German Forces in the Ottoman Empire 1914-18

 
     
  Prussian officers had first been employed to modernise the Ottoman (Imperial Turkish) army in the 1840's with limited success. It was not until the 1880's (following defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78) that a full term German military mission (under Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz) was set up to assist and equip the Ottoman army. Even then progress was slow. When the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the German side her army was still in the process of modernisation.

Throughout the First World War several thousand German soldiers, sailors and airmen served in many varied capacities in the Ottoman Empire. In addition Austria-Hungary also sent smaller numbers of similarly useful men and materials to assist the Ottoman Empire during the war.
Recommended External Links - The Story of Enver Pascha and Turkey's War

The 1913 German Military Mission to the Ottoman Empire
In the wake of Ottoman defeats in the Balkans wars 1912-13, a new German military mission under Otto Liman von Sanders was sent to further modernise the Ottoman army. When war broke out in Europe in the Summer of 1914 there were already over 500 German military personnel serving in the Ottoman army and navy. They included much needed staff officers, training personnel, engineers, technicians, artillery gunners and aircrews.

SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau
The battle cruiser
SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau were trapped in the Mediterranean Sea at the outbreak of the First World War. After bombarding the French bases at Bône and Philippeville in Algeria they handed themselves over to the Ottoman navy rather than surrender to the overwhelming power of the Entente navies in the Mediterranean. Once under the Ottoman flag they bombarded the Russian ports of Sevastopol and Odessa thus precipitating a Russian declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire bringing them into the war on the German side.

In the Ottoman navy the Goeben and Breslau were renamed the TCG Yavuz Sultan Selim (after Sultan Selim I) and Midilli (the Turkish name for the Aegean island of Lesbos) respectively. During the war the two ships remained on patrol in the Black Sea where the Midilli was sunk by a mine in 1918. Sailors from the ships also served on land. They were first called upon to form a machine gun company to serve at Gallipoli, and later a Naval Artillery Battery on the Dardenelles. Some of their crews served served on other Ottoman vessels and as far away as Mesopotamia. After the war the Yavuz Sultan Selim remained in Turkish service until 1950 (being renamed TCG Yavuz in 1936). It was finally scrapped in 1973.
Recommended External Link - Discussion on the Axis History Forum on the Landungsabteilung Gallipoli

Early Wartime Reinforcements
When war broke out a further 500 German military personnel were sent to assist the Ottoman army, including a volunteer company of pioneers ("Freiwilliger Pionier Kompagnie") who fought at Gallipoli. Further large scale reinforcement was impossible while Serbia and neutral Rumania stood in the way (the pioneers and other German reinforcements had to travel through Rumania in civilian clothing and arms and ammunition were smuggled along the same route with large bribes offered to the Rumanians). The conquest of Serbia by the combined German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian armies in late 1915 opened the route from Berlin to Istanbul.
Recommended External Link - Discussion on the Axis History Forum on the German Volunteer Pioneers at Gallipoli

Pascha I Expedition
Pascha I was a 16,000 strong army expedition formed to assist Ottoman forces in March 1916 under the command of Oberst Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein. It consisted mostly of machine gun, artillery and support troops with a fighter plane squadron (FA300). It fought as part of the 4th Ottoman Army against British troops in the Sinai campaign in the Summer of 1916.

Pascha I*

   
Eight Machine Gun Companies
601st-608th Machine Gun Companies ("Maschinengewehr-Kompanien 601-608")
Four Balloon Machine Gun Defence Platoons
133rd-136th Balloon MG Defence Platoons
Artillery
60th Foot Artillery Battalion
350th Trench Mortar Battalion ("Minenwerfer Batallion 350")
351st Trench Mortar Battalion ("Minenwerfer Batallion 351")
352nd Trench Mortar Battalion ("Minenwerfer Batallion 350")
Aircraft
300th Flying Squadron ("Fliegerabteilung 300 "Pascha“")
Non-Combatant Units
103rd Telephone Detachment
105th Wireless Command

Pascha II Expedition - Asienkorps
A second Pascha Expedition also known as the Asia Corps ("Asienkorps") was formed at
Neu-Hammer in July 1917 under the command of Oberst Werner von Frankenberg zu Proschlitz (and from June 1918, Oberst Gustav von Oppen). The first elements were deployed in October 1917 with more reinforcements arriving in 1918. The Asienkorps' initial mission to recapture Baghdad was deemed unfeasible and they were instead sent to fight alongside the Ottoman army in Palestine.

The Pascha II Expedition was a more rounded fighting unit than Pascha I which consisted solely of support troops to bolster the Ottoman army. At about 10,000 strong it consisted of frontline infantry units with machine guns, artillery, cavalry and full supporting units. The number of fighter squadrons was greatly increased. After being defeated along with their Ottoman allies at the Battle of Megiddo 19th September- 1st October 1918, the Asienkorps was withdrawn towards Istanbul just before the Ottoman surrender.

The British Colonel T.E. Lawrence (famous as "Lawrence of Arabia") described the Asienkorps in his book "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"- Exceptions were the German detachments; and here, for the first time, I grew proud of the enemy who had killed my brothers. They were two thousand miles from home, without hope and without guides, in conditions mad enough to break the bravest nerves. Yet their sections held together, in firm rank, sheering through the wrack of Turk and Arab like armoured ships, high-faced and silent. When attacked they halted, took position, fired to order. There was no haste, no crying, no hesitation. They were glorious.
Recommended External Link - Discussion on the Axis History Forum on the Asienkorps

Pascha II- German Units in Palestine 1917-18*

     
  Asienkorps Staff ("Stäben des Asienkorps") and from 1918 the staff of the 201. Infanterie-Brigade  
         
  Infantry  
    701st Infantry Battalion ("Infanterie Batallion 701") - deployed 1917
      With 6 machine guns and 18 Bergman light machine guns  
    146th Infantry Regiment ("1. Masurische Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 146") - deployed from Macedonia 1918
      1st Battalion- with 6 machine guns  
      2nd Battalion- with 6 machine guns  
      3rd Battalion (from the 85th Landwehr Regiment, IX Army Corps)- with 6 machine guns  
    11th Reserve Jäger Battalion ("Kurhessisches Reserve Jäger Batallion Nr. 11") - deployed 1918
      With 6 machine guns  
         
  Artillery  
    701st Infantry Support Battery ("Infanterie-Geschütz-Züge 701") - deployed 1917
      4 x 7,7cm guns  
    702nd Infantry Support Battery ("Infanterie-Geschütz-Züge 702") - deployed 1917
      4 x 7,7cm guns  
    703rd Infantry Support Battery ("Infanterie-Geschütz-Züge 703") - deployed 1917
      4 x 10,5cm howitzers  
         
  Other Armed Units  
    701st Machine Gun Company ("Maschinengewehr-Kompanie 701 "Hentig"") - deployed 1917
    Cavalry Squadron ("Kavallerie-Eskadron Asienkorps") - deployed 1917
    701st Pioneer Unit ("Pionierabteilung 701" from the "Kurhessisches Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 11") - deployed 1917
    205th Pioneer Company ("Pionier Kompanie 205") - deployed 1917
       
  Aircraft  
    300th Flying Squadron ("Fliegerabteilung 300 "Pascha“") - deployed 1916
    301st Flying Squadron ("Fliegerabteilung 301") - deployed 1917
    302nd Flying Squadron ("Fliegerabteilung 302") - deployed 1917
    303rd Flying Squadron ("Fliegerabteilung 303") - deployed 1917
    304th Bavarian Flying Squadron ("Fliegerabteilung 304b") - deployed 1917
    305th Flying Squadron ("Fliegerabteilung 305") - deployed 1918
    55th Fighter Squadron ("Jagdstaffel 55" later known as "Jagdstaffel 1F") - deployed 1918
       
  Non-Combatant Units  
    27th Mountain Heliograph Platoon ("Gebirgs-Blinker-Züge 27") - deployed 1918
    Intelligence Unit ("Nachrichtenabteilung Pascha II") - deployed 1918
    27th Survey Unit ("Vermessungsabteilung 27") - deployed 1917
    Medical Units ("Sanitätsformationen") - deployed 1917

Central Asian Missions
During the First World War Germany sent several missions into Central Asia, in areas usually considered to be part of the Ottoman sphere of influence. Some of these missions had the support of the Ottomans, but others clashed directly with their interests.

Persia
A plan was proposed by Wilhelm Wassmuss
to incite the tribes of Persia to rise up against their British occupiers. It was hoped that this would form a larger Islamic revolution against British rule, threatening British India. Kaiser Wilhelm II was a keen supporter of the plan and it was put into action in February 1915. Wassmuss wandered from tribe to tribe using his knowledge of Arab customs and languages, along with bribes of gold supplied to him from Germany, Arabic propaganda pamphlets, promises of German military aid and mystic scenes in which he claimed to speak directly to the Kaiser to gain their friendship. Wassmuss became a legend in Persia causing the British a great deal of concern and effort in his capture and earning himself the nickname "The German Lawrence" although his mission ultimately failed to incite a full scale rebellion.

Afghanistan
Although it may seem an unlikely ally of Germany, Afghanistan could have proved a crucial one. If the Afghan Emir Habibullah joined the war on the side of the central powers and threatened the North West frontier of British India, Britain would be forced to withdraw troops from other theatres to deal with the threat. If Indian nationalists also rose up in rebellion at the same time the British Empire might have a real crisis on its hands.

With this aim a part military, part diplomatic mission under the joint command of the Indian nationalist leader Raja Mahedra Pratap, the German diplomat Otto von Hentig and the German adventurer and artillery officer Oskar von Niedermeyer was sent to Afghanistan in 1915. It consisted of a cadre of German troops specially recruited with former Asian and colonial experience, Persian tribesmen and several escaped German and Austrian Prisoners of War on the run from Russian captivity who they met along the way. Although they reached Kabul after an epic journey evading hostile tribesmen and British and Russian patrols under the harshest climatic conditions, the mission was ultimately a failure as they could not convince the Afghans to join the war.

Georgia
As the Russian Empire descended into chaos and revolution through 1917 and 1918 the rich oilfields of Georgia and Azerbaijan became an important objective for several armies at the same time. Bolshevik, White Russian, British and Ottoman armies all headed for Baku with the hopes of capturing the oilfields.

Germany also sent an army, the Caucasus Expedition ("Kaukasusexpedition") consisting of 3,000 mostly Bavarian troops  under the command of Generalmajor Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein. Along the way they picked up further recruits from escaped German Prisoners of War and German colonists living in Georgia. They arrived in Tiflis, the Georgian capital in June 1918 where they were welcomed as defenders against the Bolsheviks. Due to the confused situation and rivalries for the oil, they clashed with Ottoman troops briefly on the way. The revolution in Germany and the end of the war finally caused their mission to be aborted. The last German troops left the port of Poti in December 1918.
Recommended External Link - Discussion on the Axis History Forum on the Georgian Caucasus Expedition

Caucasus Expedition 1918*

   
  Infantry
    29th Bavarian Jäger Regt ("29. Königlich Bayerisches Jäger-Regiment")
      7th Bavarian Reserve Jäger Btn ("7. Königlich Bayerisches Reserve Jäger-Batallion")
      9th Bavarian Reserve Jäger Btn ("9. Königlich Bayerisches Reserve Jäger-Batallion")
    15th Bavarian Jäger Regt ("15. Königlich Bayerisches Jäger-Regiment")- raised August 1918
      1st Bavarian Reserve Jäger Btn  ("1. Königlich Bayerisches Reserve Jäger-Batallion")- from the 29th Bavarian Jäger Regt
      Caucasian Railway Protection Btn - raised from former German Prisoners of War
    10th Assault Btn ("10. Sturmbattalion")
      Assault Company
      Machine Gun Company (with 12 machine guns)
      Trench Mortar/Mine Thrower Company (with 8 mortars)
      Garrison Company - raised from former German Prisoners of War
  Other Armed Units
    176th Mortar Company ("176. Mörser Kompanie")
    2nd Motorised Batallion, 65th Reserve Field Artillery Regt ("II. Batallion, Reserve Feld Artillerie Regiment Nr 65")
    Armoured Car Machine Gun Unit ("Panzer-Kraftwagen-MG-Abteilung")
      1 x Daimler/15 Armoured Car (modernised in 1917)
1 x Ehrhardt/15 Armoured Car (modernised in 1917)
1 x Ehrhardt/17 Armoured Car
1 x Minerva Armoured Car (modified captured Belgian car)
1 x Daimler Machine Gun Carrier
Possibly 2 x Austin Armoured Cars (captured Russian cars)
Miscellaneous softskin vehicles
    7th Bavarian Cavalry Brigade  ("7. Königlich Bayerische Kavallerie-Brigade")
      5th Bavarian Light Horse Regt  ("5. Königlich Bayerisches Chevaulegers-Regiment "Erzherzog Friedrich von Österreich"")
      4th Bavarian Light Horse Regt  ("4. Königlich Bayerisches Chevaulegers-Regiment "König"")- deployed September 1918
  Aircraft
    28th Aviation Detachment
  Non-Combatant Units
    1750th Signal Section

Austro-Hungarian Troops in the Ottoman Empire
Austria-Hungary first lent its heavy artillery to the Ottoman Empire in December 1915. Two heavy artillery batteries (the "9. Mototmörserbatterie" and the "36. Haubitzbatterei") fought for the Ottomans at Gallipoli and later during the Suez Offensive. In 1916 the "Gebrigshaubitzdivision von Marno" consisting of two batteries of mountain howitzers was also sent to the Suez Front and continued to fight alongside the Ottoman army until the end of the war (having been renamed the "Gebirgshaubitzabteilung in der Türkei" in 1917 and "Feldhaubitzabteilung in der Türkei" in 1918). As well as artillery, Austria-Hungary assisted the Ottoman army in 1916 with four much needed motorised units (the "1., 2., 3., 4., Autokolonnen Türkei").

In late 1917 a new Austro-Hungarian mission was planned to be sent to assist the Ottoman Empire called the "Orientkorps". This unit was intended, like the German Asienkorps, to include infantry battalions as well as artillery and transport. The Orientkorps underwent training and equipping for tropical climates but with the war not going so well for Austria-Hungary by this late date most of the troops were diverted to other fronts. Only the artillery batteries (the "Gebirgskannonenabteilung in der Türkei") and one motorised unit (the "10. Autokolonne Türkei") were eventually sent to Palestine in June 1918.

As well as these troops, many Austro-Hungarian army and navy personnel served in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War as staff officers, pilots, engineers, medics, communications technicians, and as training personnel assisting the Ottoman army with artillery, engineering and even skiing. 
Recommended External Links - Page listing all Austro-Hungarian Units in the Ottoman Empire at the Austro-Hungarian Army website and a discussion on the Axis History Forum on Austro-Hungarians at Gallipoli and in Palestine

The End of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire surrendered to the Entente on 30th October 1918 after defeats on several fronts. Just prior to that most Germans had retreated home or became allied prisoners of war. As a result of the war and its following treaties (the Treaty of Sèvres 1920 and the Treaty of Lausanne 1923) the Ottoman Empire was split up and a new Turkish Republic was declared.

 

* NOTE ON UNIT LISTS- These lists have been compiled from several sources (listed below). The different sources do not always agree. I have tried to follow original German sources of the period, and where not available have followed the general consensus of opinion. Please email me here if you have more accurate information

Unit List Sources-

Pascha I and II
"
Die Schlachten und Gefechte des Großen Krieges 1914-1918" compiled by the German General Staff
"The German Army in World War I" (Pt3) by Nigel Thomas
"Megiddo 1918" by Bryan Perrett
The contributions of Shawn USAF1986 and Peter H on the Axis History Forum - Asienkorps
The further researches of Chris Flaherty
Wikipedia pages in English and German

Caucasus Expedition -
"Geschichte des deutschen Heeres im Weltkriege 1914-1918" by Hermann Cron
The contributions of Mad Zeppelin and Peter H on the Axis History Forum -
Georgian Legion
Wikipedia pages in English
and German

 

 

 


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