Thursday, October 11, 2012

Turkish Army Uniforms

Shoulder cords/boards, including the epaulettes used in WW1, by Ottoman Turkish officers have been poorly represented and collectors do not presently have a reliable description of these, or the actual rank system used in WW1.

Figure 1: ‘A-E’ illustrated by the author shows five WW1-period officer’s shoulder cords/boards for which there is no description provided in the written references. Yet clearly, these were ranks that existed at the time, included in this group are some surviving shoulder boards that can be confirmed as having been taken from Ottoman Turkish soldiers in WW1 (‘D-E’). It will be argued that these boards can be related to ranks which are known to have existed at the time, but which were left out of period references, through error and lack of suitable information.

Figure 1: ‘C’ (as with ‘D-E’) [7], has not been described in any of the written references. These are illustrated in Plates 18B, and 19B. One of these is likely, to be from battalion/regimental military administrators in the Gendarme), and were produced in WW1. Figure 1: ‘D’ (belonging to Andrew Hall, from Australia), and represents a typical poorer quality WW1 –wartime manufacture. Whereas, Figure 1: ‘E’ (a very high quality make), from a French private collection, which is accompanied with a period souvenir label identifying Beirut, 1918 as the origin. As can be seen, this board seems to illustrate some increase in rank, as it has the combination of a double metallic cords around the edge (whereas Figure 1: ‘C’, has only one lace bar across the centre), and what appears to be two central bars of gilt lace-tape, separated by red lines. However, it should be noted (and this has not been resolved due to the particularly rough-nature of the board’s construction), that Figure 1: ‘E’ represents three gold metallic bars separated by two red lines. Whereas Figure 1: ‘F’, represents two silver metallic bars, separated by a red line (as well as the two edging redlines). The hope is that eventually more photographic evidence, or examples will resolve the correct ‘interpretation’ of these insignia. It is also possible, that as it displays silver insignia may in fact be a non-combatant equivalent. However, it is currenly viewed that these could in fact be for the flag bearers -ranks, as the flag -carry cross belt , may have become impractical in wartime conditions around 1916
(see Plate 19B). more info:

Example of the Turkish M1909 (Pre-war type) army FERIK (Lt.-General) shoulder board. With plain silver (German made) button. Uses a cast brass French-style rank star. SIZE: Approx. 5 x 11 cm.The general’s shoulder board, illustrated in Figure (below): ‘B’ is based loosely on German rank insignia. Post-1909 the original design was distinctive using a five-cord yellow cotton weave and indicating rank using the older 1876-period French five-point stars (as can be seen in Figures: ‘C-D’. Early, in WW1 the pattern changed to more closely resembled the German period pattern using a three-cord weave, made with gold cords incorporating red-flecks. The rank insignia for a Marshal (‘Mushir’) has two different versions: ‘D’ is the Army rank, whereas ‘E’ is a Marshal in the Imperial Ottoman Navy (ION), displaying a star and crescent badge . Figure: ‘F’ is the special rank insignia for Sultan Mehmed V Reshad (ruling from 27 April 1909 – 3 July 1918), displaying a badge based on his ‘Tugra’ (the imperial cipher, and symbol of authority). It should be noted that these boards are typically small (like all Ottoman Turkish insignia), as Figure: ‘B’ example is only 4.6 cm x 9.2 cm, and appear broad and rectangular.
 Harp Madalyasi. K-Model A:2. Nickel coined with fused horizontal pin. This has been cut and turned into attachment loops for sewing to a ribbon. Pined through and sewn-on Austrian made kappenabzeichen for XV. Türkisch Korps (Deutsch Südwest Armee) Award Badge for Eastern front action in NOVEMBER 1916. Gilt bronze. Marked: ENTW.U.AUSGEF.ATEL. G. GURSCHNER WIEN VII / 2
1333/1915 Ottoman Turkish Harp Madalyasi. K-Model A:3 variation. Nickel coined. Vertical fused pin removed, replaced with lead-soldered thick steel slide-clip. Red lacquer infill removed.

Austrian Militär-Verdienstkreuz (Cross for Military Merit) 3rd Class breast badge. With 1860 "Kriegsdekoration" (War Decoration). Mounted on tri-folded war ribbon (without the 1916 gilt crossed swords), with bronze pin.
In order to receive the Austrian Militär-Verdienstkreuz or German Iron Cross, Ottoman Turkish officers in most cases needed to have the Mejidie Order, and or the silver Liyakat/ Sanayi Medals.December 13, 1916 authorized for Austro-Hungarian officers only gilt crossed swords on the ribbon as a higher grade of wartime merit.Ottoman Turkish officers,
did not receive this particular distinction.

This is very much a work in progress. I have been reconstructing the rank insignia system used by the Ottomans in WW1, and meshing the original illustrations (which most people are used to seeing), with actual insignia, as well as the missing ranks left out of most descriptions of the WW1 Turkish Army.

Model 1909 German made Mauser three-pocket cartridge pouch. Brown pebble grained leather with brass hardware. One has the interior pocket dividers have been removed. Manufacturer’s stamp - "MAURY & Co OFFENBACH A/M" and the Hijri date of 1327 (1909 AD). Has a circular ink stamp in Ottoman Turkish under the middle pocket flap.
Another, Post-1909 German made Ottoman Turkish ‘Imperial Army’ buckle shield. A ‘Type B’ version. Has plainer Ottoman Turkish script for 'Asakr-i Shahaneh' meaning the 'Imperial Army', contained within the crescent. This was found in Haifa, Israel.
Post-1909 German made Ottoman Turkish ‘Imperial Army’ buckle. A ‘Type A’ version. The more florid Ottoman Turkish script for 'Asakr-i Shahaneh' meaning the 'Imperial Army', contained within the crescent.
Onbasi rank uniform item. 16mm T.W.&W. PARIS (with anchor and flaming grenade: Firstly, Trelon Weldon & Weil (1844-1865-1884), then J. Ammer & Cie (1903 – 1918)). Mounted on a period dark blue (Field Artillery) velvet cloth shoulder board. Rounded end, measuresing approximately 9 x 4.5 cm.
Ottoman Turkish Silver Liyakat (Merit) Medal. Instituted in [١٣٠٨] 1308/1890. Mounted on Liyakat ribbon with a RUMI year [١٣٣٢]1332/1916 Crossed Sabres Award Bar.


  1. Congratulations on a really wonderful post - there is more information contained in the one article than in most books on the subject, thanks to you both for passing it to a wider readership.


  2. Special thanks to Dr.Chris Flaherty.he published a book also for Turkish Army Uniforms.We are lucky as being grand grandsons of an Imperial Army.They really look gorgious!