Ottoman Army in Europe 1916-17

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Small flamethrower shock troop (Kleifstosstrupp) of the Ottoman XV Army Corps, at Rohatyn, Galicia, in the spring or summer of 1917.

WW1: Kaiser Wilhelm II inspecting Turkish troops of the 15th Corps in East Galicia.

From Erickson’s “Ordered to Die”, a German Army officer stated: “In Galicia, I saw how fine the Turkish soldier could fight when he was well supplied and well-armed.”

Amidst intense criticism coming from both Ottoman officers and the German Advisory Mission, Enver Pasha insisted on sending Ottoman troops to the European theater. This was a welcome decision for Germany and Austro-Hungary, which were trying hard to compensate for the huge casualties inflicted by the Brusilov Offensive of June 1916. The best divisions of the empire, the heroic 19th and 20th Divisions, reinforced with picked officers and soldiers, were sent to Galicia in August 1916 and remained there until September 1917. After another urgent request from the German General Staff, the VI Army Corps (the elite 15th and 25th Divisions) was assigned to help joint operations against Romania between September 1916 and May 1918. Similarly, the XX Army Corps (46th and 50th Divisions) was sent to relieve the hard-pressed Bulgarians on the Salonika front in October 1916 and remained there until March 1917.

The overall performance and contribution of the Ottoman troops in these operations was significant in relation to the forces committed. Ottoman officers and soldiers fought willingly and in many cases heroically even though they were far away from their country and fighting for causes alien to them. Their conduct becomes more apparent when the conduct of Austro-Hungarians and Bulgarians, who were supposed to be fighting for their national aims, are taken into account. There were no cases of insubordination, desertion, or mass surrender, which badly affected their fellow allies, the Austro-Hungarians. They withstood the hardship of trench warfare and privation on the European fronts stoically.

From the Ottoman perspective the units sent to Europe gained much experience and learned modern tactics and techniques of trench warfare. Many Ottoman officers and NCOs were sent to training centers to learn various new weapons, equipment, tactics, and techniques. For example, the assault troop concept (stosstruppen or storm troops) which came to dominate German tactical thinking in the final year of the war was passed on to the Ottoman infantry corps. ‘‘Hücum Kitaati’’ or assault detachments were formed and experimented within the 19th Division and, later on, were introduced into the Ottoman military in Palestine. Similarly, light machine guns and infantry trench-guns were employed by Ottoman infantry companies for the first time in Galicia. They also experienced the administrative and logistical functioning of a modern military. Not surprisingly, both the officers and soldiers perceived the German logistical support as luxurious in comparison to the Ottoman system. For the first time, they received uniforms and equipment when they asked for it and enjoyed it greatly. Unfortunately for the Ottoman military, these valuable experiences and lessons learned were imported too late to be disseminated for the benefit of the entire system. However, the later Turkish nationalist army made good use of these accumulated experiences during the Turkish Independence War.


All info here gathered from Ýsmet Görgülü’s book On Yýllýk Harbin Kadrosu,Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayýnlarý 1993 and Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi-Avrupa Cepheleri(Özet),Genelkurmay Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etüt Baþkanlýðý Yayýnlarý 1996.)

Enver Pasha was the supreme commander of the Ottoman Army. He believed that the result of the war will be decided in European soil. So he decided to send 3 well equipped korps to Eastern Europe to help the Germans and Austrians. It was a great act of stupidity that even Liman von Sanders tried to prevent Enver Pasha doing.

15th Army Corps(19th and 20th Divisions) were sent to Galicia, 6th Army Corps to Romania and 20th Army Corps along with 177th Reinforced Infantry Regiment to Macedonia. The first troops of 15th Army Corps arrived in Galicia in the end of July 1916.First troops of 6th Army Corps arrived in Romania in the second week of September. The first troops of 20th Army Corps arrived to Macedonia in the end of September.177th Infantry Regiment arrived in December 1916.

After fierce battles, 19th Division started leaving Galicia on 11 June 1917.The last party left on 7 July 1917.They were replaced with 15th German Reserve Division.20th Division stayed and participated in general counter offensive in July. They were replaced with 24th German Reserve Division on the night of August 8.They all returned to Istanbul on 11 September 1917.

15th Army Corps

The troops of 15th Army Corps started to leave for Galicia on 23 July 1916 and the last troops left on 11 August 1916.There were 4 Army Corps under the command of German Army(South) in Galicia Front.15th Army Corps would be the fifth one.15th Army Corps consisted of 2 Divisions.(19th and 20th Divisions)

The Organisation of 15th Army Corps was like this:

Corps Headquarters:

15th Army Corps Commander Colonel Yakup Sevki (Later to be Brigadier General on 8 October 1916)

Brigadier General Cevat (Assigned on 10 November 1916)

15th Army Corps Chief of Staff Liutenant-Colonel Hayri

Liutenant-Colonel Sefik

Major S. Avni

19th Division:

19th Division Commander Liutenant-Colonel Sefik

Liutenant-Colonel Sedat(Assigned on 16 October 1916)

19th Division Chief of Staff Major Lutfu

3 Infantry Regiments(All regiments were consisted of 4 batallions.)

57th Infantry Regiment(Commander; Major Hayri)

72th Infantry Regiment(Commander; Major Rifat)

77th Infantry Regiment(Commander; Yarbay Saip)

2 Machine Gun Detachments

Cavalry Company(5th Company of the 4th Cavalry Regiment)

Artillery Regiment(Commander; Major Ziya. 2nd Rapid Firing Batallion of 25th Artillery Regiment and 1st Batallion of 9th Artillery Regiment)

Engineer Company(4th Company of 3rd Engineer Batallion)

19th Medical Company

Signal Group

20th Division:

20th Division Commander Liutenant-Colonel Yasin Hilmi

20th Division Chief of Staff Captain Ismail Hakki

3 Infantry Regiments(All regiments were consisted of 4 batallions.)

61st Infantry Regiment(Commander; Liutenant-Colonel Bahattin)

62nd Infantry Regiment(Commander; Major Nazmi)

63rd Infantry Regiment (Commander; Major Ahmed Muhtar)

2 Machine Gun Detachments

Cavalry Company(6th Company of 12nd Cavalry Regiment)

20th Artillery Regiment(Commander; Major Suleyman Avni)

Engineers Company(4th Company of 4th Engineers Batallion)

German Aid

On August 1916, German Army gave 18 artillery pieces with different sizes and 2 flame throwers. In September 1916, 30 Russian machine guns were given to 15th Army Corps. In December 1916, 15th Army Corps was equipped with 72 German(1915 model) light machine guns.

Casualties(23 July 1916-15 July 1917)

15th Army Corps went to Galicia with nearly 33.000 men. In July 1917, there were 15000 wounded and dead. Among these men, there were 100 dead officers and 120 wounded officers.


15th Army Corps was closely watched during the campaign. After every success, they were congratulated by Kaiser and the Sultan.

On 22 January 1917, many officers were awarded with Iron Cross. On the same day, all regimental flags of 15th Army Corps were awarded by the Sultan.

15th Army Corps CO Brigadier General Cevat was awarded by Austria-Hungary Emperor Karl.

In July 1917, the Sultan awarded 61st and 63rd Infantry Regiments with the Ottoman War Medal. On the very same day, some officers were awarded with the Iron Cross


Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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