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Ottoman Army - 1890s

The military organization of the country dated from September, 1887. It had been actually in force, however, only since 1893. The intention was to parcel out the country so that each battalion district would contain a population of about 7,000 males between the ages of 20 and 40 belonging to the Mohammedan religion, which would make for an entire army corps region about 450,000 men liable to military service.

Until 1886 the military service, compulsory on all Moslems over eighteen years of age, was kept up by 45,000 annual recruits drawn by ballot; but in November of that year universal conscription of the whole able-bodied male population was decreed. By this measure the army, hitherto reckoned at about 160,000 men, with a war strength of from 450,000 to 500,000, was raised to a permanent footing of nearly 1,000,000 effectives under the flag and in the reserves. These continued to be grouped in the three categories of the nizam or regulars in active service, the redif or first reserve, and the mustahfiz or second reserve.

The nominal strength of the permanent army in 1898 was 350,000 men; of the territorial army, 300,000 men: of the territorial army reserve, 250,000 men; total, 900,000 men, 750,000 of whom possessed a complete military training. Every Turkish subject capable of bearing arms owed three years of service in the active army. If assigned to the cavalry or artillery, he served four years. Any conscript, however, at the end of five months could purchase his discharge by paying 30 Turkish pounds. After serving their time in the permanent army, infantrymen were attached to the reserve for three, cavalry and artillery soldiers for two years. For the next eight years they are liable to be called out with the Redifs or territorial army, and for the following six years in the Mustahfiz or territorial army reserve. The Nizams, or regular troops, were armed with Mauser rifles of 7.65 millimetres, with five cartridges in the magazine, or of 9.5 millimetres, with 9 cartridges.

Every year the registered number of young men attaining the age of liability to military service is about 120,000. After deducting those exempted, postponed, etc., there remain only about 00,000 or 05,000 for incorporation. These are divided into the first and second portions of the contingent. The men of the first portion number rather more than 40,000 each year, and are incorporated for the full term of service. The men of the second portion of the contingent (about 20,000) are supposed to receive only about six months' training with the colors. The training of this portion is often sadly deficient, sometimes several years elapsing without any convocation of the men, while on the other hand it has happened that the men have been retained with the colors beyond the extreme limit of nine months fixed by the law. Taking into account the fixed portion of the cadres, the total peace effectives of the land army have for the last few years been between 200,000 and 220,000 men.

Military service in the Turkish Empire was governed by the law of 13th November, 1880 (old style), which has taken the place of the old law of 1809, while preserving its principal features. By the terms of this law only the Moslem subjects of the Empire were liable to service in the land army. This was not the case in the navy, where for many years the larger portion of the crews of the fleets had been drawn from the Greeks of the islands and coasts of the AEgean Sea. The Moslem inhabitants of Constantinople and its suburbs, however, enjoyed an entire exemption from military service; while in Asiatic Turkey numerous communities of Kurdish or Arabian nationality escape entirely the operations of conscription for regular service. A partial compensation is the organization of local irregular forces among these tribes, which may be of assistance to the regular forces in time of war, or available for terrorizing the non-Moslem population in time of peace. Obligatory military service had not been introduced into the province of Tripoli, while the Moslem populations of Crete and the islands of the Archipelago and certain tribes of the Moslem faith in northern Albania were, in practice, also exempt from military service.

The central administration of the Turkish Army was remarkable for a dualism somewhat similar to that formerly existing in the English service, where the infantry and cavalry were under the commander in chief, while the artillery and engineers were under the board of ordnance, presided over by the master general of ordnance. In Turkey the war ministry proper and the department of the grand master of artillery were still completely separate and independent of each other. Under the grand master of artillery came the provision and issue of all kinds of war materiel, and the construction and maintenance of fortifications. Most of the fortress artillery, the fortress engineers, and the artillery workmen were also subordinate to this officer.

The Turkish land forces are at present organized in three classes or levies-the active army (nizam), the landwehr army (redif), and the territorial army or militia (mustahfiz). The infantry, cavalry, field artillery, and field engineers are subject to the minister of war. The seacoast fortifications, the fortress artillery and engineers, and the artillery workmen are subordinate to the grand master of artillery.

Since the year 1843 the army has been organized on the territorial system. The troop units of the various arms, formed on the model of those of the armies of Christian Europe, are divided into army corps (ordous), which are also divided into divisions, and these latter into brigades. Each ordou has its own ordou district, where it is recruited and where most of its units are stationed, but owing to circumstances various units are stationed, permanently or occasionally, outside of their own corps or recruiting districts.

There are seven of these corps districts, as follows:

  1. First Ordou.-Headquarters, Constantinople. This is recruited from northern and eastern Anatolia.
  2. Second Ordou.-Headquarters, Adrianople. This is recruited in the eastern part of Roumelia and in central Anatolia.
  3. Third Ordou.-Headquarters, Monastir, lately changed to Salonika. This is recruited over the western part of European Turkey and in southwestern Anatolia.
  4. Fourth Ordou.-Headquarters, Erzinjan (northeastern Asia Minor). This is recruited in Armenia, Kurdistan, and eastern Anatolia.
  5. Fifth Ordou.-Headquarters, Damascus. This is recruited in Syria and the country about the Gulf of Alexandretta and to the east.
  6. Sixth Ordou.-Headquarters, Bagdad. This is recruited over Mesopotamia and the country east of the Tigris to the Persian frontier.
  7. Seventh Ordou.-Headquarters, Sana. This is only a corps of occupation, and obtains few or no recruits from the district in which it is quartered. Its recruit contingent comes principally from the fourth and fifth ordou districts.

The Turkish possession of Tripoli in Africa, the Island of Crete, and the district of Hedjaz in Arabia, comprising the territories of Mecca, Medina, and Djedda, are occupied by divisions not forming part of the organic strength of the army corps, but subordinate to the headquarters of one or the other of these regions (Tripoli to the first corps, Crete to the second, and Hedjaz to the seventh).

The subdivision of the army corps regions is based upon the constitution of the landwehr (redif). The region is divided into 4 division, 8 brigade, 16 regimental, 64 battalion, and 256 company districts. This subdivision does not apply to the seventh ordou, which furnishes no landwehr troops.

Each corps district should mobilize, in time of war, one army corps of nizam, two corps of redif, and one corps of mustahfiz (militia). The first six regions only will mobilize troops of the landwehr and militia. The seventh corps district (Yemen, Arabia) has only active troops. It is doubtful, moreover, whether, with the present arrangements, any of the militia corps could be mobilized. The territory of three of the regions-the first, second, and third-is partly in Europe and partly in Asia. Tripoli, as has been mentioned, is also attached to the first region, which has no European territory except Constantinople and its environs. The remaining regions are wholly in Asia.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:03:45 ZULU