Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

1807 TILL 1885 PERSIAN (IRAN) QAJAR DYNASTY ARMY

Persian Nezam Infantry (1807 till 1848)

Early Persian military reforms were influenced by the reformed Ottoman army (NEZAM-E JADID), under the Ottoman Sultan SELIM III. In Persia, the 1807 'first French mission', was followed by British military instructors, and Persian students abroad, to developed a new regular infantry and artillery corps. The "infantry’s uniform during the first years of British influence remained the same as previously introduced by the French, who in their own way had indeed managed to 'Europeanize' the early regular soldiers appearence" [1]. "This is shown by the earliest descriptions and illustrations presented by Drouville (1812-1813): The uniform consists of a green cloth coat with red collar and cuffs, yellow buttons, wide pants of cotton, and boots" [2]. Soldier's sashes were typically red, however white has also been noted.

Persian soldiers adopted a blue (faded to light blue) French army buttoned shell-jacket. The line regiments soldiers' and officers' jackets were generally blue/light blue. However, other uniform colours - yellow, dark green, dark blue, and red have been noted. This may be similar to the Ottoman uniforms of the same period - where each regiment had a distictive uniform colour, as well as facing colours. Captain P. N. Yermolov, investigating the state of the Persian army, in 1817 wrote, "Persian infantry is clothed in cloth jackets, of different colors for each battalion (many battalions are clothed in red), the collar and cuffs are of a different color than the coat." [3]

From 1810-1813, the British mission, appear to have introduced:

  • Large shoulder roles (these were worn likely till 1830).
  • Officers wore British Army waist sashes.
  • British-pattern yellow NCO sleeve chevrons (discussed below).

In 1817, the uniforms received from British:

  • Shoulder wings appeared.
  • The use of wide chest tape-stripes.
  • After 1817, shoulder straps without wings were used sometimes.
  • Officers, were provided with gold epaulets of British, later Russian -styled epaulets

A uniquely Persian version of the cloth shoulder-strap was developed in this period which ended in a large diamond, with a fringe, which draped over the shoulder.

Persian soldiers in winter were "given a kind of short cloak of very thick woolen material, the outside of which is a shaggy fleece like a goat’s, the Georgians and Circassians call this a "burka", and the Persians - an "yepanchei"). All leather equipment is white; and the majority of muskets are English." [4]

As part of the new uniform Persian soldiers, adapted the traditional tall Persian black sheepskin hat (called a TELPEK). This was shaped like a tall truncated cone. Modern research states these were about 30cm/12inches high [5]. However, period illustration show versions clearly much higher than this, and clearly crumpled over, indicating that there was little internal framing, other than the wool lining, that was shown at the top of the hat. The color patch at the top (which is the wool cloth lining of the cap), was generally red, however white was also used.

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[1] [2] [3] [4] Aleksandr Kibovskii and Vadim Yegorov [Translated by Mark Conrad, 1998]. The Persian Regular Army of the First Half of the 19th Century. Part 1, Tseikhgauz [Zeughaus], No. 5, 1996: 20-25. ISSN0868-801X

[5] Comparatively, a British grenadier's cap, from the base of the hat to the highest point is 43cm (17 in). 

The Music Corps

The Music Corps wore red coats, with several yellow lace chevrons up the sleeves. Other distictions included:

  • White cap cords added to the traditional tall Persian black sheepskin hat (TELPEK).
  • Drums were painted yellow (or may have been made from brass), and red drum-hoops are sometimes illustrated (and these may have also remained brass).

In 1817, the musicians were dressed in yellow jackets, with lace on the seams and arms, white cords on their caps, with a tassel hanging over the right shoulder.

Post-1830 Nezam Infantry

In the 1830s, the Nezam Infantry, in the Azerbaijan consisted:

  • 12,000 infantry.
  • Divided into 10 Iranian and two Russian regiments.
  • The Russian regiments were composed of deserters, mainly from the Russian army in Georgia. They were well-paid soldiers who fought well, and the Shah placed particular trust in them when facing internal rebellion or religious disaffection.

By 1830, large red fabric (French-style) epaulettes are used.

  • As well, another unique Persian version, made completely from metal (including the epaulette fringe simulated in sheet metal).
  • More senior officers, wore versions set with precious gemstones, and rock cut crystal.
  • Senior officer's "frock coat" appeared in the 1830s and was usually red, with 'Russian' gold embroidery.

Russian Infantry in Persian Service (1835-1837)

The 1830s Russian regiments were described as a guard regiment in 1837.

  • Uniformed with red coats with light blue facing colour, with a single row of buttons. Dark green trousers with red side-stripes were worn,
  • The Russian soldiers wore a "red KIVER (Russian) shako, with small hair plume"; an 1835, description of the Russian battalion, states - "heavy shakos, with high green plumes" [1] [2].

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[1] Persian soldiers were largely expected to manufacture their own uniforms in the first-half of the 19th century, and the Russian infantry of the time were no different, when it came to uniform maintenance, as many collectors have noted expert repair work to period uniforms in Russia.

[2] It can be expected that the Russian infantry themselves modified 1830s Russian KIVER shakos, recovering these in red cloth and well as fitting these with cast Persian lion and sun badges, and green wool shako- ‘pom-pom’ plumes. 

Persian Nezam Infantry (1850)

Persian Nezam Infantry (1860)

Persian Nezam Infantry Officers (1860)

Persian Nezam Army Rank System (Post-1807)

Above - By 1837, the Company-grade officers are distinguished from soldiers by a thin crimson silk sash [1]. The NCO ranks in 1817 [2]:

  • VEKILS (Sergeants): Three yellow cloth chevrons on their sleeves.
  • MUBASHIRS (Supply NCO): Two chevrons.
  • DAKHBASHS (Corpora): One chevron.

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[1] [2] Aleksandr Kibovskii and Vadim Yegorov [Translated by Mark Conrad, 1998]. The Persian Regular Army of the First Half of the 19th Century. Part 1, Tseikhgauz [Zeughaus], No. 5, 1996: 20-25. ISSN0868-801X

Persian Nezam Army Flags (1813-1850)

Right - Gaspard Drouville, who served in the Persian army in 1812-13, recorded two flags in use by the Persian Nezam Army:

Figure 'A': Guidon: In 1813 Fath-Ali-Shah issued standards to the regular cavalry. From drawings they appear the same as infantry flags, but on light-blue cloth, and with a pole that ends in a sharp gilt spearhead rather than the "hand of Ali". [1]

Figure 'B': Nezam infantry regiment's Standard, in red with a gold lion couchant beside a rising sun, with the legend "SOLTAN EBN SOLTAN FATH - ALI SHAH QAJAR" (and what appears to be a date/number 122). …Ornamented with silken white streamers and golden fringes. This had a silver hand final, signifying the hand of ALI SHAH (This was used till around 1850).

Right - These regiment flags are featured in the 1815/1816 painting of the Battle Between Persians and Russians

Persian Generals (1885)

Right - Persian general officers and princes in military uniform in 1885. These general-officers wore the same style of uniform, and with little or no rank distinction. The 1807 reforms introduced the general rank, as well as a system of appointments, for increased seniority among the 'generals':

  • SARTIP (general): Who commanded a brigade of two to four regiments.
  • AMIR-PANJ (general): Appointed as a commander of a brigade of five regiments.
  • AMIR-TUMAN:Appointed as a commander of a brigade of 10 regiments.

There was also two other general appointments:

  • SARDAR: Any other officer in command of any large or small expedition.

The title of AMIR-NUYAN was used for the commander of an army corps.

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