Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

WW1 OTTOMAN ARMY UNIFORMS

WW1 Turkish Infantry

Right - This Turkish tunic was taken at Gallipoli during the landing day 25 April, 1915. It had been used as a blanket to cover and to stave-off shock for a wounded Australian officer. He was injured in a clash between his battalion and the 27th Infantry Regiment, Imperial Army. In the late afternoon of the landing. It is also clear from reading accounts of the battle that the jacket is very likely from an Onbasi (as this has shoulder boards, but no gold or silver tape bars displayed to indicate a higher rank). The tunic still has a largish (now mostly washed out) stain on the outside ofthe rear which may well have been blood. It also has the Australian officers’ rank, name and unit crudely written in large letters on the inside of the liner in what appears to be black Indian ink. This appears to agree with the blanket story as this was probably written by one of his soldiers or Medical Corps personnel as means of identifying the unconscious or semi conscious casualty during the confusion of the first day on ANZAC.

Right - A WW1-wartime picture of Turkish POW with his post-1913 kabalak wrapped in cloth, and tied with tape. The 1916 Turkish Army Handbook states: " ... rank and file were supplied in 1913 and 1914 with a new head-covering ... 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.” (British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 50)

The Kabalak, was generally introduced in 1913. However, an earlier version was in use in 1911, in the war with Italy over Libya.

Right - Originally, the 1913 Ottoman ‘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.

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,

  • Old Redif uniforms [1];
  • Dark brown uniforms with red piping [2];
  • Blue cotton [3];
  • Light shades of cheap khaki.
  • Peasant dress with a bashlik [4], 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 blue tunics (in his text commentary he calls these "M1893"; which is not correct, as these were used between 1876 and 1908. 

[2] These were experimental version of 1876-1908 tunics made in brown cloth.

[3] The reference to "blue cotton", is clearly referring to blue coloured cotton summer uniforms, which were also normally white. The 1909 field brown uniforms introduced, also included a new version of the dress blue uniform for officers. No new uniform was designed for soldiers to replace to the older pattern blue uniforms (which had been re-designated as a 'Parade Uniform'). As well, from 1900, a new simplified blue service tunic was introduced, which mostly appears in post-1909 illustrations that had a fly covering the buttons, with full red collars, and pointed red cuffs. 

[4] The bashlik prior to WW1, was a much larger cold weather headgear. Often seen in the Crimean War (1854-1855) used by Ottoman troops. The WW1-wartime 'bashlik' in the Imperial War Museum collection is described as a "Turkish soldier's cap". It is made from dark grey brown wool cloth. Bashlik manufactured from 1914 till 1916 came 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 (see below).

Right - The Ottoman “bashlik” is almost identical to the Russian version in this period. Unwound, the ears tie across the face for additional warmth.This cap was cut to a similar shape as the 1913 kabalak, however being made in one piece from thick blanket wool (a replica is illustrated).

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

Right - In WW1, the Ottomans received German Gas Mask training in Berlin, and were issued with these, as part of the Ottoman 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.

Yildirim Army Group (1917-18)

Right (Right/Below) - The Turkish modification of German M16 steel helmets into 1917-1918 Ottoman conversions (Below/Right). Ottoman nfantrymen wearing steel helmets have ususally been interpreted as being 'storm troopers'; however, these helmets were part of the new Yildirim Army uniform/equipment, in 1917-1918 [1] [2]. The “Yildirim” Army Group (made up from the former Fourth, Seventh and Eighth armies, as well as 6,000 German soldiers).

Yıldırım translates roughly as "thunderbolt", and the name was taken from the nickname of Sultan Bayezid I. This particular Army Group was organized in early 1917 by Enver Pasha to defend the Eastern Front in WW1 .

The Ottoman Imperal Army received (in unknown numbers), and cut-down German M16 helmet [3] [4]. Ottoman use of steel helmets, in WW1 appears limited [5].

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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 links the helmet with the Turkish Army's Yilderim Assault troops. The Imperial War Museum’s catalogue notes on their Turkish M16 Helmet: Number UNI 12244, was associated with the “Yildirim” Army Group.

[3] Right - A 1917 Turkish Version German M16 Helmet showing one of its key characteristics: The chinstrap post rivet, is clearly visible close to the raw edge made when the original helmet visor and lower skirt was removed. These helmets characteristically appear battered around the rim, as the removal of the original folded rim reduced the helmets’ overall strength and rigidity.

[4] Below - The first evidence we have of Ottoman Turkish troops using steel helmets in WW1 is photography of the troops from the XV Army Corps, which arrived on 10 July 1916, when sent to Galicia. These troops are all wearing un-modified German M16 helmets.

[5] Web sources suggest about 170,000 helmets (presumably the altered German M16) were provided to the Ottoman Turkish Army in WW1. However, this figure seems very high. The Yildirim Army Group at the Battle of Megiddo (1918) fielded a force of 3,000 mounted troops, and 32,000 infantry, many of whom appear to have been provided with helmets.

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

From 1st 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] The Ottoman Army used a 'flaming grenade taken from a WW1 Ottoman Army Artillery button; and the same badge was worn on the collars of the Fortress Artillery.

[4] "Embroidered", is more like to be a red cloth appliqued cut-out badge of a flaming grenade worn on the sleeve cuff.

WW1 Turkish Overcoats and Winter Protective Clothing

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

1909 Turkish Army Equipment Kits

Above - The German made M1909 Mauser 45-round cartridge pouch, supplied to the Ottoman army with a series of munitions orders, from Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabrik in Karlsruhe, at the plants of Erhart and Polne. A large number of these pouches appear to have been procured by the Ottoman army in 1909. The reverse is marked with a German manufacturers stamp "MAURY & Co / OFFENBACH a/M" and the Hijri date of 1327 (which is written in Ottoman Turkish as ۱۳۲۷), which equals the European date of 1909.

Right - The 1909 Turkish Army's basic soldiers' equipment kits, consisted of a belt and buckle; a pair of 1909 German Mauser ammunition pouchs; 1876 (French model) haversack, and the imperial army water bottle, with its own carry harness, or belt-hook.

Right - Various halter straps are seen on WW1 Turkish solders. Some are simple cord tied to the ammunition pouch 'D' rings, and others like this version have been made from thin leather straps (possibly cotton webbing materiel or heavy fabric tape), with a water bottle attachment spring hook at the end.

Frequently, either the shoulder carry-strap for a binocular case or the Turkish Sabre Baldric (over the shoulder carry strap), is confused for a belt support strap, seen in many WW1 pictures of Turkish officers. As well, wearing a captured British officer's Sam Browne belt is seen in these photographs.

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