Enver Paşa inspecting an Austrian gun
On the eve of
the World War, the Ottoman Army was not well prepared for a large scaled war
effort. It had only an insiginificant munitions industry of its own and
relied on imports and grants from its allies for its needs of weapons and
equipment. This dependence on Germany and Austria-Hungary continued during
the course of the war.
It was Sultan
Abdülhamit II, who first became aware of the need to renew the weapons of
the army in late 19th century. At that time, when European arms industries
were in rapid progress, the Ottoman Army had only obsolete weapons with low
efficiency. A delegation led by one of the brightest Turkish mathematicians
of the time, General Vidinli Tevfik Paşa, was sent to Germany to purchase Mauser rifles.
Reserve officer candidates examining a Mauser rifle
the agreement made with Germany, Turkey was supposed to buy Model 1877
(M1877) rifles in 9.5 mm caliber. After 84,732 pieces of M1877 was
manufactured, the Turkish government changed the order to the M1893 model in
7.65 mm caliber. Rifles of this model were 122.5 cm long and they had a short staggered-column box magazine holding five
7 x 57 mm rounds flush with the bottom of the rifle, which could be quickly
reloaded by pushing a strip of rounds down from the top of the open bolt. A
further 643,672 pieces of this model was manufactured.
In 1908, when
constitutional rule was restored, the Ottoman Army had mostly basic
rifles and only a few number of rapid firing ones. The infantry and the
cavalry were using U.S. made breech-loading
lever-actuated Martini-Henry rifles, model 1874. These
rifles were 126 cm long and weighed 3.83 kg. They fired .451-inch caliber rimmed cartridge, which was also
manufactured at Zeytinburnu Munitions Plant in Istanbul. A sword
bayonet was standard issue for noncommissioned officers, when fitted the
weapon extended to 173 cm, and the standard bayonet was a socket-type spike
example. The cavalry was also using the U.S. made Winchester carbines. The
total number of Martini-Henry and Winchester rifles in the
army was 233,145, which together with the Mausers brought the total
number of rifles to 901,549.
During the first decade of the
century, the Ottoman Army had no machine gun units. These kinds of guns were
only used in warships and for coastal defense. There was only a few number
of machine guns and they were all Maxim-Nordenfeld. Heavy weapons
included light artillery and howitzers.
Local production was far
from being sufficient to meet the needs for ammunition and therefore new
orders were placed at German plants. 250 million pieces of battle cartridges
and 10 million pieces of training cartridges were ordered at the Deutsche
Waffen und Munitions Fabrik in Karlsruhe and a further 50 million pieces
of battle cartridges were ordered at the plants of Erhart and Polne.
The total cost of newly purchased ammunition was 1.7 million golden liras, of which 15 percent
was paid in advance and the rest in installments at an annual interest of six
percent. In 1912, the total number of cartridges available increased to 886
million pieces including those imported from Germany and manufactured locally.
Although the stock of the
rifle ammunition was at acceptable levels, there was a serious problem about
the artillery ammunition. Especially the 7.5 cm rapid firing field guns and
mountain guns were suffering from a lack of cartridges. In 1908, 167
thousand pieces of shrapnel was ordered at the Erhart in Germany.
The situation improved in
the following years and decree issued on July 3, 1910 improved the budget for
purchases of arms and ammunition. The army, which was equipped relatively
compared to a few years ago, entered two arms in 1911-1912. The
Turco-Italian War in Libya did not cause a radical consumption of stocks,
because the Turkish Navy was not in a position to transport the supplies to
this overseas province. When the war began, there were only 12 pieces of 7.5
cm field guns in Libya with 300 cartridges for each. Later a further 24
pieces of 8.7 cm guns were brought in from Salonica.
Machine gunners in training
Source: "Birinci Dünya Savaşı'nda Türk Askeri Kıyafetleri" (Örses & Özçelik)
Turkish heavy artillery
Turkish artillery shells
The material cost of the
Balkan War was much higher. Several guns were left behind in cities lost to
the Balkan armies, such as Ioannina, Salonica, Shkoder and Edirne. These guns
included 44 pieces of 7.5 cm Krupp rapid firing field guns, 18 pieces
of 15 cm Krupp howitzers, and 18 pieces of 10.5 cm Krupp field
guns. The loss in infantry rifles was much more dramatic.
Support from the allies and
new purchases continued after the Balkan War and throughout the course of
the World War. In total, Germany provided 559 pieces of artillery, 557
thousand rifles, 100 thousand carbines, 1570 light machine guns, 30 heavy
machine guns, 930 million rifle cartridges, 500 thousand artillery
cartridges, 200 thousand shrapnels, 300 aircrafts, 16 thousand gas masks and
30 flame throwers for the Ottoman Army until the end of the war.
At the beginning of the
war, the material strength of the Turkish armies was as follows: First Army: 95 batteries
(61 field, 25 mountain, 3 howitzer, 2 heavy howitzer, 4 cavalry) with a
total of 380 guns; Second Army: 35 batteries (19 field and 16 mountain) with
10 guns; Third Army: 51 batteries (17 field, 28 mountain, 5 cavalry and 1
howitzer) with 204 guns; Fourth Army: 33 batteries (10 field and 23
mountain) with 132 guns.
Additionally, mobile army
units had 856 guns and there were 912 guns in the fortified zones of
Çatalca, Çanakkale, Bosphorus, Edirne and Erzurum, bringing the total to
2155 guns. For each gun there was an average of 588 cartridges. Krupp was the major supplier of artillery guns for the Ottoman Army, but there
were also Austro-Hungarian Skoda guns and French Schneider guns in duty.
In 1914, as Turkey entered the war, there was 1.5 million infantry
rifles available in the army. The main rifle was the Turkish Mauser and in addition to the models M1877 and M1893, there were also M1887 and
M1890 rifles in use. Austrians sent adapted Russian Mossin-Nagant M1891 rifles. Older models of Martini-Henry and Winchester remained in use
and there were also British, Russian, French, Bulgarian, Greek and Romanian
rifles, though small in numbers. Bayonets were made by German companies in
Solingen and Suhl. Cavalry was armed with a rifle of carbine, usually Mauser M1905.
The Ottoman Army had a
serious shortage of machine guns and there were only a handful of Maxim,
Schwarzlose and Hotchkiss machine guns at the beginning of the
war. Maxim light machine guns (M1908) had a caliber of 7.92 mm and
they weighed 14.6 kg. They had an automatic rotating bolt fed by a 50-round
drum. Maxim heavy machine gun weighed 22.2 kg and it was fed by a
250-round drum. Both versions had an effective range of 2,011 m.
Turkish officers were carrying pistols at all times. The model most commonly used
was the Mauser Parabellum, a semi-automatic self-loading pistol
manufactured by Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabrik. It had a
caliber of 9 mm and was fed by a 10-round fixed magazine. The widely used
version was the 1896 model, of which the main characteristics were the magazine
forward of the trigger, the long and protruding barrel, and the handle
shaped like the end of a broom handle. Its length was 288 mm and its
unloaded weight was 1100 gr. This pistol had an effective range of 500 m.
Another pistol that was used by Turkish officers was the Browning. It
was produced by the Fabrique Nationale under the patent of the U.S.
manufacturer Browning. It was a semi-automatic pistol, with grips made of
black plastic. It had a seven shot magazine and a rear grip safety catch.
The pistol's length was 205 mm.
Turkish infantry used two different kinds of grenades. The most commonly
used offensive grenade was the German stick grenade Stielhandgrenate. It weighed 0.5 kg, its fuse length was 4.2 seconds and it could be used at
an effective range of 10 m. There were also defensive grenades used by the
infantry troops and these oneswere "ball" and "egg" shaped.
After the armistice was
signed in October 1918, the disarmament of the Ottoman Army began. The army
was allowed to keep 40,878 rifles, 240 machine guns and 256 pieces of
artillery. The rest was handed over to the Allied forces.