The Imperial German Navy
in the Ottoman Empire 1914-18

Figure 1
Rear Admiral Souchon
SMS Goeben
Istanbul 1914

Figure 2
Naval Rating
SMS Goeben
Istanbul 1914

Figure 3
Naval Rating
SMS Emden Crew
Damascus 1915

Figure 4
Naval Gunner
SMS Goeben Crew
Mesopotamia c1916

Uniforms of the Imperial German Navy in the Ottoman Empire  
Crews of the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau
When the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau were transferred to Ottoman service in 1914, their crews continued to wear the same German naval uniforms as before (see German Navy Other Ranks) and German Navy Officers) but replacing their usual naval caps with an Ottoman red felt fez with a black tassel. They continued to wear this combination of German and Ottoman uniforms on board ship throughout the First World War, though some period photographs show them wearing still their old German caps. Several different cap tallies have been seen in modern collections such as "S.K.O.M.O.S. JAVOUS SULTAN SELIM I." for the renamed SMS Goeben and "S.M.S. MIDILLI" for the renamed SMS Breslau (see the Turkish Militaria website). According to "
Dunya Savasi'nda Turk Askeri Kiyafetleri 1914-1918" by Tunca Orses and Necmettin Ozcelik, a cap tally was issued which read "Türkische Marine" or "Osmanische Türkische Marine", as the sailors were now officially in the Ottoman navy. So far I have been unable to verify this from period photographs.

Land Based Units
The first land based units from the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau were machine gun sections who fought at Gallipoli. At first they wore their blue and white naval uniforms (with German naval caps) but due to their conspicuousness in action and confusion about which side they were on, they were soon issued with standard Ottoman army uniforms in dark khaki with the Kabalak headgear (see Ottoman Uniforms Page). Throughout the war officers and sailors from the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau served on various middle eastern fronts often in Ottoman army uniform.

German Naval Staff
German naval officers also served as staff and advisors to the Ottoman empire. From photographs it seems they usually wore standard German naval uniforms, although one photograph of an officer of the naval mission in Baghdad shows him wearing a khaki tropical uniform similar to that of the Seebatallione.

The Illustrations

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a Naval Officer, Rear Admiral Souchon of the SMS Goeben. He wears a standard German naval officers uniform- a double breasted dark blue jacket with five brass buttons on each side and matching trousers but with an Ottoman red fez as described above. Typically for naval officers he wears a neat shirt and thin black tie under his jacket. His rank is shown in the form of one thin and one triple thick bar of gold lace under a German Imperial crown, showing him to be a Rear Admiral ("Kontra-Admiral"). On his left breast are three medals. One is unidentified, the other two are the Ottoman Gold Liakat and an Iron Cross First Class (see right and Medals Page for the full display of Admiral Souchon's medals).

  Wilhelm Anton Souchon (1864-1946) was given command of the Imperial German Mediterranean Squadron ("Mittelmeerdivision") in 1912. The squadron consisted only of the Battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the Light Cruiser SMS Breslau, yet their impact on the course of the First World War went well beyond their firepower. Winston Churchill said that by their actions bringing the Ottoman Empire into the war, they brought "more slaughter, more misery and more ruin than has ever before been borne within the compass of a ship." When war broke out in Europe, Rear Admiral Souchon left the Austro-Hungarian port of Pola (in modern Croatia) and led his ships to bombard French ports in Algeria. He then dodged British attempts to corner him and headed for Istanbul where his ships were transferred to the Ottoman navy. It was while in Ottoman service that they bombarded the Russian Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol thus provoking a Russian declaration of war and bringing the Ottoman Empire into the First World War on Germany's side. Souchon spent the next three years updating the Ottoman navy until recalled to Germany in September 1917. When the war ended in November 1918 he had the dubious honour of commanding the naval base at Kiel that mutinied starting the German Revolution.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a Naval Rating of the SMS Goeben. He wears a standard German dark blue naval uniform with an Ottoman red fez. On his left breast he wears an Iron Cross second class in its full parade version with both ribbon and medal. This would usually be worn as a small ribbon on the left breast while on active service.

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of one of the Landing Party of the SMS Emden taken in Damascus in 1915. He, along with the others in the original photograph upon which this illustration is based, have been re-issued with Ottoman army uniforms and red fezzes after their epic journey across the Indian Ocean and Arabian desert had probably reduced their original German naval uniforms to rags.

This khaki tunic has only five brass buttons (instead of the usual six) but is otherwise typical of Ottoman other ranks uniforms (see Ottoman Uniforms Page). The trousers and puttees are matching khaki. Boots and equipment were in brown leather for the Ottoman army, the other ranks belt buckle was similar to that worn by German other ranks of the time but with an Ottoman star and crescent design (see right). The NCOs in the original photograph upon which this illustration is based are dressed similarly but have better quality tunics with higher collars. Other photographs of the officers of the SMS Emden about this time show them wearing Ottoman uniforms but retaining their German naval caps.

Figure 4 is based on a photograph of a Naval Gunner of the SMS Goeben taken in Mesopotamia in about 1916. Some of the crew members from the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau were sent to operate gunboats on the River Euphrates (in modern Iraq). This sailor wears a light khaki Ottoman army uniform (see Ottoman Uniforms Page). Note the specialist insignia of a gunner (crossed cannons on an anchor below an imperial crown) from his original German white naval uniform worn on the upper left sleeve. His headdress is an Arab headscarf (or "Kufiya") held in place with the traditional two camel hair bands. His ammunition pouches are not standard Ottoman issue though they are of a style sometimes seen later in the war on Ottoman troops.

Cap Tallies from the Goeben and Breslau
Imperial War Museum Collection

German Naval Machine Gun
Captured at Gallipoli
Photo © Gilles Sigro
(See Naval MG08 Page)

Admiral Souchon's Medal Bar
Imperial War Museum Collection
 (see Medals Page)

German Naval Bayonet
Captured at Gallipoli
Photo © Chris Wood
(See Bayonets Page)

Ottoman Other Ranks Belt Buckle
Imperial War Museum Collection



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