Topic: Tk - Army
The Ottoman Empire during the Great War
The Ottoman Army
Outline of Infantry Structure
When reading about the various parts of a Turkish Infantry unit, the following terms relating to specific formations are employed:
- Serviceman’s name
- Battalion Service Number
Each of these specific units will be examined in terms of ideal composition and role.
The full service uniform of the ordinary Mehmet in the Ottoman Army.
The individual Rifleman was the most basic part of the Turkish infantry. It is from the Rifleman which all other soldierly functions stem. Though by tradition certain infantry units are based on the rifleman, they employ a variety of other specialized soldiers in conjunction with the rifleman.
All Riflemen were armed with the 7.65 mm Mauser rifle of the 1903 pattern and short bayonet. Officers were armed with a sword and revolver. The sword was rarely carried into action.
Khaki service dress was adopted for infantry use. The service jacket was single breasted with a pleat in the back and four flap pockets. Officers collars were olive green while the rank and file of ordinary line battalions had plain collars. Trousers were plain for the men although officers had red piping. Greatcoats were grey, double breasted with collars or collar patches of the same colour as the service jacket. Boots were brown ankle lace up with khaki coloured puttees. The cap was a khaki kabalak with a distinctive top or dome the same colour as the coat collars. Also popular amongst those troops in the desert was the Kefiye, similar to the Arab headdress.
Until the family name reform of 1927 when everyone was compelled to take a surname, the individual was known by his personal name or sometimes a nickname. Further identification was added by including the name of the soldier’s father to the record.
Top 10 Turkish Personal Names
Name % Used Mehmet 13.15% Mustafa 7.94% Ali 7.60% Ahmet 6.98% Hasan 5.98% Hüseyin 5.90% Ibrahim 4.18% Ismail 4.09% Halil 3.69% Osman 3.46% Total 62.96%
The figures were obtained from the work Sehitlerimiz which was the Turkish equivalent to the Turkish Roll of Honour. The specific campaign was that of Gallipoli, a roll which contained 45,487 names. Because of the random nature for entry selection, Sehitlerimiz provides an excellent sample of the general population within the Turkish Army during the Great War. This explains why the common soldier gained the name "Mehmet" in the same way as calling the ordinary British soldier "Tommy" or the Australian Light Horseman called "Billjim".
With the example of the Australian Light Horse, some 15% of men had the name Bill. Without any other distinguishing feature, if this were the only name employed, the chaos it would create would be immense. Hence the surname was important. But when there is no surname, other conventions were used by the Turks. A nickname became very important. With the Australians, a person might be referred to as "Bluey" rather than his first name or surname. Similarly with the Turks although a far more formal thing as the sobriquet, if known, was part of the man's formal identification.
Here are some examples:
HÜSEYİN, also known as SARIALİ OĞULLARI (SARIALİ SONS), the son of OSMAN
ALİ, also known as KARA KULAK OĞULLARI (BLACK EAR'S SONS), the son of İSMAİL
OSMAN, also known as YÜZBAŞI OĞULLARI (CAPTAIN'S SONS), the son of HACI MEHMET ALİ
AHMET, also known as HASANBEY OĞULLARINDAN (SEIGNIOR HASAN'S SONS), the son of MEHMET
HÜSEYİN, also known as ABİDİN OĞULLARI (ABİDİN SONS), the son of HALİL
Soldiers were enlisted in a particular military recruitment district. At the headquarters of the military district a roll was maintained of all soldiers recruited. It was here that all aspects of the soldier’s service was administered. On this roll was attached all correspondence regarding the soldier and any other notifications such as wounding or death. It is only at these places do we have the records of the individual soldiers. After the fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire, rolls in other districts were destroyed or became inaccessible.The following is a list of military districts for Anatolia during the Great War:
Adana, Adiyaman, Afyon, Aksaray, Amasya, Ankara, Antalya, Artvin, Aydin, Balikesir, Bartin, Bayburt, Bilecik, Bingöl, Bitlis, Bolu, Burdur, Bursa, Çankiri, Çanakkale, Çorum, Denizli, Diyarbakir, Edirne, Elaziğ, Erzincan, Erzurum, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Giresun, Gümüşhane, Hatay, Içel, Isparta, Istanbul, Izmir, Kahramanmaraş, Karaman, Kars, Kastamonu, Kayseri, Kirikkale, Kirklareli, Kirşehir, Kocaeli, Konya, Kütahya, Malatya, Manisa, Mardin, Muğla, Muş, Nevşehir, Niğde, Ordu, Rize, Sakarya, Samsun, Siirt, Sinop, Sivas, Tekirdağ, Tokat, Trabzon, Tunceli, Urfa, Uşak, Van, Yozgat, and Zonguldak.
Battalion Service NumberTurkish serviceman numbers were based solely upon the Battalion in which they were first recruited. Units were locally raised and service numbers were peculiar to that battalion rather than to the military service. So upon joining an Infantry Battalion, the recruit was allocated a number specific to that unit. If the person transferred to another battalion, the service number remained unchanged. The result was that in many situations, men held identical service numbers.
The formation which the individual rifleman most associated was the Section. This was a distinct body composed of four riflemen. Leading this section was usually a senior private or a corporal. This was a tight knit group which worked together as a single unit.
Two sections were joined together to form a Squad under the leadership of a corporal or sergeant. The consequent nominal strength of a Squad was nine riflemen.
Nine squads formed the Platoon which was under the leadership of a lieutenant or second lieutenant. The nominal strength of a Platoon was 73 riflemen.
CompanyUnder the command of a Captain, a Company was made up of three Platoons plus the supporting personnel. The nominal war strength of a Company was 265 men while the peace strength was 123 men.
Company Establishment Strength
Rank Peace War Captain 1 1 Lieutenant 1 1 Second Lieutenants 2 2 Sergeant Major 1 1 Assistant Sergeant Major 1 1 Sergeants 3 6 Musketry Sergeant 1 1 Musketry Corporal 1 1 Ambulance 1 1 Stretcher Bearers 0 4 Corporals 9 18 Quartermaster Corporal 1 1 Batmen 3 3 Buglers 4 4 Tailor 1 1 Cobbler 1 1 Water Carrier 1 1 Cook 1 1 Other Ranks 90 216 Total 123 265 Water Cart and Horse 1 1
The above, of course was the ideal composition. The reality under war conditions was quite different. Those divisions that faced the Russians in the Caucuses had their battalions reduced to company strength with the divisions being renamed regiments. Similarly the reduction in Battalion strength on the Palestinian Front gave similar results. On paper, a force may have looked imposing but in reality, it had little strength.
The standard Turkish infantry battalion was meant to have a war establishment of 1,080 men. This consisted of four Companies totalling some 1,060 men and Battalion Headquarters which added a further 20 men. One addition to the war time establishment of a battalion but not counted in its establishment was a transport section consisting of a sergeant and 25 drivers making 1,106 men per Battalion.
Rank Peace War Major 1 1 Lieutenant - Aide de camp 1 1 Medical Officer 1 1 Surgeon 1 1 Chemist 1 1 Imam 1 1 Adjutant 1 1 Armourer 1 1 Staff Sergeant Major 1 1 Staff Sergeant 1 1 Battalion Quartermaster Sergeant 1 1 Battalion Quartermaster Corporal 1 1 Sergeant Bugler 1 1 Corporal Bugler 2 2 Batmen 5 5 Transport Sergeant 0 1 Driver 0 25 Total 20 46
The Turkish Infantry Regiment was comparable to the Australian Infantry Brigade. It comprised three Infantry Battalions, one Machine Gun Company and Regimental Headquarters.
Rank Peace War Colonel 1 1 Lieutenant - Aide de camp 1 1 Adjutant 1 1 Imam 1 1 Colour Sergeant 1 1 Staff Sergeant 1 1 Clerk (Private) 1 1 Orderly Sergeant 1 1 Batmen 4 4 Total 12 12
The armament of the Machine Gun Company, they were either armed with the heavy Maxim guns or the lighter Hotchkiss gun, determined the establishment number of men in a Regiment. If a Maxim Gun Company of 160 men, then the total number on establishment would be 3,490 men while the Hotchkiss Machine Gun Company of 123 men would mean the establishment of the Infantry Regiment was 3,453 men.
A Division contains sufficient material and men to allow the formation to undertake combat actions without reference to any other unit. It is usually called an independent command. All the military services were available within the Division. The core of the Division’s combat ability was provided by three Infantry Regiments. The key function of the division was logistical support of the Infantry Regiments as well as planning support when combat is offered.
The following outlines the wartime establishment of a Turkish Infantry Division.
9 Infantry Battalions of 1,106 men 9,954 3 Machine Gun Companies of average 142 men 426 6 Artillery Batteries of average 173 men 1,038 Sanitary Company, Transport Company and other supports 550 Total 11,968
There were some 63 Infantry Divisions formed by Turkey during the Great War. While this appears to be a great number, the reality was entirely different. After its high point in 1916, the Turkish Army was unable to maintain the troop levels in the Divisions as allowed by their establishment. In Palestine, Infantry Divisions were usually at the strength of an Infantry Regiment.
CorpsA Corps was a major military organisation which consisted of a minimum of two divisions. As the Infantry Corps were degraded through combat in the Sinai and Palestine, they were unable to present a force of more than 5,000 rifles on most occasions.
ArmyAn Army, in the formation sense, is composed of a minimum of two Corps. By 1918, the Armies in Palestine were at the manning levels of one fully established Infantry Division.
Source: Intelligence Section, Cairo, Handbook of the Turkish Army, 8th Provisional Edition, Government Press, Cairo, February 1916.
Citation: The Ottoman Empire during the Great War, The Ottoman Army, Outline of Infantry Structure