Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

WW1 OTTOMAN MOUNTED TROOPS

Estersuvar (Mule-Mounted Troops)

The British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press (Nashville), states (pp.49; 58):

  • "Mounted Infantry.- Various battalions in Syria and Mesopotamia are mounted on mules from time to time and form a kind of mounted infantry."
  • The Hedjaz Division has two squadrons of mule-mounted infantry.
  • Proposal (in 1916), to raise in each division a mule-mounted company of infantry, to act as divisional cavalry.
  • On 13 March 1917, formation of a Estersuvar (mule cavalry) Regiment, under the 53th Infantry Division.

The mounted infantry likely use Artillery Drivers' saddles for their mules.

Cyclist Infantry

The British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press (Nashville), states (p.50):

  • "Cyclists.- There are supposed to be four cyclists per battalion."
  • Proposal (in 1916), to raise 'Cyclists Sections', from these battalion cyclists.
  • In Adrianople, there is a 'Cyclist Company'.

Photographs of WW1 Ottoman 'Infantry Battalion Cyclist', typically show a particular type of soldier’s kabalak, being worn which have a pair of ear-flaps only, that laced over the top of the headgear.

Line Dragoon Cavalry

Ottoman Line Dragoon Cavalry in WW1 [1]:

  • Regiments 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7;
  • Regiments 11, 12, 13, 14, 15;
  • Regiments 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27;
  • 29th Regiment;
  • 31st Regiment;
  • 33rd Regiment; and,
  • 'New Regiment', formed 26 December 1915 (number unknown).

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[1] 1916 Turkish Army Handbook.

1st Lancers Regiment

Right - The Turkish cavalry lance pennant [1].

The WW1 'Turkish Lancer' photographs likely show the same unit, namely the First Lancers.The lance pennants flags appear to be one colour only, which would be correct as the original First Lancers (and the Ertugrul Cavalry) lance pennants were all red (Right). Pictures shows these troops wearing various pattern of headgear (typically interpreted to be different units).

Several well known of the Turkish lancers in 1917, shows troops whose uniforms and equipment seem to differ, possibly indicating various different units in existence.

  • Wearing the Arab keffiyeh. However, these do not appear to be the Arab Tribal Cavalry.
  • Wearing the 'bashlik' hat, or the more commonly known 'Enverie' headgear. 

The 1916 British Army hand book clearly states that the Tribal Cavalry (including the Arabs) each had to provide their own horse, and saddle equipment. WW1 Pictures of the Turkish Lancers, these are ridding typical Turkish Army mounts, lending credence to the view these are regular cavalrymen; thus are in fact the First Lancers.

The First Lancers are recorded in the 1916 British Army handbook on the Turkish Army.

  • Recording that, “Lances ... [only] .. are carried by the Bodyguard Squadron (these troops were the personal attendants to Sultan Mehmed V Reshad) and the First (Lancer) Regiment” (p.63).
  • However, later only the 1st Cavalry Regiment (which is part of the 1st Army (p.163), is mentioned in the “Regimental Index” (p.215). The reference to the 1st Cavalry Regiment is actually the 'First Lancers Regiment'.
  • It is stated that the 1st Cavalry is - "Reported moving into Southern Thrace in May 1915. Apparently patrolling Keshan-Kavak Region, May 1915" (p.163). Kavak is the sub-district of Evrese, in the province of Canakkale (Gallipoli).

By 1917, most English sources pick up the story of the "Turkish Lancers", as being in Beersheba. It is likely however, that these troops are in actual fact the First Lancers.

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[1] Flaherty, C. (2012) Were the Ottoman Turkish Imperial Guard at Gallipoli? The Armourer Militaria Magazine, Issue 111 (May-June): 19-22.

6th & 7th Lancers Regiments (3rd Cavalry Division)

At the 1917 Battle of Beersheba, it was reported: The 6th and the 8th Regiments of Lancers (3rd Cavalry Division) [1] [2].

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[1] The ‘regiments’ in Palestine were extensively photographed in WW1, and these pictures only ever show squadron, and smaller detachment sized units, which suggests the 1st regiment was further divided into smaller detachments numbered 6-onwards, after the regiments’ own first four squadrons.

[2] This unit had its' own flag - see discussion below.

Kurdish Tribal Regiments

After the overthrow of Sultan Abdal Hamid II in 1908/1909, the Hamidiya Cavalry was disbanded as an organized force. Select few units were kept in government service however, among the all-Kurdish units were the renamed “Tribal Regiments”, and deployed to Yemen (discussed below) and Albania. Sent to subdue trouble on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire, the performance of these former Hamidiya units was poor at best. 

 

Above/Right - As can be seen from this period picture (extract), the officer (A) is wearing the correct uniform for a  Hamidiya Cavalry Bimbashi. As well, the soldiers wear regulation 1909 tunics, in addition to the keffiyeh headdress [1] [2]. However, David Nicolle's Plate description: "The Ottoman Empire's auxiliary cavalry consisted of tribal auxiliaries, mostly recruited among the Kurds of eastern Anatolia. Uniforms were supposed to be provided by the government, but available photographs indicate that even some officers still wore traditional Kurdish costume. This man does, however, have a ... [grey] ... Turkish Army greatcoat and boots." [3] Nicolle's description is not correct, as this coat is more likely a pre-1908 blue overcoat.

According to McDowall, the Kurdish cavalry sustained heavy losses, but also acquired a “reputation for savagery” [4] [5] [6]. At the outbreak of WW1, among the all-Kurdish units were the:

  • Eleventh Army, headquartered in Elazig
  • Twelfth Army, headquartered in Mosul.

Kurds, also made up a majority of the Ninth and Tenth Armies and supplied enough troops for many frontier units and 135 squadrons of reserve cavalry. These 'reserve cavalry', are also described in greater detail in the British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 64-65, as the "Tribal Light Cavalry"; namely:

  • The 24 new regiments (the 135 squadrons, described above organise into 4-5 squadrons, mixed foot and horse troops, grouped into 500-750 men regiments) were formed from the same tribes, that had formally provided the Hamidiya Cavalry, which were actually mixed mounted and dismounted regiments themselves.
  • These new regiments were headquartered at Erzerum, Kara, Kilisse, Arjish and Mardin.
  • Regiments, and squadrons were commanded by Imperial Army officers, and the tribal chiefs received the rank of Bimbashi.
  • Uniforms, arms and ammunition supplied by the government, however each mounted soldier provided his own horse, and saddlery etc.

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[1] The figure (B), wearing the tradition turban appears to be the original basis of the Nicolle's Plate C3. However, he is one of the soldiers, not the "Kurdish irregular officer", as Nicolle misdescribes him. As well, as a mix of former Hamidiya Cavalry as well as post-1909 uniforms were being worn then this greatcoat is likely to be a pre-war dark blue one.

[2] As can be seen these Kurdish Tribal Cavalry in the WW1 -period are wearing the keffiyeh, which was was the distinctive headgear of the Hajaz Division. In the 1876 till 1908 period it was a red-and-white keffiyeh, which also had decorative cotton or wool tassels on the sides. It is generally, believed that the bigger these tassels, the more value it has and the higher a person’s status. Generally, a wide selection of white, black keffiyeh were worn, and photographs show many traditional Yemeni designs and colours used as well. In the case of the Kurds it appears a wide selection of clan/family/tribal pattern were worn as well in this period.

[3] David Nicolle. (1994) The Ottoman Army 1914-18. Osprey Publishing: Plate C3.

[4] McDowall, David. A Modern History ofthe Kurds (I.B. Tauris, 2004).

[5] Olson, Robert. The Emergence of Kurdish Nationalism and the Sheikh Said Rebellion, 1880-1925. University of Texas Press (Austin, 1989).

[6] MG Lortz. (2005) A History of Kurdish Military Forces. Florida State University.

Camel Troops

Right/Below - from the Australian War Memorial Collection a Camel Raiders Trooper, wearing their distinctive field brown zouave uniform.

In 1914, the Camel Troops regiment was founded for the Canal Expedition, under the 10th Infantry Division [1]. The Imperial Army had five transport camel battalions. In addition, there were a number of independent camel companies, and other regiments organised:

  • In Mahdes, the 68th Infantry Regiment had a camel company. 
  • In Serapyum, there was a camel company, with the 25th Division. 
  • On 9 June 1915, the 4th camel regiment was forwarded to Iraq front.
  • 22 July - 25 August 1915, the 2nd Camel regiment was organized, and sent to Iraq. 
  • 15 June - 15 July 1915, a new camel regiment was established in Damascus. This unit likely incorporated the Sudanese camel mounted troops, who had deserted from the Egyptian Coastguard Administration (in 1915).
  • In Elaris there was a volunteer camel company

In January 1916, in Birussebi there was a camel company of the 3rd division, however unlike the other transport units, this was designated as “Akıncı” (raiders). A 2nd Camel Raiders company was also in Birussebi.

Below - A photograph of the Camel Troops extracted from an American Colony in Jerusalem photograph, of the "Bodyguard of Jamal [Cemal] Pasha in Barracks Square, Jerusalem, 1915. LC-DIG-ppmsca-13709-00022 (digital file from original on page 7, no.21)". As can be clearly seen all the troop members all wearing what appears to be an Army HQ Protection patch - a small square cloth, cross divided into alternate red/white triangles.

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[1] "The Hedjaz Division had and still has two ... [cavalry brigade] ... squadrons mounted on mules and camels." British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 58.

WW1 Ottoman Cavalry Equipment Kit

Above - A mdified M1909 German made Mauser three-pocket cartridge pouch manufactured by "MAURY & CoOFFENBACH A/M". Stamped with the Hijri date of 1327 (1909). As well, with circular ink stamp in Ottoman Turkish, with the date 1327 (1909), under the middle pocket flap. Cut down to two pockets, to accommodate the 30 rounds allocation for light cavalry. A replacement canvas belt strap, was stitched where the ‘D” ring was originally.

Right - The British General Staff. (1916) Handbook of the Turkish Army: 63, “Ammunition – The two light cavalry regiments carry thirty rounds of ammunition only, in two small pouches on the waist belt, three clips in each pouch. The remainder carry sixty rounds per man, in a canvas bag slung so as to fit close under the left arm, or in a waist bandolier.”

Right - The Australian War Memorial collection contains several examples of Turkish Cavalry Trooper's Sword Leather Frog; however, these appear identical to the same 1908 pattern used in the British Army.

Right - From the Auckland War Memorial Museum a WW1 Turkish cavalry sword frog which appears to be a different pattern from the British versions, also seen on WW1 Turkish swords.

A Brown canvas and leather cover, with a leather reinforced chape was provided for the scabbards on the Turkish Cavalry 1909 Contract swords. A separate brown canvas cover was also provided for the sword guard (see Australian War Memorial example:  Turkish Cavalry Trooper's Sword, with canvas covered guard and covered scabbard).

Below/Right - In 1909, orders were placed with German sword makers for new a standard cavalry sabre, These had a full sheet steel bowl guard with turned edges. Pierced with a five-point star and crescent (cut-out) badge. The grips are dark brown checkered composite fibre/bakelite, with  a thumb groove to the top. And held to the tang by two rivets. The curved pipe backed blade is single edged with a double edge spear point. The new sword was 33-34 inches in length (and, including the guard = 39 inches overall).

The 1909 Contract Sword's steel scabbard had a single (side) fixed strap ring on a band with a square loop at the back, and was designed to be carried strapped to the saddle [1], on a wallet. Some versions are fitted with two (each side) fixed strap rings, on each side of the mouth, or a  bronze 'L' shaped frog-button (identical to the 'D' Guard officers' short sword), which allowed these to be carried on a sword-belt frog (which was likely a later Ottoman refit).

The 1909 Contract Swords, for the Turkish Cavalry, were made by German maker(s), Solingen, or Carl Eickhorn. This is written in Ottoman script on the side of the blade, and below this the Ottoman date 1325 (1909), low on the ricasso. The back of the blade is stamped with Crescent Moon. 

The swords have a larger Ottoman individual weapon number, added after acceptance into the Imperial Arsenal. Each sword is individually numbered.

Above/Right - The 1909 Contract Swords, for the Turkish Cavalry, ​have steel guards; however a small number have brass guards:

  • Swords numbered up to # 740, have full sheet brass bowl guard, and brass handle metal.
  • Swords numbered after this weapon have steel furniture, indicating a design change early in the 1909 contract.

A total of 10,000 swords were likely delivered prior to WW1, to fully re-equip the Ottoman regular cavalry (intended for the troopers in each squadron: 88 men x 116 squadrons) [2].

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[1] The British General Staff. (1916) Handbook of the Turkish Army: 63. 

[2] The British General Staff. (1916) Handbook of the Turkish Army: 59-60. 

Imperial Army Cavalry Lance

Above - This photograph extracted from Mesut Uyar, and Edward J. Erickson. (2009)  A Military History of the Ottomans. Greenwood (198): Purports to show the pre-1908 Hamidiye Cavalry, form an Arab tribe. However, this particular picture was likely taken in WW1, and shows an Ottoman-Arab Tribal Cavalry unit (many of whom were reactivated former Hamidiye Cavalry). The lances/spears are traditional Arab weapons of the period, with long bamboo shafts; and there were no such weapon used as "military issue heavy lances" [1] [2] [3]. 

Arab hunting spears are identifiable with a traditional lance head, distinctive rope tassel at the head, below the spear point (illustrated in the picture above), as well as being longer in the shaft than the standard Ottoman imperial army lance (based on the 19th Century French Model). The standard Ottoman lance type appears about the same length as the German 1893 lance which was 10 feet, and 5 inches in length.

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[1] This is confirmed by the illustration from the London Illustrated News, 12 January 1856, which shows an identical figure: "Arab Sentry of the Turkish Irregular Army" (sketch attributed to an 1850s artist called "Valfrio"), using the exact same lance/spear type (some 60 years earlier).

[2] Flaherty, C. (2012) Were the Ottoman Turkish Imperial Guard at Gallipoli? The Armourer Militaria Magazine, Issue 111 (May-June): 19-22.

[3] The G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-matpc-06823, depicts an Arab Bedoin Warrior (1914), carrying a long hunting az-zaġāyah.

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