Uniforms of the German Army on Ottoman Fronts in the First World War
Some German troops, mainly officers, serving in or commanding Ottoman units wore Ottoman army uniforms. For other ranks these usually consisted of a "Kabalak" (traditional Turkish army headgear consisting of wrapped khaki cloth around a wicker frame, sometimes with the edges of the canvas in arm of service colours). The tunics were a dark shade of khaki (although some light khaki Summer uniforms were also worn) with stand and fall collars, six buttons down the front and hip pockets only. Matching trousers and puttees were worn. Officers wore a black lambs wool cap known as a "Kalpak". This cap had a red top with a yellow metallic lace cross across its width. Officers tunics were usually privately tailored and of a darker olive green shade with two vertical buttons on the cuff. Due to private tailoring many variations of cut existed. Turkish rank insignia for both NCOs and officers was shown on the shoulder straps. Again the subject of Turkish uniforms is huge as has been covered very well in publications such as "The Ottoman Army 1914-18" by D Nicolle and R Ruggeri (published by Osprey).
Sometimes combinations of German and Ottoman uniforms were worn together and photographs showing groups of German officers together often show some wearing German and others wearing Ottoman uniforms.
The Asienkorps and some other German troops on Ottoman fronts from 1916 onwards wore a newly designed khaki tropical uniform, as described on the Tropical Uniforms on Ottoman Fronts Page.
Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a
German Artilleryman of the Asienkorps taken in Palestine in 1918. Although the
Asienkorps were issued a khaki khaki tropical
uniform, they also brought their field grey uniforms with them for wear during
cold weather. Due to the khaki uniform's similarity to enemy
uniforms and other impracticalities in wear and issue, during 1918 it was
largely replaced by standard European issue field grey for all ranks.
Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a German Artillery Officer of the Asienkorps taken in Palestine in about 1917. This officer is again wearing the same uniform as he would have worn on the Western front. He wears an officer's peaked field cap in field grey with hatband in arm-of-service colours (in this case black edged with red for the artillery) and an imperial (black/white/red) cockade above a state cockade (in this case black/white/black for Prussia). He wears an officer's light grey double-breasted Litewka (again with collar patches and piping in arm-of-service colours) and an Iron Cross second class in his second buttonhole. His rank is displayed on the braided shoulder straps. He wears field grey riding breeches and black leather gaiters and ankle boots.
Figure 3 is based on a photograph of a German Officer taken in the Ottoman Empire probably around 1916 or 1917. He wears an Ottoman officers' lambs wool Kalpak (as described above) along with a privately tailored German 1910 officers' tunic. The 1910 infantry tunic had eight buttons down the front and hip pockets only. Three buttoned Brandenburg cuffs were worn by most infantry regiments piped in red (artillery regiments wore two buttoned Swedish style cuffs). His darker collar (seemingly without the standard red piping) is a variation due to private tailoring. His rank is again shown on the braided shoulder straps. On his right breast he wears the Ottoman "Halbmond" war medal (see Medals Details Page), on his left breast he has a small strip of medals worn as miniature ribbons, below that he wears another medal that is difficult to see in the original photograph but is most likely an Iron Cross first class, while he has the Iron Cross second class worn in his second buttonhole. His trousers are of the noticeably lighter slate grey shade while his footwear cannot be seen in the original photograph.
Figure 4 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 (as described above) with the khaki cloth edged in arm-of-service colour (blue for artillery) and has an unidentified brass badge at the front. His Ottoman army tunic is dark khaki (although shades and cuts varied considerably due to manufacture and wear and tear) 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 Turkish heavy siege artillery. The shoulder straps are in arm-of-service colour (in this case artillery blue) with bars of yellow metallic lace stripes to define the rank. These straps were sometimes removed by Ottoman soldiers in action. He wears matching dark khaki trousers and puttees and brown leather ankle boots.Figure 5 is based on a photograph of a Senior German Officer (possibly Oberst Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein) taken in 1918 while inspecting Ottoman troops. He wears a privately tailored Ottoman officers' uniform consisting of a lambs wool Kalpak (as described above) and an olive green tunic with a darker green collar. The plain turn back cuffs and breast pockets with pointed flaps are variations due to private tailoring. He wears an Iron Cross Second Class in his second buttonhole. This officer probably wears more medals on the left breast that cannot be seen from this angle. He wears matching olive green trousers and 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.