.

Only one pattern made, indented for all 'Port Epee' officers, except for the rank of Infantry ‘Bascavus’ (Sergeant-major). who typically wore the M1874 Turkish Peabody-Martini yataghan sword bayonets, with a sword knot [1].

Above/Right - The original picture in Dunya Savasi'nda Turk Askeri Kiyafetleri 1914-1918, Authors Tunca Orses, Necmettin Ozcelik, 2007, Istanbul, has been substantially altered to correct details such as the sword suspension strap made from gold tape with red high-lights (matching the 1909 Brocade Belt design), as well as the use of the French-pattern chain sword sling-strap, that could be used (this itself had a upper hook, to raise the sword up).This looped onto the 1909 Brocade Belt (see below), via the underside 'B' ring (as illustrated by the picture below).

Above/Right/Right - This shows this forward chain with a simple brass hook.Additionally, the 1909 officers' dress sabre scabbard with two sword strap rings, could be suspended from an over the shoulder carry strap (still in use from the 1876-1908 period).

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[1] There is a description of the "Sergeant-Major's red side arm tassel", in the 'British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 136.' Should actually be the 'officer's 1909 portepee. The ‘officers’ above the rank of ‘Bascavus Muavini’ (Assistant Sergeant-Major: two gold bars), used the same officer’s portepee without distinction like the conventionally rated higher officers (Lieutenant etc.). These ‘red tassels’ have never been identified. Period photographs clearly show all officers, wearing the same pattern sword portepee regardless of rank.

1909 Field Uniform

Right - Illustrated the special brown leather frog designed for the 'D'-Guard officers short sword.

Right - The 'D'-Guard short sword for Officers, was introduced in 1909 and was worn by all officers of all ranks, who wore the 1909 'Port Epee' (sword knot) - from the ‘Bascavus’ (Sergeant-major), and right-up to the Marshal (‘Mushir’). It is common collectors mistake to see these as 'NCO swords'.

  • The mistake persists due to the book - Harvey J S Withers 'World Swords 1400-1945 – An Illustrated Price Guide for Collectors' (Studio Jupiter Military Publishing: 217), which makes this mistake, and without any real justification identifying the 1909 Turkish officers 'D'-Guard short swords, as the "WW1 C1915 Turkish Army Non Commissioned Officer's Sword". This is a complete error on the part of Withers.
  • The only NCO rank (that corresponded to the same found in European militaries), in the Ottoman army was the Onbasi (Corporal) whom held a rank but was not regarded as a junior officer [1]. In fact he was the only actual NCO in the whole Imperial Army.
  • All officers, above the Onbasi, in this period, were reguarded as Kucuk Zabitani (junior officers).

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

1909 Officer's Brocade Belt; Buckle; Portepee and Short Sword Sets 

Above - Post-1909 Ottoman imperial army officer’s brocade belt, with bronze buckle.

Below  - The matching portepee (all part of the original set).

Right - Another version of the brocade frog for the 'D'-Guard officers short sword. As can be seen there was no standard design, rather officers had to option to 'outdo' each other.

Right - The special brown leather frog designed for the 'D'-Guard officers short sword, could be replaced with a more elaborate version made from gold tape and red velvet match the 1909 Officer's brocade belt was also made in the period.

1909 Officer's Shoulder Cords and Epaulettes

Right - For 1909 three new types of shoulder cords/boards were developed. As well adoption of the German styled star with five rays (imitating the German used four–ray version), rather than French five-point stars (used in the 1876-1908 period), to indicate rank grading.

Right - Post-1909 epaulettes were edged in metallic tape, and backed in red felt material.

  • Gold/Yellow for combat service branches
  • White/Silver for non-combat services) edging with red high-lights.

1909 Epaulettes used by all officers - Lieutenant’s and above are identical.

  • Officers bellow the rank of Major, do not have a fringe.
  • Majors to Colonels have a loose fringe (above).
  • Generals use a fixed fringe (Right)

It is also quite likely (judging from 1876 period illustrations), the lower grade cavalry officers (3rd Lieutenant), likely used a fringeless epaulette with a red cloth field (unchanged from 1876).

1909 Turkish Officer's Wet Weather Cape Collar Rank Patches

New Pattern 1909 Soldier's Buckle

Right - These post-1909 buckles were based on the ‘Mannschaftskoppelschloß 1895–1915’ Prussian buckle [1].

  • These were 47 mm (belt-width) x 63 mm.
  • This corresponded to the adoption of the 1909 German Mauser three-pocket ammunition pouches, needing a thinner belt (42 mm wide), than the previous German ammunition pouches used.

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[1] Right - An example of the early proof-model for what became the post-1909 (German pattern) Ottoman Turkish ‘Imperial Army’ soldier’s buckles. As can be seen, the Ottoman Turkish script for 'Asakr-i Shahaneh' meaning the 'Imperial Army' is contained in the outside ring. This followed closely the German models for the period.

1876 Junior Officer Insignia Used on 1909 Soldiers' Uniforms & 1909 'New' System

Right - Extracted from the 'British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 136.'

  • Red piping on Ottoman shoulder boards, is based on the 1916 British Army Handbook.
  • The 'NCO' shoulder boards, depicted in the 1916 Turkish Army handbook, are peculiar - because they are shown with the cut corners.
  • These look distinctly like Bulgarian Army shoulder insignia in 1912, who also used a near identical rank system to the Turkish in this period.

The 1916 Turkish Army handbook, appears to be based on a much earlier volume written soon after the 1912-13 Balkans war, as there are some clear references to this conflict, as the basis of the information. The book was then added to in 1915, and then 1916.

The post-1908 Turkish Army uniform guild (found in the 1911 Italian army manual for the Turkish army) does not shows red piping and the shoulder boards are shown with round ends.

There is a strong possibility, that there has been a period error contained in the 1916 British version of the Turkish army handbook, which accidentally used Bulgarian boards showen as Turkish ones.

Right  - An 1895 Austrian publication, that shows the Ottoman corporal with red piped shoulder boards, and a red number - mistakenly drawn as a Chevron. Significantly, the shoulder board is shown identical to the ones appearing in the 1916 British 'Turkish Army Handbook', following the Bulgarian pattern, with the corners cut.

This suggests that the earliest 'NCO' shoulder boards used were actually surplus pre-1908 boards [1], with the rank lace added over these. Before the actual rounded end plain ‘branch coloured’ boards (post-1909), boards became available.

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[1] The 1895 use of 'cut-angle' cornered shoulder boars may have been short-lived, as the 1908 reference: Askeri Müze ve Kültür Sitesti Komutanligi. (1986) Osmanli askeri teskilat ve kiyafetleri: 1876-1908 [Ottoman military organization and uniforms] Yayinlari; shows Ottoman Imperial shoulder boards with 'square ends' only.

1909 Branch Service Colours

Right - An example of the post-1909 Ottoman soldiers wool cap, was made with brown fur sides (artificial wool; which is made the exact same way as carpet or rug weaving). Many photographs from this period show hats with ridged sides, likely of woven reed, and identical in size to the fez.

The 1909 hat was given a distinctive top or dome the same colour as the coat collars.

  • This example in dark grey/green is for the infantry.
  • A soldiers' version has no lace top. 

Right - An example of the post-1909 Ottoman officer's wool cap, was made with brown fur sides (artificial wool; which is made the exact same way as carpet or rug weaving). Many photographs, and suviving examples, from this period show hats made from black lamb wool, The 1909 hat was given a distinctive top or dome the same colour as the coat collars.

  • This example in dark grey/green is for the infantry.

This is an officers' version and has three lace strips arranged over the dome in a six-point star pattern. 

Regiment and Battalion Officers

1909 Officers' Summer Uniform

Post-1909 Headgear Replacing the Fez

Prior to 1909 the Ottoman army uniform had no specific headgear designed for its uniforms, using the national fez headgeat since the 1830s. The lamb wool hat had been used in various styles since the 1860s for some units. From 1908/09 a variety of new headgear was introduced.

Right -  Enver Pasha, likely from his 1908 stay in Berlinas as military attache, wearing a tailored fez or early kalpak cover, incorporating a neck flap - a 'Havelock' [1] . Identical to the British in Egypt versions, introduced for the fez. The practice of wearing light khaki fez covers began with the British supply of these to Turko-Egyptian and Sudanese soldiers from the 1880s, to cover the red fez worn, and these covers usually had variously coloured flashed to identify individual units.

Right - An earlier 1909 'pointed-top' type of wide-brim sunhat, seen in an illustration of post-1895 Ottoman infantry (Marcel Roubicek (1978) Modern Ottoman Troops, 1797-1915: In Contemporary Pictures. Franciscan Printing Press). From 1909, the use of wide-brimmed sun hats, very similar to the American Montana hat became popular in the Ottoman army, these continued in use throughout WW1.

Right - A high quality kabalak, from 1913 displayed in the National Turkish Army Museum, Istanbul. This not only has a brass spike attached on top, supported by a strong ridged frame. It also displays a quality brass ‘Order of Orta’ crescent badge. The wrapped earflaps are fully lined and edged with tape. The ear-flaps were given a 1cm edging in branch color, and were designed to cross over each other, as these were wrapped around the crown.

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[1]  A havelock was a light cloth covering for headgear, hanging well down over the neck, worn for protection against the sun, reputedly designed by Sir Henry Havelock, a British general serving in India. Right  - This 1911 Turkish clothing catalogue shows an advert for Officer's uniforms and a tailored cover for the lamb wool 1909 Kalpak, identical to cover worn by Enver in 1908.

Branch of Service Colors (1909 till 1916)

The Ottoman imperial army's branch of service colours began simply prior to 1908, using red for all services, except green for the rifles, and light-blue for the engineers. The reforms in 1909, for the brown field uniforms introduced a wider colour scheme: (i) Pashas (Red); (ii) General Staff (Purplish Brown); (iii) Infantry (Dark Green – but this could vary between Dark Grey, and Dark Brown colours); (iv) Cavalry (Silvery); (v) Artillery (Indigo Dark Blue); (vi) Machine Guns (Bottle Green); (vii) all Medical (Black); (viii) Engineering (Light Blue); and (ix) Transport (Orange). In 1916, the colour scheme (in some cases this also specified the particular fabric to be used – i.e. velvet) was extended too – (x) Veterinarian (Black); (xi) Medical Doctors (Blood Velvet); (xii) Pharmacy (Green Velvet); (xiii) Air Troops (Light Blue 1909-1916), then Bitter Orange, 1916); (xiv) Transport (Orange, 1909-1916, then Violet, 1916); (xv) Ministry of War Department (Deep Purple); (xvi) Music department (Dark Yellow); (xvii) Science units (Blue); (xviii) Supplies (Lilac); (xix) Military clerk (Brown Valvet); and, (xx) Accountant (Light Brown Cloth).

Soldier's Collar and Officer's Shoulder Board Numerals

Right - WW1 Turkish soldier with collar numerals.Ottoman Turkish collar numeral 3. “The collar of the jacket of rank and file bears or should bear the number of the regiment on the right-hand side and the company number on the left-hand side.” British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 51.

Collar numerals were introduced from the Egypt Army, used from the 1880s into the Ottoman army in 1909, which had previously displayed regimental numbers on the shoulder boards (line regiments), or on buttons (imperial guard).

Below/Right - An Ottoman manufactured collar numeral 3. These arabic numbers were extensively manufactured in the UK for the Egyptian army service as was as the African King's Rifles (till the 1950s).

Below - Extracted from the 1911 Italian Army's 'Turkish Army Handbook' a sellection of Ottoman officer's shoulder boards with arabic numbers to show regimental details. The lieutenant's shoulder board (second left) has the Ottoman word for number, above the regimental number.

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