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Sunday, 22 February 2009
A Fight against Rising Odds
Topic: Tk - Bks - Air Force

Pasha and Yildirim, the Palestine Front, 1915 to 1918

 

Sergeant Fehmi of 3ncü Tayyare Bölük in an Albatros C.III at Amman, 1918.

[From: Ole Nikolajsen, Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919, p. 213.]

 

Part 6 - A Fight against Rising Odds

The ratio between German and Turkish as compared to British aircraft in Palestine was in the beginning of 1916 about 1:5 while- decreasing to about 1:12 in the spring 1917 and then rising with the arrival of the new units to about 1:2- in October. This ratio continued to dwindle during 1918: Jan. about 1:3; May about 1:5; August about 1:10 and on 19 September about 1:15. The operations in 1918 can be divided into two main periods: The war of attrition from January to September and the period of defeat from 19 September until the armistice on 30 October 1918. [187]

The New Year 1918 started out with an exceptionally black day for the German units. On 2 January, a mixed formation of aircraft from FA302 and FA304(b) attacked the old German airfield of Ramleh, now used by RAF squadrons. Unfortunately for the Germans, the formation was intercepted and four AEG's were lost. Later in the day the British retaliated and 14 of their aircraft attacked Jenin. The casualties were one defending Albatros fighter lost in the air and one AEG on the ground. The British lost one aircraft shot down. Again on 12 January, an aircraft was lost with its crew and on 17 January both an Albatros and an AEG went missing. The German units managed to shoot down a British aircraft both on the 4th and 20th of January.

At this time the Arab attacks on the 4th Army to the east of Jordan river and on the Hejaz railway had grown to such an extent that more aircraft units were needed on this front. In the beginning of the year the Turkish 4ncü Tayyare Bölük was transferred from Adana in Southern Turkey to Amman. The unit, under command of the famed observer, Captain Huseyin Sedat, had 4 pilots and 5 observers and operated one Albatros C.III (AK51) and 3 recently issued AEG C.IV's (AEG2, AEG3, and AEG22). In February the German FA305, under command of Captain Elias, arrived at Dera with 12 AEG C.IV's to protect this vital railway junction against Arab insurgents.

Also the newly formed Turkish 14ncü Tayyare Bölük under command of the German Captain Zelich, arrived with 7 additional AEG's (AEG26, AEG27, AEG28, AEG29, AEG30, AEG31, and AEG32).

With these relative large reinforcements to the 4th Army a separate aircraft command was set up for the eastern front under command of KOFL, Captain Beltz.

Since the beginning of 1918, the all Turkish 3ncü Tayyare Bölük had a very busy period in its effort to control the Hejaz railway line between Dera and Medina now with 4 Rumplers at Maan (R11 50, R1837, R1847, and R2626) and detachments of Albatros C.III's at Medina (AK30) and Dera (AK4). In addition to this task the unit was also ordered to harass and bomb Aqaba several times as well as performing reconnaissance as far away as Suez. In January, 23 sorties were flown and in February, the number was 21 sorties. The operations took its toll however and on 4 February, Rumpler R1837 was lost and its crew taken prisoners.

 

Map of air activities covered by this extract

[From: Ole Nikolajsen, Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919, p. 188.]

[Click on map for larger version.]

 

A Turkish force crossed the Jordan River under the protective screen of three Rumplers on 2 March and later on the [189] same day the same aircraft made bombing attacks on British counter-attacking formations. In the end of the same month British forces also tried to cross the river and formations of up to five aircraft from FA305 and 3ncü, 4ncü and 14ncü Tayyare Bölük, bombed and strafed the advancing cavalry units. The effect was such that the British were forced to retire to the west bank of the Jordan River.

During April large Arab forces had concentrated around Maan and 25 sorties were flown against them. This was however to no avail and 3ncü Tayyare Bölük was forced to withdraw with its main force of three aircraft to Amman. Only one Rumpler, R1150, was left at Maan, but on 8 May, this aircraft was wrecked.

In late April, under cover from the Arab attack, British forces again tried to attack the 4th Army with an advance towards Es Salt. This called for a major effort and 4 AEG's from FA305 and 3 from 14ncü Tayyare Bölük made almost continuous attacks on the advancing troops. Fifty bombs were dropped in the vicinity of the village Ezrak alone. These operations, though successful, took a heavy toll on the units and in the beginning of May, 3ncü Tayyare Bölük was left with only Rumpler, R2626, and 4ncü Tayyare Bölük having lost its Albatros C.III on 5 March and an AEG on 28 March, was left with only two aircraft. Heavy pressure was now made by British aircraft upon Amman and Dera. One of the attacking DH4's was shot down on 1 May. Soon after 1 May, JASTA 1 transferred from Jenin to Amman with 6 Albatros D.III fighters. This was no success for after a week at Amman where no interceptions were made the unit returned to Jenin. At this time only 3 fighters remained air worthy as the other 3 aircraft had been damaged beyond repair during landing accidents. To counter the British air attack in another way a force of 7 aircraft from FA305, 4ncü and 14ncü Tayyare Bölük attacked the British home base outside Jerusalem on 24 May. This British promptly retaliated on 31 May when they dropped more than 100 bombs on Amman, inflicting heavy damage.

After these events in the air, activity was cut down significantly due to the intense heat during the summer.

British aircraft nevertheless managed to make a surprise attack on both Amman and Dera on 24 June and in this raid, the 14ncü Tayyare Bölük lost two aircraft (AEG29, and AEG32) and two pilots. In addition most of the equipment belonging to 3 ncü and 4ncü Tayyare Bölük was burnt when a hangar was hit at Amman. More luck was experienced two days later when 2 AEC's on reconnaissance towards Maan succeeded in [190] shooting down a British aircraft. Attrition continued however and FA305 lost two aircraft in June thus resulting by the end of the months in a total of only 8 airworthy aircraft being present at the front. In a desperate move, the commanding officers of 3ncü, 4ncü and 14ncü Tayyare Bölük, together travelled to Istanbul to plead for new aircraft. This was to no avail however and FA305 lost another aircraft on the 3rd of July. At this time 14ncü Tayyare Bölük only had one aircraft left.

Two aircraft made a reconnaissance over Aqaba and bombed it on 12 July but thereafter only three aircraft were available. In the last days of July and in August, Dera was being attacked daily by British aircraft but in 19 sorties three of these attackers were shot down by fighters transferred from Jenin, respectively on 9, 18 and 24 August. By 19 August, the hard working mechanics had again managed to make 2 aircraft flyable for each FA305 and 14ncü Tayyare Bölük, and 150 bombs were dropped in 22 sorties, most near the village of Katrane. On the 21st the British counteracted by bombing Dera and the three aircraft of the two resident aircraft units were burnt. In the first week of September another 2 aircraft were received from the aircraft park at Rayak.

When Arab forces attacked on 15 September, 8 aircraft were transferred from Jenin. Under command of Captain Elias, these 10 aircraft flew 47 sorties between 16 and 21 September and were successful in keeping the vital Dera railway junction open. After this, most of the personnel withdrew to the north.

 

Source: The above extract is obtained from a self published work by Ole Nikolajsen called Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919A Fight against Rising Odds comes from Chapter 8, Pasha and Yildirim, the Palestine Front, 1915 to 1918, pp. 187-191. The text has been edited to remove errors and make it readable for an English speaking audience.

 

Further Reading:

The German Ottoman Air Force 

Air War on the Palestine Front, December 1915 to January 1917

Turkish Units - The Ottoman Air Force

Lieutenant Colonel Hüseyin Hüsnü Emir, Yildirim

 

 

Go To:

Previous Chapter: Yildirim Ordu (The "Lightning Army") 

Next Chapter: The Pasha Units on the Southern Front

 


Citation: A Fight against Rising Odds

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 1 March 2009 9:14 AM EAST

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