Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

1916 TILL 1918 ARAB REVOLT TURKISH COLUMN

The Army Army

The Arab Army was a pan-Arab military force established by the Kingdom of Hejaz to support the Arab Revolt and bring about Arab unification in the Middle East. It was led by the King of Hejaz, Hussein bin Ali, who was proclaimed "Sultan of the Arabs" in 1916.

  • The Sharifian Army consisted of about 5,000 regular forces and many thousands of irregular forces.
  • Many of the regular forces were former Arab members of the Ottoman military who defected and joined the Arab Revolt.

Right/Top - The Arab Army flag.

Right/Below - The Arab Army hospital flag.

Turkish Officers Army Uniforms

Right  - "Jaafar (Gaafer) Pasha, a former Turkish Army officer in charge of a force of Arab regulars at Akaba. Photograph possibly taken at Wejh." taken in 1917 (from the Imperial War Museum collection), He has lokely received a replacement Egypt Army uniform.

  • Other photographs of the Hejaz Regular Army in this 1916-18 (from the Imperial War Museum collection), show that these former Imperial Army Turkish soldiers were extensively re-equiped with replacement Egyptian uniforms.
  • Additionally, there was a 'special' officer's designed for the Turkish officers in the Hejaz Regular Army in 1916 (this is illustrated below).

Above - Identified as "Turkish Officers" from the Hejaz Regular Army in this 1916 photograph (from the Imperial War Museum collection). They wear the distinctive field service headdress and jacket for a Hejaz Regular Army Officer. The Imperial War Museum collection has a surviving complete uniform, and this particular uniform design was unique to the newly formed Hejaz Regular Army in 1916.

Soldiers (Egypt Army Uniforms)

Photographs from the 'Great Arab Revolt' show Turkish soldiers wearing the Indian Army Kurta (tunic), used by O/Rs. These were the long-sleeved pullover style tunic of khaki drill lightweight cloth, having a stand collar and plain dished pattern style brass button fastening.

Right - The Egypt Army up till 1914 used the standard Ottoman star and crescent button (identical to Turkish uniforms prior to 1908 - and made by the same French, English, Austrian and Ottoman makers). Large numbers of these were found by the 'Great Arab Revolt - Archaeology Project'.

The IWM photograph collection suggests Ottoman soldiers and officers (these were the former Turkish POWs processed in Egypt under the Red Cross) who changed sides (some 5,000), were extensively re-equipped with replacement Egypt Army uniforms.

Right - From the Imperial War Museum collection two Arab army officers in Egyptian uniforms [1].

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[1] Australian War Memorial collection has an officer's service dress tunic for Prince Zeid ibn Huseyin, Arab Northern Army which was probably made in Egypt.

  • This tunic is configured to take metal rank insignia on the shoulder straps in the British fashion, however, this uniform was altered, with grey lapel collar tabs and stars, showing the rank, leaving the shoulder straps plain.
  • This officer, was the deputy commander of the Arab Northern Army, and likely the equivalent rank of captain (Naqib) as represented by the three stars on his tunic. 

Soldiers (French Army Uniforms)

Right - Extracted from the 'finds' photographs from the 'Great Arab Revolt - Archaeology Project' this tunic fragment was pronounced 'WW1 Turkish'. However, it is actually the remains of a French Army service short tunic made from 'Horizon-Blue' cloth, that was issued in 1915.

  • Reviewing photographs in the Imperial War Museum collection, associated with 'TE Lawrence and the Great Arab Revolt', identify examples of: French soldiers in the sector as military advisers, and specialists: "Akaba - Allied medical staff, Hejaz Ops. Back, left to right: French medic, McKillin, Ramsay, Mohrstadt (French Army); front, left to right: French medic, Marshall, Yusuf Salemeh (Egyptian Army)" c1918.

Lieutenant General Ali Riza Pasha el Rikabi Uniform

Right - The uniform details for Lt Gen Ali Riza Pasha el Rikabi, based on the jacket in the Australian War Memorial collection - “Ottoman officers service dress jacket: Lieutenant General Ali Riza Pasha el Rikabi, Turkish Army”, this had been an Ottoman Imperial uniform, with fly button frount, modified with a new lapel collar, and rank insignia [1].

  • "After the successful campaign in the north the Commander-in-Chief found it desirable to divide occupied enemy territory into three sectors, south, north and east. The respective areas were administered under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, by General Money from Jerusalem, by Col. P. de Piepape, C. B. from Beirut, and by Ali Riza Pasha el Rikabi from Damascus." [2]

AL Rikabi was the Mayor of Damascus and Chief of its Defences.

  • He was also active in various secret organisations that planted the seeds of Arab Nationalism under Ottoman rule, namely ‘The Young Arab Society’ and ‘The Covenant Society’.
  • After the Arab Revolt (1916) and the Ottoman defeat by the British army, the Arab Army entered Damascus on October 1, 1918. Ali Rida AL Rikabi was appointed Military Governor and Chief of the Council of Directors (i.e. prime minister) of Syria under Prince Faisal son of King Hussain of Mecca.
  • On 8 March 1920 the First Syrian Conference (representative body) announced Syria’s independence and proclaimed Faisal as King.
  • AL Rikabi became the first Prime Minister of Syria, till the French invasion that deposed this government.

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[1] The rank insignia consists of seven pointed stars. The seven points of the star represent faith in One God, humanity, national spirit, humility, social justice, virtue and aspiration. They are embroidered in the pan-Arab colours of red, green, white and black, the current colours of the flag of Jordan and the Hashemite Kingdom, whose Hejaz flag of the period of the Arab Revolt was the first to use the colours.

[2] Margaret Mcgilvary. (1920) The Dawn of a New Era in Syria: 284-285.

1916 Arab Revolt Regular Army Troops: Branch of Service Colours

The branch of service colours for the 1916-18 Arab Revolt Army Troops, were displayed on the officers' jacket lapel collar:

Light Grey: Could also be cavalry, as 'Silver Grey', was the WW1 Ottoman Imperial Army Branch of Service colour for the Cavalry, and in 1923, Prince Zeid was promoted to a Colonel of Cavalry in the Iraqi Army and subsequently held the rank of Major General.

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