Ottoman Uniforms Ottoman Uniforms

THE FIRST WORLD WAR PERIOD (1915 TILL 1918) TURKISH UNIFORMS

WW1-Wartime Turkish Imperial Army Officer's Buckles

WW1 Turkish Imperial Army Buckles

Post-1909 German made Ottoman Turkish ‘Imperial Army’: ‘Type-A’ version buckle. This uses more florid Ottoman Turkish script for 'Asakr-i Shahaneh' meaning the 'Imperial Army', contained within the crescent (The Post-1909 German made Ottoman Turkish ‘Imperial Army’: ‘Type-B’ version buckle, has plainer Ottoman Turkish script for 'Asakr-i Shahaneh' meaning the 'Imperial Army', contained within the crescent - a version can be seen HERE).

The next buckle, is a War-Time Veriation: Type 3 (Flaherty, C. (2012) WW1 Wartime Ottoman Turkish Soldiers’ Buckles. The Armourer Militaria Magazine, Issue 113 (September-October): 33-35).

Above - As can be seen, this version has been 'field repaired', by a soldier in WW1, using twisted steel wire. From the back, the fount shield is attached by cast prongs that have been hammered down, without use of solder. 

WW1-Wartime Turkish Imperial Army Soldier's Tunic

From the Rod Wilson collection in Australia, likely illustrates one of only two known examples of a WW1-wartime Ottoman Turkish Imperial Army (the 'Asakr-i Shahaneh' in Ottoman) NCO/soldier’s tunic made with attached shoulder straps. This is tunic was salvaged as blanketing on the day of the Gallipoli landing, 25 April 1915. See Plate 35.

 

The attached shoulder straps was a rank symbol in its own right, these have been assumed to be made for an Onbasi (a corporal), as there are no bars displayed. 

The shoulder straps are recognisable as workshop tacked together items. Showen with bronze numerals (a ‘5’, and ‘3’) that could have been attached to the shoulder straps [1]. More typically by WW1 metal numerals were worn on the soldiers’ collars; and officers displayed the numerals on their cords/boards. The final point to note, is the large size of these straps – approximately 14 cm by 5-6 cm. However, other examples show typically Ottoman Turkish shoulder cords/boards are much smaller, in some cases minute when compared to other period uniforms

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

WW1 Turkish Officers' Uniforms

Left - Displayed in the Turkish National Army Museum, high quality Army 1909 General Staff officer's and Infantry officer's uniforms. Whereas the Red General Staff officer's collar is easy to identify, the Dark Green collars at this period for the Infantry, tended to vary between Dark Grey, and Dark Brown colours, which can make it difficult to distinguish these from Machine Guns (Bottle Green). 

Right - Another picture of a high quality 1909 General Staff officer's uniform, pictured alongside a corrected (the pockets on the original were accidentally miss-aligned and drawn further down the side of the uniform - which is not correct) Turkish Army illustration of the officer's jacket pattern.

In particular, pockets on these tunics are not standardised, as these could be:

  • Strait edged.
  • Pointed.
  • Tri-pointed.

WW1 Turkish Army Headgear

Typically, it has been said that Turkish Kabalaks came in various forms, some had an internal frame with material wound around, while others were apparently made from heavy canvas-like material. None of this is entirely correct, and many of the misconceptions about this particular headgear can be traced back to a clear misreading of the original description given in the 1916 Turkish Army Handbook:

  • “the rank and file were supplied in 1913 and 1914 with a new head-covering (bashlik), a long strip of khaki cloth tied spirally on the head and forming a sort of soft helmet, which can easily be mistaken for the British khaki helmet in a bad light. It is however, more pointed and falls particularly in front and behind." [1]

There is a footnote to this description, stating that the “bashlik” is also, “known as the Enverie or ‘Enver Helmet’ after the war minister who introduced it” [2]. However, this paragraph is actually describing two entirely different types of headgear. These are, the:

  • 1913 Kabalak/Enver (however, and earlier version was in use during the Italian-Turkish War); and,
  • Wartime/Post-1916 Army Bashlik.

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[1][2] British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 50.

A) Post-1913 Turkish Army Soldier’s Kabalak

The Kabalak, was generally introduced in 1913.

  • However, an earlier version was in use in 1911, in the war with Italy over Libya.
  • Right - This WW1-wartime picture of Turkish POW gives an example of a soldier with his post-1913 Imperial Army Soldier’s Kabalak wrapped in cloth, and tied with tape. 

Left - A high quality Kabalak 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.

Right - Originally, the M1913 Ottoman Turkish ‘Kabalak’ or 'Enveriye' helmet was designed as a cane-wood frame with two lengths of cloth wrapped about it - which are in actual fact the long-ears of a face warmer head wrap that can be loosen to wrap around the face.

  • This rarely seen view shows what these caps look like when unwound, to tie across the face for additional warmth. 

B) WW1-Wartime Turkish Soldiers' Bashlik

Right - Displayed in the Australian War Memorial, this cap is likely a Bashlik –type as well. 

  • This particular example, was a reproduction made by an AWM staff member (based on an original cap the AWM has, that is too fragile for display), in the 1980s. The AWM staff member even wove the fabric to get the right feel (to make this reconstruction "look authentic."
  • The bashlik appears to have originated prior to WW1, as a much larger cold weather headgear, that was seen in the Crimean War (1854-1855), being used by Ottoman troops.
  • By 1914 was still in use as an additional head cover with the greatcoat (see discussion below).

Left - The later 'bashlik' from the Imperial War Museum collection, is described as a "Bashlik & Turkish soldier's cap", it is made from dark grey brown wool cloth. These bashlik began to be manufactured from 1914, in much smaller sizes, and by the end of WW1 were being worn more like side-caps designed to fit under the newly issued 1917 Turkish Army Steel Helmets.

Right - The later “bashlik” is almost identical to the Russian type of the period. When unwound, the ears could tie across the face for additional warmth.This change consisted of a cap being issued, cut to a similar shape as the original Kabalak, however being made in one piece from thick blanket wool (a replica is illustrated).

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Below - A version of the wartime Bashlik-type, with very long 'ears' (from a French museum collection).  

C) WW1 Turkish Officers' Sun Hats

Left - Two versions of the post-1914 Turkish Army officer's sunhat, in the Imperial War Museum collection:

D) WW1 Turkish Officers' Wide-Brim Sun Hats

Left - An earlier 1909 'pointed-top' type of wide-brim sunhat. Use of these hats is similar to the figure is shown wearing the traditional Yemeni shade hat, made from woven cane, called the ‘dhola’. Now uncommon, these were seen across North Africa, and the French encountered during their 1881 invasion, the Tunisian Guard Sipahi Cavalry wearing these.

Right - The WW1 Turkish Army officer' wide-brim sunhat also came in a ‘soft version’, and due to the wide brim is often pictured with the fount brim folded up. This was to give the wearer unencumbered vision.

Turkish Ski Troops (1917)

The Austrians briefly trained a unit of Ottoman skiers in 1914 or 1915.

  • The unit - Ottoman Ski Troops, was operational in the Caucasus, 1917.

These troops were provided with a white sniper smocks.

  • These included a gauze screen across their faces.
  • The basis of these were commercially available civilian hunter's camouflage capes used in winter, and wooded places, from the turn of the century; and bought for military use in WW1 when the need for this type of kit became useful.

As well, the Ski Troops displayed a large white collar patch on the heavy wool coats they wore.

  • Their Kabalak headgear were covered in thick wool cloth, and the ear flap, was a single piece of wool cloth, that acted as a chin-strap/face protector when pulled down over the face.

WW1 Turkish Infantry

The British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press (Nashville), states (p.63):

  • "On mobilisation, 1914, all sorts of uniforms made their appearance,
    • the old Redif uniform [1];
    • dark brown with red piping;
    • blue cotton [2] (as well see illustration below);
    • light shades of cheap khaki,
    • and in many cases what was simply peasant dress with a bashlik [3], or military greatcoat (see illustration below).

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[1] Philip Jowett. Armies of the Balkan Wars 1912-13: The priming charge for the Great War (Osprey Publishing, 20 Mar 2012): Shows the "Rediff (reservist)", wearing older issue pre-1908 (1876) Blue Tunics (in his text commentary he calls these "M1893", which is not correct: See section on the 1876-1908 Army Uniforms).

[2] See the discussion on Blue Uniforms seen in 1915. It should also be noted, that the reference to "blue cotton", is clearly referring to blue coloured cotton summer uniforms, which were also normally white.

[3] The bashlik head gear is discussed above.

A) Collar 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.

B) Camouflaged Uniforms

C) Wartime Service Dress

D) Yildirim Army Group (1917-18)

For a long time, the red/white sleeve patches associated with Army/Divisional/Brigade HQ Protection Companies, has been linked the Hucum Mufrezesi (assult troops - discussed below), which is not correct - as these troops in 1917 were identified with a distinctive badge (an embroidered hand grenade). As well, because the infantrymen are wearing steel helmets, this has been somehow interpreted as being 'storm troopers'; which is again an exaggeration, as wearing these helmets was part of the new Yildirim Army uniform/equipment, in 1917-1918 [1] [2].

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[1] Lindsay Baly. (2003) Horseman Pass By: The Australian Light Horse in World War 1 (Spellmount): 209.  In one of the quotes out of a diary of a Light Horse Officer, he mentions seeing at least nine extended lines of Turk "Lightning" Troops, all Infantry, wearing the "German style helmet" - approximately 6,000+ ... [Es Salt Raid - the date was 1May1918] ..."; As well, he also mentions seeing "dark grey or blue uniforms."

[2] This specific association with is confirmed by the catalogue entry for 'The Imperial War Museum's WW1 Turkish Steel Helmet', which links there helmet with the Turkish Army's Yilderim Assault troops.

E) German Model 1915 Gas Mask in Ottoman Service (Battle of Galitsia/Galicia, 1917)

The WW1 Ottomans received German Gas Mask training in Berlin, and were issued with these, as part of the Ottoman Turkish military commitment to Eastern European front, which ended in September 1917, with the withdrawal of Russia from the war. Turkish soldiers were wearing gas masks during the Battle of Galitsia/Galicia, 1917. The actual gas mask pattern being used look to be the Model 1915 Gummimaske [gas mask] [1].

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[1] Birinci Dunya Savasi'nda Turk Askeri Kiyafetleri [Turkish Military Uniforms during WW1]: 70.

F) 1917 Ottoman Assault Battalion (Hucum Tahur; Hucum Mufrezesi) Hand Grenade Badge

From I September 1917, Enver Pasha ordered the general activation of assault troops within the Ottoman Army. Additionally, these 'assault units' received, a distinctive badge (an embroidered hand grenade) [1] [2] [3] [4].

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[1] Edward J. Erickson. Ottoman Army effectiveness in World War I: A Comparative Study (Oxford, 2007): 97.

[2] This appears to have been interpreted by web-forum militaria historians as the same as the WW1 German Hand Grenade sleeve badge, worn by some of the WW1 German Assault Battalions.

[3] Right - The Ottoman Army used this pattern of 'flaming grenade' (taken from a WW1 Ottoman Army Artillery button; and the same badge was worn on the collars of the Fortress Artillery).

[4] As well, "embroidered", is more like to be a red cloth appliqued cut-out badge of a flaming grenade worn on the sleeve cuff, where the Ottoman Imperial Army and Navy badges (such as the 'Aides-De-Camp to the Sultan' Uniform Insignia).

 

WW1 Turkish Overcoats & Winter Protective Clothing

A Turkish soldier in the snows of Galicia (1916). He is wearing a winter cloak made of Goatskin, which is traditional the Balkans region.

WW1 Turkish Imperial Army Imam & Muftis

Throughout the 1870s till the end of the Ottoman empire in 1923, every regiment, and battalion had an Imam to assist soldiers in the performance of their religious duties [1].

  • An Imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Imams may lead Islamic worship services, serve as community leaders, and provide religious guidance. It may also be used in the form of a prefix title with scholars of renown.
  • A Muftis is from Arabic ‘to give a (legal) decision’, is a Muslim legal expert and adviser on the law of the Koran. In the former Ottoman empire, was the leader of the religious community.

Right - A WW1-period prayer meeting featuring the wall rug illustrated in Plate 154.

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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.

An extract from the 1917 Red Cross Report on Turkish 'Prisioners of War' in Egyptian internment camps illustrates that in WW1 not all imam held officer roles.

Company Sakka

Each company had a Water Carrier, called a 'Sakka', as part of the company rank and roles structure [1].

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[1] British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 46; 146 (Infantry Company Water Carrier), p.48 (Machine Gun Company Water Carrier), and p.79 (Artillery Company).

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