German Officers and NCOs in the Ottoman Army 1913-18
Ottoman Army Uniforms

Figure 1
Staff Officer
Full Dress c1913

Figure 2
Artillery NCO
Service Dress c1916

Figure 3
Infantry Officer
Service Dress c1918

German Officers and NCOs in Ottoman Army Uniforms
While most German units serving inside the Ottoman Empire during the First World War wore German Army Field Grey Uniforms or Khaki Tropical Uniforms, many German officers and NCOs commanding or serving within Ottoman units wore Ottoman army uniforms. The Imperial German Navy serving in the Ottoman Empire on land also sometimes wore Ottoman army uniforms.

Ottoman army uniforms had been modernised in 1909 from their 1890 dark blue uniforms with a red fez (which was still used as full dress) to a dark khaki uniform with the Kabalak or Kalpak headdress. The topic of Ottoman army uniforms is huge, this page is only a brief guide to their appearance as worn by German personnel. For more on Ottoman army uniforms, I would recommend "The Ottoman Army 1914-18" by D Nicolle and R Ruggeri (published by Osprey) as a good starting point.
Recommended External Links- Turkey's War, Turkish Militaria Collector and the Ottoman Empire Section of the Axis History Forum.

Ottoman Other Ranks Kabalak
Imperial War Museum Collection

Ottoman Officers Parade Belt
(See Here for close up)
©Chris Flaherty

Ottoman Officers Kabalak
Imperial War Museum Collection

Arm of Service Colour
Ottoman army uniforms displayed arm of service colours in several different places (collars, cuffs, piping and on the  headdress) depending on the type of uniform and headdress being worn.

  Generals    - Red
  Staff    - Crimson
  Infantry    - Dark Green
  Cavalry - Light Grey
  Artillery - Dark Blue
  Machine Gunners - Green
  Engineers - Blue
  Air Force* - Red

* The Ottoman Air Force used red as an arm of service colour from 1915 onwards. Prior to that they were part of the engineers and wore their blue insignia with a white metal balloon badge on the collars.  

1909 Kabalak was the most common form of headdress for all ranks in the Ottoman army and came in many variations. It usually consisted of khaki cloth wrapped in bands around a wicker frame, though many variations existed. Some Kabalaks had arm of service piping around the edges of the cloth bands, some Kabalaks were made of wool (see above left), others were worn without the wicker frame. Officers Kabalaks (and indeed one worn by Kaiser Wilhelm II on his visit to Istanbul in 1917) sometimes had a one-piece cover rather bands of cloth (see above right). Some Kabalaks had a metal unit or crescent badge worn at the front.

The 1909 Kalpak was a peakless black lambs wool cap (light grey wool for senior officers) worn by officers. It had a cloth top (in arm of service colour) with a three strips of white or yellow metallic lace crossing each other in the centre. Some Kalpaks had a metal unit or crescent badge worn at the front.

The Fez was the traditional headdress of the Ottoman army from the 1840s on and was still in use by some units off duty and on parade. Some period photographs also show it being worn by Germans in the Ottoman army. The Ottoman fez was made of red felt, and was conical in shape with a flat top and a black tassel.

The 1909 Service Uniform of the Ottoman army was of a dark shade of khaki with a stand and fall collar, six buttons down the front and hip pockets only. Matching trousers and puttees were worn. Officers tunics were usually privately tailored and of a darker olive green shade with collars in arm of service colour and two vertical buttons on the cuff. Many variations of colour and cut existed for both other ranks and officers uniforms, including light khaki Summer uniforms.

The 1890 Full Dress Uniform of the Ottoman army was in dark blue and was based on the Prussian model. It had a standing collar, eight brass buttons down the front and Swedish cuffs. Collar, cuffs and piping were in arm of service colour. Variations on this uniform existed for different ranks and arms of service with some being double breasted, others having Polish cuffs. Epaulettes replaced the usual officers shoulder boards on parade.

Combinations of German and Ottoman Uniforms were not uncommon. A seemingly popular combination among officers was to wear the Ottoman officers kalpak with a German field grey uniform. Many period photographs showing groups of German officers together show some wearing German and others wearing Ottoman uniforms.

The Illustrations

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of Carl Mühlman, an Officer of the German Military Mission to the Ottoman Empire taken in Istanbul in 1913. He wears Ottoman army full dress uniform. As described above it was based on the Prussian model and looks very similar to the dark blue uniform worn by the German army of the period. Collar, cuffs, piping and epaulettes are in arm of service colour (in this case crimson for staff officers), with officers yellow metallic braid edgings. His Ottoman army officers belt is again very similar to the German design but in yellow metallic braid with crimson stripes (see above). He wears yellow metallic aiguillette cords across his right chest denoting him as an aide de camp. His headdress is the Kalpak lambs wool cap.

  Carl Mühlman was originally a cavalry officer who in 1913 served as aide to Generalleutnant Liman von Saunders on the Military Mission to the Ottoman Empire. Their task was the modernisation of the Ottoman Army. When the Ottoman Empire joined the First World War on Germany's side, von Saunders and the military mission were given command positions. Mühlman served throughout the war in the Ottoman army, first seeing action at Gallipoli. After the war he wrote several books on the Ottoman Empire and his experiences in the war, including "The Campaign in the Dardenelles" and "The End of Empire" which is still in print in Turkish today as "İmparatorluğun Sonu 1914".

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a German Artillery NCO probably serving on the Gallipoli Front in about 1916. He wears Ottoman army uniform including the Kabalak headgear with its khaki cloth edged in arm of service colour (in this case dark blue for artillery) and has an unidentified brass badge at the front. His Ottoman army tunic is dark khaki with the two cuff buttons usually only seen on officers' clothing. The stand and fall collar has a brass flaming grenade badge button on each front corner- the insignia of the Ottoman heavy siege artillery. The shoulder straps are in arm of service colour (in this case artillery dark blue) with four bars of yellow metallic lace stripes to define the rank as Specialist Sergeant Major ("Chief"). Shoulder straps were sometimes removed by Ottoman soldiers in action. He wears matching dark khaki trousers and puttees with brown leather ankle boots.

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of a Senior German Officer (possibly Oberst Kress von Kressenstein) taken in 1918 while inspecting Ottoman troops. He wears a privately tailored Ottoman officers' uniform consisting of a lambs wool Kalpak and an olive green tunic with a darker green collar (the infantry's arm of service colour). The plain turn back cuffs and breast pockets with pointed flaps are variations due to private tailoring. Braided shoulder straps show his rank. This officer wears an Iron Cross second class ribbon in his second buttonhole. He quite probably also wears more German and Ottoman medals on the left breast that cannot be seen from the angle of the original photograph upon which this illustration was based. He wears riding breeches in a lighter shade with black leather gaiters and boots.

  Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein (1870-1948) gained his first commission as a Bavarian artillery officer. In 1913 he was part of von Saunders' military mission to assist the Ottoman army in its modernisation. On the outbreak of war he was was appointed as an adviser and later chief of staff to Djemal Pasha's Fourth Ottoman Army in Palestine. He was also commander of the German Pascha I Expedition which supported the Fourth Army. He planned and led the failed attacks on the Suez Canal in 1915 and 1916, then fought a retreating campaign against the British defeating them in the First and Second Battles of Gaza in 1917. In 1918 he was transferred to command the German Mission to Georgia, an attempt to secure the oilfields of Baku from Bolshevik troops. After the war he commanded the 7th Reichswehr division in Bavaria. It was he who personally led and ordered these troops to fire at Adolf Hitler and his supporters at the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. He retired from the army in 1929.

Thanks to Chris Flaherty and Cristiano Campos for their help in researching this page.

Please contact me here if you have more information or photos on this topic. 

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