Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

WW1 OTTOMAN TRANSPORT; SUPPLY; MEVLAVI AND KADIRI DERVISH; LABOR AND PENAL UNITS

Transport, Supply and Train Troops

Right - Extracted from an American Colony in Jerusalem photograph, a two wheel Turkish Army ammunition cart, pulled by a pair of camels. Note how the wheels have been modified with the additional extra-wide steel tires allowing the vehicle to be pulled more easier over sand.

In addition to the Transport officers, and companies, there were the Ottoman Imperial Army labour battalions (amele taburlari) - discussed below. These were included in both the peacetime and mobilized strength. These battalions were attached to the inspectorates of troop movements of each of the Armies. The number of labour battalions varied throughout the war, but between 70 and 120 units seem to have been active at any given time. The labour battalions performed a range of different services, but the most important were road repairs and transport, (as well as manufacture, and agriculture).

Ottoman Controlled Railheads

In regards, to Ottoman Rail Transport, the empire only had 5700 kilometres of railway at its disposal. The railways were single track and the vital railway connection with the fronts in Palestine and Mesopotamia was interrupted where it crossed the Taurus and Amanos mountain ranges, making it necessary to load and unload all trains four times. The railheads, Cerekli (East of Ankara), Ulukisla (North of the Taurus) and Rasulayn (West of Mosul) were all three to four weeks marching away from the front. A large portion of the supplies had to be carried on the backs of the soldiers in the labour battalions, as can be seen.

Mevlavi Dervish Volunteers (1915)

  • WW1 Turkish Medical Branch
  • Imam & Muftis

Right - The Mevlevi Dervishes pictured in 1887.

  • The Mevlavi Dervish volunteers in 1915, carried as a unit standard, the traditional Janissary double-bladed axe [1].
  • The Mevlevi volunteers in the Imperial Army joined as a battalion, reaching more that 1000 by March, 1915.

The Mevlevi Volunteer Battalion was sent to Damascus in March 1915, and to the 4th Army. They were not regarded (or expected to be) as a combat force, and were assigned non-combat roles [2].

The "Dervishes" mentioned in Conde de Ballobar's memoirs belong to a volunteer brigade formed by the adherents of the Mawlawi and Qadiri Sects originally from Konya Province (largely as 'conscientious objectors', as they were free of conscription being of a religious class).

  • "But wanting to serve their country nevertheless; they had asked and were organized as a medical corps to serve in the battle field to assist their fallen comrades since their beliefs to kill another human being even at times of war, was totally abhorrent to them. So at the time when the good Count, the Consul General of the Spanish Crown was visiting Freiherr von Kressenstein; the Ottoman Army was preparing for the last offensive on Suez Canal and understandably these volunteer forces which had already participated in previous operations in the Sinai were still with the Commanding Officer of the "First Expeditionary Force" in Jerusalem." (Osman Levent, Axis Forum)

They were originally issued with old model rifles, on the formation of the unit (and these later withdrawn).

  • Many worked as Imams, and they performed religious rituals and delivered sermons to the troops.
  • Others were assigned logistical duties, such as transportation, construction or guard duties.
  • Others still, were sent to work in the Ottoman Red Crescent Society.

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[1]

[2] Mehmet Besikci. The Ottoman Mobilization of Manpower in the First World War: Between Voluntarism and Resistance (Brill, 2012): 191.

Kadiri Dervish Volunteers (1915)

Right - Extracted from a portrait taken around 1915, this Ottoman officer (identified from the 1909 Officer's portepee displayed on the sword), is from the Kadiri Dervish Regiment/Battalion.

  • Particular to this unit is the modified WW1-Wartime Turkish Soldiers' Bashlik, which has been made with a towering crown, not unlike the British Indian Army’s turban cones.

The Mevlevi Battalion (discussed above), was formed into a Music Band; a 'Mevlevi Medical Company'; and a combat unit - the 'Kadiri ( dervish volunteers) MG Company'.

Amele Taburlari (Ottoman Imperial Army Labour Battalions)

Ottoman Imperial Army labour battalions (amele taburlari), were included in both the peacetime and mobilized strength. These battalions were attached to the inspectorates of troop movements of each of the Armies. The number of labour battalions varied throughout the war, but between 70 and 120 units seem to have been active at any given time. The labour battalions performed a range of different services, but the most important were road repairs and transport, manufacture, and agriculture.

  • Ottoman Rail system & Transport (discussed above).
  • Manufacture - The labour battalions also fulfilled a number of functions for the Office of the Quartermaster General, and these were partly industrial, with a number of munitions, arms, shoes and clothing factories in and around Istanbul being run as military establishments (as they had been even in peacetime). They were partly artisanal (repair shops, bakeries).
  • Agricultural - The labour battalions were also formed to replace peasants being sent to the front, especially in the vital grain-growing areas of Central Anatolia. These particular units, played an important role in increasing the productivity of the arable farms.

1918 Woman's Ottoman Imperial Army Labour Battalion

Right -

Ottoman Imperial Army Penal Units

The Military Police oversaw the Ottoman Army penal units. These were soldiers under punishment by wearing fez with the tassel cut-off. As well, photographs taken in WW1 of soldier labourers show them wearing fez without tassels - this may indicate they are a labour battalion of soldiers serving in a penal unit. This is particularly the case where the Ottoman Red Crescent Society and Medical activities are taking place.

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