Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

WW1 OTTOMAN ARMY SNIPERS; SKI TROOPS & CAMOUFLAGE

Ottoman Imperial Army Snipers Uniforms

RIGHT - "A Turkish Sniper" (Imperial War Museum collection), painted by James McBey 7 November 1917, outside the walls of Jerusalem. This painting appears to show:

  • A distinctly grey-green uniform.
  • A particular type of headgear, consisting of a close fitting cap, with ear covers (not unlike WW1 British Army's sniper's hoods).
  • His face, appears to have a green 'tinge' added by the artist.

The history research website Australian Light Horse Studies Centre indicates:

  • "faces coloured green." Namely, the 'Turkish snipers were seen with their faces, arms, legs painted green' - in order to better conceal themselves (this illustrates an example of 'painted camouflage' being used by the Ottoman Imperial Army in WW1 - discussed below).
  • "clothed in green".
  • "rifles painted green to match the trees." See the example of the '1915 Painted Camouflaged Turkish Imperial Army Mauser Model 1893' (discussed below).

Marksmanship and Sharpshooting Badge

ABOVE - Around 1900, the Ottoman army had developed a marksmanship and sharpshooting skills medal [1]. After 1909, the Ottoman army encouraged its marksmanship in the School of Musketry courses for officers [2].

RIGHT - This photograph from WW1 shows a Turkish junior officer: cavas (sergeant) wearing an unidentified Ottoman script badge on the collar patch, and a crossed-rifles sleeve patch.

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[1] Metin Erüretin. (2001) Osmanli Madalyalari ve Nisanlari. [Ottoman medals and orders: documented history]. DMC: 284.

[2] British General Staff. (1995) 1916 Handbook of the Turkish Army. Battery Press, Nashville: 127.

Camouflaged Turkish Imperial Army Mauser Model 1893

RIGHT - A 1915 Painted Camouflaged Turkish Imperial Army Mauser Model 1893 (in the Australian War Memorial Collection).

WW1 Turkish Camouflage Painting

RIGHT - This picture of the 'Ottoman coastal defences, in the Dardanelles, circa 1916' shows two types of painted Turkish camouflage. This coastal battery position utilised an 8.2 inch calibre naval gun taken off the old German armoured cruiser SMS Roon, which was disarmed in 1916 and converted into a training and accommodation ship.

ABOVE - A close view of the Turkish Army tent sheet camouflage pattern seen draped over the gun, in the picture of the 'Ottoman coastal defences, in the Dardanelles (circa 1916)'. It is assumed:

  • The Turkish Army tent sheet would have been a lighter khaki green.
  • The dark paint splotches would have been finished in field earth brown, as this paint was typically used in Turkish equipment.

ABOVE - Reconstructing the camouflage pattern:

  • It is assumed that the gun and its mounting would have retained its original sea grey.
  • The dark paint lines would have been finished in field earth brown, as this paint was typically used in Turkish equipment (such as buttons discussed below).

In WW1, the Ottoman Imperial Army adopted camouflage painting - in disruptive or dazzle patterns at a very early date [1]. Use of mottled, and disruptive or dazzle patterns by the Ottoman army in 1915-1916 is significant; as it had only been in 1914, that John Graham Kerr, who first applied the principle to British warships in WW I, outlined the principle in a letter to Winston Churchill explaining that disruptive camouflage sought to confuse, not to conceal, "It is essential to break up the regularity of outline and this can be easily effected by strongly contrasting shades ... a giraffe or zebra or jaguar looks extraordinarily conspicuous in a museum but in nature, especially when moving, is wonderfully difficult to pick up."

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[1] In 1909, the Ottoman Imperial Army adopted field brown uniforms (based in the 1908 Engineers' field uniform), as the basic combat dress. Nicolle notes, "the 'brown-grey shade' of the official Ottoman field uniform was ... well suited to the 'mud colour of Gallipoli'." David Nicolle. (2010) Ottoman Infantryman 1914-18. Osprey Publishing: 29.

Turkish Ski Troops (1917)

Austrian instructors trained a unit of Ottoman skiers in 1914, and early 1915. The ski battalion was initially planned to have over 1,000 men. It was later reduced to a company under the third army, by June 1915. The third army ski company operated on the Caucasus front. Later it grew into a ski and mountain battalion with three companies, and a machine gun company. The skiers also continued as a training company till 1917, in Erzurum, East Anatolia.

Ski 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.

Ski Troops displayed a large white collar patch on the heavy wool coats.

Ski troops wore kabalak headgear 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.

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