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This is a comprehensive new operational military history of the Ottoman army during the First World War. Drawing from ar

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Table of contents :
Cover
Title
Contents
List of figures
List of maps
Preface
A note on transliteration
1 Prelude to war
2 The decision to go to war
3 Opening moves
4 The year of uncertainty: 1915
5 The year of glory and disappointment: 1916
6 The dreams and realities: 1917
7 The year of disasters: 1918
Epilogue
Bibliography
Index
Recommend Papers

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 0367471779, 9780367471774

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The Ottoman Army and the First World War

This is a comprehensive new operational military history of the Ottoman Army during the First World War. Drawing from archives, official military histories, personal war narratives and sizeable Turkish secondary literature, it tells the incredible story of the Ottoman Army’s struggle from the mountains of the Caucasus to the deserts of Arabia and the bloody shores of Gallipoli. The Ottoman Army, by opening new fronts, diverted and kept sizeable units of British, Russian and French forces away from the main theatres and even sent reinforcements to Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. Against all odds, the Ottoman Army ultimately achieved some striking successes, not only on the battlefield but in their total mobilisation of the empire’s meagre human and economic resources. However, even by the standards of the First World War, these achievements came at a terrible price in casualties and, ultimately, loss of territory. Thus, instead of improving the integrity and security of the empire, the war effectively dismantled it and created situations and problems hitherto undreamt of by a besieged Ottoman leadership. In a unique account, Uyar revises our understanding of the war in the Middle East. Mesut Uyar is Professor of International Relations and Dean of the School of Business and Social Sciences at Antalya Bilim University, Turkey. Dr. Uyar is a retired Turkish Army colonel and former associate professor from the University of New South Wales, Australia and the Turkish Military Academy. He is the author or co-author of The Phaseline Attila: The Amphibious Campaign for Cyprus, 1974 (2020); The Ottoman Defence Against the Anzac Landing 25 April 1915 (2015); A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk (2009); and numerous articles and book chapters.

Routledge Studies in First World War History Series Editor John Bourne The University of Birmingham, UK

The First World War is a subject of perennial interest to historians and is often regarded as a watershed event, marking the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the ‘modern’ industrial world. The sheer scale of the conflict and massive loss of life means that it is constantly being assessed and reassessed to examine its lasting military, political, sociological, industrial, cultural and economic impact. Reflecting the latest international scholarly research, the Routledge Studies in First World War History series provides a unique platform for the publication of monographs on all aspects of the Great War. Whilst the main thrust of the series is on the military aspects of the conflict, other related areas (including cultural, visual, literary, political and social) are also addressed. Books published are aimed primarily at a post-graduate academic audience, furthering exciting recent interpretations of the war, whilst still being accessible enough to appeal to a wider audience of educated lay readers. Also in this series Museums, History and the Intimate Experience of the Great War Love and Sorrow Edited by Joy Damousi, Deborah Tout-Smith and Bart Ziino Reflections on the Commemoration of the First World War Perspectives from the Former British Empire Edited by David Monger and Sarah Murray The Ottoman Army and the First World War Mesut Uyar Renegotiating First World War Memory The British and American Legions, 1938–1946 Ashley Garber For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/history/ series/WWI

The Ottoman Army and the First World War Mesut Uyar

First published 2021 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 Mesut Uyar The right of Mesut Uyar to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Uyar, Mesut, author. Title: The Ottoman army and the First World War / Mesut Uyar. Description: Abingdon, Oxon ; New York : Routledge, [2021] | Series: Routledge studies in First World War history | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2020033309 (print) | LCCN 2020033310 (ebook) | ISBN 9780367471774 (hardback) | ISBN 9781003033967 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Turkey. Ordu—History—World War, 1914–1918. | World War, 1914–1918—Turkey. | Turkey—History, Military—20th century. | World War, 1914–1918—Campaigns. Classification: LCC D566 .U93 2021 (print) | LCC D566 (ebook) | DDC 940.4/1356—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020033309 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020033310 ISBN: 978-0-367-47177-4 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-03396-7 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC

To my wife İlkay Thank you for always believing in me

Contents

List of figuresviii List of mapsxii Prefacexiii A note on transliterationxix 1 Prelude to war

1

2 The decision to go to war

38

3 Opening moves

71

4 The year of uncertainty: 1915

106

5 The year of glory and disappointment: 1916

211

6 The dreams and realities: 1917

282

7 The year of disasters: 1918

357

Epilogue

417

Bibliography424 Index449

Figures

1.1 Ottoman officers proudly showing their armlets as a support to the constitution 1.2 Soldiers of the Army of Action positioning a Maxim MG99 gun on the Galata Bridge during the 31 March Incident 1.3 A field artillery battery armed with 75mm Krupp L/30 M1903 posing for the public after the end of a large military exercise in 1910 1.4 Libyan tribal warriors posing with their Ottoman commanders 1.5 Reserve soldiers celebrating the declaration of war against the Balkan states in İstanbul 1.6 An abandoned Ottoman 75mm Krupp field gun with a dead gunner and spent shell casings overlooking Manastır road 1.7 Members of the German military mission before their journey to İstanbul in December 1913. At the centre is head of the mission, Liman von Sanders (with peaked cap) 2.1 A German propaganda postcard dramatises the arrival of SMS Göben and SMS Breslau to İstanbul 2.2 Sevastopol harbour receiving the shells of armoured cruiser SMS Göben (recently rechristened as Yavuz) on 29 October 1914 2.3 After the Sevastopol raid, Admiral Souchon named ‘A’ Turret of Yavuz as ‘Sewastopol’ 2.4 Bronsart von Schellendorf with his aide-de-camp (ADCs) posing in the office of the Ottoman Chief of General Staff 2.5 Reserve officer candidates getting basic training during the first days of the mobilisation in August 1914. Due to the shortage of uniforms, some candidates were still wearing civilian clothes 2.6 The Ottoman declaration of Jihad on the cover of the German Illustrierte Zeitung magazine 3.1 Arab tribal warriors under the command of Ottoman officers 3.2 Ottoman reinforcements sailing the Tigris on local rafts. Notice the presence of tribal warriors

2 4 7 10 16 19 33 45 48 49 54

61 65 73 81

Figures  ix 3.3 Group photo of a Mahsusa detachment during its deployment in Bursa 3.4 Ottoman infantry marching to the front 3.5 The Russians exhibiting captured Ottoman field and mountain guns in Tiflis 4.1 Indian deserters posing with their weapons and equipment in İstanbul 4.2 Hejaz Raider (Akıncı) Volunteer Camel Regiment 4.3 An Ottoman field artillery battery on the way to the Suez Canal 4.4 One of the few pontoons that crossed the canal and the dead bodies of Ottoman soldiers lying at the back 4.5 An Ottoman officer and Sanusi tribal fighters captured by the British during Agagir attack on 26 February 1916 4.6 Ottoman main barracks in Baghdad 4.7 Süleyman Askeri tried to command the Ottoman attack against the British fortified camp at Shaiba from his stretcher 4.8 Colonel Sakallı Nurettin (in the foreground with binoculars) and his troops in front of great arch of Ctesiphon before the battle 4.9 Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz with his personal staff in İstanbul 4.10 Cevad [Çobanlı] Pasha and the Dardanelles Fortified Zone Command staff 4.11 Ottoman and German crew of a Krupp 240mm heavy gun 4.12 An Ottoman infantry battalion conducting an alarm exercise before the Allied landings 4.13 Colonel Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] 4.14 Esad [Bülkat] Pasha giving orders behind a Krupp 75mm mountain gun 4.15 Anzacs burying the dead Ottoman soldiers during the 24 May Truce 4.16 An Ottoman firstline trench 4.17 Cretan Greek volunteers wearing French uniforms marching on the island of Lemnos 4.18 An obsolete Krupp 75mm mountain gun firing in Suvla 4.19 The Ottoman 8th Infantry Division officers proudly posing after their successful counter-attack on 10 August 1915 4.20 A regimental colour guard (either the 47th or 48th Regiment) posing on Lone Pine after the Anzac evacuation 5.1 Austro-Hungarian troops marching up Mount Zion to conduct a religious ceremony shortly after their arrival in Jerusalem in 1916 5.2 Cemal Pasha transformed Beersheba into a major logistics base

87 96 98 111 114 122 124 128 130 133 142 145 148 156 162 164 168 177 179 186 188 193 196 214 216

x  Figures 5.3 A destitute family begging for food near a railway station 218 5.4 Ottoman infantry firing their obsolete Martini-Henry rifles in Katia Oasis 225 5.5 The British parading Ottoman prisoners of war on the streets of Alexandria 230 5.6 Ottoman garrison of a fortress in Hejaz 236 5.7 Fahreddin [Türkkan] Pasha and his staff in Medina 238 5.8 Ottoman troops marching under the sun in Yemen 242 5.9 Water tanks of Aden where vicious fighting took place 243 5.10 Ottoman soldiers eating their meal from a single large plate 247 5.11 Ottoman prisoners of war captured during Bait Isa and Es Sinn battles 256 5.12 Enver Pasha delivering a speech during the funeral of Colmar von der Goltz in İstanbul 258 5.13 Russian encampment somewhere in Eastern Anatolia 262 5.14 Russian soldiers proudly showing captured Ottoman colours most probably belonging to fortress artillery regiments 268 5.15 The new commanding general of the Third Army, Vehib [Kaçi] Pasha, with his staff 272 5.16 The soldiers of Second Army marching on mountain paths of Eastern Anatolia 277 6.1 Ottoman machine-gunners posing with their 7.65mm Maxim MG09 machine-gun 284 6.2 Kress von Kressenstein inspecting an Ottoman infantry regiment287 6.3 An Austro-Hungarian howitzer firing within cactus hedges in Gaza 289 6.4 Troopers of the Ottoman 3rd Cavalry Division resting after a combat action somewhere near Gaza 298 6.5 Ottoman soldiers and Arab tribal warriors at a train station in Palestine 302 6.6 Ottoman field bakery at Tel al-Sharia 306 6.7 Erich von Falkenhayn and Yıldırım Army Group staff officers 309 6.8 Enver Pasha awarding an officer with a medal in front of his unit; at the right is Mustafa Kemal Pasha 311 6.9 Soldiers of the Ottoman 16th Division in Hareira fortified position 317 6.10 British soldiers investigating the damage of a damaged water well and pump 322 6.11 British soldiers burying the dead bodies of the Ottoman storm troopers who were killed in action during a failed raid in Tell al Ful 326 6.12 Members of a labour battalion having a break during road construction328

Figures  xi 6.13 Construction of boats for the Yıldırım’s fanciful Baghdad expedition in a military workshop in Aleppo 6.14 Ottoman soldiers around a campfire near their bell tents 6.15 Ottoman ski-equipped reconnaissance unit conducting training with dogs 6.16 Yasin Hilmi (better known as Yasin al Hashimi) and the multinational staff of the Ottoman 20th Division in Galicia 6.17 Ottoman flame-thrower squad in Rohatyn training ground 6.18 Ottoman infantry digging trenches near a Romanian town 6.19 Ottoman, Bulgarian and German officers discussing the situation at a tactical command post somewhere in Western Thrace 7.1 Enver Pasha (second from right) and Hans von Seeckt (wearing spiked helmet) during a trip in Germany 7.2 Ottoman mule and camel drivers waiting for the arrival of a train 7.3 Ottoman crew of a Krupp 15cm short howitzer 7.4 German pilots and technicians in front of an Albatross fighter plane 7.5 British armoured cars outflanking and capturing Ottoman soldiers 7.6 An Ottoman mountain artillery battery in Gyumri

334 336 341 345 346 349 354 362 364 371 381 387 408

Maps

2.1 3.1 3.2 3.3 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 5.1

Army Corps recruitment zones The Ottoman fronts and railway lines Mesopotamia theatre of operations Sarıkamış Campaign Suez Canal Campaign The Ottoman defence of Dardanelles Strait The Ottoman Fifth Army defence on 24 April 1915 Caucasus and Persia theatres of operations Arabian Peninsula tribal zones of influence and the Hejaz railway line 6.1 The Ottoman Gaza–Beersheba defence line

59 72 77 93 117 151 159 203 234 292

Preface

The First World War brought unimaginable misery, death and destruction to all belligerent nations and even some neutral countries such as Iran. Rather than a short, decisive conflict, the warring nations faced a long, protracted conflagration. Some states and regions were more affected by the conflict than others and, without a doubt, the Ottoman Empire was among them. The words used to refer to the First World War in the former provinces of the empire (in Turkish, Harb-i Umumi [the Great War]; in Arabic, Safar Barlik [the mobilisation]) mean not only death and destruction on a grand scale but also the end of the old world and the beginning of a radical transformation. Not surprisingly, the war was regarded as a dark chapter in the national history which many later sought to forget. Indeed, veterans of the First World War found limited interest in their experiences in their hometowns. A sizeable percentage had spent time as prisoners of war and returned quietly with immense feelings of shame. Arab veterans in particular discovered to their dismay that, in order to find a place within the new states of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon under British or French mandates, their best option was to remain silent. While the successor states struggled to remain viable both politically and economically, their historians attempted to write tailor-made histories that accorded with new nationalist requirements. They needed to create a new national identity to replace imperial, religious and local identities and allegiances. For the governing elite of the new Turkish Republic, the history of the War of Independence (1919–1922) was far more significant in terms of establishing the legitimacy, credibility and popularity of the new nationalist and republican regime. A historical narrative of the nation and country that rejected the late Ottoman heritage and severed cultural and religious connections with the Muslim world was needed to meet the ideological and political requirements of the new nation. Indeed, multinationalism and the multi-religious state were major elements of the Ottoman identity which were now regarded as impediments to the new republic and future reforms. In short, the new country and the new political system required a new history which would differ in every respect from the age-old imperial history. Accordingly, the First World War demonstrated the failure of the multinational Ottoman imperial regime and, in its place, a completely new nation with strong links to Anatolia was born from the blood spilt in the War of Independence. Only

xiv  Preface after this sacrifice and victory was Turkish nationhood established in Anatolia – in similar fashion to the foundation narratives of many modern Western nations. For the Arab successor states, the task was easier. Their historians blithely labelled the four-century-long Ottoman rule a ‘dark age’ and the First World War a brutal and bloody end to the Ottoman yoke. These nationalistic interpretations of the Ottoman Empire as a whole, and the First World War in particular, have created a very simplistic and ideological understanding which ignores the historical evidence and shapes facts according to political needs. The Western historiography of the First World War, on the other hand has, for too long, ignored the so-called peripheral campaigns of the war. With all the attention devoted to the battles on the Western Front, too little has been said about other theatres of war. Moreover, what has been written about the war outside France is often dated and/or uncritical battle narrative. The Ottoman Empire has received merely sporadic attention, the chief exceptions being the Gallipoli Campaign and Lawrence of Arabia. Apart from these two hugely popular topics, the volumes of the British official military history, personal war narratives and contemporary journalistic publications have remained the only works available to serious readers.1 Admittedly, language difficulties and problems accessing Turkish archives have also played an important part in preventing interested historians engaging in serious research. Fortunately, the centenary of the First World War and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East (particularly the rise of militant radical Islam) have effectively ended the silence that has prevailed for so long. The number of popular and scholarly books with titles that refer to the First World War and the Middle East is increasing each year. Neglected battles and their forgotten warriors, previously shrouded in mystery and myth, are finally receiving well-deserved attention. Moreover, the centenary has inspired the popular imagination and provoked discussions not only of battles and generals, but also of individuals, family histories and, most importantly, the need to come to terms with the war and its legacy. Yet, while these are exciting developments, as late Sir Michael Howard points out, “the Ottoman Empire was a major actor on the European scene whose role we have not yet considered”.2 Unlike other armies of the war, even very basic information is not readily available and mistakes are common, such as confusing the three Cemal Pashas of Syria. Likewise, the war waged on the Ottoman fronts was not the series of humiliating defeats some modern scholars have suggested. It seems obvious that those who truly seek to understand the Ottoman Army should consult Turkish sources, including archives, personal war narratives, official military histories and other secondary publications. Yet most historians are happy to limit themselves to Western documents, official histories or period publications, using these uncritically, ignoring the fact that they were often written by

1 Maurice Larcher’s La Guerre Turk dans la Guerre Mondiale is the sole exception. 2 Michael Howard, The First World War: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002, p. 43.

Preface  xv biased authors under the conditions of war or in post-war eras with limited access to crucial sources. Surprisingly, important books (some of which are part of the official military history series) and articles written by the German veterans of the Ottoman fronts (known in German as Deutscher Asienkämpfer) have also shared the same fate of general neglect (apart from the readily accessible English translations of von Sanders and Kannengiesser). These Turkish and German sources have been largely ignored or mentioned only in passing. Some modern authors blithely write that they made use of Turkish sources when they have merely consulted a few Turkish documents or published works. One general excuse – in addition to problems of access to the Turkish military archives – is that the Ottomans did not leave behind written accounts. One of the most established stereotypes is that of the brave but illiterate Ottoman officers and soldiers. British military historian A.H. Burne, for example, voices the frustrations of many in his book on the Mesopotamia Campaign when he laments, “it is unfortunate that the Turks have left us so few records of a war which they have no reason to be ashamed, for us to study”.3 This view argues that Ottoman military personnel simply did not possess the tradition, culture and literary background to record their military experiences in war narratives such as diaries, journals and letters. The illiteracy of a large percentage of the Ottoman peasant soldiers may seem to reinforce the validity of this view, but the officer and professional non-­commissioned officer (NCO) corps was a different matter entirely. Surely these men were sufficiently literate to keep diaries or write some sort of personal narratives. In fact, in this respect, the Ottoman officers and NCOs had a significant advantage over their British and French counterparts. Instead of forbidding or discouraging them, Ottoman military authorities actively encouraged their men to record their combat experiences. The new infantry manual of 1909/1325 (Piyade Talimnamesi), the officers’ handbook of 1916/1332 (Zabitin Harb Çantası) and the infantry soldier’s handbook of 1913/1329 (Piyade Neferi) advised junior officers and NCOs to keep small journals (muhtıra) in their pockets and take notes on important events and orders. Most officers took this advice quite literally and noted their personal issues and feelings as an adjunct to recording these events. In addition to keeping small journals, a percentage of officers (particularly generals and field grade officers) made copies of important orders, messages and replies. Some of them even retained personal copies of official war diaries. Regrettably, a sizeable percentage of these personal war narratives and papers were lost during the final months of the war. Many officers and soldiers perished during a series of disastrous battles, while thousands of others were taken prisoner after the final rout. Most of their personal papers were either destroyed or ­captured – indeed, British and Russian military authorities destroyed almost all the documents they captured during or after the war.4 However, despite this calamity,

3 A.H. Burne, Mesopotamia: The Last Phase, 2nd edition, Gale & Polden, Aldershot, 1938, p. 111. 4 However, it is still possible to find some remnants, as a recent thesis clearly shows the merits of an extensive research. A graduate student recently found a diary of a junior Ottoman officer within the

xvi  Preface thousands of war narratives and personal papers survived the war and more than 300 of these have already been published. In fact, current research suggests that those Ottoman personal war narratives already published are merely the tip of the iceberg. There are still many narratives in private collections, archives and libraries waiting to be discovered or released for publication. However, most Western historians remain unaware of this substantial body of literature which therefore remains untapped, apart from a few well-known titles. Another important but underutilised source is the Turkish official military history series. Contrary to common perception, there exists not one but three military history series. The first series was commenced during the war when Enver Pasha assigned a small group of officers to write an official military history of the Gallipoli Campaign well prior to the Allied evacuation of the peninsula, so as to direct the discussion. The group began work in the heat of the war, producing the draft volume on the naval phase for internal use in 1916.5 During the Armistice and the War of Independence, more volumes were published as introductions or drafts for definitive works.6 Thanks to the efforts of the British official military historians, some of these titles have been translated into English and are accessible from the National Archives, Kew or the Imperial Military Museum collections. In 1925, the newly re-established Erkânı Harbiye-i Umumiye Tarih-i Harb Dairesi (Turkish General Staff War History Directorate) harnessed these early works by tasking selected veterans to write different parts of the official military history of the First World War. The Directorate’s aim was to blend personal war experiences with archival documents in a similar fashion to the German die Slachten des Weltkrieges series. At the same time, the Chief of the General Staff, Field Marshal Fevzi [Çakmak], encouraged officers – both serving and retired – to record their war experiences by providing various incentives and outlets for publication, including military presses and journals. The Askeri Mecmua (Military Journal) became the mainstay of official history writing and discussions through publication of official history volumes as an annex to its issues while also publishing a number of historical articles. Publication of these so-called Pink Series (named because of the colour of their covers) ended abruptly in 1946. During this brief period (just over 20 years), more than 100 books and hundreds of articles were published, although only one was translated into English.

holdings of Imperial War Museum. See Leo Gough, Fighting a Different War: An Ottoman Cavalry Officer’s Diary Captured in Mesopotamia in 1918, Oxford University Unpublished Thesis. 5 Hafız Cemil et.al., Harbi Umumide Osmanlı Tarihi Harbi: Çanakkale Muharebatı (Müsvedde Halindedir), Harbiye Nezareti, İstanbul, 1332 [1916]. 6 For some examples of this series see Süleymaniyeli Mehmed Emin, Cihan Harbinde Osmanlı Harekâtı Tarihçesi: Cüz 1 Çanakkale Muharebatı, Matbaa-i Askeriye, Dersaadet, 1338 [1922]; Selahaddin Adil, Harbi Umumi’de Çanakkale Muharebâtı Bahriyesi, Erkân-ı Harbiye Mektebi Matbaası, İstanbul, 1336 [1920]; İzzeddin Çalışlar, Burhaneddin, Harbi Umumi’de Çanakkale Muharebâtı Berriyesi Arıburnu Şimal Grubu Harekâtı, Erkân-ı Harbiye Mektebi Matbaası, İstanbul, 1336 [1920]; Celaleddin Germiyanoğlu, Harbi Umumi’de Çanakkale Muharebâtı Berriyesi Kumkale Muharebatı, Erkân-ı Harbiye Mektebi Matbaası, İstanbul, 1336 [1920].

Preface  xvii Ten years later, the War History Directorate tasked retired Lieutenant General Fahri Belen to write a new concise official military history of the First World War in five volumes. Although largely forgotten, Belen’s volumes (published between 1964 and 1967) established a dominant narrative and style for the Turkish official military history of the First World War.7 While Belen’s final volumes were still in the military press on their way to publication, the War History Directorate launched its first major project – the official military history of the First World War. The narrative of the war, following the French example, was divided across ten tomes which dealt with the various battle fronts and services, and a large group of retired officers (most from the General Staff branch) who could read Ottoman script was assigned as authors or researchers. Each tome was divided into several parts and given to small groups of authors. The Directorate was reorganised as the Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etüdler Başkanlığı (Military History and Strategy Directorate, commonly known by its acronym ATASE)8 in 1978. The final volumes of the Turkish official history of the First World War (known as the ‘White Series’ and consisting of 17 volumes in total) were published in 2002. Yet, in similar fashion to Turkish personal war narratives, most Western historians are aware only of the White Series and not the previous series. This book describes the operational military history of the Ottoman Army and its military effectiveness during the First World War, and is built on the huge Turkish war literature of official histories, personal war narratives and secondary works. I have also used Turkish and British archival sources, published document collections, Western official military histories (chiefly British but also German, French and Russian), personal war narratives and secondary works as a means of comparison. I have attempted as far as possible to simplify the enormous complexities of the campaigns and make them readily comprehensible while, at the same time, preserving the vibrant colours and diversity of a multinational empire fighting a global war. I  have paid special attention to the provision of essential information, dealt with persistent myths and mistakes, and thrown light on neglected topics. However, in an effort to control the size of this book, I have been compelled to summarise far more than I would personally have liked. The plan of the book is simple. Apart from the first two chapters and the last, each chapter is arranged chronologically and geographically. However, dividing the story of the war in this manner does impose some artificiality due to the simultaneous nature of events and the movement of units and key commanders from one front to another and, in case of Persia, for which responsibility frequently changed hands, between the Caucasus and Mesopotamia fronts. Moreover, unlike its allies, the Ottomans had to fight on multitude of fronts. Although the Ottoman Army was principally engaged on two fronts: in the east (Caucasus Front) against Russia and in the south against Britain (Palestine-Syria and Mesopotamia

7 Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi, 5 vols, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1964–67. 8 Nurcan Fidan and Alev Keskin, Genelkurmay Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etüt (ATASE) Başkanlığı Tarihi (1916–1998), Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1999, pp. 1–10.

xviii  Preface fronts), for nearly a year between March 1915 and January 1916, the Gallipoli Front became the most important war effort. Ottoman units also fought in Hejaz, Asir, Yemen and Iran. Despite the multitude of big and small fronts (eight fronts in the summer of 1915) and their overall immense pressure on the Ottoman war effort, the General Staff despatched three corps-size expeditionary forces to help its allies, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, in 1916. I found the writing of this book immensely self-educating but also a tiring and difficult journey. The University of New South Wales, Canberra, provided me wonderful working conditions and financial support for five years and I  would like to express my gratitude to the Rector, Professor Michael Frater, the former Head of School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor David Lovell and to the late Professor Jeffrey Grey. Jeff played an important role in recruiting me for this position and supported me all the time. It is pity that he did not live to see the publication of this book. Living in Australia created difficulties for me in accessing Turkish libraries and recent publications. My friends and family members provided enormous assistance in overcoming this considerable difficulty. I would like to thank them all, in particular Professors Gültekin Yıldız and Ahmet Özcan for answering my frequent requests for books and articles which went well above and beyond their obligations as friends. Dr. Barış Borlat and Utkan Emre Er skilfully drew the maps. I have had the wonderful opportunity to discuss various aspects of the Ottoman Army and its rivals with several distinguished scholars and I am extremely grateful to them all, particularly late Professor Stanford J. Shaw, Brigadier Chris Roberts (retd), Professors Hew Strachan, Edward J. Erickson and Peter Stanley. Cathy McCullagh deserves special mention for her valiant efforts in editing and correcting my written English. Finally, I would like to acknowledge my substantial debt to my wife İlkay and my daughter Dilara, who travelled to Australia with me and stoically shouldered the burden of an ever-absent husband/father. Without their support and encouragement, I do not think I could ever have finished writing this book. Naturally, any errors of fact or interpretation are entirely my own responsibility. I note that the help provided by these organisations and individuals does not mean they will necessarily agree with my conclusions.

A note on transliteration

As a general rule, modern Turkish spelling has been employed throughout the text for the sake of clarity and simplicity. Words that have well-known English forms such as ‘pasha’ and ‘sheikh’ are written accordingly. It is very difficult to be simple and consistent in the transliteration of place names because of frequent nationalist campaigns in which new names have been assigned by successor states and given the Western preference for using classical forms. I have preferred to refer to place names using their established Ottoman forms (generally giving the modern form in parentheses), although those familiar to Western readers have been given their English forms. Surnames, introduced in 1934, are provided in square brackets where considered necessary. The term ‘Ottoman’ is preferred over ‘Turk’, ‘Turkish’ or ‘Turkey’ since it more accurately encapsulates the multinational, multi-religious and multicultural empire that once ruled over such a vast area.

1 Prelude to war

Historical background When the Ottoman reformers – known by Europeans at that time as the ‘Young Turks’1 – forced Sultan Abdülhamid II to restore the constitution and reopen ­Parliament on 24 July 1908 or face a relentless campaign of military mutinies and unrest, Ottoman intellectuals and the general public believed they were ­witnessing the beginning of a new age of peace and prosperity.2 They were to be disappointed. The great powers of Europe and the countries that bordered the vast Ottoman Empire were not swept by the same optimism, regarding these developments as marking the prime time to advance their territorial and political aims, lest a reinvigorated Ottoman government pose a threat to their colonial empires.3 Writing at the time, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey observed that, if Turkey really establishes a constitution, and keeps it on its feet, and becomes strong herself, the consequences will reach further than any of us can yet foresee. The effects in Egypt will be tremendous and will itself be felt in India. . . . If there is a Turkish Constitution in good working order and things are going well in Turkey, and we are engaged in suppressing by force and shooting a rising in Egypt of people who demand a constitution too, the position will be very awkward.4

 1 For the history of the late Ottoman reform movements see Şükrü Hanioğlu, Preparation for a Revolution: The Young Turks, 1902–1908, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001; Feroz Ahmad, The Young Turks: The Committee of Union and Progress in Turkish Politics 1908–14, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1969; Ernest E. Ramsaur, The Young Turks: Prelude to the Revolution of 1908, Khayats, Beirut, 1965.  2 Hanioğlu, Preparation for a Revolution, pp. 273–278.  3 Joseph Heller, British Policy Towards the Ottoman Empire, Frank Cass, London, 1983, pp. 9–16, 19–22, 29; L. Bruce Fulton, “France and the End of the Ottoman Empire”, in (ed.) Marian Kent, The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, Frank Cass, London, 1983, pp. 141, 156– 159, 166; R.J.B. Bosworth, “Italy and the End of the Ottoman Empire”, in (ed.) Marian Kent, The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, pp. 57–60; C. Jay Smith Jr., The Russian Struggle for Power 1914–1917: A Study of Russian Foreign Policy during the First World War, 2nd printing, Greenwood Press, New York, 1969, pp. 63–64.  4 Dispatch from Sir Edward Grey to Sir Gerard Lowther (British ambassador in Constantinople), 31 July 1908. G.P. Gooch and H. Temperley (eds.), British Documents on the Origins of the War

2  Prelude to war

Figure 1.1 Ottoman officers proudly showing their armlets as a support to the constitution.

The search for a new era of peace and prosperity was not confined to Turkey, with the autonomous princedom of Bulgaria proclaiming independence on 5 October.5 However, the Austro-Hungarian Empire moved to curtail this spirit of independence, annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina on 6 October, thus formalising a supervisory role over the two provinces of the Ottoman Empire that had lasted almost 30 years.6 On 17 October, the island of Crete also appeared to dampen the flames of independence within its citizenry with its proclamation of union with Greece.7 Within the Ottoman Empire, the French constitutional formula of liberty, equality and fraternity inspired the populace into several months of joyful mass 1898–1914, vol. 5, His Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO), London, 1928, [hereafter, British Documents], p. 2.  5 Hasan Ünal, “Ottoman Policy During the Bulgarian Independence Crisis, 1908–9: Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria at the Outset of the Young Turk Revolution”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 34, no. 4, October 1998, pp. 140–150.   6 Bernadotte E. Schmitt, The Annexation of Bosnia, 1908–1909, England University Press, Cambridge, 1937, pp. 35–47.   7 Theodore P. Ion, “The Cretan Question”, The American Journal of International Law, vol. 4, no. 2, April 1910, pp. 278–284. The Ottoman attempts to gain the support of the Great Powers and some Balkan states failed miserably. See Ünal, “Ottoman Policy”, pp. 150–156, 162–167.

Prelude to war  3 demonstrations and public speeches of goodwill which presented colourful stories for digestion by the Western newspapers. Ultimately, however, the so-called grand revolution of the constitution served only to enlarge the fault lines and fractures between different ethnic, communal and religious groups inherent in such a vast empire.8 When the pace of progress did not meet inflated expectations, political radicalism and frustration took hold, exacerbating many of the existing problems of the empire.9 Civilian and military reformers had established a secret organisation, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP or İttihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti), as early as 1889. However, they did not consider it sufficiently mature and capable of governing the empire at this stage, ruling out a coup d’état in favour of retaining the status quo while attempting to influence the government from behind the scenes.10 The organisation continued to increase in strength and prominence until, by 1908, the CUP was sufficiently well known as a reformist organisation to be identified as a likely scapegoat for any expressions of discontent. The first serious unrest occurred on 13 April 1909 (better known as 31 March Incident due to the old Rumi calendar date) with a mutiny staged by several disgruntled military units. The 3rd and 4th Light Infantry (avcı) battalions, brought from Macedonia to İstanbul to protect the new regime, now mutinied against it, their ranks bolstered by the 2nd Battalion which joined the revolt later in the day.11 The mutiny took the government by surprise, the mutineers facing no more than token resistance from the local gendarmerie. Their success encouraged other dissidents, chief among them theology students (suhte) and recently purged rankers (alaylı). The soldiers opposed the imposition of wide-ranging military reforms and resented the growing political power of the academically trained young officers (mektebli). The rallying cry of the mutineers was the re-establishment of Islamic law (Sharia). They vowed loyalty to the sultan and lobbied for the government to be dismissed. The reigning party’s ineffectual and feeble response provided

 8 “Turkey: Joyful Demonstrations”, The Scotsman, 28 July 1908, p. 7; “New Year in Turkey: Remarkable Outburst of Pro-British Feeling”, The Manchester Guardian, 28 July 1908, p. 7.  9 G.F. Abbott, Turkey in Transition, Edward Arnold, London, 1909, pp. 77–103, 177–199. 10 Hanioğlu, Preparation for a Revolution, pp. 279–284; M. Naim Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks: Politics, the Military and Ottoman Collapse, I.B. Tauris, London, 2000, pp. 146–151; Handan Nezir Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to World War I, I.B. Tauris, London, 2005, pp. 57–60, 87–89. 11 The avcı battalions were founded following the Macedonian revolt of Ilinden in 1903 to conduct counter-insurgency operations. All members of the battalions were specially selected based on their physical and mental capability and their loyalty to the regime. As counter-insurgency troops, they achieved remarkable results in a very short time, but also became a refuge for military opposition to the Abdülhamid regime. Not surprisingly, they played a crucial role during the constitution mutinies. See Kazım Karabekir, İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti 1896–1909, Türdav Ofset, İstanbul, 1982, pp. 202, 448–449; Mustafa Turan, Taşkışla’da 31 Mart, Aykurt Neşriyat, İstanbul, 1964, pp. 59–68.

4  Prelude to war

Figure 1.2 Soldiers of the Army of Action positioning a Maxim MG99 gun on the Galata Bridge during the 31 March Incident.

further encouragement,12 and some of the provincial garrisons in Anatolia also joined the uprising.13 Mobs attacked Armenians in Adana and the Cilicia region, sparking bloody inter-communal fighting.14 12 Dispatch from Sir Gerard Lowther to Sir Edward Grey, 20 April 1909, British Documents, vol. 5, pp. 313–318; Victor R. Swenson, “The Military Rising in Istanbul 1909”, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 5, no. 4, 1970, pp. 172–180; David Farhi, “The Şeriat as a Political Slogan: Or the Incident of the 31st Mart”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 7, no. 3, October 1971, pp. 275–277, 280–289; Karabekir, İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti, pp. 425–444; W.M. Ramsay, The Revolution in Constantinople and Turkey: A Diary, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1909, pp. 60–61, 106–112; Abbott, Turkey in Transition, pp. 200–210; Celal Bayar, Ben de Yazdım: Milli Mücadele’ye Gidiş, vol. 1, Baha Matbaası, İstanbul, 1965, pp. 141–154, 164–166. 13 Ziya Yergök, Harbiye’den Dersim’e, (ed.) Sami Önal, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 2006, pp. 210– 222; Behiç Erkin, Hatırat 1876–1958, (ed.) Ali Birinci, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2010, pp. 86–87; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 1, pp. 159–163. 14 Meltem Toksöz, “Adana Ermenileri ve 1909 İğtişaşı”, in İmparatorluğun Çöküş Döneminde Osmanlı Ermenileri: Bilimsel Sorumluluk ve Demokrasi Sorunları, Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, İstanbul, 2011, pp. 155–161; Yücel Güçlü, Armenians and the Allies in Cilicia 1914–1923, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2010, pp. 40–49; Bedross Der Matossian, “From Bloodless Revolution to Bloody Counterrevolution: The Massacres of 1909”, Genocide Studies and Prevention, vol. 6, no. 2, Summer 2011, pp. 156–164.

Prelude to war  5 The CUP leadership reacted decisively to the unrest by mobilising loyal military units in Macedonia. The ‘Army of Action’ (Hareket Ordusu), which consisted of two reserve divisions and hordes of volunteers (ranging from Macedonian revolutionaries to Albanian bandits), suppressed the counter-revolutionary uprising in İstanbul on 24 April, then moved to the provinces to quash any overt expressions of dissent.15 The decisive response to the uprisings energised and to a certain extent radicalised the CUP leadership, particularly the young officers who increasingly regarded themselves as a form of Praetorian Guard. While they hankered to unseat the political old guard that filled the ranks of the government, they lacked a powerful central figure who could provide charismatic leadership at this time of fluctuating circumstance. Fate was to mock them with the emergence of Mahmud Şevket Pasha.16 Mahmud Şevket Pasha had never been a member of the CUP, but had managed to gain the support of the party’s military wing. He attracted a popular following and quickly began to exert his own form of charismatic dominance over the government. Paradoxically, while attempting to keep the army out of politics, he also created the necessary base for a military dictatorship. The first victim of this policy change was Abdülhamid II, who was forced to abdicate and replaced by a very complaint and weak sultan, Mehmed V.17 For the first time in decades, the military leadership found itself free from interference by the sultan and his court which traditionally dabbled in military affairs. However, the Ministry of War was crippled by political instability characterised by a continual succession of ministers each serving for short periods of time. At the same time, the military was enjoying a period of uncharacteristic stability with the unbroken tenure of Ahmed İzzet [Furgaç] Pasha, who remained chief of the General Staff during the turbulent period from 1908–1914. As a consequence, the General Staff became the sole authority on military affairs, willingly assuming most of the duties of the Ministry. In doing so it also ensured its independence from political control. Ahmed İzzet Pasha further extended the reach of the General Staff by improving its efficiency and streamlining its bureaucracy. Its complex structure was simplified, the number of departments and bureaus consolidated into five new functional departments (training,

15 Swenson, “The Military Rising in Istanbul”, pp. 180–183; Farhi, “The Şeriat as a Political Slogan”, pp. 289–291; Karabekir, İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti, pp. 444–463; Ramsay, The Revolution in Constantinople, pp. 136, 138, 174–175, 206–208; Abbott, Turkey in Transition, pp. 211–277; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 1, pp. 204–264; Celal Bayar, Ben de Yazdım: Milli Mücadele’ye Gidiş, vol. 2, Baha Matbaası, İstanbul, 1966, pp. 329–346, 359–363; Zekeriya Türkmen, Harekat Ordusu ve Kurmay Yüzbaşı Mustafa Kemal, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1999, pp. 9–44. 16 Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks, pp. 163, 167; Abbott, Turkey in Transition, pp. 285–294. 17 Fatih Tetik, Meşrutiyet Sarayı’nın Çelebi Padişahı Sultan V. Mehmed Reşad’ın Hayatı, TBMM Basımevi, Ankara, 2017, pp. 25–36; Swenson, “The Military Rising in Istanbul”, pp. 183–184; Farhi, “The Şeriat as a Political Slogan”, pp. 290–294; Ramsay, The Revolution in Constantinople, pp. 120–126, 133–137; Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey, pp. 93–94.

6  Prelude to war intelligence, mobilisation, topography and correspondence) and staff specialisation encouraged.18 The military reorganisation of 1909–1910 was the brainchild of Ahmed İzzet Pasha. Under his reform programme, the general unit structure changed ­significantly to embrace a new triangular division concept. This concept involved replacing the square divisional structure (two brigades each with two regiments) with a division comprising three regiments each with three battalions, which eliminated both brigade headquarters and a regiment. While the number of regiments in each division was reduced, combat strength was preserved because command and ­control was more effective. This was an innovative concept born of German-Ottoman military cooperation. The Ottoman military would be the first to incorporate this novel concept into its organisation,19 and its advantages would be clearly demonstrated throughout the First World War.20 The introduction of triangular divisions initiated a chain reaction, and army corps headquarters were established (also triangular and each with three divisions and additional support units) on 8 January 1911. Previously the term ‘army corps’ had been used for two or three divisional groups without a permanent corps staff. There was little need for large field army headquarters, which were unwieldy and already obsolete. Instead, field army inspectorates, which were leaner and focused only on operational issues, were created. However, neither Ahmed İzzet Pasha nor his fellow General Staff officers paid sufficient attention to the personnel, doctrinal and technical issues related to these drastic reforms. Problems such as the manning of new staff positions, the introduction of combat support and combat service support systems, the writing of new operational and tactical doctrines, the creation of lines of communication and the assignment of responsibilities were all but ignored.21 The reorganisation also initiated a broad-ranging and systematic purge of officers.22 The CUP and the General Staff decided to rid the army of the unruly alaylı officers and the protégés of the former regime. While political priorities and loyalties were certainly instrumental in this decision, in military terms, it was the realisation of a decade-long discussion over how to create a homogeneous and

18 Ahmet İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1992, pp. 44–48; İhsan Hün, Osmanlı Ordusunda Genelkurmayın Ne Suretle Teşekkül Ettiği ve Geçirdiği Safhalar, Genelkurmay Başkanlığı Basımevi, İstanbul, 1952, p. 87. 19 İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, p. 49; Edward J. Erickson, Defeat in Detail: The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912–1913, Praeger, Westport, 2003, p. 27. 20 Jonathan M. House, Toward Combined Arms Warfare, US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, 1985, pp. 9–13, 40–42. 21 “Annual Report on Turkey for the Year 1911”, in David Gillard (ed.), British Documents on Foreign Affairs, Part 1, Series B, vol. 20, University Publications of America, Frederick, 1985, pp. 323–324; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 49–59; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 25–33; Selahattin Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi (1908–1920), vol. 3, Section 6, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1971, pp. 139–144, 146–159. 22 A parallel operation was carried out within the civilian bureaucracy. Reorganisation committees (tenkisat komisyonları) conducted merciless purges and effected enormous reductions in staff.

Prelude to war  7

Figure 1.3 A field artillery battery armed with 75mm Krupp L/30 M1903 posing for the public after the end of a large military exercise in 1910.

capable officer corps. Initially, tens – and later, hundreds – of alaylıs were purged on the basis of their role in counter-revolutionary uprisings, and the enormous benefits of the alaylı system were lost.23 However military education flourished as a result of this purge. New military schools were opened and the curriculum was substantially modernised. Cadets spent more time in the application of theoretical lessons and, for the first time, formations above battalion level began to conduct realistic field manoeuvres and firing exercises using modern tactics. The rank and file soldiers were overjoyed to finally use the modern weapons and equipment that had been locked in depots for years by the paranoid Abdülhamid. Command post exercises and staff rides became the most important duties of the divisional and corps staffs.24 The administration and the General Staff sought not only to enlarge the pool of manpower, but also to use compulsory military service as an instrument of integration. As a consequence, on 7 August 1909, non-Muslim male citizens officially lost their exemption from conscription. Other exemptions based on geography

23 “Berri ve Bahri Erkân ve Zabitanın Tekaüdü için Tayin Olunan Sinleri Hakkında Kanun”, 13 Haziran 1325 (1909); “Tasfiye-i Rütbe-i Askeriye Kanunu”, 25 Temmuz 1325 (1909), Düstur, vol. 1, Matbuat-ı Osmaniye, Dersaadet, 1329, pp.  324, 421–427; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp. 185–192. 24 Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp. 387–422; Erkin, Hatırat, pp. 82–84.

8  Prelude to war and profession were also abolished. While most of the non-Muslim parliamentarians supported this reform, their communities were far less appreciative. They were unhappy at the loss of what they regarded as a traditional exemption and most (with the notable exception of the Jews) believed that the new regulations undermined their ethnic loyalties. Most Christian communities tried to prevent or resist the census and consequent registration for military service. Hundreds fled to foreign countries, and passport applications reached record levels. Nevertheless, by the end of 1910, recruitment officials had conscripted more than two-thirds of eligible non-Muslim citizens into the army.25 As the CUP consolidated its power and expanded its military and civil reforms, growing disillusionment and dissatisfaction produced an escalation in political unrest and ethnic violence. The existence of a strong, centralised state had been crucial in controlling regional leaders and maintaining stability in the unruly provinces at the extreme edges of the empire, which now began to rebel one after the other. While the smaller rebellions were quelled by local garrisons, they were powerless to quash the larger revolts. A reinforced divisional group led personally by the Chief of General Staff, Ahmed İzzet Pasha, and comprising 29 crack battalions from the First, Second and Third armies was hastily despatched to Yemen to quell a major rebellion led by Imam Yahya in February 1911.26 However, the largest and most dangerous uprising erupted in Kosovo and Macedonia, provinces which were the birthplaces of the military wing of the CUP.27 The Albanian ethnic leaders and nationalists who had fervently supported the CUP at the outset now became its bitter enemies. Albanian rebels sought more autonomy and recognition of Albanian nationhood and were bloodily suppressed by two large expeditionary forces – Cevat Pasha’s detachment in December 1909 and Şevket Turgut Pasha’s detachment in April 1910. These heavy-handed stability operations alienated not only the local population, but also the Albanian officers and units.28 Sultan Mehmed V visited provincial centres in Salonika, Üsküb (Skopje), Monastir (Bitola) and 25 “Anasır-ı Gayri Müslimenin Kuraları Hakkında Kanun”, 25 Temmuz 1325 (1909), Düstur, vol. 1, Matbuat-ı Osmaniye, Dersaadet, 1329, p. 420; Ufuk Gülsoy, Osmanlı Gayrimüslimlerinin Askerlik Serüveni, Simurg, İstanbul, 2000, pp. 127–160; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp. 232– 236; Eyal Ginio, “El Dover el Mas Santo: The Mobilization of the Ottoman Jewish Population during the Balkan Wars (1912–13)”, in (eds.) H. Grandits, N. Clayer and R. Pichler, Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans: The Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire and Nation-Building, I.B. Tauris, London, 2011, pp. 162–173. 26 “Annual Report on Turkey for the Year 1911”, “British Documents on Foreign Affairs”, pp. 324–325, 337–338; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 90–97; John Baldry, “al-Yaman and the Turkish Occupation 1849–1914”, Arabica, tome 23, fasc. 2, June 1976, pp. 185–187; Caesar E. Farah, The Sultan’s Yemen: Nineteenth-Century Challenges to Ottoman Rule, I.B. Tauris, London, 2002, pp. 258–270. 27 Hanioğlu, Preparing for a Revolution, pp. 255–258, 273. 28 Dispatch from Major Tyrrell to Sir Gerard Lowther, 3 May 1911; Gillard, “Annual Report on Turkey for the Year 1911”; “Declaration by the Albanian Provisional Government”; Gillard, “Annual Report on Turkey for the Year 1911”, pp. 273–276, 295–296, 325–326, 334–336, 364–367, 390– 394; James N. Tallon, The Failure of Ottomanism: The Albanian Rebellions of 1909–1912, University of Chicago Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 2012, pp. 87–88, 94–95, 106–107, 128–141, 148–175; George Gawrych, The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman Rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913, I.B. Tauris, London, 2006, pp. 158–161, 176–181; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 77–81;

Prelude to war  9 Priştina in June 1911 as an act of goodwill, seeking to renew the bonds of loyalty and cement ties with the Albanians, and a general amnesty was declared for those who had taken part in the rebellions. However, these last-­minute efforts achieved little in the way of meaningful results.29 With the Ottoman government distracted by the widening ethnic cracks and increased partisan infighting within the Ottoman officer corps, the Italians launched a surprise attack on the Ottoman provinces of Trablusgarb (Tripoli) and Bingazi (Cyrenaica) – modern Libya. The Italian attack was sanctioned by the great powers of Europe, which sought to capitalise on Ottoman weakness and growing unrest within the empire.30 The Italians had already infiltrated Libya using economic means and were hoping to gradually establish sovereignty over large tracts of Ottoman territory without the need for a major conflict. However, the Italian attack saw war declared on 29 September 1911 followed by the immediate eruption of hostilities, with the Italian Navy bombarding the Ottoman ­Adriatic and Libyan coastline with impunity. Tobruk was conquered on 4 October and Tripoli fell a day later, shortly followed by the remaining coastal cities. Rather than attempting to resist the initial Italian amphibious landing, which would have been futile, the Ottoman 42nd Division moved out of range of the naval guns, leaving their heavy equipment behind.31 Commanding officer Colonel Neşet had little option but to resort to unconventional warfare against the Italian invaders. The Italian military was completely unprepared for this type of war. Small bands of Ottoman soldiers easily infiltrated Italian defensive perimeters and inflicted small but humiliating defeats. The local population was encouraged by these easy victories and began to actively support the Ottoman troops. In turn, heavy-handed Italian tactics which targeted the civilian population rather than the Ottoman fighters proved counter-productive and increased the resentment of the locals and boosted their support for the Ottoman irregulars. The Sanusiyya religious order and hundreds of tribal warriors joined the Ottoman troops in harassing the Italians.32

Tahsin Uzer, Makedonya Eşkiyalık Tarihi ve Son Osmanlı Yönetimi, 2nd printing, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1987, pp. 97–102. 29 Tetik, Meşrutiyet Sarayı’nın Çelebi Padişahı, pp. 61–71; Erik-Jan Zürcher, “Kosovo Revisited: Sultan Reşad’s Macedonian Journey of June 1911”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 35, no. 4, October 1999, pp. 26–28, 34–37. 30 Heller, British Policy, pp. 53–55; T.L.B. O’Neill, British Policy in the Italo-Turkish War, McGill University Unpublished MA Thesis, 1948, pp. 2–3, 19–33. 31 Hamdi Ertuna, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi Osmanlı Devri, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi (1911–1912), Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1981, pp.  124–157, 162–165, 218–219, 224–227; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 1, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1983, pp. 68–98; Rachel Simon, Between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman Involvement in Libya during the War with Italy (1911–1919), Klaus Schwarz Verlag, Berlin, 1987, pp.  47–65; J. Revol, 1911–1912 Türk-İtalyan Harbi (Turkish translation of the French original La Guerre Italo-Turque, 1911–1912), (trans.) Kadri Demirkaya, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1940, pp.  3–27, 36–48, 59–64; David G. Herrmann, “The Paralysis of Italian Strategy in the Italian-Turkish War, 1911–1912”, The English Historical Review, vol. 104, no. 411, April 1989, pp. 333–338. 32 Ertuna, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi, pp. 159–162, 165–213, 219–223; G.F. Abbott, The Holy War in Tripoli, Edward Arnold, London, 1912, pp. 44–62, 115–123; Alan Ostler, The Arabs in Tripoli, John Murray, London, 1912, pp. 55–61, 68–69, 73–82, 168; Angelo Del Boca, Mohamed Fekini

10

Prelude to war

Figure 1.4 Libyan tribal warriors posing with their Ottoman commanders.

In İstanbul, the apparent failure of the CUP-backed government to respond to Italian aggression created a crisis of morale and outbursts of patriotic and religious fervour which prompted many young officers volunteer to fight. The Ottoman General Staff and CUP military committee (without the authorisation and support of the government) selected the best and brightest (including the hero of the constitution Enver and future president of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk]), also choosing other officers from predominantly Arab provinces (including ardent Arab nationalist Aziz al Masri). These officers and other volunteers infiltrated Libya from Egypt or Tunis. The British and French colonial administrations turned a blind eye to the Ottoman trans-border activities, while the locals enthusiastically supported them.33

and the Fight to Free Libya, (trans.) Antony Shugaar, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2011, pp. 20–27; Revol, Türk-İtalyan Harbi, pp. 65–83, 86–99, 104–127. For detailed information on the Sanusiyya order, see E. Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1949, pp. 11–28, 62–89. 33 Ertuna, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi, pp. 214–215, 229, 236, 250; Şükrü Hanioğlu (ed.), Kendi Mektuplarında Enver Paşa, Der Yayınları, İstanbul, 1989, pp. 75–88; Abbott, The Holy War in Tripoli, pp. 8–9, 27, 89–90; Halil Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı Halil Kut Paşa’nın Hatıraları, (ed.) Erhan Çiftci, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 109–114; Eliezer Tauber, The Emergence

Prelude to war  11 The theatre of war was divided into four areas of operation. Regular soldiers, gendarmeries, volunteers and tribal warriors were organised into flexible missionoriented units under the command and control of regular officers. All operations were closely coordinated and integrated under a de facto strategic plan with a simple objective: to wage a long and attritional guerrilla campaign. As veterans of counter-insurgency campaigns themselves, the Ottoman officers were well aware that such a war would be protracted and bloody and that, ultimately, morale would be paramount. They hoped to frustrate and demoralise the Italians by inflicting as many casualties as possible. The Ottomans deliberately did not seek to recapture the coastal cities but chose instead to gradually erode enemy forces, effectively bleeding them dry.34 The unconventional nature of the conflict destabilised the Italian command and staff planners. The Italian commanders had not planned to chase down and destroy Ottoman forces and their local allies, but naïvely waited for the Ottoman surrender following the fall of the port cities. While technologically, the Italian forces were far superior to the Ottomans, armed with the latest instruments of war such as aircraft for reconnaissance and well-equipped artillery forward observers, they stuck obstinately to conventional tactics and techniques despite the mounting cost of the campaign. Following several skirmishes in which they were badly mauled by Ottoman irregulars, the Italian expeditionary forces opted to remain within range of their naval gunnery rather than expand their occupation deep into the hinterland. At the same time, they tightened the naval blockade and sought to close the Egyptian and Tunisian borders through which volunteers, weapons and other materiel were transported. While this created logistic problems for the Ottoman forces, it also allowed them to transform blockades of the Italian-occupied zones into sieges. The confident Ottoman troops and their local allies began to launch bolder and more concentrated night attacks and raids.35 Eventually, the Italian political leadership realised that its expeditionary force would not defeat the Ottoman defenders and conquer the interior of Libya. They now changed strategy and shifted their offensive operations to the core regions of the empire in order to force the Ottoman political leadership to relinquish Libya.

of the Arab Movements, Frank Cass, London, 1993, pp. 217–218; Simon, Between Ottomanism and Nationalism, pp. 10–21, 76; From Ottoman General Staff to High Commissioner in Egypt, 21 October 1911 and 31 October 1911, Askeri Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi [hereafter ATBD], no. 125, June 2010, pp. 3, 15. 34 Ertuna, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi, pp. 171–177, 184–185, 188–213; Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, pp. 75–76, 94–101; Kut, İttihat ve Terakki’den, pp. 97–114. 35 Ertuna, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi, pp.  232, 242–243, 282–349; Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, pp. 103, 106–107, 117–118, 122–127; Abbott, The Holy War in Tripoli, pp. 129–132, 138–144, 160–161, 205–207, 212–221, 256–258, 290–295; Ostler, The Arabs in Tripoli, 196–208; W.H. Beehlar, The History of the Italian-Turkish War, September  29, 1911 to October  18, 1912, The Advertiser-Republican, Annapolis, 1913, pp. 31–36, 48–54, 64–66, 70–71, 83–86; Herrmann, “The Paralysis of Italian Strategy”, pp. 341–353; Simon, Between Ottomanism and Nationalism, pp. 112–118; Michael Paris, “The First Air Wars – North Africa and the Balkans, 1911–13”, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 26, no. 1, January 1991, pp. 97–100.

12  Prelude to war They could not risk another land confrontation with the Ottoman military, so decided to mount a solely naval operation. During April 1912, the Italian Navy used various tactics including naval demonstrations and limited shelling of the Red Sea, Syrian and Aegean coastlines, blockading and bombarding the Dardanelles Strait and supporting the Sheikh Idrisi rebellion in Asir on the Arabian Peninsula. Eventually, out of sheer frustration, the Italians occupied the weakly defended Dodecanese Islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea between 24 April and 20 May 1912, claiming this as a form of victory on land.36 The Ottoman government reluctantly agreed to terms with Italy, not because of the scale of Italian military achievements, but due to a new and imminent threat from the Balkan states. The Ouchy Peace Treaty, signed on 15 October 1912, effectively ended Ottoman sovereignty in Libya. The field commanders received the order three days later. This was a serious blow to the Ottoman officers, who were confident of their ability to win the war, and they found it difficult to explain to their local soldiers and allies why the empire had abandoned the campaign after so many successful engagements.37 Enver and other senior officers decided to establish a sound basis for keeping the insurgency alive in the hope of restarting the war following the end of the Balkan crisis. A group of some 300 officers and other ranks was selected to remain, and almost all the heavy weapons and ammunition were left behind. Scores of youngsters and children were secretly transported to İstanbul for military education. As far as Enver was concerned, these children would become the leaders of the future Libyan War of Independence.38 While the Ottoman officers and Libyans had been preoccupied with containing the Italian invasion, the political atmosphere and balance of power in İstanbul had changed dramatically. The CUP-backed cabinet had been forced to resign over its foreign policy disaster and its apparent failure against Italian aggression. The CUP reluctantly accepted a coalition government under the leadership of veteran politician Said Pasha on 30 September 1911. The Libyan debacle gave new life and purpose to a number of burgeoning opposition groups which formed a cosmopolitan party, the Liberal Entente (Hürriyet ve İtilaf Fırkası), on 21 November 1911.39 The establishment of a new opposition party shocked both the CUP leadership and its cadres who resorted to the use of oppression, intimidation and fraud to manipulate the results of elections held from February–April 1912. The landslide 36 Ertuna, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi, pp. 278–282, 353–393, 401–404, 433–438; Beehlar, The History of the Italian-Turkish War, pp. 50–52, 56–60, 68–70, 73–76, 87–90; John Baldry, “The TurkishItalian War in the Yemen 1911–12”, in (eds.) R.B. Serjant and R.L. Bidwell, Arabian Studies III, C. Hurst & Co., London, 1976, pp. 55–64; From General Commander of Bingazi to Ministry of War, 27 October 1912, ATBD, no. 125, pp. 265–266. 37 Ertuna, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi, pp.  413–426; Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, pp. 200–205; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 1, pp. 127–129. 38 Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, pp. 206–208; Del Boca, Mohamed Fekini, pp. 37–39; From Commander of Derne to General Commander of Bingazi, 23 October 1912, ATBD, no. 125, p. 254. 39 Ali Birinci, Hürriyet ve İtilaf Fırkası: II. Meşrutiyet Devrinde İttihat ve Terakki’ye Karşı Çıkanlar, Dergah Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp. 45–54; Tarık Zafer Tunaya, Türkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, vol. 1, 2nd printing, Hürriyet Vakfı Yayınları, İstanbul, 1988, pp. 263–271.

Prelude to war  13 CUP victory forced some of the prominent members of the Liberal Entente to emulate the CUP’s tactic of using military power to realise its political aims. They were quick to find many disillusioned and disenchanted officers, some of whom had previously occupied senior positions within the CUP. Albanian officers in particular took the lead in galvanising military opposition. Encouraged by political dissidents and widespread resentment, they founded a new secret organisation, the Saviour Officers Group (Halaskâr Zabitan Grubu).40 Echoing the military mutinies of 1908, several junior Albanian officers, chief among them Captain Tayyar, led their units in mutinying, taking refuge in the mountains of Kosovo on 22 June 1912.41 The sudden military mutinies unleashed a political crisis in İstanbul, and the CUP government immediately resigned. A Grand Cabinet of Reconciliation was formed under the leadership of Gazi Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, hero of the Ottoman-Russian wars, with the participation of former grand viziers and other senior politicians. Bolstered by this, the Saviour Officers demanded the dissolution of the lower house of Parliament on 25 July. The CUP buckled under pressure, realising that it had lost the support of its main power base, the army. In a controversial move, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha seized the opportunity and dismissed the lower house.42

The Balkan Wars While the concept of a Balkan alliance was by no means new, it had never materialised because of conflicting aspirations over the Ottoman Balkan provinces. However, the constant internal turmoil – particularly the Albanian uprisings – seriously weakened the Ottomans, with the Italian invasion of Libya and active Russian mediation overcoming the final obstacles to a Balkan alliance. Following ratification of a series of secret agreements, the newly christened Balkan League (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro) initiated a crisis in September 1912.43 40 Tunaya, Türkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, pp. 278, 320–325; Birinci, Hürriyet ve İtilaf Fırkası, pp. 88, 142–163, 166–170; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 2, pp. 527–551; Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks, pp. 173–178. 41 Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 2, pp. 497–503; Tallon, The Failure of Ottomanism, pp. 185–188; Gawrych, The Crescent and the Eagle, pp. 190–195; Birinci, Hürriyet ve İtilaf Fırkası, pp. 165–166. 42 Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 2, pp. 764–781; Tunaya, Türkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, pp. 326–331; Birinci, Hürriyet ve İtilaf Fırkası, pp. 171–175, 178–180, 190–192; Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks, pp. 179–194. 43 Edward C. Thaden, Russia and the Balkan Alliance of 1912, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1965, pp. 63–108; Andrew Rossos, Russia and the Balkans: Inter-Balkan Rivalries and Russian Foreign Policy 1908–1914, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1981, pp. 16–69; Murat Tunca (trans.), 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde Türk-Bulgar Harbi: Harbin İhzarı, vol. 1, (Turkish translation of the Bulgarian official military history Voinata mezhdu Bulgariya i Turtsiya 1912–13 god: Podgotovka na voinata] Askeri Basımevi, İstanbul, 1945, pp. 17–47; Richard C. Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913: Prelude to the First World War, Routledge, London, 2000, pp. 8–13, 21; Gül Tokay, “The Origins of the Balkan Wars: A Reinterpretation”, in (ed.) M: Hakan Yavuz, Isa Blumi, War and Nationalism: The Balkan Wars, 1912–1913, and Their Sociopolitical Implications, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2013, pp. 182–192.

14  Prelude to war The Ottoman political and military leadership was taken by surprise and was unprepared for the aggression of the Balkan states. Succeeding Ottoman governments had failed to recognise the threat represented by the birth of the Balkan alliance and, instead of playing the Balkan states against one another using concessions and promises, they accepted the inevitability of war. The timing could not have been worse. The army’s most seasoned recruits had just demobilised (over 70,000 soldiers), and many of the best-trained battalions were occupied in counter-insurgency duties far from the Balkans. The infant army corps and triangular divisions, which were still battling to complete the reorganisation, could not cope with the loss of trained and experienced soldiers and the influx of large numbers of raw recruits. At the same time, a serious political crisis saw various partisan officer cliques fight for political control and engineer the elimination of their rivals.44 Several other factors also seriously limited the combat power of the Ottoman military. The Berlin Treaty of 1878 had shaped the borders of the Ottoman Balkans in such a way that it was almost impossible to defend them against multiple enemies. The Ottoman political and military leadership was stubbornly determined to preserve every inch of the empire’s territory and placed enormous faith in the military capacity of territorial defence units. Overconfident General Staff officers – particularly the new Minister of War, Nazım Pasha – insisted on taking the offensive at the operational level while conducting defensive operations at the strategic level, a key element of the newly introduced German doctrine. They relied on the fact that the small militaries of the Balkan states would not have the means to launch coordinated assaults, thereby allowing the Ottoman forces to defeat them one by one by using its inner lines of operations in a Jominian way. Ottoman planners disregarded all the viable alternatives and tried desperately to design a strategy that would encompass these conflicting ideas. At the same time, they neglected the primary lessons of the Ottoman-Russian wars: forces must not be spread too thinly over the theatres of operation, and field armies must not be split into composite groups.45

44 A. [Ali İhsan Sabis], Balkan Harbinde Neden Münhezim Olduk, Kitabhane-i İslam ve Askeri, İstanbul, 1329 [1913], pp. 15–43; Mahmut Beliğ, Balkan Harbinde Mürettep Çatalca ve Sağcenah Ordularının Harekâtı, vol. 2, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1931, pp.  12–27; Pertev [Demirhan], Balkan Savaşında Büyük Genel Karargâh, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1927, pp.  109–110, 113; Abdullah Paşa, 1328 Balkan Harbinde Şark Ordusu Kumandanı Abdullah Paşanın Balkan Harbi Hatıratı, Erkân-ı Harbiye Mektebi Matbaası, İstanbul, 1336 (1920), pp. 5–10, 14–16; Mahmud Muhtar Paşa, Üçüncü Kolordunun ve İkinci Şark Ordusunun Muharebatı, Kanaat Matbaası, Dersaadet, 1331 [1915], pp. 239–242, 244–247; Reşat Hallı, Balkan Harbi (1912–1913), vol. 1, 2nd ­printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 100–102, 119–134; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 117–120. 45 A. [Ali İhsan Sabis], Balkan Harbinde Askeri Mağlubiyetimizin Esbabı: Neden Münhezim Olduk Eserinin Kısmı-ı Sanisi, Kitabhane-i İslam ve Askeri, İstanbul, 1329 [1913], pp. 27–34, 36; Pertev, Balkan Savaşında, pp. 7, 17–18; Abdullah, 1328 Balkan Harbinde, pp. 39–42; Hallı, Balkan Harbi (1912–1913), pp.  207–225; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 120–129; P. Howell, The Campaign in Thrace 1912, Hugh Rees, London, 1913, pp. 82–83.

Prelude to war  15 The flawed outcome of this combination of conflicting priorities and factors was the grouping of available units into two geographically isolated field armies: the Western Army (Garb Ordusu) and the Eastern Army (Şark Ordusu). Instead of using the established field army structure, the General Staff planners moulded three numbered armies and some additional divisions from the Fourth Army into two new field army groups to defend all the Balkan provinces and safeguard İstanbul. Both armies consisted of regular army corps (three each), reserve (redif) army corps (five and four, respectively), independent detachments, cavalry divisions and various combat support and combat service support detachments. Army commanders were forced to allocate strong garrisons for the defence of several fortresses [Edirne, İşkodra (Scutari) and Yanya (Janina)], Çanakkale (the Dardanelles) Fortified Zone, provincial centres, lines of transportation and communication, and, of course, strategic terrain. Two corps-sized divisional groups were tasked with performing the impossible mission of maintaining the connection between the two armies by securing the İstanbul-Salonika railway line. Further drains on resources were evident as several regiments were still conducting counter-insurgency operations in Macedonia while others guarded the Aegean Sea harbours and islands against possible Italian (and later Greek) amphibious attacks.46 In every aspect, the revised contingency plan for war against the four Balkan states was problematic. While on paper it appeared clever and simple to execute, in reality it was a very difficult plan to implement and contained fatal flaws in its planning assumptions. By far the greatest flaw was the provision of just 30 days to complete mobilisation and concentration. The plan assumed that all lines of transportation, including sea lanes, would remain open and logistics mobilisation would be completed well prior to the arrival of units from Anatolia. In reality, however, the mobilisation proceeded slowly. Half the Anatolian units never reached their destinations. The single-track railway system collapsed under the sheer volume of traffic, while the Greek Navy effectively blocked any use of the sea lanes. The rapidly mobilising Balkan armies were poised to launch attacks from all directions, their goal to deny the Ottomans time to complete their preparations.47 The public and the rank and file of the military remained largely unaware of the extent of the threat from the Balkan states, and mobilisation was welcomed enthusiastically. Morale in the military was high and even well-informed commentators

46 Pertev, Balkan Savaşında, pp. 4–14; Abdullah, 1328 Balkan Harbinde, pp. 21–33; Sabis, Balkan Harbinde Askeri Mağlubiyetimizin Esbabı, pp.  34–37; Hallı, Balkan Harbi (1912–1913), pp. 84–90, 96–100, 102–104, 112–118; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 129–134; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 77–80, 163–170. 47 Pertev, Balkan Savaşında, pp. 19–29, 32–34; Abdullah, 1328 Balkan Harbinde, pp. 14–21; Sabis, Balkan Harbinde Askeri Mağlubiyetimizin Esbabı, pp. 37–40; Muhtar, Üçüncü Kolordunun, pp. 5, 9; Hallı, Balkan Harbi (1912–1913), pp. 132–134, 145–146, 226–229; Afif Büyüktuğrul, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Osmanlı Deniz Harekâtı, vol. 7, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 53–54, 62–66, 77–86.

16  Prelude to war

Figure 1.5 Reserve soldiers celebrating the declaration of war against the Balkan states in İstanbul.

talked of taking back lost provinces and re-establishing Ottoman control over the Balkans. Some of the CUP leaders, including Talat and Hallaçyan, regarded the mobilisation as an opportunity to rally public opinion against the government. They incited university and theology students and organised mass demonstrations demanding the immediate declaration of war. Local CUP branches organised similar demonstrations in most of the provinces. Warmongering and agitation placed enormous pressure on the government, and last-minute opportunities to avoid conflict were squandered. In an atmosphere of uncertainty, the Ottoman Empire was forced into war.48 The First Balkan War (October 1912–May 1913) was actually fought in two distinct theatres and comprised a number of separate battles and engagements. The primary operation was the Eastern Thracian Campaign that pitted 48 Celal Bayar, Ben de Yazdım: Milli Mücadele’ye Gidiş, vol. 3, Baha Matbaası, İstanbul, 1966, pp. 800–814; Muhtar, Üçüncü Kolordunun, pp. 263–264; Yücel Aktar, İkinci Meşrutiyet Dönemi Öğrenci Olayları (1908–1918), İletişim Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp. 83–97; Gustav von Hochwaechter, Mit den Türken in der front im stabe Mahmud Muchtar Paschas, Ernst Siegfried Rittler und Sohn, Berlin, 1913, pp. 1–3.

Prelude to war  17 the Bulgarians against the Ottoman Eastern Army. Another large campaign (Macedonia) and two smaller operations (Greece and Montenegro) were fought in the western theatre. The Greeks also launched amphibious operations which amounted to small regimental-level engagements against the eastern Aegean islands. The Ottoman Eastern Army under the command of Abdullah Pasha did not attempt to defend the border region, immediately retreating behind the Kırkkilise (Kırklareli) line and leaving a weak screening force to face the main Bulgarian thrust across the border. The Ottoman plan was to pin down the bulk of Bulgarian units in front of the Edirne fortress, pulling the remaining units towards Kırkkilise, thus enabling the Eastern Army to envelop them from the north and south. The strategic assumption was that, once the Bulgarians had been annihilated, the fragile Christian alliance would collapse. This was, therefore, the most vital operation of the war. However, the Bulgarian command left a weak field army around Edirne and moved its main force against the Ottoman Kırkkilise defensive line. The Ottoman attacks achieved limited success, and by 22 October, Ottoman forces had become bogged down, facing an enemy more than twice their strength with better artillery support. The next day, it was the turn of the Bulgarians to take the offensive. Massive Bulgarian frontal assaults and wellcoordinated artillery fire inflicted heavy casualties on the Ottoman units and, on 24 October, Abdullah Pasha ordered a full retreat. The order was premature and in the resulting confusion and under intense Bulgarian artillery fire, the retreat turned into a rout. Demoralised units abandoned most of their artillery, baggage and other heavy equipment. Instead of annihilating the Bulgarians, the Eastern Army suffered a humiliating defeat due to flawed assumptions, poor intelligence, weak artillery support and lack of communication.49 The next engagement, the five-day (29 October–2 November) battle around the Lüleburgaz–Pınarhisar line that became the largest and costliest battle of the war, was essentially a repetition of its predecessor. The Eastern Army (this time partially reorganised into two armies with the arrival of more reserve units) attempted the same formula of strategic defensive and operational offensive action without success. The Bulgarians were stronger, possessed more artillery, were more mobile and clearly boasted higher morale, while the Ottoman troops were demoralised, lacked supplies and suffered under three wilfully independent commanding generals (Nazım Pasha, Abdullah Pasha and Mahmud Muhtar [Katırcıoğlu]

49 Pertev, Balkan Savaşında, pp. 35–43, 46–48, 51–71, 77–86; Abdullah, 1328 Balkan Harbinde, pp. 52–139; Muhtar, Üçüncü Kolordunun, pp. 6–8, 11–57; Murat Tunca (trans.), 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde Türk-Bulgar Harbi: Kırklareli Harekâtı, vol. 2 (Turkish translation of the Bulgarian official military history Voinata mezhdu Bulgariya i Turtsiya 1912–13 god: Lozengradskata operatsiya), Askeri Basımevi, İstanbul, 1943, pp. 32–496; Alain de Penennrun, La Guerre des Balkans en 1912: Campagne de Thrace, Henri Charles-Lavauzelle, Paris, 1913, pp. 28–63; Hochwaechter, Mit den Türken, pp. 16–31; Howell, The Campaign in Thrace, pp. 22–24, 31–34, 47–70; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 81–100; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913, pp. 23–28.

18  Prelude to war Pasha). Repetitive and costly Ottoman counter-attacks achieved only temporary successes and massive Bulgarian frontal assaults crushed all hope. The Ottoman retreat once again turned into a rout and much of the remaining artillery and baggage was lost. The overstretched logistic system collapsed, casualties could not be evacuated and were left untreated, and soldiers were unable to find food and safe drinking water. Hundreds perished and thousands were infected with cholera and dysentery.50 Fortunately for the Ottomans, the exhausted Bulgarians could not follow up their victory and the routed troops managed to reach the last defensive line at Çatalca (just 25 kilometres from İstanbul). While the demoralised, disorganised and disease-ridden units initially swamped the logistic system, creating enormous problems, the slower approach of the Bulgarians allowed acting Commander-in-Chief Nazım Pasha to successfully hold the line. The Eastern Army completed its reorganisation, recovery and reconstitution and was renamed the Çatalca Army. The overconfident Bulgarians launched several massive frontal assaults without reconnoitring the defensive capabilities of the Çatalca Army which occupied well-fortified positions with the support of a centralised fire support system (including naval gunfire support). The two-day assault (17–18 November), which became known as the First Battle of Çatalca, saw the Bulgarian infantry decimated. The Bulgarian High Command had failed to appreciate both the impregnability of the Çatalca line and the strength of its determined defenders.51 The Ottoman Western Army, on the other hand, under the command of Ali Rıza Pasha attempted to employ the same blend of strategic defence and operational offensive action. However, in contrast to its eastern counterpart, the Western Army divided its units into the Vardar Army, four corps-sized groups [Yanya, Ustruma (Struma), İşkodra and VIII Provisional Corps] and four independent detachments in order to protect every inch of its area of responsibility against the simultaneous attacks of its four adversaries. The Ottoman planners identified the Serbian Army (presumed to be reinforced with Bulgarian divisions) as the main threat and

50 Pertev, Balkan Savaşında, pp. 87–105; Abdullah, 1328 Balkan Harbinde, pp. 140–202; Muhtar, Üçüncü Kolordunun, pp. 58–182; Murat Tunca (trans.), 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde TürkBulgar Harbi: Lüleburgaz-Pınarhisar Muharebesi, vol. 3 (Turkish translation of the Bulgarian official military history Voinata mezhdu Bulgariya i Turtsiya 1912–13 god: Srazheniteto pri Lyule Burgas-Bunar Hisar), Askeri Basımevi, İstanbul, 1945, pp. 4–386; Hochwaechter, Mit den Türken, pp. 16–60; de Penennrun, La Guerre des Balkans, pp. 67–84; Howell, The Campaign in Thrace, pp. 74–79, 85–118; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 101–125; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913, pp. 28–32. 51 Abdullah, 1328 Balkan Harbinde, pp. 202–232; Muhtar, Üçüncü Kolordunun, pp. 183–233; Mahmut Beliğ, Balkan Harbinde Mürettep 1. Kolordunun Harekâtı, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1929, pp. 47–165; M. Kadri Alasya, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Şark Ordusu Birinci Çatalca Muharebesi, vol. 2, Section 2, Book 1, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 40–48, 59–212; Hochwaechter, Mit den Türken, pp. 76–122; de Penennrun, La Guerre des Balkans, pp. 88–115; Howell, The Campaign in Thrace, pp. 122–135; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 127–136; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913, pp. 32–37.

Prelude to war  19

Figure 1.6 An abandoned Ottoman 75mm Krupp field gun with a dead gunner and spent shell casings overlooking Manastır road.

tasked the Vardar Army to block and then annihilate it. Most of the Vardar Army divisions had to travel more than 100 kilometres to reach their concentration area near Kumonovo. From 14–21 October, the commanding general, Halepli Zeki [Kolaç] Pasha, employed aggressive covering force tactics to mask the fact that some of his divisions were still trying desperately to reach their positions. Zeki Pasha’s tactics initially worked well, and the First Serbian Army failed to establish contact with the Second Serbian-Bulgarian Army. However, he did not wait for his remaining four divisions to arrive, judging instead that the time was ripe for attack, despite the fact that his forces were outnumbered by the Serbs 2:1. The ambitious assault achieved remarkable success early on but, by the end of the day, without effective artillery support and reserves, Zeki Pasha was unable to tip the balance in his favour. The ill-trained, ill-equipped and poorly led reserve divisions began to waver and were crushed and demoralised the following day by massive Serbian artillery fire. Zeki Pasha managed to keep his dispirited reserve soldiers in their makeshift defensive positions and they held fast against relentless infantry assaults which lasted an entire day. However, when he finally ordered a retreat, panic seized them and all discipline and order was lost in similar fashion to the rout of the Eastern Army.52 52 Zeki [Kolaç] Paşa, Zeki Paşa’nın Balkan Savaşı Hatıratı, (ed.) Sema Demirtaş, Alfa, İstanbul, 2012, pp. 14–45; Reşat Hallı, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Garp Ordusu Vardar Ordusu ve Ustruma Kolordusu, vol. 3, Section 1, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 154–262; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 171–182; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913, pp. 45–49.

20  Prelude to war The ever-optimistic General Staff officers then planned to concentrate the broken Vardar Army around the central town of Manastır (Bitola) so as to face both the Serbians from the north and the Greeks from the south. The Vardar Army reached Manastır on 7 November, but lost most of its limited artillery and baggage along the way. Once again, Zeki Pasha tried to encircle the Serbs by launching a surprise attack with his demoralised units. It was a gamble that he lost comprehensively. This was the Vardar Army’s second disastrous defeat, and only the iron will of its junior commanding officers saved the day. The Vardar Army retreated into Albania with half its original strength and without artillery and baggage. The disastrous situation was exacerbated by Albanian nationalists who proclaimed independence, and the already reluctant Albanian soldiers began to desert their units in the hundreds.53 The Western Army’s other independent units (apart from those defending the fortress cities of Yanya and İşkodra) were unable to muster the same determination and courage that the Vardar Army had displayed. The Ustruma Corps, Kırcaali and Nevrekop detachments failed to accomplish their mission of protecting the Salonika-İstanbul railway and maintaining contact with the Eastern Army. Instead, the men melted away after a series of inconclusive engagements.54 Similarly, the VIII Provisional Corps which was tasked with protecting the Greek border attempted to halt the much stronger Greek Army advances alone. Its disorganised fighting withdrawal ended with the ignominious fall of Salonika on 10 November.55 The concept of employing territorial defence units comprising loose groupings of reserve regiments and a few regular battalions had failed completely. The three independent detachments – İpek (Pech), Taşlıca (Pljevlja) and Priştina – which had been tasked with protecting the provinces of Kosovo and Novi Bazar dissolved in less than 15 days without mounting any serious resistance to Serbian and Montenegrin forces. Similarly, small, isolated garrisons on the Aegean islands fell one after another with little resistance.56

53 Zeki, Zeki Paşa’nın Balkan Savaşı Hatıratı, pp. 49–91; Hallı, Vardar Ordusu ve Ustruma Kolordusu, pp. 262–314; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 188–198; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913, pp. 49–52. 54 Mehmet Murat, 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde Kırcaali Kolordusunun Hareketleri, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1933, pp. 2–195; Hallı, Vardar Ordusu ve Ustruma Kolordusu, pp. 314–343; Şadi Sükan, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Edirne Kalesi Etrafındaki Muharebeler, vol. 2, Section 3, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp.  347–451; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 146–153, 199–201. 55 Raif Yaşar and Hüseyin Kabasakal, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Garp Ordusu Yunan Cephesi Harekâtı, vol. 3, Section  2, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp.  158–323; Hellenic Army General Staff, A Concise History of the Balkan Wars 1912–1913, Army History Directorate, Athens, 1998, pp.  28–68; Hasan Tahsin, “İzhar-ı Hakikat”, in (ed.) Mustafa Balcı, Selanik Düştü, Kesit, İstanbul, 2010, pp. 98–123; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 214–226; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913, pp. 59–63. 56 Fehmi Özatalay, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Garp Ordusu Karadağ Cephesi, vol. 3, Section 3, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 68–84, 116–131; Hellenic Army, A Concise History of the Balkan Wars, pp. 132–144; Rahmi Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları,

Prelude to war  21 Unsurprisingly, the unexpected and humiliating defeats had major political ramifications. The disillusioned military members of the CUP decided to overthrow the government of Kâmil Pasha, which many considered too lenient, unpatriotic and conciliatory. A small group of officer conspirators under Enver’s leadership launched a raid on the offices of the Prime Minister and forced the government to resign. It was a well-planned coup d’état, smoothly executed by a small number of individuals demonstrating a high level of staff planning and courage, albeit not without bloodshed as Nazım Pasha and his two aides were killed during the confusion. The so-called Raid on the Sublime Porte (Bab-ı Ali Baskını) drastically altered the political dynamics of the empire. The new Grand Vizier and Minister of War, Mahmud Şevket Pasha, dramatically increased the influence of the military and its efficiency by immediately assigning capable young officers to the nerve centres of the large army staffs.57 The armistice, which lasted from 3 December 1912–3 February 1913, not only provided the Ottoman military the opportunity for much-needed rest and recovery, but also gave the new regime time to consolidate its power. The Western Army was virtually dissolved and only the Yanya and İşkodra garrisons and some remnants of the Vardar Army remained to defend the region between Yanya and İşkodra.58 The Çatalca (old Eastern) Army, which had managed to preserve most of its main units, received reinforcements from Anatolia and Syria, and defended the Edirne fortress, İstanbul city and the Gallipoli Peninsula.59 Ahmed İzzet Pasha, who had just returned from the counter-insurgency campaign in Yemen, led the reorganisation, recovery and reconstitution of the Çatalca Army, capitalising on his predecessor Nazım Pasha’s achievements. All available resources were mobilised, and training became the primary activity. The arrival of fresh troops, an increase in public support, Bulgarian reverses in front of the Çatalca line and the heroic defences of Edirne, Yanya and İşkodra increased morale and confidence. Even the enormous toll of epidemics, including typhus and cholera, did not dampen the widespread spirit of optimism.60



Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1988, pp. 51–59; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 201–206, 236–239; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912–1913, pp. 52–56, 58–59. 57 Celal Bayar, Ben de Yazdım: Milli Mücadele’ye Gidiş, vol. 4, Baha Matbaası, İstanbul, 1967, pp. 1069–1073, 1083–1114, 1123–1130; Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, pp. 222–229; Hüsameddin Ertürk, İki Devrin Perde Arkası, (ed.) Samih Nafiz Tansu, Hilmi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 1957, pp. 94–100; Hasan Amca [Hasan Vasfi Kıztaşı], Doğmayan Hürriyet: Yarıda Kalan İhtilal, Alfa, İstanbul, 2013, pp.  264–270; Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks, pp. 201–213; Uzer, Makedonya Eşkiyalık Tarihi, pp.  319–322; Şevket Süreyya Aydemir, Makedonya’dan Ortaasya’ya Enver Paşa, vol. 2, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 1971, pp. 379–386. 58 Hallı, Vardar Ordusu ve Ustruma Kolordusu, pp. 344–370. 59 Alasya, Şark Ordusu Birinci Çatalca, pp. 236–272, 295–296; Kazım Karabekir, Edirne Hatıraları, (ed.) Ziver Öktem, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 2009, pp. 136–163; Eyüp Durukan, Günlüklerde Bir Ömür: Balkan Harbinde Edirne Kuşatması (1911–1913), (ed.) Murat Uluğtekin, Türkiye İş Bankası Yayınları, İstanbul, 2013, pp. 171–272. 60 İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp.  136–145; Mahmut Beliğ, Balkan Harbinde Mürettep Çatalca ve Sağcenah Ordularının Harekâtı, vol. 1, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1931, pp. 3–44.

22  Prelude to war The General Staff took the initiative once again, demonstrating its offensive bent by planning the Şarköy amphibious operation against the Fourth Bulgarian Army in an attempt to save Edirne by hitting the Bulgarian forces concentrated in front of Çatalca from behind. The plan was not only ambitious and innovative, but also demonstrated state-of-the-art staff work involving the technical details of a combined army and navy operation. However, a series of unfortunate incidents, including poor weather, technical failures, and communication and coordination problems, handicapped the offensive. The first leg of the operation, the frontal assault by the Provisional Corps on the neck of the Gallipoli Peninsula, died under the fire of well-entrenched Bulgarian infantry supported by massed coordinated artillery and machine-gun fire on 8 February. Nevertheless, the Şarköy amphibious landing succeeded in establishing beachheads against which recently reinforced Bulgarian divisions launched uncoordinated but effective assaults forcing termination of the operation two days later on 10 February. To the amazement of the Bulgarians, the Ottoman units managed to break off contact and embark on ships with light casualties, showing a rare combination of leadership, discipline and courage.61 The increased vigilance and combat power of the Ottoman military was more apparent during the Second Battle of Çatalca (24 March–3 April 1913). Stubborn and massive Bulgarian frontal assaults were crushed repeatedly by the skilful use of fortifications and centralised fire support.62 The joy of the victorious defenders was short-lived, however, with news of the surrenders of Edirne (26 March)63 and İşkodra (23 April).64 The Yanya fortress, in fact, had already capitulated, surrendering well before the others on 6 March.65 The fall of the fortresses effectively concluded hostilities and, with the intervention of the great powers, the final peace treaty was signed in London on 30 May 1913. The new European border of the

61 Ali Fethi Okyar, Bolayır Muharebesinde Askeri Muvaffakiyetin Esbabı, Matbaa-i Hayriye ve Şürekası, İstanbul, 1330 [1914], pp.  6–24; Sabis, Balkan Harbi’nde Askeri Mağlubiyetimizin Esbabı, pp. 82–84; Hikmet Süer, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Şark Ordusu İkinci Çatalca Muharebesi ve Şarköy Çıkarması, vol. 2, Section 2, Book 2, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 124–273; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 259–272. 62 Süer, İkinci Çatalca Muharebesi ve Şarköy Çıkarması, pp. 277–374; Erickson, Defeat in Detail, pp. 285–290. 63 For the defence of Edirne and related operations, see Remzi Yiğitgüden, 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde Edirne Kale Muharebeleri, 2 vols, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1938–39, pp. 51–172 and pp. 38–96; Sükan, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi, pp. 88–339; Karabekir, Edirne Hatıraları, pp. 49–134, 165–213; Durukan, Günlüklerde Bir Ömür, pp. 100–170, 273–434; Piarron de Mondesir, Siége et Prise D’Andrinople, Librairie Chapelot, Paris, 1914, pp. 10–199; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912– 1913, pp. 38–42, 86–90. 64 For the defence of İşkodra and related operations, see Abdurrahman Nafiz, Kiramettin, 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde İşkodra Müdafaası, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1933, pp. 249–565; Özatalay, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Garp Ordusu Karadağ Cephesi, pp. 86–116, 131–214. 65 For the defence of Yanya and related operations, see Emin, Yanya Muhasarası, 2 vols, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1927, pp. 9–117; Yaşar, Kabasakal, Garp Ordusu Yunan Cephesi, pp. 525–671; Hellenic Army, A Concise History of the Balkan Wars, pp. 151–199.

Prelude to war  23 empire was drawn in the middle of Eastern Thrace, leaving the important city of Edirne in Bulgarian hands.66 The peace treaty was a serious blow to the prestige of the new CUP-led regime, which had legitimised its military coup d’état by promising to retain Edirne at all costs. The regime was saved at the last minute by the initiation of hostilities on 29 June between Bulgaria (which was furious over the loss of Macedonia to its allies at the peace table) and Greece and Serbia. Young General Staff officers immediately demanded action, while the civilian wing of the CUP and the generals (who together bore the full pressure of great power diplomacy) remained indecisive and wavering. Soon the real authors of the coup d’état, hawkish General Staff officers led by Enver, forced the timid leaders to act. Amidst the fear of a new war, advancing Ottoman units liberated Edirne without a fight on 21 July.67 The liberation of Edirne was a turning point for the empire and its military. The officer corps consolidated its position as national saviours and as the new governing elite, while the old political cadres lost their remaining prestige as if all the disastrous defeats and humiliating treaties had been authored by them. In less than a year, the last barriers to full control of the empire by the Young Turks had been removed, sometimes violently. Not surprisingly, only a small group of intellectuals questioned the wisdom of military-led government; for many others, however, it seemed the only alternative.68 On the other hand, the recapture of Edirne made the Russians very angry and annoyed the British and French. However, Russian warnings and threats of action just did the opposite by heating up Ottoman-German relations.69

Military reckoning and the German Military Advisory Mission For close to a century, German military advisory missions had been despatched to İstanbul while individual German officers had served in the Ottoman military almost continuously, commencing with the mission of Helmuth von Moltke from 1835–1839 and ending with the Sanders Mission in 1913.70 Thanks to almost

66 Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section  2, 2nd printing, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1983, pp. 299–323. 67 Süer, İkinci Çatalca Muharebesi ve Şarköy Çıkarması, pp. 380–460; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 4, pp. 1252–1268; Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, p. 247; Breveté Paul Boucabeille, La Guerre Interbalkanique, Librairie Chapelot, Paris, 1914, pp. 1–19, 111–119; Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912– 1913, pp. 107–119; Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, p. 249. 68 Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks, pp. 337–346; Aydemir, Enver Paşa, vol. 2, pp. 403–405. 69 Serge Sergey Sazonov, Fateful Years 1909–1916: The Reminiscences of Serge Sazonov, Frederick A. Stokes, New York, 1928, pp. 99–100; Kazım Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 2011, pp. 83–85. 70 In contrast to the commonly accepted belief, the short-lived Moltke Mission, containing barely a dozen officers and other ranks, played only a minor role in Ottoman military affairs. In fact, several other Prussian officers who were enlisted to assist the Ottoman military individually without official credentials left a more enduring legacy. The Prussian soldiers of fortune and the Moltke

24  Prelude to war continuous presence of German officers, German arms industry achieved a monopoly in the empire.71 All German officers, whether as members of an official mission or present in a private capacity, were employed and treated similarly. They were regarded by the Ottoman High Command as the agents for transmission of a modern military system that the Ottomans were very keen to import. Consequently, they were employed as advisers or trainers, assigned to training centres or employed within the various advisory councils, but not considered for command and key staff positions. Given their small numbers – usually less than a dozen at any given time – and lack of command status and authority, it is easy to understand why their effectiveness depended on their personal traits and their ability to establish a rapport with the high-ranking officers within their respective organisations. This serious constraint on their influence remained in force until the arrival of the Sanders Mission in 1913.72 The different status of the Sanders Mission was directly related to the colossal defeats of the Balkan Wars. The Balkan defeats and the loss of almost all the empire’s European provinces prompted a public outcry and demands for a complete overhaul of the military system to forestall the collapse of the empire. These defeats dramatically exposed the weakness of the Ottoman military, even after the complex and far-reaching reform process.73 All the vested interests, including the officers themselves, blamed the officer corps for the apparent weakness of the army and its manifest inability to defend the empire. Partisan politics and infighting were widely cited as the real reason for the army’s poor performance. Public derision and military defeat seriously eroded the morale of the officer corps,



Mission started a tradition in which different Ottoman administrations looked to the Germans for various kinds of military assistance and also purchased Prussian-manufactured weapons. See. Jehuda L. Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe: Die preußisch-deutschen Militärmissionen in der Türkei 1835–1919, Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf, 1976, pp. 15–32. 71 Naci Yorulmaz, Arming the Sultan: German Arms Trade and Personal Diplomacy in the Ottoman Empire before World War I, I.B. Tauris, London, 2014, pp. 71–95. 72 Joseph Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü: 1914–1918 1. Dünya Savaşı, (Turkish translation of the German original Der Zusammenbruch des Ottomanischen Reiches: Erinnerungen an die Türkei aus der Zeit des Weltkrieges), (trans.) Kemal Turan, Kayıhan Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp.  33, 36; Kemal Beydilli, “Abdülhamit Devrinde Gelen İlk Alman Heyeti Hakkında”, İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Dergisi, no. 32, March 1979, pp. 481–493; Tahsin Esencan, Türk Topçuluğu ve Kaynakları, Askeri Fabrika Basımevi, Ankara, 1946, pp. 9–11; Merwin A. Griffiths, The Reorganisation of the Ottoman Army under Abdülhamid II, 1880–1897, University of California, Los Angeles Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 1965, pp. 40–43, 151; Glen W. Swanson, “War, Technology, and Society in the Ottoman Empire from the Reign of Abdülhamid II to 1913 Mahmud Şevket and the German Military Mission”, in (eds.) V.J. Parry and M.E. Yapp, War, Technology and Society in the Middle East, Oxford University Press, London, 1975, pp. 378–380; İsmet İnönü, Hatıralar, vol. 1, (ed.) Sebahattin Selek, Bilgi Yayınevi, Ankara, 1985, p. 85; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 34–116. 73 Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, p. 42; Mustafa Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War in 1914: The Ottoman Empire and the First World War, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008, pp. 21–29; Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey, p. 125.

Prelude to war  25 prompting open debate not only over the fate of the empire, but also the cause of the disastrous defeats in the Balkan Wars. Every new publication (particularly the memoirs of war veterans) instigated new discussions which delivered yet more publications. While most of these works pointed to political issues as the root cause, the debate was focused primarily on problems within the Ottoman military and their possible solution. Ironically, the widespread and often vicious criticism and self-recrimination reinforced the officers’ sense of group identity and brotherhood, and tightened the bonds forged in battle.74 For many Western observers of the war, the Ottoman defeat confirmed the European belief in Ottoman decadence and elicited prophecies of the inevitable demise of the empire. The image of the ‘sick man of Europe’ loomed large once again, and the great powers independently sought to be proactive in its demise. Russian decision-makers, in particular, were determined to follow the Italian example and launch a surprise invasion as soon as the opportunity presented itself.75 To make matters worse, internal unrest gained impetus with Armenian separatists, Arab nationalists and Kurdish tribal leaders preparing to carve homelands for their respective nations, hopeful of the assistance of the great powers when the time came.76 Surrounded by predatory states, in the shadow of the intense competition among the great powers and trying desperately to cope with the gravest political and socio-economic crisis in the empire’s history, the new governing elite quickly realised that the time-honoured political method of playing one faction against another was ill suited to the political climate. At the same time, members of the governing elite were searching for a long-term solution that would provide security, integrity and modernisation for the empire.77 They understood that it needed a centralised and regularised administration. The ideal solution for the tight-knit CUP leadership evolved as an enlightened dictatorship of the military. The selfmade leaders of the officer corps, chief among them Enver, were determined not

74 Mesut Uyar, “Osmanlı Askeri Rönesansı: Balkan Bozgunu ile Yüzleşmek”, Türkiye Günlüğü, no. 110, Spring 2012, pp. 65–74; Erkin, Hatırat, pp. 81–82, 88, 96; Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey, pp. 126–132, 140–146; Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, pp. 90–91. 75 Sazonov, Fateful Years, pp.  71–72, 125–126, 242–243; Sean McMeekin, The Russian Origins of the First World War, The Belknap Press, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 16–28; Michael A. Reynolds, Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires 1908–1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 36–37, 40–41, 43–45; Pertti Luntinen, French Information on the Russian War Plans 1880–1914, Societas Historica Finlandiae, Helsinki, 1984, pp. 136–138. 76 From Lt-Col. Cunliffe-Owen to War Office, 21 April 1914, The National Archives, Kew [Hereafter TNA], FO 195/2456; Feroz Ahmad, The Young Turks and the Ottoman Nationalities: Armenians, Greeks, Albanians, Jews, and Arab, 1908–1918, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2014, pp. 28–34, 46–55, 116–119; McMeekin, The Russian Origins of the First World War, pp. 146–154; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, pp. 56–81; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 62–79. 77 Hew Strachan, The First World War: To Arms, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, p. 655.

26  Prelude to war to remain in the background and refused to hand power to elder statesmen and senior generals. However, they had no choice but to accept the leadership of new Grand Vizier Mahmud Şevket Pasha – at least for the present.78 Mahmud Şevket Pasha was determined to purge partisan officers from the ranks and disengage the military from partisan politics, which he believed were ­instrumental in undermining the discipline – and therefore the fighting ­capacity – of the armed forces. However, he had limited control over the military and state machinery, and he was fully aware of the power of the CUP. As far as he was concerned, the only way to overcome the opposition of CUP and partisan officers was to use German officers in command positions and accord them extraordinary powers, including placing strategic military decision-making under German control. In this he clearly sought to emulate the Greek experience with the French military mission headed by General Joseph-Paul Eydoux. This may have been his reason for seeking a larger mission under the command of a competent senior German general.79 The Ottomans had long been willing to receive military aid from the Germans. Even the arch enemy of Mahmud Şevket Pasha, Chief of the General Staff Ahmed İzzet Pasha, was supportive of German military aid.80 Independent of the military leadership, senior government officials also believed that the survival of the empire would only be possible through an alliance with – or the patronage of – a great power. Indeed, the first major step in this respect had already been taken during the Kâmil Pasha government, well before Mahmud Şevket Pasha became Grand Vizier. On 2 January 1913, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Noradungyan, 78 Glen W. Swanson, Mahmud Şevket Paşa and the Defense of the Ottoman Empire: A Study of War and Revolution during the Young Turk Period, Indiana University Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 1970, pp. 180–184; Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey, pp. 135–136. 79 Mahmud Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, (ed.) Murat Bardakçı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2014, pp. 101, 104, 132, 221, 230, 232–233, 246, 303–304; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 157, 165–167; Cemal Paşa, Hatıralar, (ed.) Alpay Kabacalı, Türkiye İş Bankası Yayınları, İstanbul, 2006, pp.  81–83; Robert J. Kerner, “The Mission of Liman von Sanders I. Its Origins”, The Slavonic Review, vol. 6, no. 16, June 1927, pp. 13–15; Konstantinos Polyzois, A History of the Hellenic Army 1821–1997, Army History Directorate, Athens, 1999, pp. 86, 96; Swanson, “War, Technology, and Society”, pp. 381–385; Naim Turfan, “Reporting Him and His Cause Aright: Mahmud Şevket Paşa and the Liman von Sanders Mission”, Cahiers d’etudes sur la Méditerranée Orientale et la Monde Turco-Iranien, no. 12, July–December 1991, pp. 3–11, 29–33; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 121–127; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, p. 36; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, p. 49; Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey, pp. 155–156; Strachan, The First World War, vol. 1, pp. 685–686. 80 Although he would describe Mahmud Şevket Pasha as “an ardent supporter of a foreign mandate” and a “defeatist” in his memoirs published years later, Ahmed İzzet Pasha himself was considered to be a fervent pro-German in military affairs. He was probably worried that the new German general would be his rival. İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 157–158, 164–165; Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, pp. 239, 246, 288; Cavid, Meşrutiyet Ruznamesi, vol. 2, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2015, pp. 94–95; Hans Guhr, Anadolu’dan Filistin’e Türklerle Omuz Omuza (Turkish translation of the German original Als türkischer Divisionskommandeur in Kleinasien und Palästina), (trans.) Eşref Özbilen, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 61, 233.

Prelude to war  27 had officially requested the German Ambassador, Hans von Wangenheim, to ­provide information on the Eydoux mission in Greece, thereby hinting that the Ottoman administration was in favour of a new German military mission.81 This invitation from the Ottomans came at a time when Germany was in the midst of a heated debate over its policy towards the Ottoman Empire. The Balkan defeat had shocked and dismayed the Germans. The German General Staff claimed that the prestige of the German Army had suffered a heavy blow as a consequence, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs loudly declared that further military investment in the Ottoman Empire would be a complete waste of money. As a result, the Ottoman approach was initially ignored.82 Despite the German government’s dismissive attitude, von Wangenheim continued to lobby both Berlin and İstanbul for a new mission.83 Through an intermediary, Military Attaché Major Walter von Strempel, von Wangenheim liaised with the private military cabinet of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Having received formal approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kaiser’s military cabinet initiated bilateral talks on the military mission, bypassing not only the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs but also the General Staff. The ability to contact the Kaiser through von Wangenheim was also opportune for Mahmud Şevket Pasha who thus circumvented not only the bureaucracy of the Ottoman Department of Foreign Affairs, but also the ambassador in Berlin, Mahmud Muhtar Pasha, who was opposed to the mission and with whom Mahmud Şevket Pasha had a strained relationship.84

81 Dispatch from von Wangenheim to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 January 1913, in Die Grosse Politik der Europäischen Kabinette 1871–1914, vol. 38, (eds.) J. Lepsius, A.M. Bartholdy and F. Thimme, Deutsche Verlagsgesellschoft für Politik und Geschicte, Berlin, 1926 (hereafter Die Grosse Politik), pp. 193–194; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, 3rd edition, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, İstanbul, 1991, pp. 276–277; Swanson, “War, Technology, and Society”, p. 382. 82 Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, 276–278; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 119–124; Carl Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, Druck und Verlag Gerhard Stalling, Oldenburg, 1927, pp. 13–15; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918: Die Operationen des Jahres 1915, vol. 9, Verlegt bei E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1933, p. 136. 83 Dispatch from von Wangenheim to Bethmann Hollweg, 26 April 1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 196–201; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, pp. 277–279; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, p. 57. Interestingly, Austro-Hungarian leaders and diplomats who were very scared of the final collapse of the Ottomans also lobbied for a strong German military mission. Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 34–36. 84 Dispatch from von Treutler to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 April 1913; von Treutler to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 April 1913; from Von Jagow to von Truetler, 5 April 1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 195–196; Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, pp. 118–119, 285, 292, 304; Said Halim Pasha took over after the death of Mahmud Şevket Pasha, described by Mahmud Muhtar Pasha as “a proponent of oppression”. The government of Said Halim Pasha continued to bypass Mahmud Muhtar Pasha on issues deemed critical by the latter. Mahmut Muhtar, Maziye Bir Nazar: Berlin Antlaşması’ndan Birinci Dünya Savaşı’na Kadar Avrupa ve Türkiye-Almanya İlişkileri, (ed.) Nurcan Fidan, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1999, pp. 51, 119; Cavid, Meşrutiyet Ruznamesi, vol. 2, p. 195; Ulrich Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire 1914–1918, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1968, p. 123.

28  Prelude to war Von Wangenheim immediately began work on the project. The mission would comprise at least 40 officers, led by a senior and prestigious Prussian general who stood out from his peers. Since, for different reasons, neither von Wangenheim nor Mahmud Şevket Pasha wanted previous mission head Colmar von der Goltz to be recalled, they requested that the mission leader be someone who had not previously served in the Ottoman Army.85 Unlike their predecessors, these German officers would hold command positions in military units, schools and key headquarters.86 On 22 May, the Ottoman government formally requested the despatch of a German military mission. Two days later, at the wedding ceremony of his daughter, the Kaiser boasted to King George V and Tsar Nicholas II of his secret talks with the Ottomans.87 Thanks to the Kaiser’s keen support and von Wangenheim’s lobbying, the German ruling elite’s view of the Ottomans had changed dramatically. Even the German General Staff, which still had strong reservations, was persuaded to lend its support to the reform of the Ottoman Army.88 While the process of arranging the military mission unfolded as planned, the Ottoman government was thrown into disarray on 11 June 1913 with the assassination of Mahmud Şevket Pasha. His unexpected demise saw the CUP’s leadership triumvirate (Enver, Cemal and Talat) take control of the government. While the Germans expected the mission to be cancelled, the CUP leaders and Enver in particular surprised them by supporting the project despite previous reservations. Ultimately, the sudden change of government caused no more than a slight delay.89 Enver quickly filled the military leadership vacuum created by the assassination of Mahmud Şevket Pasha. He began by promoting himself general (pasha) and then appointing himself to all the critical military posts of Minister of War (Harbiye Nazırı), Chief of the General Staff (Erkân-i Harbiye-i Umumiye Reisi) and, later, acting commanding general of the armed forces (Başkumandan Vekili). This effectively united all the bickering semi-independent institutions and centralised the complex military organisation under his personal command and control. Enver, the most politicised officer of the Ottoman military, had finally accomplished the ambition of his predecessor by purging politicised officers and

85 Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, p. 124; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 60–63. 86 Dispatch from von Wangenheim to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 May 1913, Die Grosse Politik, 201–202; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 2 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 349–350; Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, pp. 288, 303–304; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 15–16; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 119–124. 87 The Kaiser’s postscript to the message from von Wangenheim to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3 December 1913, Die Grosse Politik, p. 232; Sazonov, Fateful Years, p. 117. 88 İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 157–158; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 66–72. 89 Aydemir, Makedonya’dan Orta Asya’ya Enver Paşa, vol. 3, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 1985, pp. 429–432; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  83–84; Talat Paşa, Talat Paşa’nın Anıları, (ed.) Alpay Kabacalı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2001, pp. 31–32.

Prelude to war  29 eliminating all the elements of partisan politics from within the military in a relatively short time without the help of the Germans.90 On 15 June, even as political ambiguity continued in İstanbul, the Kaiser asked Major General Otto Liman von Sanders, one of the oldest divisional commanders of the Prussian Army, to lead the mission to the Ottoman Empire. While not his first choice, von Sanders was one of the old school generals of whom the Kaiser was fond. On paper, at least, he met von Wangenheim’s requirements, which set him apart from his colleagues. He had not previously served in the Ottoman Empire – in fact, he had no foreign experience whatsoever. Unlike von der Goltz, he was not an intellectual, but rather a typical line officer who had served in standard command positions and had worked his way up the ranks, albeit at a slower pace than his peers. It was through sheer diligence, discipline and loyalty that he had attained the position of divisional commander. Perhaps the most significant problem with his appointment was that an elderly general who would never have been promoted to the rank of corps commander in Germany had been chosen to lead a military mission with extraordinary powers, and to do so in a sensitive region. His selection thus suggested that the Kaiser and his advisers had not fully grasped the gravity of the appointment, lacked a long-term perspective, and had simply opted for the easiest solution.91 The Kaiser communicated his choice to the government on 30 June. While Liman von Sanders was scheduled to travel to İstanbul immediately and participate in the official talks on the agreement, delays to the implementation of the peace treaty to end the Balkan Wars thwarted his plans.92 The final military contract was signed on 27 October  1913 and covered a five-year period with the option for renewal. According to its terms, the military mission would not only take charge of the military reform package, but also assume direct command of a number of key units and military schools, including I Army Corps, headquartered in İstanbul. The mission leader would become an integral part of the military decision-making process and be consulted on the promotion of senior officers. He would have the final word on the selection of German officers to serve in the Ottoman Army and would be their superior. Furthermore, the German government allocated him an annual budget of one million marks.93 Von Sanders was twice 90 Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, p. 256; Aydemir, Enver Paşa, vol. 2, pp. 419–422; Turfan, “Reporting Him”, pp. 16–17; Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey, p. 161. 91 Dispatch from Hans von Seeck to German High Command, 4 November 1918; (ed.) Akdes Nimet Kurat, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Sırasında Türkiye’de Bulunan Alman Generallerinin Raporları, Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü, Ankara, 1966, pp. 70–71; Otto Liman von Sanders, Five Years in Turkey (English translation of the German original Fünf Jahre Türkei), (trans.) Carl Reichmann, The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore, 1928, p. 1; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 127, 136–137; Şevket, Harbiye Nazırı Sadrazam, pp. 75–76. 92 Dispatch from von Lyncker to von Bethmann Hollweg, 30 June 1913; from von Wangenheim to von Bethmann Hollweg, 18 July 1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 202–204. 93 Dispatch from von Jagow to Wilhelm II, 30 September 1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 204–205; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 2 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 350–351; Hans Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien: Erster Band Der Kampf um Orient und Islam,

30  Prelude to war granted an audience with the Kaiser, in November and December, and received his orders directly. The Kaiser told him that his main task was to drive politics out of the Ottoman Army. He also recommended that von Sanders resist interfering in non-military matters or issues of civilian governance. On 14 December, von Sanders arrived in İstanbul by train, accompanied by several members of the mission. He immediately found himself in the middle of the last major diplomatic crisis to erupt prior to the First World War.94 While both parties had attempted to pursue talks on the military mission in utmost secrecy, the Western embassies in İstanbul, particularly the Russian Embassy, were kept fully informed of developments by their spies and intelligence personnel within the Ottoman civilian and military bureaucracy. In October, prior to the signing of the mission agreement, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and von Wangenheim began the process of informing their counterparts in Berlin and İstanbul on the new development.95 Russia, Great Britain and France initially took no action, each generally of the opinion that this new mission was no different than its predecessor and that no military assistance could possibly reform the broken Ottoman Army. The first reaction came on 7 November, when the Russian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anatol Neratov, demanded information on the mission from von Lucius, Germany’s Chargé d’Affaires in St. Petersburg.96 The response from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs did nothing to alleviate Russian concerns. What worried the Russians was not the new mission, even if it had extended powers, but rather the fact that a German general was assuming command of the İstanbul garrison and the defence of the Bosphorus. They listened with mounting concern to rumours of 20cm fortress guns to be deployed along the Straits, viewing these as a direct threat.97 Tensions escalated further when the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Sazonov, returned from holidays on 17 November. Russia regarded İstanbul and the Bosphorus as its natural area of influence and would not accept another power bolstering the area’s defences. An enraged Sazonov communicated his concern directly to his German counterparts, while simultaneously trying to confirm the initial information he had received.98



Deutsche Verlags, Stuttgart, 1924, p. 87; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, pp. 286–287; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 129–131; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, p. 37; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp. 193–194. 94 From Lt-Col. Cunliffe-Owen to War Office, 21 April  1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 2–3. 95 Dispatch from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 30 October 1913; Sir Edward Goschen to Sir Edward Grey, 1 November 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 338–339; Sazonov, Fateful Years, pp. 117–118. 96 Dispatch from von Lucius to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 7 November 1913, Die Grosse Politik, p. 206. 97 Dispatch from Zimmermann to von Lucius, 8 November 1913; von Lucius to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 November 1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 206–208; Sazonov, Fateful Years, pp. 118–119. 98 Dispatch from von Lucius to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 November  1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 208–209; Sazonov, Fateful Years, pp. 119–121; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, p. 288.

Prelude to war  31 While the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs had only recently been informed of the content of the mission and been provided the details of the relevant contract, it immediately assumed a tough and uncompromising stance on the issue. On the one hand, the Ministry insisted that the mission posed no threat to Russia, and on the other, it pointed to the vast powers enjoyed by the missions sent by Great Britain to reform the Ottoman Navy and by France to reform the gendarmerie corps and the Ottoman financial administration. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Kokovtsev happened to be in Berlin and attempted unsuccessfully to avert a crisis. The Kaiser directly intervened in the affair, insisting that while Germany was ready to make certain concessions, these would not include the location and command powers of the German general in İstanbul.99 On 24 November, a frustrated Sazonov reached the conclusion that he could not change Germany’s stance without the overt support of Great Britain and France. He held separate talks with the British and French ambassadors and mobilised them to make a decision that served only to exacerbate the situation and ultimately trigger a crisis.100 During the first period of crisis (24 November–6 December), which is usually associated with the arrival of von Sanders, Russia pursued bilateral talks with Germany on the assumption that it enjoyed British and French support.101 The German diplomats and officers shrewdly described the powers of their new mission as no different than those of the British Admiral Arthur Henry Limpus, who headed the Ottoman Navy, or the French General M. Baumann, who led the gendarmerie. If Germany were to reduce its mission, so their logic ran, then Great Britain and France must also follow suit.102

 99 Statement by von Strempel, Military Attaché in Berlin, 18 November 1913; von Bethmann Hollweg’s statement, 18 November 1913; von Bethmann Hollweg’s statement, 19 November 1913; Dispatch from von Jagow to Wilhelm II, 23 November 1913; from von Lucius to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 November 1913; von Bethmann Hollweg to von Pourtalés, 26 November 1913, Die Grosse Politik, 209–221; Dispatch from Sir Arthur Nicolson to O’Breirne, 2 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 352–353; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, pp. 291–293. 100 Dispatch from Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie, 24 November 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 25 November 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 26 November 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 1 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 339–342, 345–346; Sazonov, Fateful Years, pp. 121–122. 101 Dispatch from Sir Edward Grey to Sir Louis Mallet, 4 December 1913; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, December 4, 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 4 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 355–356. 102 Statement by von Strempel, Military Attaché in Berlin, 18 November 1913; from von Jagow to Wilhelm II, November 23, 1913; from von Wangenheim to German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 December  1913; von Pourtalés to German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 7 December  1913; von Kühlmann to von Bethmann Hollweg, 9 December 1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 209–211, 217–219, 234–235, 244–247; Dispatch from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 5 December 1913; from Sir M. De Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey, 5 December 1913; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 8 December 1913; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir Edward Goschen, 9 December 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 9 December 1913; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 10 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 358–360, 362–364,

32  Prelude to war As the crisis escalated, the Ottoman government submitted the mission agreement to the sultan, and it was signed on 27 October. The sultan’s decree of approval was issued on 4 December, and St Petersburg was informed of this on 6 December. The bilateral talks had clearly failed, and the second stage of the crisis now began. Sazonov concluded the official negotiations and attempted to convince Russia’s allies to jointly stage a ‘démarche’ (initiative) in İstanbul. His plan called for the three states to threaten the Ottoman administration with further sanctions, make demands for capitulation and force it to make concessions. However, Sazonov had not calculated on the vested interest of Great Britain and France in the continuation of the Ottoman Empire. Both had been enjoying the concessions and privileges that they had previously negotiated, and as such, they had no incentive to engage in activities that would jeopardise these.103 On 13 December, in the face of intense Russian pressure, the British and French ambassadors, together with their Russian counterpart, presented not an ultimatum but a demand for an ‘enquête verbale’ (verbal inquiry) to Sadrazam Said Halim Pasha. The inquiry comprised two questions and a demand. The questions covered the independence of the Ottoman state vis-à-vis Germany and the status of the Straits; the demand concerned the full text of the mission agreement. Cognisant of the British and French position, Said Halim Pasha replied that Ottoman independence and the protection of the Straits were internal affairs and he refused to submit the text of the agreement to their scrutiny. He suggested that more time would be required to search for a solution that would allay their concerns. Thus, the démarche failed when the Ottomans refused to satisfy the demand, and the final stage of the crisis was initiated.104 Recognising that Russia was cornered and that the Ottomans had become an active party to the crisis, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and von Wangenheim became concerned. They wanted to end the crisis with a face-saving symbolic concession to Russia. Their solution was to promote von Sanders to the rank of lieutenant general, the equivalent of the Ottoman military rank of müşir (field marshal), thus making it impossible for him to be appointed to command I Corps. Instead, he would become an inspector-general in charge of the entire Ottoman Army. As such, Russia would have its way, at least on paper, and von Sanders’ authority would be expanded. However, in order to achieve this, the

367–368; Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien, pp. 87–88; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, pp. 290–291. 103 Dispatch from von Wangenheim to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 December 1913, Die Grosse Politik, p. 234; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 7 December 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 9 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 361, 365. 104 Dispatch from Zimmermann to Wilhelm II, 15 December 1913; from von Wangenheim to German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 December 1913, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 250–251, 256; from Sir Edward Grey to O’Beirne, 11 December 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Arthur Nicolson, 11 December 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 13 December 1913; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 13 December 1913; from O’Beirne to Sir Edward Grey, 14 December 1913; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 15 December 1913; from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 15 December 1913, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 370–372, 378–379, 381–382, 385–386; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, pp. 295–297.

Prelude to war  33

Figure 1.7 Members of the German military mission before their journey to İstanbul in December 1913. At the centre is head of the mission, Liman von Sanders (with peaked cap).

Ottoman government, the Kaiser, and von Sanders all had to be persuaded. Following arduous efforts, the parties were finally convinced or, in the case of von Sanders, silenced. In January 1914, the promotion of von Sanders was announced and the diplomatic crisis was resolved.105 The crisis ended without causing lasting damage, as Great Britain and France did not offer the unconditional support demanded by Russia, and due to the last-minute formula proposed by von Wangenheim. Nevertheless, the crisis rekindled fears within the Ottoman leadership over Russia’s increasingly evident ambitions. 105 Dispatch from von Wangenheim to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 December 1913; from von Wangenheim to von Jagow, 17 December 1913; from von Wangenheim to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 December 1913; from Zimmermann to von Pourtalés, 22 December 1913; from von Wangenheim to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 23 December 1913; from von Bethmann Hollweg to Wilhelm II, 31 December 1913; from von Bethmann Hollweg to von Pourtalé, 15 January 1914, Die Grosse Politik, pp. 259–262, 265–268, 270–274, 283–284, 302; from Sir Edward Goschen to Sir Edward Grey, 30 December 1913; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir G. Buchanan, 31 December 1913; from Sir Edward Goschen to Sir Edward Grey, 31 December 1913; from Sir Edward Goschen to Sir Edward Grey, 1 January 1914; from Sir G. Buchanan to Sir Edward Grey, 20 January 1914; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir Arthur Nicolson, 21 January 1914; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir Louis Mallet, 26 January 1914, British Documents, vol. 10, Part 1, pp. 402–406, 418–421; Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien, pp. 88–89; Sazonov, Fateful Years, pp.  128–129; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, pp. 302–304; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 78–79.

34  Prelude to war When Liman von Sanders alighted from the train at the Sirkeci railway station in İstanbul on 14 December 1913, he had no idea of the enormity of the crisis triggered by Russia. However, his arrival initiated another form of crisis as von Sanders was highly offended that his welcoming committee included neither von Wangenheim nor any other senior embassy officials. Since he had been appointed by the Kaiser, he regarded himself as the Kaiser’s personal representative, and thus of equivalent or even superior rank to von Wangenheim. He had absolutely no intention of being controlled by the embassy, and in fact would soon come to view not only von Wangenheim but all German diplomats as his personal enemies. Indeed, von Sanders’ obsession with status was destined to cause significant problems in diplomatic protocol.106 Two days later, in the midst of this crisis, von Sanders took over command of I Corps from Colonel Cemal. The commander of I Corps was also the administrator of martial law in İstanbul in an emergency. However, since this latter duty could not be given to a German without causing serious problems in domestic and foreign politics, it was entrusted to the city’s chief of military police, Colonel Çolak Faik. Despite the Russians’ claims to the contrary, the Ottomans had no intention of entrusting von Sanders with the powers of civilian security normally given to the İstanbul garrison commander.107 Other members of the mission took far longer to assume their positions, with appointments to the mission’s 42-strong officer corps yet to be completed by summer’s end, even with the extension of the contracts of nine German officers currently serving in the Ottoman Army. Service in the Ottoman Army was highly attractive to Prussian officers, making selection extremely competitive. The General Staff of the Bavarian Army were displeased that their officers had not been selected for the mission and joined forces with Saxony and Württemberg in a lobbying campaign. Following lengthy negotiations, three officers each from Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg were sent to join the mission.108 As a result, the majority of mission members took over their assignments – including the command posts of one division, five brigades, 11 schools and ­training centres, and staff positions in various headquarters – during the first two months of 1914.109 Since none of them spoke Turkish, Ottoman officers trained in Germany and other officers fluent in foreign languages were hurriedly transferred from their posts and appointed as private interpreters to the German officers. As this was the 106 Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 3–4; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp. 193–194; Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, Doubleday, Page & Co., New York, 1919, pp. 43–46; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, pp. 80–82; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 131, 137–138. 107 Cemal, Hatıralar, p. 84; Nevzat Artuç, Cemal Paşa: Askeri ve Siyasi Hayatı, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2008, pp. 133–134. 108 Michael Unger, Die bayerischen Militärbeziehungen zur Türkei vor und im Ersten Weltkrieg, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 2003, pp. 50–61; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 132–134. 109 For the intended positions of the mission members, see Cemal Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Siyasi ve Askeri Hazırlıkları ve Harbe Girişi, vol. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1991, pp. 273–275.

Prelude to war  35 first overseas duty for most of the Germans, the handover process, adaptation to a new country and army, and working through translators, was enormously time consuming. In addition to all these delays, the new Minister of War, Enver Pasha, and his German advisers decided to re-evaluate the assignments of the mission members in consultation with Berlin and von Sanders, and opted to shift some of them to what appeared to be more important positions in the headquarters of the General Staff and Ministry of War. As such, a large number of officers were reappointed before they had even assumed their initial posts.110 Von Sanders’ initial impressions of the Ottoman Army during his inspections and visits were far from favourable. His pessimism clouded his perspective and coloured his reports. In his view, the entire army had been devastated. There was no sense of morale, motivation, unity or self-confidence. The officer corps was unreliable, self-interested and corrupt. Neglected by their officers, the hapless Ottoman soldiers patiently endured injustice and innumerable shortages. Von Sanders’ negative view of officers and respect and appreciation for the soldiers would continue throughout the war.111 The German generals, who had lost all confidence in the Ottoman Army following the Balkan defeat, had regained their optimism due to the positive impression created by the Kaiser and von Wangenheim, but von Sanders’ pessimistic reports dissipated this optimism. Interestingly, even the Kaiser, who had supported the mission since its inception, was influenced by this general atmosphere of despair.112 Veteran military advisers and diplomats who had spent long years in the empire were also targeted by von Sanders’ criticism. According to him, these old hands had become ‘Turkified’ and corrupt due to their long stay in the Ottoman Empire, a criticism primarily aimed at Military Attaché Walter von Strempel. Von Sanders not only excluded him from mission activities, but also lobbied for him to be sent back to Germany, a goal he achieved in March. However, despite his expectations, von Strempel’s departure did not strengthen his own position. Indeed, his obstinate and querulous ways saw his relationship with the embassy and Ottoman administrators deteriorate rapidly over time. Once von Strempel left, Enver Pasha, who was not on good terms with von Sanders, preferred to contact the German military via his old friend, Navy Attaché Lieutenant Commander Hans Humann.113

110 Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, Vorhut-Verlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin, 1938, pp. 9, 29; Harpokulu Tarihçesi, Harpokulu Matbaası, Ankara, 1945, pp. 37–38; Hans Kannengiesser, Campaign in Gallipoli, (English translation of the German original Gallipoli: Bedeutung und Verlauf der Kämpfe 1915), (trans.) C.J.P. Ball, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1928, pp. 20–22; Unger, Die bayerischen Militärbeziehungen, pp. 72–75. 111 Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 5, 7–12; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 17–22. 112 Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 23–25; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 150–151. 113 Hans von Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha in Mesopotamien und Persien, Dieterichische Verlagbuchandlung, Leipzig, 1922, pp. 68–69; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 15–16; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 135–136, 145–147, 154; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, p. 40. For a description of the relationship between Enver Pasha and Humann, see Hanioğlu, Kendi Mektuplarında, pp. 2–30.

36  Prelude to war Under the terms of the contract, the mission was also tasked with the inspection of Ottoman roads and railways, in order to gauge their utility for military purposes, and the preparation of reports and proposals. Major Theodor Kübel was temporarily appointed to inspect the railways and identify any problems. Following a comprehensive review and numerous visits, Kübel reached the conclusion that, given its focus on maximising profits, the German-controlled Baghdad Railway Company had disregarded the Ottoman Army’s demands and failed to make the investment required for the war effort. He shared his findings with the Ottoman administration. In a panic, the German Embassy and the Deutsche Bank – which risked losing money on the venture – attempted to control the situation and minimise the damage. Despite accusations of disregarding German interests, von Sanders managed to keep Kübel in his post until the end of his contract. Interestingly, Lieutenant Colonel Sylvester Böttrich, who replaced Kübel as the new Railway Inspector, also reached the same conclusions. Although Böttrich presented his findings with far greater tact, not surprisingly, he too was assigned as a divisional commander within a short period.114 Von Sanders’ opinion of the Ottoman Army changed as one crisis followed another. The Ottoman Army and the officer corps were subject to far stricter discipline than ever before and units were rapidly redeployed in peacetime garrisons. Other observers also became aware that the Ottoman Army was undergoing an important transformation.115 Underlying this transformation was the purge of old and incompetent officers who were largely held responsible for the Balkan defeats. Partisan officers who were accused of damaging military effectiveness were also fired. In total, over 1000 mostly senior ranking officers were either sacked or forced into retirement. This process was implemented under the direct orders of Enver Pasha – the German mission played no role. Enver Pasha took a further step and abolished the high military council of which von Sanders had been a member. In so doing, he silently obliterated the mission leader’s right to influence the assignment and promotion of senior officers which had been granted under his contract.116 A second development in which German officers played only a limited role and which boosted the army’s performance was the radical modernisation of the military organisation. While the army’s general organisational architecture and the triangular unit organisation introduced in 1910 were preserved, the war had clearly demonstrated the flaws of the military system and problems with

114 Unger, Die bayerischen Militärbeziehungen, pp. 76–81; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 148–150; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 28–30; Fahrettin Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası (1912–1922), İnsel Yayınları, İstanbul, 1970, pp. 76–77. 115 Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, pp. 46–47. 116 From Lt-Col. F. Cunliffe-Owen to Sir Louise Mallet, 12 January 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 159–162; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 8–9; Şerif İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında 3. Ordu: Sarıkamış Kuşatma Manevrası ve Meydan Savaşı, (ed.) Sami Önal, İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 1998, pp. 23–25; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 40–41; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 22–23; Erkin, Hatırat, p. 106; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, p. 39; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, p. 256.

Prelude to war  37 the ongoing reforms.117 The redif reserve system, the failure of which had been all too apparent, was immediately abolished following the Second Balkan War. In parallel, the military conscription system was also revised. Prior to the arrival of the German mission, all unit headquarters from brigade to army had been restructured and deployed to their new recruitment areas.118 The third crucial development was the establishment and implementation of the modern European military system at all levels of the Ottoman military. Long before the advent of the new mission, the European military system had been analysed and embraced by Ottoman officers. From 1885, hundreds of officers and technicians had been sent to Germany for on-the-job training. Thus, well prior to the arrival of the Sanders Mission, these officers had commenced the task of turning the Ottoman Army into a modern war machine using German doctrine and manuals. The mission members added momentum to a process already on track, provided further guidance and increased the influence of German-trained officers within the army.119 The fourth major change was the Ottoman military renaissance, which saw the Ottoman Army reinvent itself and begin the process of modernisation prior to the First World War. Neither the German officers assigned to the Ottoman Army nor any other contemporary observers were aware of the scale and impact of this intellectual process. While such debates were instrumental in causing enormous turbulence across the army and in the public in general, foreign observers continued to characterise the Ottoman Army as an obsolete establishment with poorly trained, corrupt and incompetent officers.120 In short, the Sanders Mission played only a modest role in the radical transformation of the Ottoman Army before the war. However, the army’s apparent dramatic improvement infused von Sanders’ reports with far more optimism, inspiring hope in German political and military circles and accelerating the alliance talks between Germany and the Ottomans, which had been suspended, given significant doubts about the Ottoman military capability.121 117 Hochwächter, Mit den Türken, pp. 124–126; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 25–26. 118 İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 27–28; Hakkı Altınbilek and Naci Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Kafkas Cephesi 3ncü Ordu Harekâtı, vol. 2, Section 1, Book 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 35–40, 51; Cairo Intelligence Section, Handbook of the Turkish Army, February  1916, 8th Provisional Edition, Intelligence Section, Cairo, 1916, pp. 21–28, 44–50; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 27–28. 119 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 28–29, 34–35. As an example of a current report, see From Lt-Col. F. Cunliffe-Owen to Sir Louise Mallet, 12 January  1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp.  78–79; Erkin, Hatırat, p. 130; Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, p. 92; Edward J. Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I: A Comparative Study, Routledge, London, 2014, p. 13. 120 Uyar, “Osmanlı Askeri Rönesansı”, pp. 65–72; P.P.Graves, Report Turkish Military Preparations, 10 November 1914, TNA, WO 157/689. 121 Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 143–144; Erich von Falkenhayn, General Headquarters and Its Critical Decisions, 1914–1916, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1919, pp. 19–20; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 16, 39–42; Strachan, The First World War, vol. 1, pp. 685–686; Stanford Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, Turkish Historical Society, Ankara, 2006, pp. 71, 123–125; Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness, pp. 11–12.

2 The decision to go to war

The Ottoman leadership and the search for an alliance The Ottoman decision to go to war has fascinated politicians and scholars alike for more than a century. The political decision-making process, the role of the political and military leadership, public opinion, the intellectuals and the media have been well covered by recent scholarship assisted by newly opened archives and the authoring of a number of comparative studies.1 It is now clear that it was by no means a foregone conclusion that the Ottomans would join the Central Powers, though it was certain that “it would sooner or later have to choose sides”.2 A clearer picture has also emerged of the Ottoman leaders’ early dilemma in attempting to keep the empire from war while also securing an alliance with a great power.3 Despite the repetition of tired clichés4 in some recent books,5 most historians do not believe that the Ottomans actually wanted war in 1914. While this chapter will not describe the circumstances of the Ottoman entry into the war in any detail, it will examine some significant issues and events that dominated Ottoman decision-making at the time.

1 Mustafa Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War in 1914: The Ottoman Empire and the First World War, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008; Stanford Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, Turkish Historical Society, Ankara, 2006, pp. 1–5, 36–40, 52–59; Michael A. Reynolds, Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1908–1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 82–119; Erol Köroğlu, Ottoman Propaganda and Turkish Identity: Literature in Turkey During World War I, I.B. Tauris, London, 2007, pp.  47–71; Feroz Ahmad, “The Late Ottoman Empire”, in (ed.) Marian Kent, The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 2nd edition, Frank Cass, London, 1996, pp. 5–23. 2 Hew Strachan, The First World War: To Arms, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, p. 673. 3 Strachan, The First World War, vol. 1, pp. 660, 678–680; M.E. Yapp, The Making of the Modern Near East 1792–1923, Longman, London, 1987, pp. 266–267; John Terraine, The First World War, 2nd printing, Leo Cooper, London, 1983, p. 12. 4 “It is difficult to think of any rational motive for this act”. A.J.P. Taylor, The First World War: An Illustrated History, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1963, p. 58. 5 Daniel A. Butler, Shadow of the Sultan’s Realm: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, Potomac Books, Washington, DC, 2011, pp. 53–54.

The decision to go to war  39 The Ottoman leadership clearly understood that neutrality was not an option, as this would inevitably have led to the partitioning of the empire by the winning coalition. The Ottoman decision to enter the war on the side of Germany was a mixture of ‘bandwagoning’ and balancing strategies. The Entente was clearly the stronger side and the Ottomans would have been prudent to side with the stronger of the protagonists. In fact, the Ottoman leadership had approached the members of Entente seeking an alliance on numerous occasions, beginning immediately after the constitutional revolution of 1908. The most recent attempts took place just a few months prior to the outbreak of war. While the Ottoman government preferred an alliance with Britain to the various other nations that comprised the Entente, no approach was made, as the British had previously rejected any notion of an alliance with the Ottomans. Ottoman leaders wisely recognised the British dilemma of having allied itself closely with Russia. Britain simply could not reconcile Ottoman requests for security with Russian demands for Ottoman lands including the Straits.6 It is surprising, therefore, that the first Ottoman approach was made to ­Russia, the arch enemy, in May 1914. A small delegation under the leadership of Minister of the Interior Talat travelled to Livadia-Crimea to convey the sultan’s good wishes to the tsar. Talat used what was ostensibly a courtesy visit to propose an alliance to the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergey Sazanov. To his annoyance, Talat received no concrete answer and his further approaches to the Russian Ambassador, Michael de Giers, produced no result at all.7 The second approach was to France. The Minister of Navy, Cemal Pasha, a renowned Francophile, was invited to the Mediterranean exercise of the French Navy in July 1914. Cemal Pasha used this opportunity to investigate the possibility of an alliance. His hosts treated him lavishly, but he failed to secure an audience with Premier René Viviani and was confined to discussing the current dispute with Greece and the alliance proposal with the Political Director of Foreign Affairs, Pierre de Margerie. De Margerie did his best not to make any

6 Celal Bayar, Ben de Yazdım: Milli Mücadele’ye Gidiş, vol. 4, Baha Matbaası, İstanbul, 1967, pp. 1328–1332; Joseph Heller, British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire, Frank Cass, London, 1983, pp. 10–16, 62–65; Allan Cunningham, “The Wrong Horse? Anglo-Ottoman Relations before the First World War”, in (ed.) Edward Ingram, The Eastern Question in the Nineteenth Century: Collected Essays, vol. 2, Frank Cass, London, 1993, pp. 236–243; Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp. 52–55, 72–75; Strachan, The First World War, pp. 660–673, 674–675; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 2–3; Yapp, The Making of the Modern Near East 1792–1923, pp. 266–267. 7 Serge Sergey Sazonov, Fateful Years 1909–1916: The Reminiscences of Serge Sazonov, Frederick A. Stokes, New York, 1928, pp. 133–138; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 4, pp. 1321–1323; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılabı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, 3rd printing, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1991, pp. 244–250, 263–274; Harry N. Howard, The Partition of Turkey: A Diplomatic History 1913–1923, 2nd printing, Howard Fertig, New York, 1966, pp. 72–75; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 85–86.

40  The decision to go to war commitment relating to Ottoman territorial integrity and the hoped-for alliance. The visit ended in complete failure.8 The short-sightedness of the Entente in refusing an Ottoman offer of alliance was one of several developments that worked to change the mood of the leadership and the public. The most crucial foreign issue for the Ottomans was the occupation of the Eastern Sporades Islands (chief among them Lemnos, Chios and Mytilene). Greece had occupied these islands during the Balkan Wars and had no intention of evacuating them peacefully. The occupied islands threatened the Anatolian coastline as a whole, whereas Lemnos specifically threatened the Dardanelles Straits. In anticipation of further conflict with Greece, Ottoman governments commissioned two additional dreadnoughts and several other battleships from the British, French and German naval shipyards.9 While the arms race in the Aegean Sea was gaining pace, the Ottoman leadership still believed that the great powers would not permit Greece to retain the annexed islands and increased their diplomatic lobbying for their return. Britain and France, however, ignored Ottoman security concerns and recognised Greek sovereignty on 14 February 1914. The Ottoman public was outraged, and hostility to Britain and France increased dramatically.10 The second important development was closely related to the Ottoman quest to achieve naval superiority in the Aegean and Black seas. The Balkan Wars had painfully demonstrated the shortcomings of the Ottoman Navy. The Greek

 8 Cemal Paşa, Hatıralar: İttihat ve Terakki, 1. Dünya Savaşı Anıları, (ed.) Alpay Kabacalı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2001, pp. 121–130; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 59–62; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 4, pp. 1336–1338; Nevzat Artuç, Cemal Paşa: Askeri ve Siyasi Hayatı, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2008, pp. 171–176; Paul G. Halpern, The Mediterranean Naval Situation 1908–1914, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1971, p. 353.  9 The first dreadnought was ordered from the Vickers naval shipyard on 27 June 1911. See Serhat Güvenç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’na Giden Yolda Osmanlıların Derdnot Düşleri, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2001, pp. 36–40; William Peter Kaldis and Ronald J. Lagoe, “Background for Conflict: Greece, Turkey and the Aegean Islands, 1912–1914”, The Journal of Modern History, vol. 51, no. 2, June 1979, pp. 1120–1131; Cavid, Meşrutiyet Ruznamesi, vol. 2, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2015, pp. 95, 107, 160; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 162–164; Halpern, The Mediterranean Naval Situation, p. 317. 10 Dispatch from Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Elliot, 27 September 1913; from Sir F. Elliot to Sir Edward Grey, 13 February 1914; from Sir L. Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 16 February 1914; note communicated by Prince Lichnowsky; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir L. Mallet, 18 March 1914; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir R. Rodd, 30 March 1914; from Sir F. Elliot to Sir Edward Grey, 3 April 1914; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir L. Mallet, 23 April 1914; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir G. Buchanan, 27 April 1914; from Sir L. Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 21 May 1914; from Sir L. Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 2 June 1914; G.P. Gooch and Harold Temperley (eds.), British Documents on the Origins of the War [hereafter, British Documents], vol. X, Part 1, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1930, pp. 135–136, 231–234, 243–257; Güvenç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’na Giden Yolda, pp. 35–62; Kaldis and Lagoe, “Background for Conflict”, pp. 1121–1137; Geoffrey Miller, Superior Force: The Conspiracy behind the Escape of Goeben and Breslau, The University of Hull Press, Brough, 1996, pp. 163–174; Halpern, The Mediterranean Naval Situation, pp. 323–352; Kaldis and Lagoe, “Background for Conflict”, pp. 1132–1139.

The decision to go to war  41 Navy had dominated the Aegean Sea throughout the war,11 and the Russians were currently building three new dreadnoughts to achieve superiority in the Black Sea.12 The diplomatic failure to regain the islands increased the importance and value of the dreadnoughts. The Ottoman leaders and public put their faith in the newly commissioned battleships, chief among them the Reşadiye and the Sultan Osman, then nearing completing in Britain. But pressure from Russia and Greece saw the British Admiralty delay the handover of the two dreadnoughts. The July Crisis also placed additional pressure on the British decision-makers. The Ottoman government paid the last instalment on time and sent the crew to collect the ship earlier than expected in order to apply more pressure. First Sea Lord Winston Churchill, supported by key leaders, clearly had no intention of delivering state-of-the-art battleships to a possible ally of Germany. Moreover, he recognised that these ships could be extremely valuable in reinforcing the British Atlantic Fleet. Thus, on 1 August 1914, Churchill announced the requisitioning of the two Ottoman dreadnoughts. The ships promptly joined the British Navy as HMS Agincourt and HMS Erin. The Ottoman public had contributed enormous amounts of money to the Ottoman Naval League’s highly successful public subscription campaign to purchase these ships, and there had been tremendous public interest in their construction. The British decision was not only a serious blow to the Ottoman quest for naval superiority, but also shattered the hopes of the Ottoman public.13 The security of the capital city of İstanbul, the Straits, Eastern Thrace and the Black Sea coastline depended not only on expanding naval and military power but also on the consolidation of the empire’s position in the Balkans. In order to neutralise Russian and Greek threats, the empire needed an alliance with Bulgaria

11 A. [Ali İhsan Sabis], Balkan Harbinde Neden Münhezim Olduk, Kitabhane-i İslam ve Askeri, İstanbul, 1329 [1913], pp.  70–84; Afif Büyüktuğrul, TSK Tarihi Balkan Harbi: Deniz Harekâtı 1912–1913, vol. 7, 2nd printing, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 15–17, 34–36, 40–41, 53–54, 77–87, 131–152. 12 Pertti Luntinen, French Information on the Russian War Plans 1880–1914, Societas Historica Finlandiae, Helsinki, 1984, pp. 156–162; Tony E. Demchak, “Rebuilding the Russian Fleet: The Duma and Naval Rearmament, 1907–1914”, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, 2013, pp. 27–40; George Nekrasov, North of Gallipoli: The Black Sea Fleet at War 1914–1917, East European Monographs, Boulder, 1992, pp. 11–12; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 605–614. 13 From Sir Archibald Moore to Winston S. Churchill, 29 July 1914; from Winston S. Churchill to Prince Louis and Sir Archibald Moore, 29 July 1914; from Sir John Simon to Winston S. Churchill, 30 July 1914; from Sir Archibald Moore to Winston S. Churchill, 30 July 1914; from Winston S. Churchill to Sir Archibald Moore, 1 August 1914; from Sir Arthur Nicolson to Sir Edward Grey, 1 August 1914; from Foreign Office to Henry Beaumont, 3 August 1914 in Martin Gilbert (ed.), Winston S. Churchill, vol. 3, Companion Part I Documents, Heinemann, London, 1972, pp. 3–6, 9–10, 16; Güvenç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’na Giden Yolda, pp.  73–84; Geoffrey Miller, Straits: British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign, The University of Hull Press, Brough, 1997, pp. 219–224; Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911–1914, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1923, pp. 209, 482; Mahmud Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, (ed.) Murat Bardakçı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2014, pp. 150–151, 160.

42  The decision to go to war and, ideally, Romania. Like the approaches to Russia and France, secret alliance discussions with Romania and with Bulgaria, the other loser in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars, failed because, without the support of a great power, neither government would agree to the Ottoman terms. Alone, the empire had very little to offer. In the eyes of the Ottoman leadership, this reluctance provided evidence of plans to partition the empire.14 The diplomatic isolation of the empire only served to increase its fear of dissolution. It is important to understand the general psychology of the Ottoman leadership and officer corps and the way they perceived global and regional developments. For most, the Balkan Wars left many issues unresolved and the international political situation inherently unstable. They regarded the fragile peace as merely temporary and anticipated a new Balkan War or a larger European conflict. The inevitability of a new war and the vulnerability of the Ottoman Army forced them to look for radical solutions. They were convinced that the next war would see the end of the empire if it remained internationally isolated. They regarded a great power alliance as the only viable means of saving the empire and were determined to secure such an alliance at any cost as soon as possible.15 Germany had no apparent territorial interest in the Ottoman Empire and appeared more sympathetic to its security and integrity. Most importantly, it was eager to seek an alliance. Both the effectiveness of German diplomacy16 and the presence of the German Military Advisory Mission worked to dramatically alter the attitudes of the decision-makers.17 While the Ottoman leaders were initially equally divided in their sympathies, they believed at the same time in the power and merits of the German military system.18 They believed that Germany had the

14 Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, Vakit Matbaası, İstanbul, 1933, pp. 42–47; Howard, The Partition of Turkey, pp. 50–60; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 1, pp. 111–117. 15 Kazım Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, pp.  33–37, 41, 52–57; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 148–159; Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp. 69–80, 91–100; Rahmi Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1988, pp. 92–95; Handan Nezir Akmeşe, The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to World War I, I.B. Tauris, London, 2005, pp. 163–166; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 29–35. 16 Henry Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosphorus, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1918, pp. 4, 15, 17. It is important not to forget the crucial role played by the Austro-Hungarian diplomats during the initiation and negotiation phases of the alliance. See Frank G. Weber, Eagles on Crescents: Germany, Austria, and the Diplomacy of the Turkish Alliance 1914–1918, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1970, pp. 5–6, 17–77; Ulrich Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire 1914–1918, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968, pp. 12–61; Gerard E. Silberstein, The Troubled Alliance: German-Austrian Relations 1914 to 1917, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 1970, pp. 8–16, 76–98. 17 Robert J. Kerner, “The Mission of Liman von Sanders II: The Crisis”, The Slavonic Review, vol. 6, no. 17, December 1927, pp. 344–363. 18 Rear-Admiral Limpus’ message to Churchill on 8 September 1914. See Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol. 3, Part 1, pp. 102–103; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 117–163; Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, pp. 45–49; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 134–137; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 185–187.

The decision to go to war  43 means and talent to achieve victory well before the Entente could bring the might of their colonial resources to the conflict. For their part, the Germans, while conscious that the Ottomans would play a junior role in the alliance, still regarded the Ottoman military as essential to tip the short-term balance and offset the advantages of the Entente.19 The Ottoman quest for an alliance was so urgent that even the German declaration of war against Russia did not deter Enver Pasha and Talat, who had become the real decision-makers during the crisis. Dragging the Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha to the German Embassy, they secretly signed a treaty with German Ambassador Hans von Wangenheim on 2 August 1914, the subterfuge necessary since they did not have the support of the entire cabinet.20 The main purpose of the treaty, which would remain in force for five years, was the formation of a mutual defensive-offensive alliance against possible enemies. If Russia intervened on the Serbian side and Germany joined the war in opposition (which was the case at the time of signing), the Ottoman Empire would be obliged to enter the war on the German side. However, contrary to German expectations, the carefully worded treaty did not mandate Ottoman entry into the war because the treaty also implied Bulgarian and/or Romanian participation, without which there would be no direct connection between Germany and the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman government simply declared armed neutrality and the commencement of mobilisation on 3 August. Said Halim Pasha and the Ottoman diplomats abroad hastened to assure their Entente counterparts of the Ottoman intent to observe strict neutrality. The Entente leaders and diplomats protested and questioned the decision to keep the German Military Advisory Mission, but without success.21 The Kaiser and the German High Command accepted the persuasive Ottoman argument that the empire was not ready for war until mobilisation and concentration had been completed. Furthermore, the empire’s strategic position would be vulnerable without Bulgaria’s presence in the alliance, and this was by no means assured, as the Bulgarian leaders were divided into two conflicting camps.22

19 Jehuda L. Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe: Die preußisch-deutschen Militärmissionen in der Türkei 1835–1919, Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf, 1976, pp. 151–152; Cemal, Hatıralar, p. 137; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 188–195. 20 Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, pp. 18–25, 178–179; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, pp. 49–50; Celal Bayar, Ben de Yazdım: Milli Mücadele’ye Gidiş, vol. 1, Baha Matbaası, İstanbul, 1965, pp. 109–110; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 99–103; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 157–158; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 69–73. 21 Dispatch from Beaumont to Sir Edward Grey, 2 August 1914; from Beaumont to Sir Edward Grey, 3 August 1914; from Tewfik Pasha (Ottoman Ambassador to London) to Sir Edward Grey, 4 August 1914; from Sir Edward Grey to Beaumont, 4 August 1914; from Beaumont to Sir Edward Grey, 3 August 1914, British Documents, vol. 9, pp. 286, 311–313, 316–318; Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, pp. 172–178; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918: Die Operationen des Jahres 1915, vol. 9, Verlegt bei E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1933, pp. 137–138; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 73–75, 110–112. 22 Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, pp. 51–52; Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 23–24, 26–31.

44  The decision to go to war While the Entente diplomats in İstanbul were unaware of the secret treaty, they recognised the increase in German influence although, surprisingly, they did little to counter this.23 Even at this late stage, individual Ottoman leaders attempted to approach the Entente seeking an alliance or concrete guarantees over the territorial integrity of the empire. Indeed, Enver Pasha offered Russian Military Attaché General Leontiyev an alliance as late as 5 August. Under the terms of his proposal, if the Russians accepted the offer of 5–10 years’ defence alliance and mediation over the return of the Eastern Sporades Islands, the Ottoman government would immediately terminate the contract of the German military mission and end all relations with Germany. Leontiyev and Ambassador de Giers were swayed by Enver Pasha’s sincerity and frankness and tried their best to convince their superiors. Their frantic efforts lasted three weeks, but produced no meaningful result. The best Russia could offer was a verbal promise of respect for Ottoman territorial integrity if it remained neutral, but nothing binding. British and French ambassadors gave similar verbal promises on 19 August. Ultimately, their promises offered too little and arrived too late.24 As pressure mounted and the Ottoman position became increasingly untenable, Enver Pasha and his German advisers – including Ambassador ­ von ­Wangenheim – sought to break the political impasse with a single stroke. The ­German ­Mediterranean Fleet (Mittelmerdivision) which consisted of the battle cruiser SMS Göben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau, was confined to the Mediterranean given the imminence of war with France and Britain. Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon had just one option – to race to the safety of the ­Austro-Hungarian ports in the Adriatic Sea. But a surprising development was brewing. Previously, a number of Austro-Hungarian and German admirals had hatched a plan to send the entire Austro-Hungarian war fleet to İstanbul prior to the declaration of war. Enver Pasha and his advisers capitalised on this proposal and requested not only the Austro-Hungarian fleet, but also the German cruisers. While Admiral Anton Haus, Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, categorically 23 Dispatch from Beaumont to Sir Edward Grey, 26 July 1914; from Beaumont to Sir Edward Grey, 2 August 1914; from G. Barclay to to Sir Edward Grey, 3 August 1914; British Documents, vol. 9, pp. 106, 286, 306; Yigal Sheffy, British Military Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign, Frank Cass, London, 1998, pp. 89–90. 24 Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 127–131; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section  1, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1983, pp.  133–140, 147–148; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 4, pp. 1324–1327; C. Jay Smith Jr., The Russian Struggle for Power 1914–1917, 2nd printing, Greenwood Press, New York, 1969, pp. 69–75. Some modern scholars, like Russian Foreign Minister Sazanov at that time, regard Enver Pasha’s offer as an elaborate ruse prior to the arrival of the German cruisers. Efraim Karsh and Inari Karsh, Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789–1923, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 124–125. Churchill’s private telegram to Enver Pasha is instrumental in understanding how Britain and others gave assurances to the Ottoman leadership: “I hope you are not going to make a mistake which will undo all the services you have rendered Turkey and cast away the successes of the Second Balkan War. By a strict and honest neurality these can be kept secure. But siding with Germany openly or secretly now must mean the greatest disaster to you, your comrades and your country”. From Winston S. Churchill to Enver Pasha, 15 August 1914 in Gilbert (ed.), Winston S. Churchill, p. 38–39.

The decision to go to war  45

Figure 2.1 A German propaganda postcard dramatises the arrival of SMS Göben and SMS Breslau to İstanbul.

refused the request, the German General Staff grasped it enthusiastically and, on 3 August, ordered Souchon immediately to İstanbul. Souchon calmly attacked the Algerian ports of Bone (Annaba) and Philippeville (Skikda) the following morning and then headed east, hotly pursued by the vengeful British fleet.25 Enver Pasha and Said Halim Pasha continued to use the tense situation to gain more concessions and assurances from Germany. Von Wangenheim reluctantly accepted new demands including German support for the annulment of capitulations, assurances against possible enemy occupation of Ottoman territories and assistance to the Ottomans to regain the Eastern Sporades Islands should Greece

25 Wilhelm Souchon, “Der durchbruch S.M. Schiffe Goeben und Breslau von Messina nach den Dardanellen”, (ed.) Eberhard von Mantey, Auf See unbesiegt: Erlebnisse in Seekrieg erzählt von Mitkämpfern, Erster Band, J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, München, 1922, pp. 17–31; Hermann Lorey, Der krieg in den türkischen Gewässern, Erster Band: Die Mittelmeer-Division, Verlag von E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1928, pp. 1–18; Miller, Superior Force, pp. 356–358; Georg Kopp, Two Lone Ships: Goeben and Breslau (English translation of the German original Das Teufelschiff und seine kleine Schwester), (trans.) Arthur Chambers, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1931, pp. 34–71; Dan van der Vat, The Ship that Changed the World: The Escape of the Goeben to the Dardanelles 1914, Adler & Adler, Bethesda, 1986, pp. 95–115; Joseph Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü: 1914–1918 1. Dünya Savaşı, (trans.) Kemal Turan, Kayıhan Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp. 68–69.

46  The decision to go to war enter the war.26 After getting the assurance, Enver Pasha issued the order to let the German ships in.27 The arrival of the Göben and the Breslau after a breathless flight to the Dardanelles on 10 August dramatically altered the political and military balance. The Ottoman government refused to intern the ships and disarm their crews. Instead, an unconvincing story of the sale of the vessels was invented as if the Ottomans had purchased them from Germany in place of the requisitioned dreadnoughts. In terms of public diplomacy, this ruse was a huge success and the Ottoman public celebrated the news with great joy. However, the shaky Ottoman neutrality was damaged beyond repair, although the Entente diplomats ignored this and redoubled their efforts to keep the empire out of the war for as long as possible. Enver Pasha and Talat exploited this opportunity and negotiated hard with Germany, securing additional guarantees for the integrity of the empire and promises of support for the return of the Eastern Sporades Islands should Greece enter the war. At the same time, however, they buckled under intense German pressure in two months, Enver Pasha and Talat realising that continuous bickering would destroy the alliance. Furthermore, the Ottoman government needed urgent financial funding in order to avoid bankruptcy.28 The fleet commander, Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, assumed the command and reform of the Ottoman Navy, replacing the British Admiral Limpus, who was obliged to abandon his duty; at the same time, Souchon’s personnel also wore the Ottoman uniform and became part of the navy. The sudden arrival of over 1600 German military personnel had other unintended consequences. Von Sanders, who had been kept dark throughout the process, not only lost his position as the ultimate German military authority in the Ottoman Empire, but also found himself in a minority position quantity-wise, although the fact that Souchon was not 26 Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 26–29; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 113–115. In his published memoir, von Kress exaggerates his role in convincing Enver Pasha to let the ships in. Most probably he was not aware that the German High Command had already made a deal with Enver Pasha and others. Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, Vorhut-Verlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin, 1938, pp. 18–19 27 From Enver Pasha to Çanakkale Fortified Zone Command, 7–8 August 1914, Askeri Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi [hereafter ATBD], year 38, no. 88, August 1989, pp. 1–2; From Ministry of Interior to Dardanelles Subgovernor, 11 August 1914, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Çanakkale Muharebeleri, vol. 1, Başbakanlık Basımevi, Ankara, 2005, pp. 5–6. 28 From von Usedom to Müller (Kaiser’s adjutant), 18 September 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; From Enver Pasha to the Çanakkale Fortress Area Command, 12 August 1914, ATBD, no. 88, August 1989, pp. 7–8; From Prime Minister to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 21 October 1914, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2013, p. 65; Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, pp. 25–30, 181–182, 261–264, 278–279; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 137–149, 156–176; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 1, pp. 72–87, 91–92, 194–200, 211–215; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 156–160; Behiç Erkin, Hatırat 1876–1958, (ed.) Ali Birinci, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2010, pp. 125, 161; L.L. Farrar, The Short-War Illusion: German Policy, Strategy & Domestic Affairs August-December 1914, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 1973, pp. 95–96.

The decision to go to war  47 supposed to intervene with the affairs of the army gave von Sanders partial relief.29 On 16 August, Enver Pasha asked Germany to send a new mission of specialists to reorganise and reinforce the defence of the Straits. To ensure that the Ottomans entered the war as soon as possible, Berlin immediately met this demand, and included additional personnel beyond that which had been demanded in order to address the technical and administrative vacancies created by the departure of the Limpus mission – all in all, 26 officers and 520 soldiers. Under the command of Admiral Guido von Usedom, the mission which was formally named Sonderkommando Kaiserliche Marine Türkei left for Ottoman lands secretly in small parties and all of them succeeded in reaching their posts by the end of August. As such, a strong, autonomous mission entirely independent of von Sanders had taken over the defence of the Straits, which he had viewed as his own domain.30 While von Sanders was increasingly frustrated with the erosion of his authority, the Ottoman officials’ unwillingness to join the war became the final straw. Von Sanders sent a telegraph to the Kaiser asking that he and the mission be called back to Germany on 19 August. Following the counsel of von Wangenheim, the Kaiser diplomatically refused this request, trying to placate von Sanders by stressing the importance of his position to the mission’s success. Despite the Kaiser’s explicit refusal to release von Sanders from his post and recall the mission back to Berlin, von Sanders reiterated his demand to be recalled in mid-September. In fact, everyone more or less involved in the matter was in favour of von Sanders being replaced. The problem was not who would succeed him, but rather the difficulty of replacing him at such a critical juncture. The president of the Kaiser’s military cabinet, General Moriz Freiherr von Lyncker, harshly warned von Sanders that he should not repeat this demand and refrain from trying to influence the political decision-making process. Nevertheless, in view of possible problems in the future, they started to look for a general who could replace von Sanders. In late November, von der Goltz would be despatched to Istanbul to this end.31 By fall 1914, most Ottoman officers had started thinking that remaining neutral was no longer possible and that the empire would eventually be drawn into the war in one way or another. The general view was that, to prevail, the empire had to join the war on the side of Germany. Nevertheless, they insisted that entry into the war be postponed by two years, in view of the severe defeats suffered by the Austro-Hungarian Army at the hands of Serbia and Russia; it was understood that addressing and remedying the Ottoman Army’s deficits was an essential

29 Saim Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Deniz Harekâtı, vol. 8, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1976, pp. 52–53; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 153–154. 30 From von Usedom to Müller, 9 September 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; Otto Liman von Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, (trans.) Carl Reichmann, The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore, 1928, pp. 33–34; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 135–136. 31 Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 159–160, 171–172; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 16–17; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 23; Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 43–44, 72; Pertev Demirhan, Generalfeldmarschall Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz, Göttinger Verlagsanstalt, Göttingen, 1960, pp. 190–201.

48  The decision to go to war

Figure 2.2  Sevastopol harbour receiving the shells of armoured cruiser SMS Göben (recently rechristened as Yavuz) on 29 October 1914.

precursor to its entry into the war.32 Despite these views, following three months of hesitation and diplomatic manoeuvring, the Ottoman Empire was drawn into war on the side of Germany in a fait accompli. Von Wangenheim and the naval attaché Lieutenant Commander Hans Humann played the leading roles in this process, from which almost all Ottoman officials – including the Grand Vizier – were excluded. On 27 October 1914, Enver Pasha, without securing authorisation from cabinet, ordered Souchon to take the Ottoman-German fleet to the Black Sea and commence a secret operation to attack Russian warships and ports in an attempt to draw the Russian fleet to battle. However, despite bombarding Sevastopol, Odessa, Feodosiya and Novorossiysk simultaneously on 29 October, Souchon failed to draw out the Russian fleet. While several small Russian ships were also sunk, overall, the naval operation achieved limited results other than pulling the Ottoman Empire into the war.33 Paradoxically, some Entente leaders saw this

32 Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 2, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp.  48–58; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 58–60; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 1, pp. 117–120; Paul Leverkuehn, Sonsuz Nöbette Görev, (Turkish translation of the German original Posten aus ewiger Wache: Aus dem abenteuerreichen Leben des Max von Scheubner-Richter), (trans.) Zekiye Hasançebi, Arba Yayınları, İstanbul, 1998, p. 15; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, p. 169. 33 Rudolf Firle, “Meine erste Kriegsfahrt nach Odessa”, Auf See unbesiegt: Erlebnisse in Seekrieg erzählt von Mitkämpfern, (ed.) Eberhard von Mantey, Zweiter Band, J.F. Lehmanns Verlag,

The decision to go to war 49

Figure 2.3 After the Sevastopol raid, Admiral Souchon named ‘A’ Turret of Yavuz as ‘Sewastopol’.

development as a golden chance. As far as they were concerned, the Ottoman Empire would become a wonderful selling point to buy the alliance of the Balkan nations and Italy.34

Initial war aims In comparison to other protagonists in the war, the Ottoman government’s initial war aims were relatively few – just two – and somewhat conservative. The most obvious aim was to preserve the integrity and independence of the empire. This

München, 1922, pp. 243–250; Miller, Straits: British Policy Towards the Ottoman Empire, pp. 308–310, 321–325; Vat, The Ship that Changed the World, pp. 189–193; Kopp, Two Lone Ships, pp. 89–106; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 159–161; Hafız Hakkı, Paşa’nın Sarıkamış Günlüğü, (ed.) Murat Bardakçı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 42–43; Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, pp. 30–35, 45–47, 64–77, 182–207, 248–250, 269–273; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, pp. 354–361, 383; Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 1, pp. 110–111; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 58–64; Nekrasov, North of Gallipoli, pp. 23–27; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 195–205. 34 Lorey, Der krieg, pp. 42–57; Smith, The Russian Struggle for Power, pp. 80, 88, 102–104, 143– 145; James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of World War I, William Morrow and Co., New York, 1981, pp. 180, 191.

50  The decision to go to war aim had been a constant of Ottoman diplomacy and military action since the end of the eighteenth century. However, a series of defeats at the hands of the small Balkan states had effectively destroyed the self-confidence of the Ottoman military and the government’s faith in the international system. The great powers had sealed that loss of faith by supporting the territorial gains of the Balkan states, in direct violation of their treaties and promises.35 It is little wonder, therefore, that the Ottoman leadership was fearful of the consequences of staying out of the current war without an alliance with or the support of a great power. With the luxury of hindsight, Turkish and Western scholars tend to regard the Ottoman leadership’s belief in the necessity to join one of the alliances as a fatal error, some even describing the Ottomans as “hare-brained”.36 However, this view ignores the political climate of the time, the prevailing fear of Russia and the ambiguous signals of the great powers.37 The German alliance appeared to provide security against the territorial aspirations of both greater and lesser powers. The Ottomans assessed that Germany was the only power that would respect the integrity of the empire and ensure its survival in return for an alliance. At the same time, the Ottoman leaders were hoping to safeguard regional security through a Balkan pact with Romania and Bulgaria. The German alliance was also necessary to realise this goal. It was certainly a gamble, but a gamble that promised a chance of success.38 Modern scholarship has become increasingly preoccupied with the effect of internal problems on the Ottoman decision to go to war. Internal unrest was certainly a concern for the Ottoman government, particularly the Armenian question which was directly linked to the security and integrity of the empire. However,

35 Heller, British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire, pp. 67–82; dispatch from Sir Edward Grey to Sir G. Lowther, 20 January 1913; from Sir G. Lowther to Sir Edward Grey, 31 January 1931; from Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen, 31 January 1913; from Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey, 31 January 1913; from Sir G. Lowther to Sir Edward Grey, 1 February 1913, British Documents, vol. IX, Part 2, pp. 428–429, 463–470. 36 Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, pp. 12–18; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 1, pp. 267– 268, 274; Heller, British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire, p. 163; Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, p. 1. 37 Ahmad, “The Late Ottoman Empire”, p. 15. From the late nineteenth century, the Straits became the focal point of Russian political and economic interest. Russia’s disastrous defeat by the Japanese was instrumental in changing the strategic orientation from the Far East to the Middle East. While the Straits did not initially appear as an element in the official Russian war aims, it was apparent to Britain and France that Russia was eager for the opportunity to solve the Straits problem once and for all. Alan Bodger, “Russia and the End of the Ottoman Empire”, in (ed.) Marian Kent, The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 2nd edition, Frank Cass, London, 1996, pp. 77–80, 96–97, 102; Sean McMeekin, The Russian Origins of the First World War, The Belknap Press, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 13, 17–19, 23, 26, 33–35; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, pp. 29, 35, 40–41, 72, 76, 114–115; Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosphorus, p. 16. 38 Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 13–14, 17, 153–154; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 1, pp. 110–121; Silberstein, The Troubled Alliance, pp. 6–7; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, pp. 119–120; Hew Strachan, The First World War, Penguin Books, New York, 2005, p. 104; Heller, British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire, p. 163.

The decision to go to war  51 in 1914, these problems were regarded as manageable and did not significantly influence the Ottoman decision-making process at this point.39 The second aim in entering the war was economic independence and the creation of a modern economic system through radical reform. War appeared to provide a unique opportunity to shake off capitulations and great power economic domination and control. This had been the dream of several generations of Ottoman leaders. The ever-problematic Ottoman economy had slipped into a downward spiral following the Balkan Wars and, with the July Crisis, it collapsed. Most Western-owned businesses closed their doors, and foreign-dominated seaborne transportation came to a halt. The Ottoman government only managed to secure foreign loans once it had signed the alliance agreement with Germany. These recent disasters persuaded the leadership that the empire must do everything in its power to establish an independent and viable economy without waiting for the end of the war. Consequently, capitulations were unilaterally abrogated just before the Ottomans entered the war.40 With the commencement of hostilities, more economic reforms were introduced. In addition to these reforms, a number of innovative economic experiments were also attempted, such as the increased participation of women in the labour force.41 Contrary to a number of commonly held opinions, the return of captured territory was not among the initial Ottoman war aims.42 While Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania openly bargained with the warring sides over concrete territorial gains as a price for their support, the Ottoman leaders deliberately avoided this type of negotiation.43 Despite this, the loss of important European provinces just 39 British Documents, vol. X, Part 1, pp. 424–548. Some scholars claim that “plans for the Turkification of Anatolia” and to end “the reform agreement for the Armenian provinces” played an important part in the Ottoman decision to enter the war. While historians are divided over whether the Ottoman leadership welcomed the war as an opportunity, to regard the decision solely from the perspective of the Armenian question presents a skewed understanding of the situation both in the empire and in Eastern Anatolia. The facts simply do not support the claim. For a standard version of this claim, see Taner Akçam, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2006, pp. 111–112, 121–122. 40 Harp Kabinelerinin İsticvabı, pp. 49–56, 93–100; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 1, pp. 149–173, 181–193; “Cavit Beyin İsticvabı”, pp. 49–53, 97–100; Ahmed Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1930, pp. 112–116; Howard, The Partition of Turkey, pp. 102–106; Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosphorus, p. 23; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 206–285. 41 Zafer Toprak, İttihat-Terakki ve Cihan Harbi: Savaş Ekonomisi ve Türkiye’de Devletçilik, Homer Kitabevi, İstanbul, 2003; Yavuz Selim Karakışla, Women and Work in the Ottoman Empire: Society for the Employment of Ottoman Muslim Women (1916–1923), State University of New York, Binghamton Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 2004; Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, pp. 231–238; Nicole A.N.M. van Os, “Ottoman Muslim Women and Work during World War I”, in (ed.) Hakan Yavuz, Feroz Ahmad, War and Collapse: World War I and the Ottoman State, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2016, pp. 427–450. 42 Ian F.W. Beckett, The Great War 1914–1918, 2nd edition, Pearson-Longman, Harlow, 2007, p. 102; Heller, British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire, p. 163; Akçam, A Shameful Act, p. 112. 43 Silberstein, The Troubled Alliance, pp. 16–30, 33–58, 129–178; R.J. Crampton, “The Balkans, 1914– 1918”, in (ed.) Hew Strachan, World War I: A History, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998, p. 66.

52  The decision to go to war two years earlier was hotly debated in almost every area of society, with the officer corps and intellectuals determined to exact revenge. The ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population from Macedonia, however, effectively ended the feasibility of recapture.44 On 3 September  1915, in the midst of the fighting, the Ottoman government would yet again lose vital territory, forced to cede the strategically important western bank of the Maritsa River to Bulgaria to encourage its entry into the war on the Ottoman-German side.45 Had the regaining of territory been one of their aims in entering the war, the Ottomans would not have sacrificed a critical portion of the last remaining part of the empire’s European territory. Similarly, the continuing neutrality of Greece effectively stymied efforts to negotiate over the northern Aegean islands, claims which had initiated the naval armament race between the countries two years earlier. In short, at the beginning of war, the Ottomans were very cautious over the issue of territorial gains. Likewise, neither pan-Islamism nor pan-Turkism played an important role in the Ottoman decision to enter the war and the formulation of initial war aims.46 In direct contrast to German47 and British decision-makers,48 the Ottoman leadership had little faith in the potential of these ideologies. They knew from earlier experiences that pan-Islamism had failed to unite or rally the Muslim citizens of the empire against increasing Western encroachment.49 Instead of supporting the empire, most Muslims focused on well-established local or regional interests and awaited the outcome of quarrels with the central government before throwing their lot in with the side most likely to win. Even in Libya, locals rallied under the Ottoman banner only after suffering terribly from the heavy-handed Italian colonial administration and bloody counter-insurgency operations.50 Nevertheless, the

44 Hafız Hakkı, Bozgun, Matbaa-i Hayriye ve Şürekası, Dersaadet, 1330 [1914], pp. 3–6; Ahmad, “The Late Ottoman Empire”, p. 23; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, p. 150. 45 The Border Treaty between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Bulgaria, 24 August 1915, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, pp. 219–222; Silberstein, The Troubled Alliance, pp. 119–126; Erich Ludendorff, My War Memories 1914–1918, vol. 1, 2nd edition, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1923, p. 251. 46 Strachan, The First World War, pp. 658–659. 47 Donald M. McKale, War by Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I, The Kent University Press, Kent, 1998, pp. x, 46–68; Fritz Fischer, Germany’s Aims in the First World War, Chatto & Windus, London, 1967, pp. 126–131; Tilman Lüdke, “(Not) Using Political Islam: The German Empire and Its Failed Propaganda Campaign in the Near East and Middle East, 1914–1918 and Beyond”, in (ed.) Erik-Jan Zürcher, Jihad and Islam in World War I, Leiden University Press, Leiden, 2006, pp. 74–79. 48 McKale, War by Revolution, pp. 3, 69–75; David French, British Strategy & War Aims 1914–1916, Allen & Unwin, London, 1986, p. 46. 49 Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, pp.  371–377; M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, “Ottoman Jihad or Jihads: The Ottoman Shii Jihad, the Successful One”, in (ed.) Erik-Jan Zürcher, Jihad and Islam in World War I, Leiden University Press, Leiden, 2006, pp. 117–118; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, p. 123; McKale, War by Revolution, p. xiii. 50 Ertuna, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi Osmanlı Devri Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi (1911–1912), pp. 142–182.

The decision to go to war  53 Ottoman leaders welcomed additional German funds for pan-Islamist projects, happy to finance their military and agents without committing too much of the meagre stock of government funds.51 Thus, the initial war aims of the Ottomans clearly show that the decisionmakers were not anticipating huge gains in terms of territory and power. The prevailing intent was to weather the Great War by maintaining the independence and integrity of the empire as far as possible and, ideally, to create a Balkan pact around the empire. At this stage, the Ottoman leaders cautiously weighed the options and formulated their war aims based not on positive gains but rather on eliminating threats.

The Ottoman General Staff and mobilisation Perhaps the most neglected issue in the many studies of the German Military Advisory Mission is the downgrading of the Ottoman General Staff to a mere field army headquarters under the direct command of the German General Staff during mobilisation and the first year of the war. The first step in this direction came when Enver Pasha – who, in addition to his other duties, was also Chief of General Staff – demanded a German officer as his ­assistant.52 According to the original agreement, three German General Staff officers appointed to the General Staff College (Erkân-ı Harbiye Mektebi) would serve as trainers in various branches of the General Staff on a part-time basis. Enver Pasha had become Minister of War on 1 January 1914 and chief of the General Staff on 6 January. Since he also had a significant political role, he had little time to fulfil his duties as chief of the General Staff. In any case, he lacked the skills and experience to serve in this technical and challenging senior command staff position. Most of the older generation of General Staff officers had either been sacked or sent to serve in units during the purge. The officers who replaced them were young majors and captains who lacked crucial experience to the extent that they essentially required on-the-job training. The solution was to appoint German officers to the positions of assistant chief and branch chief.53 Enver Pasha initially proposed the post of first assistant chief of the General Staff (Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye Dairesi Erkân-ı Harbiye Reis-i Saniliği) to Liman von Sanders. However, since he insisted on serving as a senior field commander, the next senior German General Staff officer in line – Friedrich Bronsart

51 Aksakal, The Ottoman Road to War, pp. 15–18. 52 Dispatch from Sir Louis Mallet to Sir Edward Grey, 8 January 8, British Documents, pp. 414–415. 53 From Military Attaché (Lt.Col. F. Cunliffe-Owen), 19 January 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 94–95, 169–170; Erkin, Hatırat, pp.  120, 124, 160–161; İnönü, Hatıralar, vol. 1, p.  47; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp.  20–21; Hans Kannengiesser, Campaign in Gallipoli, Hutchinson  & Co., London, 1928, pp.  45–46; Ludendorff, My War Memories 1914–1918, vol. 1, pp. 256–257; Hans Guhr, Anadolu’dan Filistin’e Türklerle Omuz Omuza, (trans.) Eşref B. Özbilen, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, p. 13.

54  The decision to go to war

Figure 2.4 Bronsart von Schellendorf with his Aide-de-camp (ADCs) posing in the office of the Ottoman Chief of General Staff.

von Schellendorf – was appointed instead.54 While von Sanders was destined to play a crucial role in the Gallipoli Campaign, the act of refusing this post (combined with his inability to get along with Ottoman leaders, particularly the selfappointed generalissimo of the Ottoman military, Enver Pasha) saw von Sanders sidelined by von Schellendorf, who would become the most influential German military adviser in the empire until his recall in 1917.55 In his new position, von Schellendorf was expected to reorganise the Ottoman General Staff on the German model and conduct on-the-job training for young General Staff officers. Accordingly, German General Staff officers were assigned as the chiefs of all the important branches of the Ottoman Army.56 54 Von Schellendorf was a Prussian general staff colonel. He volunteered to serve in the Ottoman military several times, and he was even considered for the position of chief of mission. But the last-minute intervention of Kaiser Wilhelm saw von Sanders given the post instead. Prior to his appointment to the Ottoman Empire, von Schellendorf was commander of the 119th Grenadier Regiment. Following his recall in 1917, he continued his career as a divisional commander in the new German Army and retired as a lieutenant general in 1920. Deutsche Offiziere in der Türkei, Reichsarchiv, Berlin, 1940; Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, p. 132. 55 From Lt-Col. F. Cunliffe-Owen to Sir Louise Mallet, 12 January 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 19, 22–23; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 22–23; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, p. 55. 56 Ahmed İzzet Pasha was completely against the employment of German officers in the General Staff and received an assurance from Mahmud Şevket Pasha during the early phase of the planning

The decision to go to war  55 Von Schellendorf was, and still is, an obscure figure. He was the ideal staff officer for this situation not only because Enver Pasha liked him personally but also because he was a master of General Staff operations. He worked diligently and reorganised the Ottoman General Staff to become a mirror image of the German staff.57 Young and talented Ottoman General Staff officers, most of whom were also German trained, were assigned as deputy branch chiefs under German staff officers in ‘staff learner’ capacity.58 While Enver Pasha preferred to deal with grand issues and even then only briefly, von Schellendorf amended the strategic mobilisation and concentration plan and rewrote most of the future campaign plans.59 In order to bypass the Ottoman staff officers, responsibility for mobilisation was removed from the 3rd Staff Division and given to the newly assigned Lieutenant Colonel Kress von Kressenstein, who prepared the mobilisation plans with von Schellendorf in secret.60 At the same time, in order to ensure that Ottoman officers would not discover these secret preparations, a completely new archive system was implemented in which all the important documents – including minutes of key planning meetings, original copies of operations orders, intelligence summaries, reports and returns to and from Berlin, and special files on future theatres of operations – were archived separately from the regular system. A German staff officer was allocated solely to this task. While Ottoman staff officers drafted some documents and plans, they were not authorised to use this secret archive, which only served to further poison relations between the Ottoman officers and their German advisers.61



for a German military mission. Without the expertise and team of Ahmed İzzet Pasha, Enver Pasha had no choice but to approve this drastic change. Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, p. 288. 57 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 23; Felix Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesindeki Muharebeler, (Turkish translation of the German original Die Kaukasusfront im Weltkrieg bis zu Frieden von Brest with comments and criticisms by the Military History Division of the Turkish General Staff), (trans.) Hakkı, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1931, pp. 48–49. 58 The key branches and their personnel at the beginning of 1914 were: Chief of the General Staff, Enver Pasha; First Assistant Chief, von Schellendorf; Second Assistant Chief, Lieutenant Colonel Hafız Hakkı; 1st Section (Training and Education) Chief, Major Franz Carl Endres; 1st Section Deputy, Major Ali İhsan [Sabis]; 2nd Section (Intelligence) Chief, Lieutenant Colonel Perrinet von Thauvenay; 2nd Section Deputy, Major Kazım [Karabekir]; 3rd Section (Operations and Mobilisation) Chief, Lieutenant Colonel Otto von Feldmann; 3rd Section Deputy, Major İsmet [İnönü]; 4th Section (Transportation) Chief, Lieutenant Colonel Böttrich (Kübel served very briefly in this position); 4th Section Deputy, Major Refik. For more details, see Selahattin Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi (1908–1920), vol. 3, Section 6, Book 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1971, pp. 194, 197, 256; Kazım Karabekir, Tarih Boyunca Türk-Alman İlişkileri, Emre Yayınları, İstanbul, 2001, pp. 390–392; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 21–22, 148; İnönü, Hatıralar, pp. 85–86; Kannengiesser, Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 21, 121–122; Notes of Major Abdürrauf 1914, Private Archive of Prof. Rauf Versan. 59 Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 94, 169–170; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 20–21; İnönü, Hatıralar, p. 47. 60 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 9, 14; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 148, 169, 256–257. 61 Dispatch from Major Abdürrauf to General Headquarters, no. 6161, 3 November 1918, Private Archive of Prof. Rauf Versan. All these documents and folders were hastily despatched to Germany

56  The decision to go to war Amid the intense discussions and personal friction of the General Staff’s radical transformation, the German Army stormed into Belgium. The Ottoman military was taken completely by surprise, uninformed by its German ally and unprepared for a consequent eruption of hostilities. The Balkan Wars had left it exhausted, demoralised and in need of urgent refurbishment. Given the extent of its Balkan defeats, the Entente regarded the Ottoman Empire as militarily weak, while its new ally, Germany, also had serious concerns about its military capability.62 In addition to its own reorganisation and planning activities, the General Staff also had to manage the enormous damage inflicted by the Balkan defeats. Army corps headquarters and divisions deployed around Çatalca Fortified Zone had to be sent to their old or new garrisons, thousands of prisoners of war and detainees returning from captivity had to be integrated into their new units, and civil disturbances in several provinces had to be quelled. Confusion reigned, and some of the headquarters and units moved to new locations then back to their previous dispositions, passing through several transformations and reorganisations. Mobilisation proceeded slowly, given the drastic changes to military organisation and structure and the uncertainty that prevailed in the recruitment districts.63 The Ottoman General Staff faced a particular set of constraints and dilemmas in mobilising its resources. Even with the loss of its European territories, the empire remained vast, its population thinly dispersed, and transportation and communications poor and problematic. The most significant challenge was to mobilise the empire’s human resources for war. The Balkan defeats and the loss of almost all the European provinces demonstrated to the new Ottoman leadership that the security of the empire depended on the broadest possible extension of military service to all groups and provinces.64 They were adamant that no exception could be made and introduced stringent legislation to achieve this. The Military Service Law of 1914 was born of this new approach. Like its predecessor, it was enacted under the provisions of the 1876 constitution which required all citizens of the empire to serve in defence of the state. Similarly, military service was again proclaimed as compulsory for all able-bodied males between the ages of 21 and 46. The term of active service usually began in the year following that in which a man’s 20th birthday fell. The new period of service amounted to 25 years in the infantry and transport corps, including two years’ continuous active service

at the end of the war. See Mesut Uyar, “Bir Arşiv Yağmasının Hikâyesi”, Çanakkale 1915, no. 13, September 2012, pp. 34–41. 62 From Lt-Col. F. Cunliffe-Owen to Sir Louise Mallet, 12 January 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Weber, Eagles on Crescents, pp. 1–2, 10, 17; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 150–152. 63 From Military Attaché Lt-Col. F. Cunliffe-Owen to War Office, 21 April 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Şerif İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında 3.Ordu: Sarıkamış Kuşatma Manevrası ve Meydan Savaşı, (ed.) Sami Önal, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 1998, pp. 27, 33–34; Arif Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi: Sessiz Ölüm Sarıkamış Günlüğü, (ed.) İsmail Dervişoğlu, Yeditepe Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2007, pp.  13–14; Carl Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, Druck und Verlag Gerhard Stalling, Oldenburg, 1927, pp. 27–29. 64 Cemal Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, vol. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1970, pp. 72–73; Hafız Hakkı, Bozgun, pp. 95–98.

The decision to go to war  57 and 23 years as a reserve. For other army branches and the gendarmerie, service totalled 20 years, divided into three years active and 17 years reserve time. However, in time of war, the Ministry of War had the power to delay the final release of men who had completed their total term of service. Likewise, the Ministry might call up entire new cohorts of conscripts prior to the usual date of enlistment and was empowered to extend liability.65 While all the basic articles of mobilisation appeared unchanged, the real reforms lay in the complete abolition of exemptions and privileges. Legal loopholes previously available to those who wished to avoid military service were effectively closed. The Ministry attempted to achieve a careful balance by reducing the period of compulsory active service in exchange for the abolition of exemptions. Even exemption on the basis of being the sole breadwinner of the family (muinsiz) was abolished, a change that would devastate thousands of vulnerable rural families during the war.66 The lawmakers exempted recent refugees from the Balkans for a period of six years but, less than a year later, on 5 April 1915, this deferral was reduced to just three months. The vast bulk of exemptions – social, professional and geographic – were repealed. Despite recent bouts of unrest and mass desertions, non-Muslims were particularly targeted for conscription. Not surprisingly, there was no discussion of military service as an instrument of integration and unity any more, merely an emphasis on coexistence. The lawmakers effectively left the task of how to use the non-Muslim conscripts to the Ministry of War. If deemed unsuited to combat, they would be employed in a wide range of combat service support duties.67 Another untapped but problematic source comprised religious officials (ulema) and students (suhte). Eventually, despite widespread but low-level protests, all junior religious officials and students were stripped of their exemption.68 The nomadic tribes, which were not only unruly but practically useless for conventional military purposes, had not been forgotten. The old Hamidian tribal cavalry was revitalised under a new name – Reserve Tribal Cavalry Regiments

65 “Mükellefiyet-i Askeriye Kanun-ı Muvakkati”, 29 Nisan 1330 [12 May  1914], Düstur, İkinci Tertib, vol. 6, Matbaa-i Amire, Dersaadet, 1334 [1918], pp. 662–663; Erkin, Hatırat, pp. 121–123; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp. 236–237. 66 “Mükellefiyet-i Askeriye Kanun-ı Muvakkati”, pp. 674–677; Hakkı, Bozgun, pp. 102, 104–106; Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, p. 215; Mehmet Beşikçi, The Ottoman Mobilization of Manpower in the First World War: Between Voluntarism and Resistance, Brill, Leiden, 2012, pp. 142–145. To give an idea about the scale of the problem, out of 184,000 conscripts from the year of 1307 (1891), 54,000 men were the sole breadwinner of their families. Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi: 1914 Yılı Hareketleri, vol. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1964, p. 38. 67 Hakkı, Bozgun, pp. 50–51, 57–58; Beşikçi, The Ottoman Mobilization of Manpower, pp. 100–101, 128–129, 149; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 131, 148, 152–155, 341–349. 68 “Mükellefiyet-i Askeriye Kanun-ı Muvakkati”, p. 703; Hakkı, Bozgun, pp. 41–42, 104; Halil Ataman, Esaret Yılları: Bir Yedek Subayın I. Dünya Savaşı Şark Cephesi Hatıraları, (ed.) Ferhat Ecer, Kardeşler Matbaası, İstanbul, 1990, pp. 19, 26; Başkatipzade Ragıp, Tarih-i Hayatım: Tahsil, Harp, Esaret, Kurtuluş Anıları, Kebikeç Yayınları, Ankara, 1996, pp. 20–21, 45–46.

58  The decision to go to war (İhtiyat Aşiret Süvari Alayları) – and placed under the command and control of career officers rather than their tribal chieftains, at least at regimental level.69 Likewise, the traditional but awkward category of ‘volunteers’ had been given a new life. All able-bodied men who were not liable to serve due to their age, refugee status or criminal convictions were granted the opportunity to volunteer for military service during the war. Apart from young volunteers, there was no written clause specifying their employment, although it was clear from the beginning that they would not be mixed with regular units. Most of these volunteers were employed in an unconventional capacity in Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa (Special Organisation) units during the war.70 The penalties for failure or refusal to register, refusal to submit to medical examinations and for defaulting and desertion were harsh.71 Central government and local authorities were adamant that evaders and deserters would be punished. They knew from experience that without the active collaboration of the local population, conscripts would have no means of escape other than fleeing to foreign countries or joining local bandits. Thus, during the war, individual punishments quickly became collective. This was an unfortunate and unavoidable outcome of the military planners’ attempts to introduce universal conscription in spite of the fragmented nature of Ottoman society.72 In order to achieve peacetime conscription and to ensure smooth and rapid wartime mobilisation, the empire, with the exception of the Arabian Peninsula, was divided into 12 regions with an army corps stationed in each. Each region was further divided into sub-regions to provide conscripts to specific divisions of

69 “Aşiret Süvari Alayları Hakkında Nizamname”, 6 Mart 1329 [18 March  1912], Düstur, İkinci Tertib, vol. 4, Matbaa-i Amire, Dersaadet, 1331 [1915], pp. 371–398; Süleyman İzzet Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında 2. İhtiyat ve Nizamiye Süvari Tümenleriyle Aras Cenup Müfrezesinin Muharebeleri, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1939, pp. 8–13; Aziz Samih İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları: Zivinden Peteriçe, Büyük Erkanıharbiye Matbaası, 1934, pp. 3–6. Mahmud Şevket Pasha was completely against the tribal cavalry system whereas Ahmed İzzet Pasha, as an ardent believer of martial heredity, supported the project. The assasination of Mahmud Şevket Pasha opened the way for another trial of the idea. Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, p. 112. 70 “Mükellefiyet-i Askeriye Kanun-ı Muvakkati”, pp. 683–684; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp.  239–240; Polat Safi, The Ottoman Special Organization  – Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa: An Inquiry into Its Operational and Administrative Characteristics, Bilkent University Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 2012, pp. 180–194; Adil Özder, Artvin ve Çevresi 1828–1921 Savaşları, Ay Matbaası, Ankara, 1971, pp.  102–137; Arif Cemil Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, (ed.) Metin Martı, Arma Yayınları, İstanbul, 1999, pp. 9–32; Süleyman Gürcan, Memleketim Trabzon Mahallem Tekfurçayır, (ed.) Ömer Türkoğlu, Kebikeç Yayınları, Ankara, 1997, pp.  130–132; Beşikçi, The Ottoman Mobilization of Manpower, pp. 149, 158–160, 172–174, 178–180; Fahrettin Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası (1912–1922), İnsel Yayınları, İstanbul, 1970, pp. 54–57, 61. 71 “Mükellefiyet-i Askeriye Kanun-ı Muvakkati”, pp. 694–696; Under the military penal code, all men who refused to enter military service were regarded as deserters and tried by military courts. Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 17–18. 72 Beşikçi, The Ottoman Mobilization of Manpower, pp. 184–294.

Map 2.1 Army Corps recruitment zones.

The decision to go to war 59

60  The decision to go to war the corps. The geographic size of sub-regions was arranged according to population density. In principle, each sub-region was tasked to produce the necessary yearly allocated number of conscripts to its division during peacetime. In war, sub-regions were expected to provide sufficient conscripts and reservists to bring the divisions up to war strength and also produce extra depot regiments for each division. The Ministry of War was tasked with providing recruits for the navy, gendarmerie, border guards and the independent VII Yemen Corps, the 21st Asir and 22nd Hejaz divisions, from the combined pool of 12 army corps conscription regions. Coastal provinces traditionally provided the majority of the naval conscripts. All the others received their share from the more populous provinces. Navy and gendarmerie representatives on the respective sub-region conscription committees selected conscripts for their services. The independent formations were less fortunate and had no choice but to take what was left in the pool.73 Under the new unit architecture and structure, the standing army provided the framework, its units boosting it to war strength using mobilised reservists and new conscripts.74 No new manoeuvre units higher than company level were envisaged and the only newly formed larger formations were logistics and administrative formations. Thus, the mobilisation appeared straightforward and easy to accomplish, at least on paper. The July Crisis and the war in Europe severely tested this overly simplified system. The first test came with the German Army’s surprise invasion of Belgium, of which the Ottoman Army had received no warning. Most of the corps and divisional headquarters were still situated some distance from their peacetime garrisons due to the concentration required to fight the Balkan Wars. To complicate matters further, the original conscription regions of some of the corps and divisions had been annexed by the Balkan states and these formations were forced to move to completely new regions. The organisational architecture was still new, and a series of hasty amendments simply caused chaos. A number of headquarters and units shifted location pointlessly and were transformed and reorganised time and again. Against this background of chaos and confusion, the Ottoman administration declared mobilisation on 2 August 1914.75 Despite the chaos, the drastic changes bore fruit. For the first time, the empire as a whole had been forced to mobilise. There were no impressive patriotic demonstrations like those that had plagued previous mobilisations. Thousands of men flooded the conscription centres in Western Anatolia, with at least a quarter sent

73 Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp.  237–239; Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 115–120, 127; Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, pp. 214–215; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, p. 38. 74 P.P. Graves, Turkish Military Preparations, 10 November 1914, TNA, WO 157/689; From Lt.Col. F. Cunliffe-Owen, 19 January 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456. 75 From Lt-Col. Cunliffe-Owen to War Office, 21 April  1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 103–105, 156–159; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 39–40, 50–51. In reality, the mobilisation started five days before the actual declaration of mobilisation, with the call-up of young reservists on 27 July and the decision to mobilise I Corps on 30 July. Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, p. 167.

The decision to go to war  61

Figure 2.5 Reserve officer candidates getting basic training during the first days of the mobilisation in August 1914. Due to the shortage of uniforms, some candidates were still wearing civilian clothes.

home due to serious shortages of food, clothing and equipment.76 However, in eastern parts of Anatolia and in the predominantly Arab populated provinces in the south, the mobilisation was not received well. Yet there was an enormous gap between the expectations of the military planners and the population’s understanding of the universal military obligation. Like the non-Muslim religious groups, most of the nomadic and mountain tribes attempted to evade conscription. Mobilisation proceeded slowly due to the serious limitations of local committees, drastic changes in military organisational structure and uncertainty in some of the conscription sub-regions. An intimate knowledge of local population and conditions was essential for efficient mobilisation and this was something clearly lacking in most of the conscription centres. Of the 12 corps – apart from VII Corps and two independent divisions on the Arabian Peninsula which were excluded from the mobilisation – only III Corps completed its mobilisation on time. Most of the 76 The Imperial Decree; from Enver Pasha to High Command 1st Branch, 11 August 1914, ATBD, no. 88, pp. 3–6; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 61–62; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 23–24; Hüseyin Atıf Beşe, Dedem Hüseyin Atıf Beşe: Bir Cemiyet-i Osmaniye Askerinin Savaş Hatıratı, (ed.) Güliz Beşe Erginsoy, Varlık Yayınları, İstanbul, 2004, pp. 135–136.

62  The decision to go to war corps took an extra two or three weeks to complete mobilisation, with the elite I Corps requiring over a month. Nonetheless, the army exceeded its authorised war strength with an impressive total of over a million recruits and an effective combat strength of 820,000. The Ottoman Army of 1914 was also far more representative of the empire’s population than that of any other period.77 Slowly but surely, all the corps completed their mobilisations and moved to their concentration locations. Under the mobilisation and concentration plan, the majority of divisions concentrated around the Straits and Eastern Thrace. However, the completion of mobilisation also revealed a number of inherent problems. According to regulations, once units reached their war strength and moved to concentration places or fronts, the corps and divisional commanders were to hand their regional responsibilities to conscription region and sub-region chiefs. These chiefs were tasked to maintain not only the constant flow of soldiers to the corps, but also conduct their basic and refresher training. The Balkan Wars clearly demonstrated that reservists required at least a modicum of training to be of some use in war. A cadre of career officers and, in particular, well-trained ­non-­commissioned officers (NCOs) as drill sergeants, was essential to perform this demanding task. However, the Ottoman Army simply did not have surplus officers or NCOs to man depot regiments at the conscription centres.78 Cemal Pasha, commanding general of the Fourth Army, recognised the problem well before the General Staff and released the conscription centres from this responsibility by creating army training centres under the direct control of army headquarters in central locations such as Damascus, Aleppo and Beirut. Other field army commanders were quick to imitate his model.79 The long and difficult mobilisation period provided unexpected opportunities by showing all serious shortcomings brutally without covers of excuses and

77 From Consul in Erzeroum, 20 September 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 175–176; Necmi Koral et.al., Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, vol. 10, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1985, pp. 164–165; Beşikçi, The Ottoman Mobilization of Manpower, pp. 119–126; Carl Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, Druck und Verlag Gerhard Stalling, Oldenburg, 1927, pp. 26–29; Kamal Madhar Ahmad, Kurdistan during the First World War, (trans.) Ali Maher Ibrahim, Saqi Books, London, 1994, pp. 53, 89–93; Abdallah Hanna, “The First World War According to the Memories of Commoners in the Bilad al-Sham”, in (eds.) Heike Liebau et.al., The World in World Wars: Experiences, Perceptions and Perspectives from Africa and Asia, Brill, Leiden, 2010, pp. 300–307; Eliezer Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, Frank Cass, London, pp. 10–17; Halis Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, (ed.) Serdar H. Ataksor, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2008, pp. 25–29; Ali Rıza Eti, Bir Onbaşının Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü 1914–1915, (ed.) Gönül Eti, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2009, pp. 5–12; Nurettin Peker, Tüfek Omza: Balkan Savaşı’ndan Kurtuluş Savaşı’na Ateş Hattında Bir Ömür, Doğan Kitap, İstanbul, 2009, p. 106. 78 Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, pp. 162–165; Hakkı, Bozgun, pp. 98–101; Peker, Tüfek Omza, pp. 106–107; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 34–35. 79 Yahya Okçu and Hilmi Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Sina Filistin Cephesi, vol. 1, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1979, pp. 81–82; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 38–39; İlhan Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 1975, pp. 98–99.

The decision to go to war  63 outright deception. As an example, the General Staff discovered the pitiful state of army aviation – or actually, lack of it – thanks to mobilisation. There was neither a combat aviation unit nor even a staff division. The Yeşilköy (Ayastefanos) Aviation School (Tayyare Mektebi) was the only aviation unit within the organisational table of the army, and there were 12 planes (only six operational) distributed to army corps far and wide. Although the General Staff and German Advisory Mission immediately asked help from Berlin, it took six months to get a nucleus of staff and technical personnel (under the command of Captain Erich Serno) and an additional two months to receive planes.80 In terms of supplies and logistics, the Ottoman Army had three major problems prior to mobilisation. First, the empire was essentially an agrarian peasant state with very limited industrial capacity. Thus, it was heavily dependent on imports for almost all its weapons, ammunition and military equipment. In addition, some provinces, such as Syria, were unable to feed themselves and required substantial quantities of grain imports.81 Second, the old mode of transport and lines of communication that crisscrossed the empire was totally inadequate for the demands of modern warfare. For an empire with a limited number of paved roads and railways, maritime transport was essential, not only for the army but also for the civilian population. However, almost all the major shipping companies were controlled by European powers, most of them owned by France. Given the weakness of the Ottoman Navy, the shipping lanes and harbours were susceptible to blockade. Indeed, the recent Greek blockade during the Balkan Wars had clearly demonstrated to Ottoman military planners the dangers of relying on foreign-owned shipping and the potential difficulties of a blockade. However, they simply had no alternative.82 Third, the army depended heavily on local or foreign contractors for supply at every level. To make matters worse, apart from the assignment of some token officers and scribes to prepare logistical mobilisation for their field armies and corps and to command trains and logistical establishments in time of war, there was no organisation responsible for lines of communication (Menzil Teşkilatı; including supply, billeting and transport). During peacetime, a few scattered depots, small numbers of wagons and a modest quantity of pack animals were available to support small garrison troops, but there was no structure in place to produce and store

80 İhsan Göymen, Birinci Dünya Harbi: Türk Hava Harekâtı, vol. 9, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1969, pp. 8, 17–21, 32–33; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, p. 32; Bülent Yılmazer, The Air War Çanakkale, Milsoft, İstanbul, 2005, pp. 52–54; Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, p. 192. 81 Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, pp.  78–80, 91–92, 119–121; Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, pp. 40–51, 136–138; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 42–43. 82 Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, pp. 85–89; Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, pp. 84–91; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp.  8–10; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 29–31; Tuncay Öğün, Kafkas Cephesi’nin I. Dünya Savaşı’ndaki Lojistik Desteği, Dergâh Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 47–48.

64  The decision to go to war the enormous quantities of supplies and meet the vast transport requirements demanded by war.83 Likewise, there was no nucleus of experienced officers and NCOs ready to initiate mobilisation and train mobilised conscripts for service support units in a short time. Thus, the entire organisation had to be built from scratch during the initial weeks of the mobilisation. Finally, over half of the heavy equipment and weapons possessed by the military had been lost during the humiliating retreats and surrenders of the Balkan Wars. The situation was so desperate that against the humiliation, the Ottoman officials got into negotiations with the Bulgarians and Greeks to buy back the weapons that had been surrendered. As a result, the quality of weapons and equipment varied considerably between the units and the army had no means to equip its significantly expanded numbers sufficiently.84 The Ottoman High Command and the General Staff planning teams were more or less aware of these structural problems and some of the other difficulties likely to be encountered during the war. However, they made no systematic effort to resolve or at least reduce the impact of these problems. Unsurprisingly, therefore, mobilisation and concentration were restricted to broad coverage of administrative and logistic issues. Dissenting voices were silenced and any opposition to the plan was punished – the Ministry of War simply did not want to know the reality. The situation was not assisted by the administration’s disorganised mobilisation of horses, mules, oxen and camels which saw the requisition of animals, vehicles and vessels rapidly become a nightmare. There were simply not enough military quality remounts and draught animals to meet the army’s transport requirements. A significant percentage of animals lacked condition – too old or young and untrained for draught work. Furthermore, many of the riders, who were untrained for transportation duties or cavalry roles, caused injuries to their mounts and treated them badly. No arrangements had been made for feeding the men and animals, and dreadful confusion ensued when officers tried to organise men from unfamiliar areas into logistics units that existed on paper only until the mobilisation decree.85 Against all expectations, the new alliance with Germany did not improve this dire situation because of the lack of direct railway connections. All transportation between Germany and the Ottoman Empire was at the mercy of Romania and Bulgaria, and only a small fraction of the promised help arrived from Germany with much difficulty.86 83 Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, pp. 112–118, 167–172, annex 3 and 4; Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi (1908–1920), vol. 3, Section 6, pp. 451–459; Ragıp Nurettin Eğe, Babamın Emanetleri, (ed.) Güneş Eğe-Akter, Dergâh Yayınları, İstanbul, 2006, pp. 36–37, 46–61. 84 Karatamu, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi, pp.  440–447; Eğe, Babamın Emanetleri, pp. 42, 58, 270–271; Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, p. 165. 85 Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, pp. 112–134, 150, 152; Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, pp. 107–109; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 42; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 286–293. 86 Koral, Birinci Dünya Harbi İdari Faaliyetler ve Lojistik, pp. 135–136; Ulrich Trumpener, “German Military Aid to Turkey in 1914: A Historical Re-evaluation”, The Journal of Modern History, vol. 32, no. 2, June 1960, pp. 145–149; Selahattin Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde 10ncu Kolordunun

The decision to go to war 65

Figure 2.6 The Ottoman declaration of Jihad on the cover of the German Illustrierte Zeitung magazine.

With the declarations of war and Jihad, the military authorities gained a useful ideological and propaganda tool to justify military service and general mobilisation of the public. Unlike the failed international Jihad, domestic Jihad actually produced some successful results due to the fact that Islam was the most important glue and cultural identity. Not only Anatolian Turks, but also most of the Kurds and Arabs of the northern Syria and Iraq, greeted declaration warmly and provided staunch support for the war effort.87 The Ottoman leadership, in cooperation with Shia ulema, declared a separate Shia Jihad which also Birinci Dünya Savaşının Başlangıcından Sarıkamış Muharebelerinin Sonuna Kadar Olan Harekâtı, 2nd edition, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 2006, pp. 6–7, 11–16; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 34–40; Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosphorus, pp. 41–42. 87 The reality that the Great Powers used religion as an instrument of penetration into the region and disintegration of the empire was well known within the core provinces.

66  The decision to go to war resulted with a surprising success. Although Shia Arabs turned out be problematic conscripts, they nevertheless effectively blocked the British advance in Shia-dominated provinces of Iraq, particularly the Euphrates Valley, leaving the British only Tigris Valley to use to advance into Iraq. Jihadist propaganda and rhetoric certainly motivated the Ottoman soldiers throughout the war, but it is important to emphasise that it remained one of the tools within the inventory of the empire.88

Initial strategy While the General Staff was dealing with the problems of mobilisation, the Ottoman leadership failed to develop an effective strategy for achieving its political aims. First, the Ottoman leaders were divided into two camps in terms of their attitude to entry into the war and their preference for an alliance. Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha and Talat – the CUP triumvirate – either persuaded or sidelined any opposition to a German alliance. Their methods stirred ill will and generated further opposition. Second, Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha and civilian members of the leadership did not fully understand the requirements for war and had a limited understanding of the basic decisions that would affect the nature, scope, length, and economic and human cost of the war. They also lacked the courage to face the likely consequences of war. These limitations effectively divided the civilian leadership and the CUP triumvirate.89 Third, Enver Pasha and the CUP inner circle believed in the superiority of German military thinking and in the imminence of victory. They were convinced that the Ottoman military’s role was to tie down as many Entente troops as possible to enable the Germans to win decisive victories on the main fronts. This attitude was welcomed by the German General Staff, which regarded the Ottoman military as a useful tool to divert attention and force the enemy to allocate more troops to ‘Oriental sideshows’. Nevertheless, this mode of thinking directly undermined the need to defend the empire’s borders and territories, and confronted the leadership with a dilemma for which there was no obvious solution.90 With the apparent failure of the Ottoman leadership, the German-led General Staff quickly filled the vacuum and became more or less the main actor in

88 Hanioğlu, “Ottoman Jihad”, pp. 120–128; Mehmet Beşikçi, “Domestic Aspects of Ottoman Jihad: The Role of Religious Motifs and Religious Agents in the Mobilization of the Ottoman Army”, in (ed.) Erik-Jan Zürcher, Jihad and Islam in World War I, Leiden University Press, Leiden, 2006, pp. 95–97, 106–107; Veit Veltzke, Unter Wüstensöhnen: Die deutsche Expedition Klein im Ersten Weltkrieg, Nicolaische Verlagbuchhandlung, Berlin, 2014, pp. 92–105. 89 Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 1, pp. 65–70, 80–81, 94–95, 99–106; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 167–168; Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks, pp. 332–363. 90 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 19–20; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 32; Leverkuehn, Sonsuz Nöbette Görev, pp. 15–16; Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 19–20; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 52–88, 167; İnönü, Hatıralar, vol. 1, pp. 96, 103, 148.

The decision to go to war  67 developing an effective strategy.91 Only Enver Pasha and, to a certain extent, Cemal Pasha were able to influence the formulation of the strategy. According to their joint assessments, the most vulnerable part of the empire was its capital, İstanbul, and the Straits. Previous conflicts and crises had clearly established a pattern in which the enemies of the empire had tried to force the Straits in order to dictate their terms to the Ottoman government. Moreover, against all expectations and despite protracted negotiations, Bulgaria and Romania continued their neutrality. Under these conditions, the European borders and the fortress city of Edirne (Adrianople) had to be protected against possible attack. A defensive strategy in the west was thus an inevitable choice.92 The Ottoman leadership and General Staff invested much time in formulating a strategy to confront the Russian threat at the Caucasus border. Historically, the Ottomans had failed to prevent Russian border incursions. In 1829 and again in 1877, the Russian Army had managed to penetrate deep into Eastern Anatolia and capture Erzurum. In a mood of caution, the General Staff decided on the conduct of a strategic defence, although no final decision was made on where to establish the main defensive line. Third Army commander Hasan İzzet Pasha received conflicting and vague orders, some of which advised the use of the ancient Erzurum fortress and surrounding high ground while others advised him to place his forces in defensive lines close to the border.93 Interestingly, the southern borders and regions of the empire were ignored at this stage. There was no threat assessment or discussion concerning Mesopotamia, Yemen or Hejaz, and little speculation on the defence of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Instead, units that were stationed or mobilised in the south were regarded as suitable for deployment to the Straits or Thrace.94 Similarly, the problem of interior security was utterly neglected.95 The gendarmerie – which was, as an organisation, far superior to the army in terms of quality of its personnel, training, experience, command and control – had been reorganised to create more mobile tactical units for the army, restructured to meet conventional military needs and

91 Trumpener, Farrar and some others claim just the opposite: “the Turks retained the control of both” their own objectives and strategy throughout the war. Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 368–370; Farrar, The Short-War Illusion, p. 94. 92 Silberstein, The Troubled Alliance, pp. 28–39, 73–76, 82–88; Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, vol. 1, pp. 141–142, 152–162; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 40–41, 44–45; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, p. 168. 93 Hakkı Altınbilek and Naci Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Kafkas Cephesi 3ncü Ordu Harekâtı, vol. 2, Section  1, Book 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp.  69–72, 87–94, 98–100. 94 Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 157–160. 95 In contrast to the Ottoman leadership’s neglect, the Russian military had been making plans for several decades to incite the Christian population of the empire. The Russian Caucasus command began to arm Armenians and some Kurdish tribes, and tried its best to incite them to rebel well prior to the start of hostilities. See Reynolds, The Ottoman-Russian Struggle for Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus, pp. 115–117; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 90–97, 457–458; McMeekin, The Russian Origins of the First World War, p. 17.

68  The decision to go to war to establish line infantry divisions and regiments.96 Gendarmerie personnel and even police officers had been used as replacements in times of crisis thorough the war. As a consequence, even the most volatile provinces would be left without adequate security. Later in the war, desperate provincial governors attempted to maintain order using old or unfit ex-servicemen and the always problematic village guards.97 The most novel but least known aspect of Ottoman strategy development was without doubt the decision to employ unconventional warfare against Russia and Britain. Modern scholars generally confuse this strategy with Ottoman and German pan-Islamist projects and efforts. In reality, the unconventional warfare strategy was born of decade-long counter-insurgency experience against Balkan rebels and guerrillas. Most of the Ottoman officers in senior positions had spent a good portion of their career fighting a mix of irregular adversaries.98 Furthermore, the Ottoman military leaders had been impressed by Bulgarian successes using irregular soldiers behind Ottoman lines during the Balkan Wars. They believed that the use of unconventional warfare could potentially solve the problem of the mobilisation of Kurdish, Arab and some of the other martial tribes. These tribes had important military potential and were living in regions where the General Staff was planning to source additional troops. However, they were completely useless for conventional purposes. Employing them unconventionally under experienced officers was welcomed as an ideal solution.99 Initially, Enver Pasha and the General Staff employed this strategy conservatively, using irregulars only in Mesopotamia, Eastern Anatolia, Libya and Macedonia, although their use was later extended to

96 Against the planning parameters, the General Staff decided to raise combat regiments from the gendarmerie and border guard units, and the 2nd Cavalry Division was activated from the cavalry regiments of Third Army. Each recruitment zone raised 5–10 gendarmerie battalions and Third Army zones raised 22 battalions, most of which were used to activate the Van Mobile Gendarmerie Division. 97 Lt. I.M. Smith (deputy consul), Condition of the Gendermarie, 10 June 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbi’nde Türk Harbi Kafkas Cephesi 3ncü Ordu Harekâtı, vol. 2, Book 1, pp. 81–82; İbrahim Arıkan, Harp Hatıralarım: Bir Mehmetçiğin Çanakkale-GaliçyaFilistin Cephesi Hatıraları, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp.  26–27; Justin McCarthy, Esat Arslan, Cemalettin Taşkıran and Ömer Turan, The Armenian Rebellion at Van, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2006, p. 177. 98 A. Kadir Varoğlu and Mesut Uyar, “The Impact of Asymmetric Warfare on the Military Profession and Structure: Lessons Learned from the Ottoman Military”, in (eds.) Giuseppe Caforio, Gerhard Kümmel and Bandanna Purkayastha, Armed Forces and Conflict Resolution: Sociological Perspectives, Emerald Publishing, Bingley, 2008, pp. 52–58; Charles D. Haley, “The Desparate Ottoman: Enver Paşa and the German Empire – I”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 30, no. 1, January 1994, p. 15. 99 This strategy was also useful in transferring partisan officers (including former CUP hit men) and other troublesome elements, including mid-level CUP leaders, bandits and ex-convicts. They were enlisted in the creation of guerrilla bands from martial tribes. See Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, pp.  9–22; Gürcan, Memleketim Trabzon Mahallem Tekfurçayır, pp. 130–133; Haley, “The Desparate Ottoman: Enver Paşa and the German Empire – I”, p. 23.

The decision to go to war  69 the Arabian Peninsula and Sinai-Palestine. Enver Pasha tasked the semi-official Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa (Special Organisation) to conduct these unconventional operations.100 The threat assessment, even ignoring any threat from the south, clearly reinforced the importance of strategic defence. However, at the same time, the prevalent European ‘cult of the offensive’ significantly influenced the Ottoman military leadership. Like their European counterparts, they believed that modern wars would be brief and their outcome decided by massive offensive operations. The Russo-Japanese War and the Balkan defeats clearly reinforced the offensive spirit and the associated morale factors. A protracted war, on the other hand, was likely to destroy the fragile socio-political framework of the empire. Thus, defensive strategies clearly spelt defeat for the Ottoman leadership. The Ottoman military realised that it had to contribute directly to the main theatres of operations in Europe prior to the final German victory in order to secure an honourable place at the peace negotiations.101 Von Sanders and Colmar von der Goltz suggested opening a new front, either on the Romanian border or in Odessa, using divisions that had been concentrated in and around the Straits. This suggestion was welcomed by both Enver Pasha and the German General Staff. However, both Souchon and von Usedom found “the disembarkation of an army west of Odessa on the open and unreconnoitred Russian coast” unrealisable without the support of a strong war fleet and merchant shipping. The main obstacle lay in Bulgarian and Romanian neutrality.102 Adopting this strategy, the Ottoman General Staff prepared a single mobilisation and concentration plan (‘Plan Number One’) in which most of the army corps and divisions (26 divisions from a total of 37 numbered divisions) would be concentrated around İstanbul and the Dardanelles Straits to respond to these threats. They also planned to use two army corps against Russia (either at the Romanian border or around Odessa) so as to lighten the burden on the Habsburgs. As a result, one army corps from the Third Army, two army corps headquarters and three divisions from the Iraq Regional Command (leaving just one division there), and almost all the divisions from Syria were planned to be deployed to 100 For more on this organisation, see Safi, The Ottoman Special Organization – Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa; P.H. Stoddard, The Ottoman Government and the Arabs, a Preliminary Study on the Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, Princeton University Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 1963, pp. 1–8, 51–60; Shaw, The Ottoman Empire in World War I, vol. 1, pp. 353–369. 101 Austro-Hungarians were already lobbying for a large amphibious operation targeting the Russian rear so as to relieve intense Russian offensive against Galicia. 102 From von Usedom to Müller, 9 September 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 137–138, 141–143, 147–149; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 25–26; Lorey, Der krieg, pp.  67–68; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p.  25; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, pp. 303–304; Fevzi Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi Hareketleri: Şark Vilayetlerimizde, Kafkasya’da ve İran’da, Genelkurmay Matbaası, Ankara, 1936, p.  8; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 258–270; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 75–76; Farrar, The Short-War Illusion, pp. 4–7.

70  The decision to go to war Thrace. However, due to conflicting messages from the German political and military leadership, these plans were altered significantly and two army corps, each with two divisions, were reallocated to the newly founded Fourth Army in Syria to launch a surprise attack on the Suez Canal. X Army Corps was returned to its mother unit, the Third Army, due to the changing strategic concept involving Russia. These sudden changes created havoc within the units, which marched to their new destinations and were then forced to march back.103 In the meantime, the German General Staff decided to become more directly involved in Ottoman military affairs and decision-making processes, given the imminence of war and increased optimism in the military capacity of the Ottoman Army. Growing numbers of German staff officers were assigned to the Ottoman General Staff. For their part, the Ottoman General Staff officers were unhappy with these new arrangements and began to resist the tight control of the German General Staff over Ottoman affairs. Over a relatively short period (between August–September 1914), von Schellendorf either replaced the Ottoman deputy branch chiefs with German officers or sidelined them. He also increased the number of staff branches, thereby reducing their respective powers. Bronsart von Schellendorf and his successor, General Hans von Seeckt (from December 1917), continued this policy of keeping Ottoman officers away from positions of influence and uninformed of developments. As a result, after September 1914, the Ottoman General Staff arguably became more or less a field army headquarters (truppen generalstab) under the direct command and control of the German General Staff with little real Ottoman influence, with the chief exception of Enver Pasha.104 Interestingly, von Sanders and several other German officers resented and criticised the subjugation of the Ottoman General Staff and the removal of Ottoman officers from key staff positions. They rightly believed that the German General Staff and its agents within the Ottoman General Staff did not possess the understanding, experience or the language skills to direct the Ottoman war effort.105 Events would prove them correct.

103 From von Usedom to Müller, 9 September 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 55–58, 218–220; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 3–4, 6–8, 10; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde, pp. 17–25, 28–34; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 170–174; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, pp. 346–366; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 170–179; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 14–15, 25–26; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, p. 138. 104 Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı, pp.  225–227, 276–280, 395–396, 400–404; Ahmet İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1992, pp. 182–183, 193, 216; İnönü, Hatıralar, vol. 1, p. 148; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, p. 143; Aydemir, Makedonya’dan Orta Asya’ya Enver Paşa, vol. 3, pp. 380, 382, 412–423. 105 Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 19–20.

3 Opening moves

Against all expectations of the Ottoman leadership, the Entente started the initial hostilities without waiting for the official proclamation of war and in various places. The British light cruiser HMS Minerva bombarded Akaba on 1 November 1914, followed by the bombardment of the Dardanelles outer fortresses on 3 November. Russian troops started passing the Ottoman border on 4 November and a reinforced Indian divisional group, which had set sail well before the formal declaration of war, captured Fao, the crucial beachhead of Basra province, on 7 November. To the apprehension of field commanders, Enver Pasha and the German-led ­Ottoman General Staff paid limited attention to these unexpected developments and continued to carry out their operational plans including concentration around the Straits and Marmara Sea, and a surprise expedition against the Suez Canal. The ­concentration plan was carried out successfully but the offensive enterprise against the Suez, which the Germans had put much faith in, had to be postponed to the ­winter of 1915. On the other hand, the hasty Russian invasion of Eastern Anatolia had showed the Russian military weakness, which encouraged Enver Pasha and his staff to change their defensive strategy into an offensive one. There was another important reason for immediate action. The stalemate that had set in on both the Western and Eastern fronts put immense pressure over the shoulders of the German General Staff. Berlin turned on its new ally that had some initiative and urged it to hit Russians.

Mesopotamia Front One of the key planning parameters of the Ottoman General Staff’s mobilisation and concentration was that there would be no serious British or Russian threat to Iraq (known in the Western world at that time as Mesopotamia and comprising the Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul). Mesopotamia was a largely neglected backwater region of the empire in every aspect. Like other remote provinces at the fringes, it was never fully integrated into the administrative and military system.1 The General Staff decided to abolish the Baghdad-based 1 Gökhan Çetinsaya, Ottoman Administration of Iraq, 1890–1908, Routledge, London, 2006, pp. 4–16; Mahmut Nedim Kerkük, Hatıratım, (ed.) Ali Birinci, Altınküre, Ankara, 2002, pp. 41–53.

72  Opening moves

Map 3.1  The Ottoman fronts and railway lines.

Opening moves  73

Figure 3.1 Arab tribal warriors under the command of Ottoman officers.

Fourth Army Inspectorate and transferred XII Corps (35th [Mosul] and 36th [Kirkuk] divisions) and XIII Corps (37th [Baghdad] and 38th [Basra] divisions) to other presumably more vital theatres of operations. Cavid Pasha, commander of the newly founded Iraq and Surrounding Regions Command (Irak ve Havalisi Komutanlığı), vehemently protested this decision and managed to keep the 38th Division and 1/26th Battalion,2 but all the other regular forces departed.3 The decision to remove conventional forces from Iraq was also related to the newly minted strategy of using unconventional forces. Enver Pasha had enormous confidence in the martial abilities of the tribesmen. Based on his recent experience of unconventional warfare against the Italians in Libya, he concluded that, if

2 This battalion was an organic unit of the 9th Division, 26th Regiment which was based in Gallipoli at that time. It was originally sent to punish Ibn Saud of Nejd for his unruly behaviour, but Cavid Pasha kept it for the defence of Iraq. Esat Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 1, Unpublished manuscript, Turkish General Staff College Library, pp.  45–48; Nezihi Fırat and Behzat Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, İran-Irak Cephesi, vol. 3, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1979, pp. 41, 43. 3 [Süleymaniyeli] Mehmed Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, Mecmua-i Askeri, no. 17–18, August–September 1336 [1920], p. 671 [This book-size article was concisely translated into English by Colonel U.W. Evans in 1920 for official purposes. The unpublished manuscript is deposited at the National Archives, Kew, under the title of CAB 44–3, “Turco-British Campaign in Iraq and Our Mistakes”]; Hüsamettin Karaoyvat, Canlı Tarihler: General Hüsamettin Karaoyvat, Türkiye Yayınevi, İstanbul, 1946, pp. 23–26; Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 2, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, p. 214; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 39–42; C.C.R. Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, John Hogg, London, 1921, pp. 85–86.

74  Opening moves provided with leadership, weapons and a cause for which to fight, the tribes had a better chance of defeating invaders than conventional units. Clearly Enver Pasha and his staff did not appreciate the huge differences between Libya and Iraq. The Iraqi tribes were hostile to any authority and, at the same time, were fighting one another. Similarly, the British Army was far superior to its Italian counterpart in every aspect. This series of misunderstandings and assumptions was instrumental in reducing the strategy’s chances of success from the outset.4 The Basra-based 38th Division was a weak formation in every respect. Its under-strength infantry regiments had only two battalions each, and the artillery regiment had just one field artillery battalion and one mountain artillery battalion. Their weapons and equipment were obsolete and in insufficient quantities to arm all the division’s soldiers.5 Most of the soldiers were forcefully conscripted Shi’as who were not only raw conscripts with limited training but openly rebellious. This division was also tasked to support hastily organised gendarmerie and border guard battalions which were responsible for securing lengthy borders and maintaining order in a consistently volatile region. It was an impossible mission, even under peacetime conditions.6 In addition to the 38th Division, the Iraq Command also had the Baghdad Mobile Gendarmerie Regiment, six independent mobile gendarmerie battalions, six border guard battalions, three depot battalions and some company- or batterysize independent units. Although it appeared to have sufficient battalions to man another two divisions, these units were ill-trained, under-strength, and poorly equipped, and lacked officers. Officers posted to these units were generally problematic characters who were exiled to Iraq due to corruption, disciplinary issues or poor military performance. The units might have been useful in their home provinces as a territorial defence force, but they were completely useless against a conventional enemy far from their original bases. To make matters worse, Cavid Pasha made a fatal mistake by taking three battalions from the 38th Division and assigning them to Baghdad and Kut al Amara. He coupled the remaining weak

4 Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, pp. 671–680; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 42, 44, 46, 59; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 212–213; F.J. Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, vol. 1, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1923, pp. 10–15, 25; Michael A. Reynolds, Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires 1908–1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, p. 121. 5 Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, pp. 684–688. Regular soldiers were generally armed with old black powder 9.5mm M 1887 Mauser rifles. Some of them were even issued with much older 11.43mm Martini-Henri rifles. Only the 1/26th Battalion had modern 7.65mm M 1903 Mauser rifles. The field artillery battalion had eight 87mm Krupp M 1885 field guns while the mountain artillery battalion had eight 75mm M 1898 Krupp mountain guns. There were also three independent field artillery batteries (with old 87mm Krupp guns) attached to some border guard battalions. The machine-gun company had three Nordenfelt 11.43mm multiple-barrel rapid fire guns. See Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 45–47. 6 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, 42–49; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 2, pp. 89–90; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 30–34.

Opening moves  75 battalions with gendarmerie, border guards, volunteers and tribal levies and distributed them at several critical junctions between Basra and Fao.7 By doing so, he effectively divided his meagre force into independent enclaves without mutual support. In addition, regular units lost almost all their already questionable capacity with the influx of more numerous tribal levies and raw conscripts.8 Clearly, the General Staff had made a serious mistake in disregarding the combat strength of British India and the near-autonomous decision-making process of the British colonial government of India.9 The whole Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region was unstable and conflict ridden, even prior to the war. Numerous tribes and sheikhs jockeyed for power, always eager to play foreign powers to achieve their local aims. The local turmoils, internecine fights and burgeoning British interests – first trade and later oil – had sparked a series of crises between Britain and the Ottoman Empire over the past 50 years. German construction of the İstanbul-Baghdad Railway had simply aggravated the tension. The Ottoman government finally gave up and attempted to settle major differences with Britain by granting large concessions following the disastrous Balkan Wars. Accordingly, both sides signed a treaty and divided the Arabian Peninsula into two areas of influence and control. From Aden in the south to Kuwait in the north, the ‘violet line’ delineated the vast holdings of the British area which covered the entire Indian Ocean coastline and the southern part of the Gulf coast.10 However, the treaty did not satisfy the Indian government, which sought more control over the Ottoman province of Basra in order to secure its key local allies, the Sheikhs of Kuwait (Sabah family) and Muhammera (Khazal family). They in turn sought  7 According to the new defence and concentration plan, the Fao Border Guard Battalion would defend Fao with the support of one independent field artillery battery (four 87mm Krupp guns), the Qurna Border Guard Battalion and Nasıriye Gendarmerie Battalion, from their home bases. Amara would be defended by its own Gendermarie and the 1/113th Battalion while Basra would be defended by the 1/112th, 2/122nd, 1/26th and Basra Gendarmerie battalions and some independent companies.  8 Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, pp. 699, 709; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 42, 61–63; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 100– 101; Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, p. 35.  9 Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, pp. 702–704; John S. Galbraith, “No Man’s Child: The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1916”, The International History Review, vol. 6, no. 3, August 1984, p. 375; Briton Cooper Busch, Britain, India, and the Arabs, 1914–1921, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1971, pp. 37–40. 10 From Henry Wilson, 24 April 1911; Local Action in the Persian Gulf, 1 May 1911; Military Measures against the Ottoman Empire, 20 April 1911, TNA, WO 106/43; Effect of the Baghdad Railway on Our Relations with Persia and on the Defence of India, Memorandum by General Staff, 16 November 1904, TNA, WO 106/52; Mahmud Şevket, Mahmut Şevket Paşa’nın Sadaret Günlüğü, (ed.) Murat Bardakçı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2014, pp.  51–53, 72–73, 81–82, 88–89, 94–96, 286; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, pp. 334–356; Briton Cooper Busch, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894–1914, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1967, pp. 330–345; Çetinsaya, Ottoman Administration, pp. 130–146; Charles Townshend, When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq 1914–1921, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, pp. 12–15.

76  Opening moves to extend their area of influence by persuading Ibn Saud of Nejd, whose holding extended to al Hasa, to agree to a similar alliance, thereby handing them control of the entire Gulf.11 Tension between the local actors escalated with the eruption of the July Crisis. The 38th Division Commander Colonel Subhi, as the acting governor of Basra, threatened to open fire on British armed sloops patrolling the Shatt al Arab waterway. Ottoman officials had long been disturbed by British gunboat diplomacy, but given their serious external and internal problems, had been reluctant to respond. The Indian government reacted angrily to Subhi’s threat, increasing its patrols. Subhi responded immediately, emplacing field artillery guns in highly visible sites and preparing to block the Shatt at Fao. His aggressive actions frightened the local leaders and rumours of an impending Ottoman offensive against Muhammera and Kuwait flooded the offices of decision-makers in India.12 During the tense days of Ottoman neutrality, British Indian officials increasingly viewed the anticipated war with the Ottomans as an opportunity to achieve total dominance of the Gulf region. The Military Secretary to the India Office, Sir Edward Barrow, believed that a rapid-fire operation to occupy Basra would not only demonstrate the might of Britain to friend and foe alike, but also destroy Arab support for the Ottomans without which they would dare not threaten Egypt or any other British colony. Furthermore, the occupation of Basra would see the Anglo-Persian Oil Company oilfields in Ahwaz (Meydan-ı Neftun) and refineries in Abadan secured once and for all. Widespread rumours of Ottoman military preparations against Muhammera and possibly Kuwait were instrumental in convincing most of the need for military action.13 The British government welcomed the suggestion of a pre-emptive military operation targeting Basra. Interestingly, London’s approval – and, in fact, the decision

11 Gary Troeller, The Birth of Saudi Arabia: Britain and the Rise of the House of Saud, Frank Cass, London, 1976, pp. 47–65; Stuart A. Cohen, British Policy in Mesopotamia, 1903–1914, Ithaca Press, Reading, 2008, pp. 197–210; Busch, Britain, India, and the Arabs, pp. 10–11, 15–16; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 44–48. 12 From Basra Governor Subhi to Ministry of Interior, 25 September and 5 October 1914; from Office of the Prime Minister to Ministry of Interior, 6 October 1914, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2016, pp. 14–16, 18–21; Wilfrid Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, Andrew Melrose, London, 1932, pp. 20–25; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 79–81, 85–86; Arnold Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia 1914–1917: A Personal and Historical Record, Oxford University Press, London, 1930, pp. 6–8, 30–31; Paul K. Davis, Ends and Means: The British Mesopotamian Campaign and Commission, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Rutherford, 1994, pp. 42–48; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 14–17. 13 Précis of Correspondence Regarding the Mesopotamia Expedition: Its Genesis and Development, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 1–2; Cohen, British Policy in Mesopotamia, pp. 221–226, 229; Douglas Goold, “Lord Hardinge and the Mesopotamia Expedition and Inquiry, 1914–1917”, The Historical Journal, vol. 19, no. 4, December 1976, pp. 926, 929–930; Marian Kent, Oil and Empire: British Policy and Mesopotamian Oil 1900–1920, The Macmillan Press, London, 1976, pp. 117–119; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 72–73, 82–84, 86–87; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 47–51; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. xxi–xxiii, 14, 18–20, 37–38.

Map 3.2 Mesopotamia theatre of operations.

Opening moves 77

78  Opening moves to extend the operation from a simple display of force to permanent occupation – alarmed some long-term Indian bureaucrats and officials, chief among them the Viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge. They predicted large-scale public unrest and even rebellions in India if Britain attacked the sole independent Muslim power and the caliph. These last-minute voices of opposition, however, did not dampen the enthusiastic atmosphere in London. Consequently, a reinforced Indian divisional group (known as Indian Expeditionary Force D) was formed (organised around the nucleus of the 6th Poona Division) and an advance party, under the command of Brigadier General Walter S. Delamain, sailed from India to Bahrain on 16 October 1914, reaching the sandbanks of Fao on 3 November.14 The advance party remained aboard its ships and waited for a week until the Ottoman attack on the Russian Black Sea ports and the declaration of war that ensued. The British force spent two days sweeping for mines and passing through the barrier that protected the main canal. On the morning of 6 November, the British ships began bombarding Ottoman positions in and around Fao castle. The ancient castle, which had a single stone wall, was defended by a lone battery of four 87mm Krupp field guns and a single border guard company, reinforced with tribal levies. Another company was defending the town further north. Enver Pasha’s much vaunted tribal warriors abandoned their positions as soon as the first shots were fired, pausing only to loot all they could on their way. The Fao Detachment’s regular component initially mounted some resistance but disintegrated and fled once the commanding officer, Captain Sıdkı, was killed, leaving all its artillery and equipment behind. Following a naval reconnaissance, Delamain decided to construct a fortified camp in Saniya instead of pursing the beaten Ottoman troops. Even after the humiliating defeat at Fao, Cavid Pasha and Colonel Subhi failed to recognise the flaws in their defensive concept, retaining their original defensive arrangement with some minor adjustments. Subhi organised a composite force known as the Mobile Southern Detachment.15 Four vessels were sunk to block navigation between the islands (Um al Rasas) near Baljaniya. Reorganised and reinforced, the Fao (renamed the Baljaniya) Border Guard Battalion with a mixed field battery was tasked to defend this obstruction. In the meantime, the Southern Detachment was hurriedly despatched to Zain (Kütüzzeyn).16 14 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 2–7; The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, TNA, AIR 1/674/21/6/87, Part 1, pp. 1–2; From Ministry of Interior to the High Command, 31 October and 2 November  1914; from Ambassador in Tahran to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 November 1914, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp. 22–27; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 87–103; Cohen, British Policy in Mesopotamia, pp. 223, 226; Goold, “Lord Hardinge”, pp. 926–927; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 3–5, 20–22. 15 The detachment consisted of the 2/112th Battalion, 1/113th Battalion, Basra Gendarmerie Battalion (two companies), 2nd Company of the 1/26th Battalion, one mountain artillery platoon (two 75mm old Krupp guns) and a machine-gun company (three Nordenfelts). 16 From General Staff Intelligence Division to Ministry of Interior, 10 November 1914, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp. 30–31; Despatches Regarding Operations in the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 4; Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, pp. 714–719; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 46, 65–72;

Opening moves  79 On the morning of 11 November, the Southern Detachment launched a probing attack. Alerted by Sheikh Khazal, the British defenders easily repulsed the assault. Cavid Pasha, angered by the futility of this attack, replaced the commanding officer. The new commander, Major Adil, recognised that Saihan offered a far poorer tactical position than Zain and also lacked effective defensive structures. Nevertheless, he could not risk relocating the defence, given the imminent danger of enemy attack.17 British Lieutenant General Arthur A. Barrett arrived in Fao with the 6th Division’s 2nd Brigade on 13 November and took over command in Sanniya the following day. After a brief review of the situation, Barrett ordered Delamain to immediately reconnoitre the Ottoman position in Saihan and dislodge the Ottoman forces if possible. On the morning of 15 November, the British advanced towards Saihan. Delamain initially attempted a frontal assault and, encountering stiff resistance, massed his troops against the Ottoman right wing where tribal levies were manning the line. The tribesmen melted away under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire. Adil ordered a general retreat when he recognised the first signs of British envelopment. Although Delamain did not mount a pursuit, the withdrawal turned to a rout and Adil barely managed to regroup and reorganise the remaining three-quarters of his men in Zain (known in Turkish documents as Harabe and in British documents as Sahil).18 Adil chose the remains of an old mud fort close to the river as an anchor and extended his defensive line between a series of date palm groves and canals. Seeking to prevent the Ottomans from digging in, Barrett advanced on 17 November just as Subhi was anxiously inspecting his defensive system. The battle began well for the British, their river flotilla shelling and scattering local volunteers and tribal levies who were advancing towards their positions without due caution. Barrett’s original intention was, like his previous attack, to flank the Ottoman right wing. But he soon found to his dismay that the Ottoman wing extended further than he had anticipated. At the same time, sudden heavy rains effectively halted the attack and the assaulting units had to be recalled. Adil tried in vain to exploit this opportunity by concentrating artillery fire on the retreating enemy groups. But the old Krupp guns operated by half-trained gunners were simply not capable of continuous grouped fire. The British assault resumed shortly after the

Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 45–54, 87; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 30–35; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 8–10; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, pp. 106–108; Edmund Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, Cassell and Co., London, 1919, pp. 9–10. 17 Despatches Regarding Operations in the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, p. 4; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 73–74; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 54–57, 88; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 36–37; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, p. 109. 18 Despatches Regarding Operations in the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 4–5, 8–10; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 75–78; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 114–117; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 58–60; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 37–38.

80  Opening moves rain stopped, and this time, Barrett targeted the mud fort. Local units began to disintegrate under the determined enemy attack and the soldiers fled in disarray. However, the 1/26th Battalion (two companies) at the centre held the line, steadfastly maintaining its defence. At this critical point, however, Adil recognised the hopelessness of the situation and ordered a general withdrawal. Only the 1/26th Battalion preserved its organisational integrity and retreated in an orderly manner, while the others fled in disarray, abandoning their weapons and equipment. Fortunately for the Ottomans, the British cavalry was unable to follow up the forces’ success due to the difficult terrain and an excessively cautious approach. Adil managed to regroup what was left of his detachment at Abu al Khasib near Basra, and Subhi sent a battalion to reinforce him.19 Subhi’s situation was deteriorating rapidly. He had lost more than half of his combat strength and now abandoned all hope of defending Basra. If the obstruction in the river at Baljaniya could be defended, he held out some hope of obtaining reinforcements from Baghdad; otherwise, he had no choice but to retreat to Qurna (Kurna) at the junction of the Tigris and the old channel of the Euphrates. Subhi did his best to organise the defence of Baljaniya, but the border guard battalion was in a terrible condition both physically and mentally, most soldiers having fled when the British ships had fired on the Ottoman positions during their reconnaissance on 19 November. Subhi reluctantly gave the order for the evacuation of the city. Basra descended into anarchy with the departure of the military units and civil officials on 20 November as tribesmen and army deserters looted warehouses and the homes of the rich. Barrett received news of the looting the next day and hastily despatched two battalions by ship to rescue the city. The undefended obstruction was easily overcome, and the British troops entered the city late on the evening of 21 November. The original aim of the expedition had been accomplished.20 The evacuation and retreat of the Ottoman forces had been sudden and disorganised. The Southern Detachment in Abu al Khasib had not received the order in time and had been unable to follow the main group to Qurna, given the unfolding chaos and the lack of naval transportation. Adil had initially decided to retreat to Zubair and then amended the destination to Nasiriya, further reducing the combat strength of the 38th Division. Cavid Pasha remained in Baghdad despite this series of defeats. His insistence on directing the defensive effort from a distance

19 Despatches Regarding Operations in the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 6–7, 10–11; Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, pp. 720–722; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 79–84; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 119–124; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 61–65, 89–91; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 38–40; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 30–32. 20 Despatches Regarding Operations in the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 7–8, 11–13; Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, p.  8; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 84–87; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 125–131; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, p. 66; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 41–44; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 33–35.

Opening moves  81

Figure 3.2 Ottoman reinforcements sailing the Tigris on local rafts. Notice the presence of tribal warriors.

caused confusion and unnecessary delays, and he never developed a true sense of the situation. Moreover, having received word of the defeats, he responded by releasing reserves in Baghdad and other locations in a piecemeal fashion, thereby reducing the effectiveness of their contribution.21 Having received two gendarmerie battalions as reinforcements, Subhi tried a different defensive system in Qurna. Instead of establishing regular lines of trenches, he divided his troops  – almost 2000 soldiers organised into five battalions and around 600 tribal levies – into small fortified positions scattered in marshland on both banks of the river junction. Meanwhile, Barrett had received orders to capture Qurna to ensure the security of Basra. The British troops disembarked near Qurna on the left bank of the river having conducted a ship-board reconnaissance and unleashed two bombardments on 3 December. Subhi’s area defence system surprised the British troops, and they took five days to clear the fortified positions. The tribal levies fled once again, but the regulars fought desperately. After several futile attempts, the British ceased launching frontal assaults and instead flanked the Ottoman positions by despatching troops further north and employing their tribal allies. On 9 December, Subhi surrendered, marking the end 21 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 87–89.

82  Opening moves of the first phase of the Mesopotamia Campaign. The fall of Qurna was a serious blow to the Ottomans. Not only had the most strategic position that could threaten Basra been lost, but the headquarters of the 38th Division had also surrendered, leaving its remaining scattered divisional troops leaderless.22 Force D easily crushed the Ottoman independent defensive positions in Fao Saihan, Zain and Qurna, taking them one by one, in a little over a month. The British river flotilla played a crucial role, bombarding the Ottoman defensive positions with direct artillery fire and preventing any movement between the river banks. The British troops embarked and disembarked with relative ease while the Ottoman troops were immobilised, pinned down in their defensive positions. The same scenario was repeated again and again. The tribal levies deserted immediately after the start of the bombardment, followed soon after by the local conscripts, leaving the regular soldiers to their fate. The Ottoman command and control system had failed at every level. By contrast, the entire British Indian operation had been highly successful, and combat-related casualties were low. The 38th Division had been destroyed, Basra province was secured and the Persian oilfields were safe.23

The Sarıkamış Campaign Contrary to the commonly held view, the Ottoman General Staff did not initially plan offensive operations on the Caucasus Front.24 Enver Pasha and some of the General Staff planners had toyed with the idea of setting the east ablaze, but these speculations – almost all of them initiated by the Germans – never developed into a concrete plan. The Russian General Staff’s decision, according to the modified Plan 19, to transfer most of the Russian regular divisions from the Caucasus region to Poland – leaving a single regular army corps and a newly raised reserve army corps – was correctly predicted well prior to the proclamation of war.25 The Ottoman 22 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 10–11, 14–28; From Deputy Governor of Baghdad to Ministry of Interior, 8 December 1914; from Subgovernor of Müntefik to Ministry of Interior, 22 December 1914, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp.  37–41; Emin, “Osmanlı-İngiliz Irak Seferi ve Hatalarımız”, pp. 725–731; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 89–107; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 140–153; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 67–70; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 46–60; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 11, 269–271; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 62–65. 23 Black Tab (pseudonym), On the Road to Kut: A Soldier’s Story of the Mesopotamia Campaign, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1917, pp. 30–33, 53–60, 68–71. 24 From Lt-Col. Knox to Sir George Buchanan, 15 June, TNA, WO 106/1043; Ward Rutherford, The Russian Army in World War I, Gordon Cremonesi, London, 1975, pp. 93–94; Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, The First World War in the Middle East, Hurst & Co., London, 2014, p. 57. 25 E.V. Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Eserinin Tenkidi (Turkish translation of the Russian original Mirovaya voyna na Kavkazskom fronte, 1914–1917 with comments and criticisms by the Military History Division of the Turkish General Staff), (trans.) Nazmi, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1935, pp. 12–14, 22–23, 74–75; Fevzi Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi Hareketleri: Şark Vilayetlerimizde, Kafkasyada ve İranda, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1936, pp.  5, 19, 23–24, 27; N.G. Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom

Opening moves  83 staff officers were well aware of the military history and geography of the region, particularly the uncomfortable fact that, historically, they had consistently failed to prevent Russian border incursions. The Russian Army had penetrated deep into Eastern Anatolia and captured Erzurum in 1829 and again in 1877.26 With the loss of the critical fortresses of Kars and Batum, it was almost impossible to establish an effective and viable defensive line along the border. In addition, the road network and regional food stocks could not support a large and protracted operation. The Ottoman staff thus decided to conduct a strategic defence, but no final decision was made on where to establish the main defensive line.27 Third Army Commander Hasan İzzet [Arolat] Pasha received conflicting and vague orders, some of which advised the use of the archaic Erzurum fortress and surrounding high ground while others recommended the use of various defensive lines close to the border. There was even speculation that Erzurum and its surrounding regions would be abandoned to the Russians. Amid the confusion, Hasan İzzet Pasha was sent XIII Corps with a single division (37th Division) from Iraq while his best army corps (X Army Corps) was despatched for possible operations in the European theatre. Almost all his divisional and regimental headquarters had arrived from Thrace within the previous six months and were still desperately trying to complete their transformation, reorganisation and manning of their cadres. In accordance with thee mobilisation decree, Hasan İzzet Pasha reorganised provincial gendarmerie into 25 mobile battalions (modelled after infantry battalion war establishment but without machine-guns, other combat support elements and with limited numbers of professional officers) and 22 border guard battalions. Border guards

Fronte (The First World War on the Caucasus Front), Voennoe Izdatelstvo Ministerstva, Moscow, 1946, pp. 20–25; William C. Fuller, Strategy and Power in Russia 1600–1914, The Free Press, New York, 1992, pp. 442–445; W.E.D. Allen and Paul Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields: A History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1953, pp. 231–232, 240–243; Pertti Luntinen, French Information on the Russian War Plans 1880–1914, Societas Historica Finlandiae, Helsinki, 1984, pp. 67–68, 181–182, 194–195; Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi: 1914 Yılı Hareketleri, vol. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1964, pp. 99–101; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, p. 120. Actually, III Caucasian Corps and then II Caucasian Corps were initially allocated and transferred to the Eastern Front. Nicholas N. Golovine, The Russian Campaign of 1914, (trans.) A.G.S. Muntz, The Command and General Staff Press, Fort Leavenworth, 1933, pp. 69–70, 88. 26 From Lt-Col. Knox to Sir George Buchanan, 15 June, TNA, WO 106/1043; Şadi Sükan, TSK Tarihi Osmanlı Devri 1877–1878 Osmanlı-Rus Harbi Kafkas Cephesi Harekâtı, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1985, pp.  153–155, 159–171; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 36–39, 189–217; W. Monteith, Kars and Erzeroum; with the Campaigns of Prince Paskiewitch in 1828 and 1829, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, London, 1854, pp. 242–274; F.R. Chesney, The Russo-Turkish Campaigns of 1828 and 1829 with a View of the Present State of Affairs in the East, 3rd edition, Smith, Elder &Co., London, 1854, pp. 266–286. 27 Hakkı Altınbilek and Naci Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Kafkas Cephesi 3ncü Ordu Harekâtı, vol. 2, Section 1, Book 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 30, 34–35, 69–72, 87–89; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 16–23; Felix Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesindeki Muharebeler, (trans.) Hakkı, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1931, pp. 8–9, 16–18.

84  Opening moves remained at their original locations, but gendarmerie battalions were reassigned to crucial defence positions.28 One of the major challenges facing the Third Army was transport. There was no railway line east of Ankara (except a short disconnected line at Samsun), and there were limited numbers of sealed roads, most of which were impassable during winter. Maritime transportation was thus essential not only for the army, but also for the civilian population. However, the weakness of the Ottoman Navy meant that all shipping lines and harbours were susceptible to Russian attacks and blockades.29 While the General Staff had been aware of the seriousness of this problem prior to the war, little had been done to resolve it. Enver Pasha and his advisers wanted to believe that the recently acquired German battleships the Yavuz (Göben) and Midilli (Breslau) could redress the balance and protect convoys from the Russian Black Sea Fleet. This assessment – based largely on wishful thinking – was proven wrong. While the Yavuz and Midilli did provide some protection, this was fragile and certainly not failsafe. On 7 November 1914, three steamers carrying troops, equipment and ammunition were caught by the Russians near Ereğli and sunk.30 It was a serious blow. Some 3000 soldiers were drowned, with two aircraft and irreplaceable winter equipment lost, and, with this lucky strike, the Russians effectively closed the Black Sea to major transportation.31 A few months later, the Russian Navy started to lay mines to the entrance of the Bosphorus, thereby blocking the Ottoman 28 From Lt-Col. Knox to Sir George Buchanan, 15 June, TNA, WO 106/1043; According to the second amendment to the concentration plan, Hasan İzzet Pasha lost XI Corps (two divisions) and the 29th Division. Fortunately for the Third Army, this amendment did not gain currency. See Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p.  23; Şerif İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında 3.Ordu: Sarıkamış Kuşatma Manevrası ve Meydan Savaşı, (ed.) Sami Önal, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 1998, pp. 39, 55–58 62–65; Arif Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi: Sessiz Ölüm Sarıkamış Günlüğü, (ed.) İsmail Dervişoğlu, Yeditepe Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 13–15, 21–23; Ziya Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete (1915–1920), (ed.) Sami Önal, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 2005, pp. 34–35; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 3–4, 6–10, 27; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 131–132; Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, Vorhut-Verlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin, 1938, pp. 26–27; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 93–97, 235. 29 Saim Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Deniz Harekâtı, vol. 8, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1976, pp. 25, 37–40, 64; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 18–20; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 2–8. 30 The steamers were the Bezm-i Alem, the Bahr-i Ahmer and the Mithad Pasha. 31 Nekrasov, North of Gallipoli: The Black Sea Fleet at War 1914–1917, East European Monographs, Boulder, 1992, pp. 26–27; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 78–70; Georg Kopp, Two Lone Ships: Goeben and Breslau, (trans.) Arthur Chambers, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1931, p. 112. According to available accounts, Enver Pasha approved chief staff planner Hafız Hakkı’s request to send these three steamers without escort against the better advice from the Navy. See Hafız Hakkı, Paşa’nın Sarıkamış Günlüğü, (ed.) Murat Bardakçı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 47–49; Afif Büyüktuğrul, Osmanlı Deniz Harp Tarihi, vol. 4, Deniz Basımevi, İstanbul, 1974, p. 403; Tuncay Öğün, Kafkas Cephesi’nin I. Dünya Savaşı’ndaki Lojistik Desteği, Dergâh Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 47–48.

Opening moves  85 maritime more.32 Troops were now forced to march, and all logistics depended on land transport.33 The Third Army had no choice but to mobilise regional resources to ease the transport crisis. There was, however, no nucleus of experienced officers and NCOs to initiate mobilisation and train mobilised conscripts so that they could learn their jobs rapidly and well. Thus, the entire system of logistic trains, remount depots and billeting had to be built from scratch during the initial weeks of the mobilisation. Unsurprisingly, the requisitioning of animals, wagons and all sorts of carts rapidly became a nightmare. Most of the animals were in poor condition, too old or young and untrained for heavy work, and most of their riders and drivers were likewise untrained for transportation duties. Under these conditions, Third Army units had to spend valuable time, energy and resources marching from their home provinces to concentration points and then to the front line. Heavy loads, continuous bad weather, poor billeting and rations, unformed roads – or lack of roads – took their toll, and some units such as X Corps and the 37th Division (from Baghdad) suffered terribly and were considerably weakened before they had fired a shot against the enemy.34 The Third Army situation was further compounded when Enver Pasha decided to employ two new mobilisation schemes to generate more combat power. The first scheme would raise four reserve cavalry divisions and one independent cavalry brigade from the tribesmen of Southeastern and Eastern Anatolia.35 In reality, this was a reconstitution of the old Hamidian cavalry regiments36 that had been more or less defunct for a decade, and he attempted to group these under the command of regular officers and headquarters. Retired Lieutenant General

32 From von Usedom to Kaiser, 5 January 1915, TNA, CAB 45/215; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 85–86. 33 Against the vehement protests of Admiral Souchon, Yavuz and Midilli were ordered to escort troop or logistics convoys from time to time and even rarely carried troops themselves during emergencies. Kopp, Two Lone Ships, pp. 111–112; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 78–79, 82. 34 İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp.  33–34, 37–47, 51, 59; Aziz Samih İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları: Zivinden Peteriçe, Büyük Erkanıharbiye Matbaası, Ankara, 1934, pp.  9–10, 22; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 28–30; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 5–6, 8, 20; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 77–94; Karaoyvat, Canlı Tarihler, pp. 26–27; Ali Rıza Eti, Bir Onbaşının Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü 1914–1915, (ed.) Gönül Eti, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2009, pp. 13–27; Öğün, Kafkas Cephesi’nin, pp. 166– 205. Some units, like the 29th Division, tried to solve this logistics bottleneck by establishing secret depots and using them in times of trouble. Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, p. 32. 35 Each division consisted of five to eight regiments with 500–700 tribesmen. The Van Independent Reserve Cavalry Brigade had four regiments. See Süleyman İzzet Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında 2. İhtiyat ve Nizamiye Süvari Tümenleri ile Aras Cenup Müfrezesinin Muharebeleri, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1939, pp.  8–21, 40–45, 51. Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 39, 50–61, 81; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 3–4. 36 Janet Klein, The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2011, pp. 52–127.

86  Opening moves Dağıstanlı Mehmed Fazıl Pasha from Baghdad was assigned as the commander of the Reserve Tribal Cavalry (İhtiyat Aşiret Süvari) Corps. While Mehmed Fazıl Pasha approached his job determined to succeed, it was an impossible mission. The tribal cavalrymen were ill-trained, poorly armed (most of them were carrying ancient Martini-Henry rifles) and ill-equipped, and the divisions had no organic artillery or machine-guns. To make matters worse, their regular officers (most of the company-level positions were occupied by tribal chieftains) were difficult ­characters who had either been exiled from conventional cavalry or had lost their conventional military knowledge and bearing by spending too long with these irregulars. Overall, the reserve cavalry had some potential in their home provinces but were useless and in fact constituted a burden in distant theatres of war.37 Enver Pasha’s second scheme involved raising guerrilla bands from the warlike eastern Black Sea region employing locals (mainly Lazes and Acaras) under the command of mainly civilian high-ranking CUP members (chief among them Dr. Bahaeddin Şakir, Yenibahçeli Nail and Kara Kemal, although later several regular officers were also charged with raising more bands). In contrast to the reserve cavalry units, these guerrilla bands were under the control of the Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa (Special Organisation) and independent of conventional military control. However, the army commanders were tasked with providing personnel, weapons, equipment and sometimes whole units in emergencies, creating tension and ill will between the military and the CUP.38 Mahsusa operatives were already infiltrated deep into Russian territory and were working hard to make alliances with local Muslim groups and tribes. Although they could not give assurance to the locals for substantial aid and immediate military action owing to unclear operational picture, they nevertheless established an effective network. The Russian authorities were aware of the Ottoman efforts and tried to counter them by bribing or threatening the Muslims. However, Russian counter-efforts failed miserably due to ­historically harsh governance and their obvious support of Armenians and other Christians.39

37 İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 67–68; Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, pp. 8–11; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 9–10; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 81. 38 Throughout the war, British Intelligence referred to the Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa organisation and its operatives as ‘Fedai’. Cairo Intelligence Section, Handbook of the Turkish Army, February 1916, 8th Provisional Edition, Intelligence Section, Cairo, 1916, pp. 105, 207; Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, pp. 13–41; Ertürk, İki Devrin Perde Arkası, pp. 111–112; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp.  34, 168; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 61, 68, 158–159; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, p. 120; Selahaddin Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun Büyükharbin İptidasından Sarıkamış Muharebeleri Nihayetine Kadar Harekâtı, Section 2, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1933, p. 7. 39 M. Adil Özder, Artvin ve Çevresi 1828–1921 Savaşları, Ay Matbaası, Ankara, 1971, pp. 97–107; Arif Cemil Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, Arma Yayınları, İstanbul, 1999,

Opening moves

87

Figure 3.3 Group photo of a Mahsusa detachment during its deployment in Bursa.

The Russian plan for the Caucasus Front would see them remain on the defensive strategically but move quickly to occupy the high ground and passes on the Ottoman side of the border (which they did immediately following the declaration of war against the Ottomans on 4 November 1914). There were also plans to arm the local Christians to support the Russian military actions. However, the I Caucasus Corps Commander General Georgy Bergmann, probably with some encouragement from his superiors, mistook the rapid withdrawal of the Ottoman border guards as a sign of strategic weakness and seized what he considered a fortuitous opportunity, disregarding his plan and instead advancing deep into Ottoman territory.40 This reckless manoeuvre provided

pp. 35–37, 44–45; Candan Badem, Çarlık Yönetiminde Kars, Ardahan, Artvin 1878–1918, Aras Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2018, pp. 419–424. 40 From the Ambassador in Tehran to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3 September 1914, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2013, pp. 53–54; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 26–30; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 72, 75; Count Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov was the official commander of the Russian Caucasus Army. Due to his poor health and lack of military

88  Opening moves a golden opportunity for the Ottomans to annihilate the Russian units. However, Hasan İzzet Pasha lacked confidence in the ability of his forces and was desperate to avoid a Balkan-style rout. To his dismay, his superiors – Enver Pasha and the General Staff  – regarded the situation as providing a perfect opportunity to destroy the Russian Caucasus troops and even capture some strategic ground. Having patiently listened to Hasan İzzet Pasha’s excuses and complaints, Enver Pasha simply ordered him to counter-attack the Russians at Köprüköy.41 At this point, Bergmann handed command to General Nikolai Baratoff, who continued to advance blindly with the reinforced 39th (Alexandropol) and the 1st Caucasian Cossack divisions along three main approaches to Erzurum. The Erevan Group attempted to divert Ottoman forces from Erzurum with a limited advance towards Eleşkirt and Diyadin further south. Hasan İzzet Pasha had two regular (IX and XI) corps and the Reserve Cavalry Corps at his immediate disposal. While X Corps, reassigned to the Third Army on 2 November, was some distance away, marching from Sivas and Samsun, Hasan İzzet Pasha still enjoyed a superiority of 3:1 over the Russians. However, expecting the worst, he assigned XI Corps (18th, 33rd and 34th divisions), the 2nd Cavalry Division, Reserve Cavalry Corps (less a division), 37th Division and two regiments from the 28th Division and delegated responsibility for the counter-attack to Galib [Pasiner] Pasha. XI Corps was a poor choice to conduct such an important operation. It had encountered serious difficulties during the mobilisation, and Armenian conscripts had begun deserting well prior to the start of hostilities. In a serious error of judgement, the better trained and equipped IX Corps was kept out of the battle to defend Erzurum in case of a catastrophe.42 Galib Pasha had limited intelligence on the Russians and, to a certain extent, shared Hasan İzzet’s misgivings on the morale and capacity of his troops. Consequently, instead of obeying Hasan İzzet Pasha’s order to outflank the enemy from both sides, he chose a more secure option and launched a frontal attack on 7 November. However, his prior preparation had been limited and he did not coordinate the advance to attack in detail with his divisional commanders.

experience, however, General Alexander Myshlayevski became de facto Commander-in-Chief. See Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, p. 242. 41 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 53–58, 79–80, 82–83; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 28–35; Baki Vandemir, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, vol. 2, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1933, pp. 11–70; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 73–84; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 21, 25–26; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 101–121, 130; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 133–135; Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, pp. 43–45; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, p. 121; Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, pp. 13–17; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 244–246; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 101–109. 42 Vandemir, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 86–87; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 91–104; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 9, 21,26–30; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 122–129; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 135–136; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p. 11; Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, p. 55; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 110–111.

Opening moves  89 The 18th Division began its advance late in the midst of dense fog, its forward elements losing their way and crashing into the Russian line. In the ensuing firefight, the soldiers of the 53rd and 98th regiments panicked and fled, the rampant panic also infecting the 34th Division. Fortunately for the Ottomans, the artillery and cavalry units held fast and halted the Russians. Mehmed Fazıl Pasha, with the Reserve Cavalry Corps, began his planned flanking manoeuvre from the south at noon. However, his units either refused to attack the ­Russians or simply disintegrated under Russian fire. Mehmed Fazıl Pasha spent the next few days chasing deserters and forcing them to return to the fight, with limited success.43 Galib Pasha displayed better leadership in his assault the following day. He reorganised broken regiments and launched an effective attack using his uncommitted 33rd and 37th divisions and two regiments of the 28th Division. There were numerous displays of heroism, as in the example of the 83rd Regiment, but there were also cases of rout, such as the soldiers of the hapless 37th Division who had marched all the way from Baghdad, lost confidence at the first clash of arms and dissolved in their second encounter. The Russian defence held its line for another two days, but collapsed during the night of 11/12 November.44 While the five-day battle at Köprüköy was a costly victory, it boosted the confidence of both Enver Pasha and the troops, albeit not that of commanding general Hasan İzzet Pasha. Once again, Enver Pasha interfered and forced him to attack the shaky Russian defences prematurely. Hasan İzzet Pasha’s reluctance and anxiety hampered his staff work and, on 17 November, the Third Army launched an uncoordinated blind assault with little intelligence on enemy positions. The ensuing two-day battle of Azap was even costlier for both sides. The high casualty figures frightened Hasan İzzet Pasha, who ordered a general retreat at the climax of the battle, at which point General Bergmann had already decided to withdraw his exhausted units. The ensuing disorderly withdrawal caused more harm to the Third Army than the bloody melee against the Russians. Some units, like the hapless 37th Division, were completely disintegrated and only with the enforcement of very harsh measures was further damage to the army prevented.45

43 Vandemir, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 88–114; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp.  105–111; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  129–143; Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, pp. 22–36, 46–50; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 45–46; Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, pp. 49–50, 52–53; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 39–51, 55; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 21–22, 30–31; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 112–113. 44 Vandemir, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  115–202; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  47–56; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  144–219; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 47–50, 52, 57–61; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp.  22–23, 31–32; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 113–122. 45 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 58–60, 80, 83; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 36–40; Vandemir, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  203–348; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  58–71; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde,

90  Opening moves The Köprüköy and Azap battles clearly demonstrated the shortcomings of the sweeping reforms of the post-Balkan War period. Most of the regular units fought bravely and obediently, and the officers in particular showed their willingness to support their superiors in erasing the stigma of the Balkan Wars. As a result, officer casualty figures were disproportionately high.46 Nevertheless, the battles acted as a form of litmus test and illustrated the vast differences between the established army battalions and those that were newly raised. Soldiers from XI Army Corps (from the Van and Muş recruitment regions) who were primarily conscripted from unruly Kurdish tribesmen and Armenian villagers – both societies without previous compulsory military service experience – deserted their units in large numbers at the earliest opportunity. The veteran regiments and soldiers could not overcome the unwillingness and inexperience of these raw conscripts.47 From higher staffs down to battalions, the Ottoman war machine faltered seriously at each level of command. Intelligence gathering and processing remained problematic, while logistics were nothing short of catastrophic. The highly trained but naïve staff planners had paid limited attention to serious institutional deficiencies and overestimated the Army’s tactical advantages. The courage and determination of the officers and soldiers overcame some – but not all – of the command, control and communication problems caused primarily by the immature and unstable unit structure. In terms of logistic and medical support, the Third Army completely failed. Most units did not eat hot meal for several weeks. Medical evacuation and hospital system collapsed under the sheer volume of casualties.48 The reserve cavalry divisions were unable to perform even the simplest tasks, stymieing all plans to cover and guard the flanks or conduct flanking attacks. Unsurprisingly, lacking military training, effective discipline, fire support and above all willingness and patriotism, the tribesmen routinely deserted the first time they came under enemy fire. They were capable only of harassing the enemy rear and, at most, temporarily diverting the attention of enemy combat units. Some units even changed sides and served with the Russians. Reluctantly, Enver dissolved



pp. 224–311; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 157–163; Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, pp. 56–58, 61–64, 72–77; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 57, 65–73, 81–82; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 23–24, 32–34; Karaoyvat, Canlı Tarihler, pp. 28–32; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 246–249; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 123–125, 128–135. 46 Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 45, 163–164, 175; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 232, 322–323; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, p. 55. 47 Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, pp. 11, 24, 31, 38; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 21, 23; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 40–41; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p. 11; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, pp. 118–119. There was no official discrimination against the Armenian conscripts at this stage. This began after the Sarıkamış disaster with a military decree dated 26 February 1915 which transferred Armenians from combat units to service support branches. See Esat Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 3, Unpublished memoir, Turkish General Staff College Library, pp. 451–452. 48 İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 92–95, 141–143; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 165–169; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 51, 56, 71; Eti, Bir Onbaşının Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü, pp. 39–63.

Opening moves  91 the four reserve cavalry divisions. On 21 November, the best of the remaining men (only 2500 tribesmen remained of the original strength of 20,000) were reformed into two cavalry brigades and placed under the direct command and control of the regular cavalry division.49 The Ottoman offensive operations at the Black Sea coastline, on the other hand, achieved surprisingly good results. Retired Major Artvinli Yusuf Rıza, Mahsusa operational commander of the Black Sea region, organised and armed a composite force of volunteers, common criminals (released from local prisons) and border guards. He assigned CUP party officials who had arrived from İstanbul in leadership positions.50 On 1 November 1914, Yusuf Rıza launched a sudden attack against Russian border guard positions. The Russians were caught completely unprepared and routed. Locals rebelled and started attacking small Russian military and police posts all along the coastline. During the ensuing panic, the Russian troops took refuge behind the fortifications of Batum. Thanks to Russian panic and inaction, Yusuf Rıza captured Artvin (22 November), Murgul and Borçka (23 November) without much trouble, his advance only hampered by harsh terrain and lack of roads, while the Third Army was suffering huge difficulties and casualties during the Köprüköy and Azap battles. Against the pessimistic expectations of a modest gains and keeping the Russians busy, Yusuf Rıza gained tremendous success.51 Unexpected victory encouraged Enver Pasha greatly. He and his staff resolved to invest more troops and establish better command and control. At the same time, Enver Pasha made a strategy change. Instead of depending on Mahsusa troops completely, he decided to send some conventional military units not only to overcome military limitations of Mahsusa against dug-in Russians but also keep them under his control. There was already an intraparty struggle between Enver Pasha and Talat for the control of Mahsusa operations at the Caucasus. Introduction of conventional units would certainly tip the balance in favour of Enver Pasha.52 The 8th Infantry Regiment (3rd Division) was selected as the nucleus of the expeditionary force and a mechanism of control. It was reinforced with artillery, engineers, cavalry and combat service support units. The surname of the commanding

49 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 111, 119, 129, 149–150, 189, 203, 222, 276– 278, 289–292, 304, 317–318, 328; Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, pp. 37, 52–54; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp.  67, 113–116; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 2–3, 8; Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, p. 61. 50 Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, pp. 13–14, 20, 32, 27–29; Süleyman Gürcan, Memleketim Trabzon Mahallem Tekfurçayır, (ed.) Ömer Türkoğlu, Kebikeç Yayınları, Ankara, 1997, pp. 130–132; Sinan Onuş, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa’dan Kurtuluş Savaşı’na Kızılca Kıyamet: Alb. Ali Rıza Bey ve Yzb. Fuat Bey’in Günlükleri, Kırmızı Kedi Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 19–26. 51 Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, pp. 104–122; Gürcan, Memleketim Trabzon Mahallem Tekfurçayır, pp. 133–144; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 599– 600; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp.  30–31; Onuş, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa’dan, pp.  27–29; Badem, Çarlık Yönetiminde Kars, Ardahan, Artvin 1878–1918, pp. 426–429. 52 Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, pp.  46–47; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 600–601.

92  Opening moves officer, Major Christian August Stange,53 became the name of the regimental combat team: Stange Detachment (Müfrezesi). Enver Pasha did not forget to add a 1000-strong Mahsusa volunteer battalion (better known as İstanbul Çetesi) under his loyal friend retired Captain Yakub Cemil to the expeditionary force. The Stange Detachment embarked on three steamers and the convoy, under the escort of Yavuz and some other battleships, departed from İstanbul on 6 December. At the last moment, a battalion was left behind.54 Enver Pasha’s decision was turned out to be appropriate and wise. Yusuf Rıza was stuck in front of Russian fortified positions near Çoruh River and urgently requested help from Stange immediately after his arrival to Rize on 10 December. Without deviating from orders, Stange left a small artillery (without guns) and infantry detachment only and continued his advance towards the direction of Ardahan.55 He took over the command of Mahsusa detachments which had been under the command of Bahaeddin Şakir and attacked against the Russians in Yalnızçam Pass on 25 December. After several short but bloody battles, Stange Detachment repulsed Russians not only from Yalnızçam but also Ardahan on 30 December.56 Under glamour of easy victories at the Black Sea region, the General Staff and Enver Pasha were keen to capitalise on Russian weakness, ignoring the original strategic plan and the concept that lay behind it. The recent German victory at Tannenberg also influenced the Ottoman decision-makers who may have dreamt of their own encirclement victory. Enver Pasha ignored the sorry state of the Third Army, dismissed cautious commanders and assigned younger, more dashing and less critical men. He personally took command of the Third Army and brought

53 There were in fact two Stanges within the German Military Advisory Mission: Infantry Major Christian August Stange, formerly of Infanterie-Regiment 21, and Foot Artillery Major Wilhelm Stange, formerly the 3rd Artillery Staff officer in Metz. Wilhelm Stange initially served in the Edirne Fortress Command but was assigned to the Erzurum Fortified Place during the mobilization, whereas Christian August Stange was the commander of the 8th Infantry Regiment from the very beginning. Wilhelm Stange worked as the artillery advisor of the XI Corps during Sarıkamış Campaign. Deutsche Offiziere in der Türkei, pp. 21–22. Unfortunately, due to German military tradition of using only surnames in most of the documents, their names were hopelessly mixed in most contemporary and modern accounts, including Turkish official military history and my previous book. See, Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 601; Mesut Uyar and Edward Erickson, A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk, Praeger Security International / ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 2009, p. 247. 54 Hatice Yalçın, Harp Ceridesi (I. Dünya Savaşı’nda Kafkas Cephesi) [Transcription of the 8th Regiment War Diary hereafter 8th IR War Diary], Gaziosmanpaşa University Unpublished MA Thesis, 2008, p. 49; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p.  298; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 601. 55 8th IR War Diary, pp. 49–58; Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, pp. 130–140; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 602. 56 8th IR War Diary, pp. 59–87; Özder, Artvin ve Çevresi 1828–1921 Savaşları, pp. 112–120; Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, pp. 145–162; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 602–604; Onuş, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa’dan, pp. 29–34; Badem, Çarlık Yönetiminde Kars, Ardahan, Artvin 1878–1918, pp. 435–436.

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r de

94  Opening moves Chief of the General Staff Bronsart von Schellendorf with him as his personal adviser.57 The Sarıkamış Campaign plan, authored by the aggressive new commander of X Corps, Colonel Hafız Hakkı Bey, was simple but daring. XI Corps and the 2nd Regular Cavalry Division would pin the Russians with frontal assaults, thereby creating a window of opportunity for IX and X corps to encircle and assault to the right and the rear of the enemy, respectively. The ultimate aim was to destroy the Russian Caucasus Army. In addition, Stange Detachment, the Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa guerrilla bands and the Fethi Bey Regimental Group (the 93rd Regiment and two border guard battalions) would launch diversionary raids deep into enemy territory from the north. The planning parameters depended on total surprise, swift action by highly mobile units and successful pinning of the enemy forces.58 Unfortunately for the Ottomans, neither the chief planner, Hafız Hakkı, nor Enver Pasha recognised the significance of the lack of intelligence, incomplete logistical planning, absence of heavy artillery, poor roads and, most importantly, winter weather. The winter of 1914 was particularly harsh, with record levels of snow and low temperatures. To make things worse and add far more complexity, Hafız Hakkı decided to drastically alter the plan after a brief reconnaissance. Instead of targeting the enemy, the new plan focused on the enemy’s main supply bases in the town of Sarıkamış and in the vicinity of the Kars fortress so as to block Russian escape from encirclement and establish a secure launching pad for an invasion of Georgia.59 After a number of delays, the operation began on 22 December. IX and X corps left most of their heavy artillery and equipment behind (only 12 field guns were taken) and took their light mountain guns to allow them to move more rapidly. Apart from ammunition trains, there was no preparation and no means to feed the troops who were instructed to look after themselves by living off the land. According to staff planners, they had to survive just three or four days before they would have an abundance of food in the captured Russian depots. There was

57 From Lt-Col. Knox to Sir George Buchanan, 15 June, TNA, WO 106/1043; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp.  47–48; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 117–120, 137–167; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 28, 72, 90; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 333–350, 367; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 163–168, 232–240, 247, 262– 265; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 80, 84; Hafız Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, pp. 51, 82; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 36–37, 50–51; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 1, 14; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, p. 4; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 250–251; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 139–143. 58 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 47–48, 50; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 168–172; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 178, 232, 241, 272–275; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 37, 50–51; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, p. 11; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 92–93; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 355–356. 59 X Corps Operational Order, 20 December 1914; ATBD, year 58, no. 123, June 2009, pp. 3–4; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 8–9; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 173–177, 220–221; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 95–97; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 362, 378–381; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 52–53.

Opening moves  95 no contingency plan in case of failure. Optimistically, the troops were ordered to travel light and fast in order to catch the enemy unprepared. In fact, total surprise was achieved and, by the end of the second day, Russian High Command still had little understanding of the Ottoman intentions. Bergmann continuously asked for a counter advance against Köprüköy, whereas General Nikolai Yudenich proposed to cover threatened right flank and rear. General Alexander Myshlayevski was simply stunned and was unable to make a decision.60 However, the marching corps lost contact with one another and the soldiers (without proper winter clothing and equipment)61 had difficulty adjusting to the tempo of the operation and the harsh winter conditions, with dirt roads and tracks virtually impassable due to heavy snowfall. Hungry soldiers consumed everything in their path. The disorganised plunder of villages caused delays, and the following troops found little to eat. Moreover, unforeseen problems such as the stiff defence of the weak Russian screening force and small border guard posts, chance encounters with strong Russian covering forces at critical junctions, incidents of friendly fire (the 92nd and 94th regiments inflicted heavy casualties on each other in front of the Russian position at Oltu during a half-day battle) and troops becoming lost in the mountainous tracks further slowed the tempo.62 The forward elements of IX Corps reached the vicinity of Sarıkamış on the third day, but the main group could not reach the front in time for the attack. Enver Pasha, who was marching with IX Corps, ordered hasty, piecemeal attacks with available regiments without waiting for the rest of the corps. Soldiers from the 29th Division launched the initial attacks on Çerkezköy, a suburb of Sarıkamış, without any preparation and rest, the men easy prey for the Russian defenders. The light mountain guns were useless against entrenched enemy infantry and the

60 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 87–101, 104; V.P. Nikolskii, Sarıkamış Harekâtı (12–24 Aralık 1914) (Turkish translation of the Russian original Sarykamyshskaya operatsiya: 12–24 Dekabrya 1914 goda), 2nd edition, (trans.) Nazmi, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1990, pp. 16–25; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 34–35; Eti, Bir Onbaşının Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü, pp. 90–98; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 254–259; Hew Strachan, The First World War: To Arms, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, p. 725. 61 Modern Turkish literature claims that Enver Pasha was unaware of the general lack of winter clothing and equipment but period documents prove otherwise. For example in his general order before the initiation of offensive Enver Pasha specifically mentioned about lack of proper clothing and ended his order proclaiming: “Success does not depend upon on clothing and appearance but bravery and courage at the heart of each soldier”. Third Army Order of the Day, 20 December 1914; ATBD, no. 123, pp. 6–7. Also see, Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 88–89. 62 From the 38th Division to 88th Regiment, 22 December 1914; Tactical Thoughts and Comments of the CO 30th Division, 22 December 1914, ATBD, no. 123, pp. 22, 51–53; Mithad Alacalıoğlu, “Penek Muharebesi ve Bundan Alınan Dersler”, Askeri Mecmua, vol. 55, no. 104, March 1937, pp.  29–36; Faik, “Dağda Yürüyüş ve İrtibat”, Askeri Mecmua, vol. 52, no. 93, March 1934, pp. 91–96; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 28–31, 33–36, 39; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  99–101, 104–111; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 179–188; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 88–101; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 149–152.

96  Opening moves

Figure 3.4 Ottoman infantry marching to the front.

Russian artillery silenced them with counter-battery fire. Undeterred by the failure of the first attacks, Enver Pasha continued to order attacks around the clock, sending arriving regiments directly from their marching columns. As a consequence, IX Corps was never able to concentrate its power and make use of the golden opportunity to capture the weakly defended city. Russian reinforcements began to arrive in numbers from the south, evidence of the failure of XI Corps and the 2nd Cavalry Division to pin down the Russian troops.63 The Ottoman Army still had a chance to achieve its aim, thanks to the paralysis of Russian command which, in the confusion and panic, continually issued orders 63 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 105–127, 156–159, 167–168; Nikolskii, Sarıkamış Harekâtı, pp. 26–32; Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, pp. 58–92, 145; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 51–54; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 38–40, 44, 52, 59, 64–65; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 36–37; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 189–225; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 102–112, 125; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 39–41, 54–56; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 385–454; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 115–135; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 279–287; Eti, Bir Onbaşının Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü, pp. 99–118; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 263–273, 276; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 152–156; Faik, “Dağda Yürüyüş ve İrtibat”, p. 94.

Opening moves  97 and counter orders for a general withdrawal until 30 December.64 But by then, the Ottoman units were exhausted and IX Corps had barely one-third of its combat strength and was outgunned by the Russian defenders. Consequently, it was unable to capture Sarıkamış on its own and Enver Pasha ordered X Corps, which was moving to the rear of Sarıkamış, to assist. Hafız Hakkı gave the fateful order to cross over the Allahüekber Mountains instead of detouring around. The 30th and 31st divisions completed the crossing but at a disastrous cost, losing two-thirds of their personnel on the trackless mountain. Wisely, the 32nd Division commander disobeyed the order and tracked around the mountain. The desperate attacks of both corps achieved little against the ever-increasing numbers of Russians, who enjoyed effective fire support. The costly frontal assaults, exhaustion, frostbite and malnutrition took their toll, and the total numbers of combatants dropped below 1000 for IX Corps and to less than 2000 for X Corps.65 By 1 January 1915, almost all the high-ranking Ottoman officers recognised the futility of continuing the operation. Nevertheless, Enver Pasha stubbornly refused any suggestion of retreat.66 Encouraged by the apparent failure of the Ottoman offensive manoeuvre and achieving total superiority in every respect with the arrival of more troops, General Nikolai Yudenich decided to launch his own version of an encirclement attack, which began on 2 January.67 A desperate defence by IX Corps allowed X Corps to retreat, but at the cost of the encirclement and eventual surrender of the corps and three divisional headquarters. However, the victorious Russian troops were unable to pursue and outflank the remnants of the Third Army, thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the rearguards.68

64 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 107–129; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 260–261, 267–269, 272; Strachan, The First World War, vol. 1, pp. 726–727; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 157–159. 65 X Corps Operational Order, 30 December 1914, ATBD, no. 123, pp. 56–57; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 131–134, 160; Nikolskii, Sarıkamış Harekâtı, pp. 33–48; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 54–60; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 229– 233; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 41–42, 44–49, 53–56, 60, 71, 78–87; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp.  287–294; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 454– 491; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 41–45, 56–57; Abdülhalim Akkılıç, Askerin Romanı: E.Sv. Alb. Abdülhalim Akkılıç’ın Savaş ve Barış Anıları, (ed.) Yılmaz Akkılıç, Körfez Ofset, Gemlik, 1994, pp. 114–121; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, p. 123; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 160–174. 66 Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp.  103, 105; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 233–244; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 178–182; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, p. 113. 67 General Yudenich was actually Myshlayevski’s Chief of Staff. He was later assigned as the commanding general of a ramshackle composite corps. However he effectively became the operational commander during the command crisis and saved the day, literally stealing a victory. See Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 242, 255–256, 268–269, 272–273; Nikolskii, Sarıkamış Harekâtı, pp. 20–21. 68 Incident Report of the Nüsunk Detachment, 8 January 1915, ATBD, no. 123, pp. 75–76; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 135–145, 160–162; Nikolskii, Sarıkamış Harekâtı,

98

Opening moves

Figure 3.5 The Russians exhibiting captured Ottoman field and mountain guns in Tiflis.

The initial stalemate and disastrous defeat in Sarıkamış drastically changed the situation at the Black Sea Front. The Russians reinforced the Batum garrison and under its new commander General Vladimir Lyakhov, a Russian advance against Ardahan started. Following the example of Yudenich, Lyakhov tried to encircle the Ottomans in Ardahan. Stange had limited options in completely isolated Ardahan. He barely stopped Russian flanking attacks and evacuated Ardahan just in time, but after suffering heavy casualties. The Ottoman retreat caused a big panic and

pp. 48–61; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 61–68; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 247–251; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 89–99, 118–119, 121–127; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 295–300; Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 131–161; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 492–523; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 37–38; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 276–283; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 176–186; Akkılıç, Askerin Romanı, pp. 123–127, 134–138.

Opening moves  99 Muslim civilians flooded roads to escape from Russian revenge. Most of the local volunteers and former prisoners deserted during the fighting withdrawal, leaving conventional soldiers to their fates. Obviously, the chaos of defeat and general retreat created enough opportunities for desertion. Against all odds, Stange successfully managed to keep Russians at bay by trading land with time until 15 February, when the front line more or less stabilised around Artvin.69 Enver Pasha and his private staff hastily departed for İstanbul on 9 January 1915. He left a shattered force for the new Third Army commander, Hafız Hakkı, who had been promoted to brigadier general during the ignominious retreat. While Hafız Hakkı Pasha had been one of the authors of the Sarıkamış disaster, he dealt with the resulting emergency efficiently. Harsh measures were enforced to ­counter desertion. In order to cleanse his and Enver Pasha’s reputations, several senior officers including Hüsamettin [Karaoyvat] Pasha (commander of XIII Corps) and Colonel Ziya (commander of 37th Division) were scapegoated and court-­ martialled. All depot formations and even some labour units were reorganised and renamed in order to re-establish IX Corps and its subordinate units. XIII Corps Headquarters and the 37th Division were disbanded. A tactical formation was created from the remaining Iraqi companies under the name of Baghdad Regiment. Hafız Hakkı Pasha also increased manpower from below 10,000 to 20,000, rebuilding units after the daily wastage of skirmishing with the Russians and the deadly toll of epidemics. However, he could not resolve the lack of medical support so desperately needed to combat the constant scourge of epidemics. Hafız Hakkı Pasha himself died of typhus on 5 February.70 In spite of the potential for an Ottoman victory, Sarıkamış became a selfinflicted disaster.71 Of the 118,174 combat effectives on 22 December 1914, only 42,000 personnel remained fit for battle. Some authors suggest that the Sarıkamış Campaign effectively ended any further chance of Ottoman offensive action 69 8th IR War Diary, pp.  99–203; Özder, Artvin ve Çevresi 1828–1921 Savaşları, pp. 121–130; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 604–610; Eti, Bir Onbaşının Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü, pp. 121–126; Onuş, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa’dan, pp. 35–38. 70 Report of the 30th Division, 11 January 1915, ATBD, no. 124, January 2010, pp. 8–11; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 80–81; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 524–525, 542–565; Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, pp.  94–111; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 130–132; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, p. 362; Karaoyvat, Canlı Tarihler, pp. 35–40; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 58–60; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 1, pp. 188–191; Eti, Bir Onbaşının Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü, pp.  131–141. Monthly admissions to military and civilian hospitals reached 40,000, with 10,000 patients dying. See Hikmet Özdemir, The Ottoman Army 1914–1918: Disease & Death on the Battlefield, (trans.) Şaban Kardaş, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2008, pp. 53–62. Also see Tevfik Sağlam, Büyük Harpte 3. Orduda Sıhhi Hizmet, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1941, pp. 6–13, 67–69, 79–80, 93–94, 98, 102. 71 Strachan, To Arms, p. 728. It is important to note that the Sarıkamış disaster was deliberately used to discredit Enver Pasha and other CUP leaders during the Turkish Independence War (1919–22) and the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Thus early Turkish war accounts must be treated cautiously. See Hakkı, Sarıkamış Günlüğü, pp. 7–8; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, p. 125; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp.  13–16, 253–259; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 1, 14, 18, 34–35.

100  Opening moves against Russia for at least two years. It was also instrumental in the cancellation of joint German-Ottoman designs for conquering Iranian Azerbaijan and inciting rebellion within the subject nations of Afghanistan, Central Asia and India. Two elite divisional groups (1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces), moving to take ambitious objectives deep inside Iran and Dagestan, were diverted to reinforce the shattered Third Army.72 The Sarıkamış offensive provides a unique insight into the mind of the Ottoman military decision-makers and clearly illustrates their weaknesses. First, the general idea and outline of the plan was linked to the Ottomans’ operational encirclement doctrine and planning from the Balkan Wars. Indeed, the army repeated the same planning errors (lack of effective fire support, inadequate logistics, poor coordination, overly optimistic timetables and ignoring the effects of weather) and flawed assumptions (expectation of a weak enemy without fire support, deteriorating Russian command and control, and high expectations of Mahsusa bands and tribal cavalry) from its earlier disastrous defeat. In spite of this, the officers and regular units performed well against heavy odds and, for a period of time, were within reach of victory.73 Second, Enver Pasha and Hafız Hakkı, both of whom were seeking combat glory, displayed the same dangerous habit of assuming all command functions within their immediate area and interfering with the spheres of their subordinates. Given their determination to exhibit absolute obedience born of the Balkan syndrome, the Ottoman commanders and staff officers had no choice but to carry out orders in which they had little confidence. From the very beginning until the very end, dozens of officers were sacked, court-martialled and even executed. This policy saw the entire command group and staff of IX Corps captured while fighting hopelessly as riflemen.74 Third, the concept of the creation of Mahsusa guerrilla bands was not unique but rather the clear outcome of decades-long counter-insurgency experience and

72 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 79–80; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 306–309, 313–315, 317–319; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 15–16; Kazım Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 2011, pp.  435–438; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  525–536; Halil Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı Halil Kut Paşa’nın Hatıraları, (ed.) Erhan Çiftci, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp.  137–138; Rahmi Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1988, pp. 95–98; İlhan Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 1975, pp. 101–118; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 283–285; Strachan, The First World War, vol. 1, pp. 728–729. 73 Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  167–175; Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, pp. 145–146; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp.  57–58; Strachan, The First World War, vol. 1, pp. 726–728. 74 Baytın, İlk Dünya Harbinde Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 45, 120, 126–127, 137, 163–164, 172, 175– 182; İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, pp. 196–198; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 1, 58, 64–65, 105, 118–119; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 447; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, pp. 123–124, 128; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 10, 14, 18.

Opening moves  101 can be traced back to Sultan Abdülhamid’s dreaded spy agency.75 Party leaders and politically motivated officers (including the hitmen of the CUP, who were useless for regular military purposes) were enlisted to assist in the creation of guerrilla bands from warlike local populations (the Lazes and Acaras on the Caucasus Front) and from troublesome characters such as bandits and ex-convicts. These bands were occasionally reinforced with regular officers, small fire support elements (artillery and machine-gun teams) and, in several cases, entire regular units (most often border guards and gendarmerie units). The allocation of valuable resources to these bands and their independence from military authorities was an obvious source of tension within the regular command structure. For this reason, several control mechanisms were instigated including assigning a regular officer as overall commander for special missions  – such as Stange during the Sarıkamış Campaign – or giving clear command authority to the highest military officer present.76 Against the expectations of the CUP leadership (particularly Enver Pasha and the civilian boss of the party, Talat Bey), and despite an inspiring start, the Mahsusa bands achieved poor results due to their failure to effectively mobilise the local populations. However, they managed to frighten the Russian High Command and caused the diversion of a sizeable number of troops. The Mahsusa bands continued to operate at the Caucasus Front until the end of the war, with some used in direct conventional operations and others employed in guerrilla-style hit-and-run warfare, striking deep into the enemy rear, and to combat the increasing numbers of Armenian gangs. However, the apparent failure of the Mahsusa bands simply increased the contempt in which they were held by conventional units. Unsurprisingly, they became the ideal scapegoat for any operation that ended in disaster.77

Persia Front The concept of launching a campaign in Persia was far from new and was part of the German-Ottoman plans for Jihad. At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, Tehran and northern Persia were under the political and military control of Russia, while the Persian Gulf coast, particularly the Abadan oilfields, was controlled by the British Empire. The central Persian government was impotent and had limited control over the remaining provinces. The country was in turmoil

75 Stoddard, The Ottoman Government and the Arabs, pp. 1–4, 55–57. 76 Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında, pp. 140–161; Selışık, Kafkas Cephesinde X. Kolordunun, pp. 7, 10; İlden, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlangıcında, pp. 158–159; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 28–29; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 368–369, 375; Gürcan, Binbaşı Süleyman Bey’in Manzum Anıları, pp. 130–133. 77 Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında, pp. 167–268; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 81–82; Ali Fuad Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye Hatıraları, (ed.) Alpay Kabacalı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2003, pp.  266–269; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp.  29; Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında, p. 51; Gürcan, Binbaşı Süleyman Bey, pp. 131–167; Yergök, Sarıkamıştan Esarete, p. 120.

102  Opening moves and different political, ethnic and tribal factions were fighting one another for control of their respective areas.78 The Ottoman governing party, the CUP, had established strong ties with several factions and prominent politicians and provided them extensive support. In fact, from 1908, several CUP members actively participated in power struggles and rebellions.79 İstanbul was already one of the centres of the Persian dissidents, and they lobbied effectively for the Ottoman help. Before the war, the Ottoman diplomats and secret agents were supplying money and weapons to anyone (including Armenians) in Persia fighting against the Russians and their local allies.80 At the same time, the German military leadership in Berlin was keen to incite rebellions against Britain and Russia in India, Afghanistan and Central Asia as part of a strategy for dislodging the great powers from their colonial possessions. But in order to unleash the power of the Muslims against their colonial overlords, it was essential to achieve control of Persia. Like İstanbul, Berlin also became a safe haven for Persian intellectuals and dissidents. Germany was idolised by Persian nationalists not only a proper model for Persia, but also a true ally against the British and Russians.81 To make the matters more complex, the Russians were also arming the local tribes (especially the Assyrians) on both sides of the border. There were plans to raise a militia force from the Christians and Kurdish tribes to protect Russian interests in Persia against possible Ottoman invasion from the west.82

78 F.J. Moberly, Operations in Persia 1914–1919, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1929, pp. 33, 39–41; Peter Sluglett, “The Waning of Empires: The British, the Ottomans and the Russians in the Caucasus and North Iran, 1917–1912”, Middle East Critique, vol. 23, no. 2, 2014, pp.  190–195, 199–200; Mehmed Kenan Dalbaşar, Büyük Harpte İran Cephesi, vol. 1, Büyük Erkânı Harbiye Riyaseti Matbaası, Ankara, 1928, pp.  18–31; Touraj Atabaki, “The First World War, Great Power Rivalries and the Emergence of a Political Community in Iran”, in (ed.) Touraj Atabaki, Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers, I.B. Tauris, London, 2006, pp. 1–3; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, p. 33. 79 Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp.  86–89; Fethi Tevetoğlu, Ömer Naci, Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, Ankara, 1987, pp. 86–88, 89–94, 106–107; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, pp. 83–85; Kenan, Büyük Harpte İran Cephesi, vol. 1, pp. 3–17. 80 Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 170–171; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, pp. 99–102; Pezhmann Dailami, “The Populists of Rasht: Pan-Islamism and the Role of the Central Powers”, in (ed.) Touraj Atabaki, Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers, I.B. Tauris, London, 2006, pp. 140–141. 81 Donald M. McKale, War by Revolution: Germany Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I, The Kent State University Press, Kent, 1998, pp. 37–39, 46–49, 76–78, 85–87, 129, 133–134; Sean McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power 1898–1918, Allen Lane, London, 2010, pp. 87–98; Sluglett, “The Waning of Empires”, p. 200; M. Reza Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century: A Political History, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, 1989, pp. 45–46; Hans Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien: Erster Band Der Kampf um Orient und Islam, Deutsche Verlags, Stuttgart, 1924, p. 105. 82 Michael Zirinsky, “American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia during the Great War”, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, April 1998, p. 12; Donald Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, pp. 72–73.

Opening moves  103 During November and December 1914, Enver Pasha and his German advisers became increasingly convinced that the Persians would be prepared to rebel against the Russians in support of an Ottoman advance. There were already lowlevel border clashes between the Ottoman-led Kurdish tribes and the Russians with the potential of getting out of hand at any moment. Additionally, Ottoman leaders were scared that if they did not preemptively strike, the Russians might use Persia to attack Mesopotamia from the flank. Against this well-established fear, the Russians decided to withdraw an important portion of their troops from Persian Azerbaijan in September, which tremendously increased Ottoman hopes of achieving their aim using forces already deployed to the region. Enver Pasha ordered the Van Mobile Gendarmerie Division (under Major Kazım [Özalp]) and Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa detachments (Northern Group under Ömer Naci, who was a veteran of Persian rebellions, and Southern Group, under Major Ömer Fevzi) to invade the nearby Persian provinces and raise an army of liberation from the local population. Before the start of three-pronged Ottoman attack, their Kurdish allies moved quicker, dealing with token resistance and looting friend and foe on the way. Ömer Naci captured Urmia on 4 January 1915 and with the help of Ömer Fevzi entered Tabriz on 12 January, whereas Kazım captured Dilman on 14 January with some difficulty and his advance stalled in front of Khoy. However, their victories did not last. After the self-inflicted defeat of the Ottoman Third Army in Sarıkamış, the Russians had the means to divert troops from the main theatre to Persia, easily droving these makeshift units first from Tabriz and then Dilman on 6 March and marching towards Urmia.83 Before these early repulses, Enver Pasha, under the illusion of great victories in Persia, decided to create two divisional expeditionary forces from V Corps in İstanbul and II Corps in Edirne. The first of these, the 5th Expeditionary Force, departed İstanbul (under Lieutenant Colonel Halil [Kut]) on 11 December 1914. However, even before it had reached its staging area, it was diverted to support the Third Army which had been badly beaten by the Russians during the Sarıkamış offensive. The second divisional expeditionary force, the 1st Expeditionary Force, departed İstanbul (under Major Kazım [Karabekir]) on 24 December 1914 and took a long time to reach its staging area in Mosul. Against the desperate pleas of the Sixth and Third armies, both facing serious crises, the 1st Expeditionary

83 From the Ambassador of Iran in İstanbul to the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 November 1914; from Ministry of War to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 15 January 1915; from Ottoman High Command to the Ottoman Ambassador in Tehran, 16 February 1915, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Savaşı, vol. 1, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2013, pp.  76–77, 134–136, 149–150; Kenan, Büyük Harpte İran Cephesi, vol. 1, pp. 47–51, 59–64, 70–79, 86–133; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi Hareketleri, pp.  42–44; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, vol. 2, Section 1, Book 1, pp. 569–570; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp.  213–214, 250–259; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, p. 84; Moberly, Operations in Persia, pp. 45–54, 59; David Gaunt, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia during World War I, Gorgias Press, Piscataway, 2006, pp. 94–105, 110; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 295–296.

104  Opening moves Force, now under the command of Halil, continued towards its original objective. By the time Halil began its advance towards Dilman, the Russians had not only amassed more troops in Persia, but had also armed the local Armenians and Assyrians. Caught between the Armenian rebellion in Van and reinforced Russian troops, the 1st Expeditionary Force initially succeeded in capturing Dilman on 29 April, but its hasty defence collapsed a few days later, on 2 May. The Ottoman troops spent the next few weeks in desultory fighting with no real gain before being ordered back. Halil had to withdraw, following mountain tracks, to avoid Russians and Armenians, but came under attacks of the Nestorians instead. When the 1st Expeditionary Force reached security in July, it had already lost half of its combat power and most of its heavy equipment and baggage.84 The main reason behind the failure of the initial Ottoman incursions into Persia was the near complete failure to get active support of the Persian people. There were big expectations in İstanbul that once the Ottoman troops, however numerically small they were, would enter into Persia, all locals (especially Azeris) would rise and fight against the Russians and British, especially after the declaration of Jihad and presumably effective pan-Islamic propaganda.85 Therefore, the role of the Ottoman soldiers was just to provide the initial spark to set Persia in fire. In opposition to expectations, only some Kurdish tribes with dubious loyalty threw in their lot with the Ottoman cause, and their alliance became a serious liability due to their never-ending lust for looting and plunder.86 Azeris and other Muslim groups, with the memory of terrible recent Russian suppression operations in mind, preferred to wait and see without committing themselves to any side. Even the Persian nationalists and dissidents who had invited the Ottomans changed their minds. The Ottomans neither provided a large army nor fulfilled promises of money and weapons. The presence of the Ottoman soldiers on Persian soil naturally fuelled traditional xenophobia and fears. Some influential figures, like Jangali leader Mirza Küçük Han (Kuchik Khan) of Gilan and Sheikh Mohammad Khiyabani, opposed all foreign interventions. Pan-Turkish rhetoric of some Ottoman leaders made things worse. What is more, the Ottoman military intervention turned all of northwestern Persia into a major battlefield by raising the already high tensions between 84 Kenan, Büyük Harpte İran Cephesi, vol. 1, pp. 134–177, 189–191, 203–218; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 45–47, 91, 95–96; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 423– 440; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp.  137–140; Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, pp. 101–108, 112–116, 120, 125–126, 132–159; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk, pp. 570–599; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 212–213, 250–253, 256–261, 367–370, 382–383, 402–403, 427–432; Moberly, Operations in Persia, pp. 59, 69, 72; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 297–299. 85 Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp.  168–169, 212, 249–250; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 148–149, 157–159, 168–174, 264–274, 282–285, 294–295; Kenan, Büyük Harpte İran Cephesi, vol. 1, pp. 34–35, 53–56, 92–103; Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, p. 159. 86 Martin van Bruissen, “A Kurdish Warlord on the Turkish-Persian Frontier in the Early Twentieth Century: Ismail Aqa Simko”, in (ed.) Touraj Atabaki, Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers, I.B. Tauris, London, 2006, pp. 69–70, 80–83, 86–87.

Opening moves  105 various religious, ethnic and tribal groups to a breaking point. Local magnates jockeying for more power made effective use of the Ottomans, Russians and British to advance their interests. The end result was a vicious civil war and constant conventional military campaigns in which no-one was safe from death and destruction.87

87 Touraj Atabaki, “Pan-Turkism and Iranian Nationalism”, in (ed.) Touraj Atabaki, Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers, I.B. Tauris, London, 2006, pp. 122–128, 135–136; Gaunt, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors, pp.  106–120; Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth Century, pp. 47, 49, 52; Bruissen, “A Kurdish Warlord on the Turkish-Persian Frontier”, pp. 86–87; Dailami, “The Populists of Rasht: Pan-Islamism and the Role of the Central Powers”, pp. 144–146; Peter Holquist, “Forms of Violence during the Russian Occupation of Ottoman Territory and in Northern Persia (Urmia and Astrabad) October 1914–December 1917”, in (eds.) Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz, Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian and Ottoman Borderlands, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2013, pp. 334–336.

4 The year of uncertainty 1915

The year essentially started with the Ottoman expedition against the Suez Canal, which was an operation born prematurely due to the intense German pressure. Against the propaganda and media fanfare, the Ottomans committed modest troops (barely two divisions at the front line and two more behind) and their aim was also modest: to divert and fix as many British troops as they could. Some leaders like Cemal Pasha saw this affair as a first step for the invasion of Egypt, but for most, this was beyond the power of the empire. To the immese surprise of all contemporary observers, the Ottoman troops managed to cross the Sinai Desert with relative ease but failed to achieve any meaningful military result other than forcing the British to continue to keep a strong garrison in Egypt. In Mesopotamia, the unconventional warfare strategy achieved meagre results in contrast to the extravagant expectations of Enver Pasha and his staff. And clearly its achievements were more psychological than military. They learnt to their dismay that without active support of the majority of the population, it was impossible to defeat the British Indian Army. The new Ottoman strategy for Iraq was a conventional attritional war in which the available forces would try to do their best to lure, tire and delay the British advance, which would be canalised along the riverbeds and annihilated deep inside Iraq. The tribal warriors would be employed only as auxiliary troops for screening tasks and harassing enemy. The Ottoman General Staff’s assessment and arrangements, after painful ­trial-and-error period, proved to be more than correct. The Indian government and its commanders at the field got a completely wrong understanding of the Ottoman military capability, thanks to its wrong strategy and its poor application. The expedition that started with limited aims transformed into a major campaign of conquest without the necessary means to achieve its drastically changing aims. The expeditionary force was lured deep into Mesopotamia and was trapped in Kut al Amara. The military situation at the Caucasus was terrible. By almost any measure, the Ottomans were quantitatively and qualitatively disadvantaged. The Third Army was in total disarray. The causalities were enormous, even if relatively more caused by disease and fever than by combat wounds. Istanbul paid limited attention and gave limited response to the increasingly desparate calls for help, other than sending a new commander and some staff officers. There was no intention

The year of uncertainty  107 to ‘waste’ valuable troops and other assets on the mountains of Eastern Anatolia. Despite the bloody fiasco of Sarıkamış, the optimisim of the Ottoman and German leaders survived. They ordered the Third Army to do its best to stand fast against the Russians and keep as many of them as possible. Without naming it as such, they were essentially declaring a war of attrition at the Caucasus Front. The Russians, on the other hand, decided to invest more troops to achieve decisive victory at the cost the Eastern Front, thereby serving the interests of Berlin and Vienna. Unfortunately, the brutality with which this campaign was conducted on both sides, of which civilians were the chief victims, was completely ignored by the Ottoman and Russian leadership. To make the matters worse for the Ottomans, Russia, Britain and France sought to enlist the help of disaffected peoples of the empire. Because they were anxious to have local allies, they promised a lot and ignored the overlapping goals of the would-be rebels. Although their efforts failed to achieve meaningful results in 1915, they were enough to scare the Ottoman leaders who had serious concerns about the loyalty of some ethnic and religious groups. The Ottoman decisions to relocate first Armenians and then some others were destined to cause hardship, death and destruction. In the meantime, the Entente naval attacks against the Dardanelles and later the Gallipoli landings completely changed the strategic picture. As it has been already pointed out, the Ottoman mobilisation and concentration plan was designed according to the requirements of possible naval and amphibious attacks against the Straits. British and French naval bombardment of 3 November 1914 reinforced this idea. Therefore, neither the naval attack nor the follow-on land campaign was a big surprise for the Ottomans. In short, unlike the expectations for a short and victorious war, the end was not in sight.

Suez Canal Campaign Prior to the mobilisation, the Second Army Inspectorate (VI Corps, VIII Corps and the 22nd Independent Division) was in charge of the defence and security of the Ottoman provinces (Cebel-i Bereket [Adana], Aleppo, Damascus, Lebanon, Dayr-az Zor, Jerusalem and Northern Arabia [Hejaz]) which were loosely grouped under the name of Syria.1 The Ottoman General Staff initially viewed Syria as an area where forces could be reduced, and planned to divert its local units to İstanbul and the Straits. The army inspectorate was disbanded and its headquarters ordered to İstanbul to establish the Second Army Headquarters on 5 August 1914. Similarly, VI Corps began its redeployment to the İstanbul region immediately following the start of mobilisation. A regional command – Syria

1 Yahya Okçu and Hilmi Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, Sina Filistin Cephesi, vol. 4, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1979, pp. 71–74; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi Çerçevesi İçerisinde Birinci Kanal Akını, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1934, p. 5.

108  The year of uncertainty and Surrounding Regions Command (Suriye ve Havalisi Komutanlığı) – was e­stablished to perform military and security duties using gendarmerie, border guards, tribal warriors and various volunteer units.2 However, while VIII Corps was preparing for redeployment, the General Staff drastically amended the concentration plan. The Ottomans, assisted by the Sanders Mission, initially planned to accede to German requests to close the Straits and send expeditionary forces to either the Eastern Front or a new front to be opened in the vicinity of Odessa. Souchon and other navy commanders justifiably opposed any plans for operations which would depend on large amphibious landings, owing to serious limitations of the Ottoman Navy. However, the German General Staff, now squeezed between two massive fronts, was desperate to divert Entente forces from the Western Front using any means possible. But the Ottomans remained adamant that they would keep the majority of their troops in the Straits region.3 From the outset, the Germans placed enormous faith in pan-Islamism, and Berlin was rife with speculation over impending operations including a joint OttomanGerman attack on the Suez Canal. Some of the key leaders believed that the most effective Ottoman contribution would be not its conventional military capacity, but rather its potential to incite Muslim rebellions in the British and French colonies.4 While Egypt was legally part of the Ottoman Empire, since 1882 it had been under de facto British rule. The Khedive of Egypt, Abbas Hilmi, was in İstanbul and actively collaborating with the Germans and Austrians in an attempt to achieve an independent Egypt under his rule. Some important Egyptian nationalists and Islamists, including Sheikh Abdel Aziz Shawish (better known in Turkish as Abdülaziz Çaviş) and Muhammed Ferid, had taken refuge in İstanbul and Berlin a few years earlier and were conspiring to secure foreign assistance to achieve independence. Several German and Austrian adventurists, with some government backing, were already in Palestine hatching fantastic plans such as taking control of a trans-Atlantic ship and scuttling it at a critical junction, thus closing canal traffic indefinitely, or inciting Egyptians by infiltrating Bedouin operatives

2 The 16th Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 105–109; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 6–7; Ali Fuat Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu Mücmel Tarihçesi, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1948, p. 3. 3 Cemal Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Siyasi ve Askeri Hazırlıkları ve Harbe Girişi, vol. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1970, pp.  158–162; Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi: 1914 Yılı Hareketleri, vol. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1964, pp. 58–59; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, p. 7. 4 Hans Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien: Erster Band Der Kampf um Orient und Islam, Deutsche Verlags, Stuttgart, 1924, pp. 91–93; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918: Die Operationen des Jahres 1915, vol. 9, Verlegt bei E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1933, pp. 164–167; Donald M. McKale, War by Revolution: Germany Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I, The Kent State University Press, Kent, 1998, pp. 6, 8–13, 20–22, 48–52; Hew Strachan, The First World War: To Arms, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, pp. 695–704; Sean McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power, 1898–1918, Penguin, London, 2011, pp. 15–24, 86–89.

The year of uncertainty  109 commanded by Germans into Egypt. Under intense British pressure, the Egyptian government declared war against the Central Powers on 5 August while the Ottoman Empire remained neutral. This declaration clearly breached the agreements between the Ottomans and British. The Egyptian population had a deep-seated distrust and bitter hatred of the British occupation. Dragging Egypt into a war in which it had no prospect of gain but much to lose clearly augmented the increasing bitterness of the Egyptian people. Following the British declaration of war against the Ottomans, Prince Hussein Kamil was declared Sultan of Egypt under the British protectorate on 20 December. One of the first acts of the Egyptian government was to arrest and later exile Egyptian nationalists and some Ottoman citizens.5 The Suez Canal Campaign was born of the conflicting priorities of İstanbul and Berlin. The canal was the most important communication line for the British Empire; passage through the canal provided the shortest and most direct sea route to Britain’s eastern colonies and dominions. The war increased its importance exponentially. Troops not only passed through the canal daily but often remained in Egypt for a period of time to effect last-minute reorganisation and training before final deployment. In terms of the movement of supplies, Egypt and the canal became an important transportation and storage hub. Any serious threat would certainly divert valuable assets from the Western Front – a diversion the Germans were desperate to achieve.6 On 10 August 1914, General Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the German General Staff, sent an urgent message to Enver Pasha. Just a week previously, he had demanded revolution in India and Egypt from the German Foreign Office, which Ludendorff would later label as “Utopian”. Von Moltke first emphasised the duty of the Ottomans to draw off as many British and Russian troops from the main theatres in Europe as they could. Second, he forcefully requested Enver Pasha to begin offensive operations in the Caucasus and against the Suez Canal in particular. The message was clear: von Moltke wanted action – and he wanted it now.7

5 From the British Embassy Constantinople to Foreign Office, 25 January 1914, TNA, FO 195/2456; P.P. Graves, Further Notes, TNA, WO 157/689; Muhammed Ferid, Mısır Mısırlılarındır: İngiliz İşgaline Karşı Osmanlı Hilafeti, (Turkish translation of the Arab original Müzekkirati ba’de’l-hicre Merkezü Vesaik ve Tarihi Mısır el-Muasır), (trans.) Ali Benli, Macit Karagözoğlu, Klasik Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 35–40, 193–200; P.G. Elgood, Egypt and the Army, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1924, pp. 5–39, 42–45, 83, 89; George Arthur, General Sir John Maxwell, John Murray, London, 1932, pp. 145–150; McKale, War by Revolution, pp. 22–23, 32–33, 52–56, 70–71; George Macmunn and Cyril Falls, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine, vol. 1, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1928, pp. 9–11, 15–18; McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express, pp. 25, 29, 91–92; Ü. Gülsüm Polat, Osmanlı Devleti ve İngiltere Ekseninde I. Dünya Savaşı Yıllarında Mısır, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi, Ankara, 2015, pp. 16–27, 30–32, 58–64, 106–113, 276–288. 6 Jehuda L. Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe: Die preußisch-deutschen Militärmissionen in der Türkei 1835–1919, Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf, 1976, pp. 191–192; Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien, pp. 96–97; Elgood, Egypt and the Army, p. 42. 7 From Ambassador in Berlin to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 September and 15 October 1915, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2013, pp. 52–53, 61–63; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 148–149,

110  The year of uncertainty Enver Pasha, who was regarded as a visionary, supported an expedition to Egypt but refused to commit a large conventional force. Instead, as a believer in the power of unconventional warfare, he decided to allocate one corps as a nucleus and raise a tribal army around it. He assigned his trusted aide-de-camp, Cavalry Major İzmidli Mümtaz, and a veteran counter-insurgency fighter, Reserve Captain Kuşçubaşı Eşref, to organise and command a tribal volunteer force drawn from Bedouin tribes in Palestine and Sinai. Several important local leaders, including Druze Amir Shakib Arslan, Sheikh Asad Shukayr, Circassian Nureddin and Egyptian Colonel Hilmi Musallami, were also despatched to assist recruiting for the volunteer force. Some of these men organised volunteer detachments under their command and joined the expeditionary force later in the campaign.8 Mümtaz and Eşref found the tribes very receptive and willing to collaborate – a consequence of the harsh British policy of denying the Sinai Peninsula to smugglers and cutting local trade relations. The sudden British evacuation of their military and police outposts, and the destruction of some water sources during the evacuation, provided much-needed additional stimulus. Mümtaz attacked and drove off a strong Egyptian patrol in Bir al Nuss on 20 November. Sudanese camel troopers allowed themselves to be captured, increasing the anxiety of General Maxwell and other British officials over the loyalty of the Egyptian Army. Mümtaz established his headquarters in al Arish – former seat of the British subgovernor – and continued his raids while Eşref began operating from the south at al Nakhl. The arrival of a trickle of Egyptian, Sudanese and Indian deserters further increased their confidence. Mahsusa bands also provided assistance to various groups of German and Austrian saboteurs in their clandestine operations (primarily involving the scuttling or mining of ships to block canal traffic) and espionage missions. Most of these infiltration and sabotage attempts failed. Only a few Egyptian nationalists managed to reach their intended targets and operated for just a short period of time.9 167, 170; Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, VorhutVerlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin, 1938, p. 7; Ali Fuad Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye Hatıraları, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2003, p. 11; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 8–9; Strachan, To Arms, p. 696; Erich Ludendorff, My War Memories 1914–1918, vol. 1, 2nd edition, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1923, p. 176. 8 Benjamin C. Fortna, The Circassian: A  Life of Eşref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016, pp. 60–61, 144–145; Polat Safi, The Ottoman Special Organization – Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa: A Historical Assessment with Particular Reference to Its Operations against British Occupied Egypt (1914–1916), Bilkent University Unpublished MA Thesis, 2006, pp. 38–44, 54–55; Cemal Paşa, Hatıralar: İttihad ve Terakki, I. Dünya Savaşı Anıları, (ed.) Alpay Kabacalı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2001, p.  164; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 54; William L. Cleveland, Islam Against the West: Shakib Arslan and the Campaign for Islamic Nationalism, Al Saqi, London, 1985, pp. 28–33; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 110; Nevzat Artuç, Cemal Paşa: Askeri ve Siyasi Hayatı, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2008, p. 229. 9 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 74, 77–78, 123–125, 128–129, 132–134; Fortna, The Circassian, pp.  147–151; Safi, The Ottoman Special Organization, pp.  48, 51–53, 61–64; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 174–175; Polat, Osmanlı Devleti ve İngiltere, pp. 36–37, 41, 82–83, 90–93,

The year of uncertainty 111

Figure 4.1 Indian deserters posing with their weapons and equipment in İstanbul.

Therefore, instead of gathering a strong expeditionary force, the General Staff10 merely allocated VIII Corps, under the command of Major General Mersinli Ferid Cemal Pasha (also known as ‘Cemal the lesser’), for the expedition while the Iraqi XII Corps was despatched to preserve public order and security in Syria. Fourth Army Headquarters was activated under the command of Major General Halebli Zeki [Kolaç] Pasha on 6 September to command these two corps and coordinate all military activities. Similarly, Colonel Kress von Kressenstein of the General

96–101; Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 2, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, p. 218; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, p. 20; Behçet, Büyük Harpte Mısır Seferi, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1930, p. 2. 10 The decision to conduct a campaign against the Suez Canal and Egypt nearly caused a staff rebellion in the Ottoman General Staff. Ottoman staff officers vehemently opposed the campaign by citing historical and geographical reasons, and the emphasising strength of the British garrison, not to mention general weakness of the Ottoman Army. Although they failed to convince Enver Pasha and the Germans, they succeeded to limit troops and sources allocated for this endeavour. For obvious reasons, this infighting increased the bitterness. Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, pp. 255–257, 271–272; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 219–222, 327–340; Kazım Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 2011, pp. 264–284.

112  The year of uncertainty Staff, who had been in charge of the planning of the campaign from the outset, was assigned as the chief of staff of VIII Corps to ensure that the Germans could to maintain tight control of the entire operation. Enver Pasha issued a warning order to VIII Corps, directing it to make the necessary preparations to cross the canal with the support of a tribal force. However, the order did not mention the final objective or how it would be achieved.11 Zeki Pasha was a poor choice. He had little faith in the capacity of his newly activated army, and his bitter experiences during the Balkan Wars had left him firmly opposed to any major offensive operations. To make matters worse, Zeki Pasha, as governor-general, had significant difficulty controlling his civil administrators, most of whom were CUP members and had more political leverage than he did. There was clearly a need for a strong-willed and resolute military and political leader to manage the canal expedition and handle the increasingly complex and fragile affairs in Syria. The Ottoman leadership selected none other than the Minister of Marine and the commander of the Second Army, Major General Ahmed Cemal Pasha. Cemal Pasha was not only a member of the CUP’s leadership triumvirate, but was also recognised as a highly skilled administrator. He had earned his reputation managing the tricky trials and reconstruction effort following the Adana rebellion in 1909 and as the military governor of İstanbul during the dark days of 1913. While Cemal Pasha had limited combat experience, he was a rare figure in the Ottoman military – adept at using the talents of his subordinates effectively. Moreover, his departure from İstanbul promised to ease the political power struggle.12 To the surprise of many, Cemal Pasha accepted the assignment keenly, although he was careful to secure assurances on 18 November that he would have complete autonomy and enjoy unquestioned support. He also retained his ministerial post. As a result, he was charged with conducting the Suez Canal expedition and increasing Ottoman direct control in Syria. Cemal Pasha took some of his staff officers, including German Colonel Werner von Frankenberg und Proschlitz, and departed İstanbul on 4 December 1914. During the farewell ceremony, he promised to cross the canal and liberate Egypt from British occupation, prompting

11 Intelligence Summary November  1914, Intelligence Office Cairo, TNA, WO 157/688; Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 162–164, 177–178; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 11– 12; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 1, pp. 255–257; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, p. 118; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  73–76, 95–100, 112–113, 122; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp.  27–28, 32–33; Behçet, Büyük Harpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 1–2, 4; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 7–8; Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi: 1915 Yılı Hareketleri, vol. 2, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1964, pp.  54–55, 57; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 3. 12 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 20–21; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 70–73; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 118–119, 220–221; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 114, 121; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 145–146, 208–211; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 61–62.

The year of uncertainty  113 loud applause and calls hailing him as the second conqueror (fatih-i sani) of Egypt after the famous Ottoman Sultan Selim I, the Grim.13 However, his enthusiasm did not last long. Indeed, it took surprisingly little time for Cemal Pasha to discover the gravity of the situation in Syria. Some of the local leaders and intellectuals clearly regarded the war as a prime opportunity to secure independence through an Entente victory. They had established working relations with Entente officials prior to the war and were openly conspiring against the Ottoman government. A number of local Christian leaders in Beirut had even launched campaigns for volunteers and donations to the French Army. There was a widespread fear that the Allies were secretly inciting and in fact arming local Christians. Cemal Pasha was aware of the decade-long British speculation on and plans for pre-emptive landings in Syrian harbours, particularly Haifa and Alexandretta (İskenderun). Entente warships were operating along the Syrian coastline, bombing towns, railway lines, aqueducts and ships with impunity. The local administration was disoriented and in disarray. In order to preserve public order, Cemal Pasha needed to maintain strong garrisons at vital points all over the region. All too quickly, he recognised that he needed to act decisively before it was too late and the canal expedition lost its priority and glamour.14 One of Cemal Pasha’s greatest disappointments lay in his failure to establish a large tribal army. Following the age-old method, Cemal Pasha rewarded sheikhs and other local leaders with decorations and gold coins, and promised them more. Although men from the tribes of Sinai and Palestine flooded the ranks, important regional players such as Sharif Hussein of Hejaz, Druze Sheikhs of Mount Lebanon and Jabal Hawran preferred to wait and see before committing themselves. Sharif Hussein, who had been conspiring with the British for some time, initially promised to send a strong volunteer force, but reneged on his promise at the last

13 Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  164–168; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, p.  21; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 119–121, 221–222, 342; Joseph Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü: 1914–1918 1. Dünya Savaşı, (trans.) Kemal Turan, Kayıhan Yayınları, İstanbul, 1990, p.  95; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  134–136; Behiç Erkin, Hatırat 1876– 1958, (ed.) Ali Birinci, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2010, p. 151; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 3; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, p. 211. 14 From Governor of Aleppo to Ministry of Interior, 19 December 1914, 11–13, 15, 17 and 28 January 1915, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, pp. 140–144; Cemal, Hatıralar, p. 179; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 24–25; Eliezer Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, Frank Cass, London, 1993, pp. 5–21; Edward Erickson, “Captain Larkin and the Turks: The Strategic Impact of the Operations of HMS Doris in Early 1915”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 46, no. 1, January 2010, pp. 151–155, 157–159; Yigal Sheffy, British Military Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign, Frank Cass, London, 1998, pp. 3, 23–26; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 24–27, 136–139; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 20–22; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 119, 138–149, 159–161; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 6, 8, 12; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 215–217, 261–262, 269–270, 281–282; Fortna, The Circassian, pp. 143–144. General Birwood mentions in his autobiography a plan to arm Armenians in Cilicia which he initially found it “as a sound idea” but later on questioned what would happen to the Armenians if they had to be abandoned. Lord Birdwood, Khaki and Gown: An Autobiography, Ward, Lock & Co., London, 1941, pp. 245–246.

114  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.2 Hejaz Raider (Akıncı) Volunteer Camel Regiment. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey.

minute and despatched a volunteer camel regiment only. Cemal Pasha did not forgive these broken promises – and wreaked his revenge later.15 In the meantime, von Kress conducted a detailed reconnaissance and exploration of the routes, terrain, people, supplies and water in Palestine and Sinai. This was crucial, given that Sinai was not a region that had been surveyed by the Ottomans. While VIII Corps made some preparations and occupied some critical places, including deserted British-Egyptian posts in Sinai, little had been done in terms of reconnaissance survey, transportation and supply. Palestine was unable to feed its population during peacetime, let alone support an expeditionary force. So, all food and forage had to be transported from northern Syria or farther away. Complicating this was the fact that the railhead, Sebastia-Nablus, was 450 kilometres away from the canal. Owning to the lack of all-weather metalled roads, camel caravans and – until an advance base and terminal was established at Beersheba – carts had to be used. After Beersheba, there were only dirt tracks in Sinai and the constant shifting of the sand made these impassable to large convoys. 15 Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  178, 180; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 149–150; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp.  13–14; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 211–214.

The year of uncertainty  115 Water sources were very limited, and some of them were brackish. To make matters worse, the intense heat limited the military campaign season to winter only. Grudgingly, von Kress was forced to accept that he needed time, money and more combat service troops to establish a satisfactory supply and transportation system.16 Cemal Pasha and von Kress did not spare their superiors the details of their difficulties, informing them bluntly with shocking reports of their problems. Cemal Pasha had little faith in the capacity of VIII Corps’ poorly trained and armed units. Like his predecessor, he asked for two crack divisions and more heavy weapons. The General Staff reluctantly assigned the 10th Division initially and, following further discussions, the 8th Division was also assigned. But no heavy artillery was available other than two outmoded 15cm Krupp howitzers, whereas the British military intelligence estimated 30 heavy howitzers.17 Von Kress, on the other hand, asked for more funding and specialists from Berlin. He had already enlisted the assistance of German engineers and technicians who were engaged in various civilian projects. Cemal Pasha provided military and civilian labour units to build or improve roads and storage facilities. Beersheba was selected as the advance base and terminal. Thousands of men and beasts of burden flooded the region.18 Under the pressure of increasingly urgent orders and time constraints, von Kress and his staff officers amended the operational plan. The corps commanding general, Mersinli Cemal Pasha, generally did not interfere in the planning and decision-making processes. First, von Kress and his staff officers had to select the main route of advance. There were three alternatives. The northern coastal route (Gaza–al Arish–Katia–Kantara), which was known as the ‘road of conquerors’, was eliminated at once, not because of the danger of naval gunfire, but because this was where the British expected the Ottoman advance to occur.19 The southern Egyptian pilgrim’s road (Akaba–al Nakhl–Suez) was a long way from the advance base and would not cope with the large volume of traffic. The central route (Hafr al Auja–Ibn–Bir Hassana–Ismailia), on the other hand, provided all

16 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp.  46–60, 65–66; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 167–169; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 53–54, 57–58. 17 The Proposed Turkish Invasion of Egypt, TNA, WO 157/689; The 10th Division arrived just before the final preparations, but the 8th Division did not arrive and its assignment was ultimately futile. Mekki Erertem, The 8th Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 133–139, 162–167; Cemal, Hatıralar, p. 174; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp.  14–15; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 218–220; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 3–5; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 62–63. 18 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 28–29; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 62–66; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 113. 19 The naval threat to the coastal road proved to be a myth. The warships, which were unable to approach the coastline due to the shallowness of the water, had difficulty pinpointing targets and firing on them accurately. Moreover, their shells most often plunged deep into soft sand and exploded harmlessly. The Ottoman units used the coastal route frequently in 1916, and the Entente warships watched their movement helplessly.

116  The year of uncertainty the essentials the planners sought. The route ran primarily along the stone plateau of the peninsula, providing easy going for animals and convoys, and there were good quality water sources (wells, pools and cisterns). But, most importantly, this was the route least expected by the British, and its natural contours and topography made it difficult to observe Ottoman preparations and the advance itself.20 Next, the planners dealt with the question of the composition of the expeditionary force and the order of march. Von Kress advocated for a strong first echelon with elite regiments of the 10th Division, leaving all the others (22nd, 23rd, 25th and 27th divisions) to the second echelon. Cemal Pasha refused this proposal, drastically changing the order. Accordingly, the 25th Division (overall ten battalions, three machine-gun companies, four field artillery and three mountain artillery batteries), reinforced with personnel and equipment from the 23rd Division, was selected as the first echelon which would conduct the main canal crossing, officially under the command of Mersinli Cemal Pasha, although in reality the operational commander was von Kress. The 10th Division (following the central route) and Hejaz Expeditionary Force (following the southern route and consisting of selected units from the 22nd Independent Division and various tribal groups) were assigned as the second echelon. The 23rd Division (two regiments) would remain in Beersheba and advance when ordered as the third echelon.21 In order to surprise and confuse the enemy and also to provide some form of cover, two battalion task forces reinforced with tribal warriors were allocated to both the coastal and southern routes. They were tasked to conduct feint attacks against Kantara and Kubri.22 Third, the question of supply and transportation was considered. The planning constraints and structural limitations were substantial, and included the enormous distance between the railhead and the advanced base, lack of routes, lack of food and forage in the region, total dependence on camel convoys and the enormous combined weight of food, forage, ammunition, heavy weapons, the bridging train

20 Report on the Movements of Turkish Troops, 4 January 1915; Food Depots, undated, TNA, WO 157/689; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, p. 14; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 44–45; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 32–34, 115–116, 118, 164; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 27–28. 21 Mekki Erertem, The 8th Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 177–178; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 17–19; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  144–145, 150–154, 159, 163–188; Behçet, Büyük Harpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 7–10; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 9–10, 16; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 3–5. 22 The northern wing, under the command of Major Rıfat (later replaced by Major Refet [Bele]), comprised the 1/80th Battalion, 5th Mountain Artillery Battery (from the 27th Field Artillery Regiment) and Major Mümtaz’s tribal detachment (around 1300 warriors). The southern wing, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Musa Kazım [Ersanlı], consisted of the 1/69th Battalion, the 4th Mountain Artillery Battery (from the 27th Field Artillery Regiment) and Captain Eşref’s tribal detachment (around 1000 warriors). Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 125–126, 163, 202, 225; Fortna, The Circassian, pp. 151, 162; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, p. 19; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 4; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 59–60, 63–64.

The year of uncertainty  117

Map 4.1  Suez Canal Campaign.

118  The year of uncertainty and baggage. The planners stripped the units of all non-essential baggage, including tents (only a few tents were included for a field hospital), bedding, personal equipment and field kitchens. Given concerns about the suitability of horses for desert conditions, the 33rd Cavalry Regiment was left in Aleppo and instead a camel-mounted regiment (five squadrons) was activated. Special desert rations which would provide only the minimum calories required were enforced without exception.23 Ten camel columns (1280 camels) were used to carry food and forage. While there was adequate water along the routes, 25 camel columns (2300 camels) were still required to carry water tins. When the heavy and light ammunition columns, field ambulances and heavy equipment convoys were included, the total number of camels reached 30,000. Due to the impossibility of finding and feeding such a large number of camels, the requirement was drastically reduced to the bare minimum number of 11,000. In addition to camels, the expeditionary force needed 850 horses, 328 oxen or water buffalo, and 194 mules. The Germans provided funds to purchase camels and hire camel drivers. The Hejaz Expeditionary Force was ordered to wait at al Nakhl in order to lighten the logistics burden during the critical initial stage. The logistic columns began work immediately to establish advanced depots. The Ottoman engineers were also despatched to open new wells and rehabilitate old water sources.24 The fourth task was to plan the canal crossing and follow-on operations. Unfortunately for the Ottomans, von Kress and the staff planners failed to prepare a viable operational plan complete with contingencies. They spent so much time and effort planning the crossing of Sinai, the composition of the expeditionary force, and supply and transportation, that they neglected their operational objective – crossing the canal and establishing a bridgehead.25 Moreover, von Kress did not have a current operational picture of the British defence. The Ottoman-German reconnaissance teams, agents and other intelligence sources provided accurate and detailed notes on the state of the roads and water sources in Sinai, but their reports on the enemy were limited and outdated due to the poor allocation of intelligence capacity to operational tasks. The Suez Canal and a chain of salt lakes, swamps and depressions comprised a formidable obstacle. Although the length of the canal forced the defenders to spread out, there were only short stretches of 23 Each soldier was rationed to 600 grams hard tack biscuits, 150 grams dates (or 160 grams olives), 23 grams sugar, 9 grams tea and 4 litres of water which were provided daily. Animals received 4–5 kilograms of barley and 5–18 litres of water. Cemal, Hatıralar, p. 176; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 18,31; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 62–63; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 169–170, 175, 187; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 4–5; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, p. 61. 24 Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 176–177, 179; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 15, 18; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 62–64; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 113, 170–171, 190–191; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 14–17; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 6. 25 There was also no plan or preparation to interrupt marine traffic. Von Kress realised the importance of blocking the canal only after reaching its banks.

The year of uncertainty  119 suitable crossing places due to swamps, lakes, the width of the canal, the height of the banks, lack of cover from enemy fire and observation, the availability of fresh water and proximity to critical facilities. The most promising crossing place was between the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah. However, it was also the exact place at which the British had invested heavily in defence. Surprisingly, this did not appear to bother the Ottoman planners, who selected the section between Tussum and Serapeum as the primary crossing point.26 According to the plan, a reinforced engineer battalion and four bridging platoons would prepare eight embarkation sites for 30 pontoons and some bridging rafts. The assault columns (one infantry platoon and some sappers for each pontoon) would cross the canal under cover of darkness and establish a bridgehead. While the canal was being crossed, the engineers would build a footbridge for the second echelon. The main force would try to reach the Sweet Water Canal and, if possible, Ismailia railway junction. Surprise, speed and secrecy were essential to success. In order to achieve these, all movement would occur at night, and displays, feints and diversionary attacks were also planned.27 Contrary to popular perception, neither Cemal Pasha nor von Kress was keen to advance deep into Egypt and capture Cairo. Logistic calculations and service support capacity dictated that they could only employ and support two divisions and some tribal warriors (the Hejaz Expeditionary Force was excluded from all calculations) for just under two weeks, even with minimum rations and under ideal conditions. According to contemporary Ottoman-German calculations, at least three corps, each with three divisions, were needed to capture and hold vital parts of Egypt.28 The Ottomans busied themselves preparing for the offensive against the canal, the first elements of the expeditionary force reaching Beersheba on 14 December. At the same time, the British defence of the Suez Canal had finally been organised after many problems and delays. The British decision-makers in both London and Cairo had been haunted by the prospect of an Ottoman land attack against the canal since the so-called Akaba or Taba Crisis of 1906, and they worked hard to find a viable solution to the burgeoning Ottoman threat. Various defence measures – including pre-emptive strikes against Ottoman Syrian harbours – were discussed and several plans prepared with the assistance of intelligence and survey teams, but in the end, very little was done.29 26 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 15–16, 43–44; Elgood, Egypt and the Army, pp. 76–78; Cemal, Hatıralar, p. 182; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 65–67, 91; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 196–197; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, p. 63. 27 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 206–207. 28 Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  182–183; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp.  12–14; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 75–76, 98; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 21–22, 49–50; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 164–166. There are numerous exaggerated intelligence reports within the intelligence summary files of the Intelligence Office Cairo. As an example, see Intelligence Summary November 1914, Intelligence Office Cairo, TNA, WO 157/688. 29 Rashid Ismail Khalidi, British Policy Towards Syria & Palestine 1906–1914, St. Antony’s College, London, 1980, pp. 16–48, 62–73, 84–90; Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, pp. 3, 6, 9,

120

The year of uncertainty

Thus, with the outbreak of war, old fears and anxieties returned and caused some panic due to the unprepared status of the canal defences. This panic and exaggerated intelligence estimates of the Ottoman threat – as large as 100,000 combatants – saw the Sinai Peninsula hurriedly evacuated. The panicky evacuation and destruction of some wells and cisterns were instrumental in increasing the hatred of the Bedouin for the British and firming their alliance with the Ottomans. In addition, Mümtaz and Eşref particularly targeted British agents and pro-British tribal chiefs and elders, most of whom were arrested and exiled. The strong Ottoman military presence and increased controls also denied the flow of intelligence. Until the arrival of reconnaissance aircraft, British military intelligence depended heavily on Bedouin agents who contributed significantly to the false and conflicting picture of Ottoman intentions and troop movements.30 On 8 September, Lieutenant General Sir John Maxwell arrived in Cairo and took over command of British Forces in Egypt. The Egyptian Army (22,000 strong) was viewed with some suspicion and treated as susceptible to Ottoman-German propaganda and potentially disloyal. As far as the British were concerned, the Egyptian Army was almost useless and possibly dangerous, both for maintaining order in case of a popular rebellion and in a fight against the Ottomans. The British view was that it should remain positioned in the Sudan. In an effort to gain the hearts and minds of the locals, Maxwell promised not to call for help from the Egyptians to assist the war effort. However, despite the increasingly unstable situation, Maxwell retained a degree of luck. While he lost his regular units to the Western Front, he received a territorial division (the 42nd East Lancashire) and the Indian Expeditionary Force F (10th and 11th divisions) from Kitchener, who was keenly attentive to the security of Egypt due to his long service there. In addition, in December, the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) were temporarily sent to Egypt for training and also for availability as a reserve. Maxwell assigned Major General Alexander Wilson as the commander of the Canal Defence Force which consisted of the 10th and 11th Indian divisions (all Indian units without the customary British battalions), Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade (from the troops of the Indian Native States), Bikaner Camel Corps and several token artillery and engineer units. Maxwell, following the advice of Kitchener,

10–11, 15, 19–21, 27; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 65–66. In 1913, Sir Edward Grey speculated that “Turkish ambition, driven out of Europe, may well gravitate in other directions”. Although most diplomats and soldiers were more than sure that the Ottomans had neither military power nor will to present danger against Egypt, Kitchener supported and actually influenced Grey by saying “Turkish troops . . . will be filled with bitter hostility to all Europeans and Christians. . . . I gravely question the expediency of taking any steps with a view to the reduction of our already small garrison in Egypt”. From War Office to Foreign Office, 27 February 1913; From Kitchener to Foreign Office, 15 March 1913; From British Embassy Constantinople to Foreign Office, 16 March 1913; From Foreign Office to War Office, 8 April 1913, TNA, FO 195/2452. 30 The Proposed Turkish Invasion of Egypt; Further Report on the Proposed Turkish Invasion of Egypt, 7 January 1915, TNA, WO 157/689; Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, pp. 37–44, 48–49; Elgood, Egypt and the Army, pp. 65–66.

The year of uncertainty  121 kept the 42nd Division and Anzacs in reserve, only using some of the specialist detachments.31 As he had with similar canal administrative divisions, Wilson organised the defence into three sectors: the 1st Sector (Suez–the Bitter Lakes), 2nd Sector (Deversoir–Ferdan) and 3rd Sector (Ferdan–Port Said). Wilson maintained the pre-war view of the canal both as the main defence line and the main obstacle. Consequently, he constructed some 18 outposts and a large bridgehead (Ismailia Ferry Post) on the east bank, but otherwise revoked all forward defence measures. In order to reinforce obstacles and deny more areas to the enemy, depressions and dried lake beds on the east bank were all flooded. Otherwise, the defence works were basic linear trenches reinforced with wire. To compensate for his limited number of field artillery batteries, Wilson relied heavily on the British and French warships and armed launches. On average, four warships were available with the possibility of increasing this number to 12. However, Wilson neglected active defence measures such as mobile reserves, preparations for counter-attack, and pursuit and interdiction of enemy assaults. The canal defence was static and the British troops, mentally and physically, were not prepared to enter the Sinai Desert.32 On 3 January, a few days after the departure of the advanced guard, the 25th Division, around 12,000 strong and under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ali Fuad [Cebesoy], began its march, following the central route. The right and left wings were already in al Arish and al Nakhl waiting to synchronise their advance with the advanced guard of the main group, while the second echelon 10th Division (some 10,000 strong) waited to depart on 21 January. Despite its orders, the Hejaz Expeditionary Force (under the command of Colonel Vehib [Kaçi]) did not manage to depart Maan until 22 January and only reached al Nakhl on 6 February during the final withdrawal. The logistic preparation and planning was unprecedented in its sophistication and foresight. The Ottoman logistic convoys advanced two days in front of the main group and provided sufficient water, food and fodder, not only during the advance, but also during the retreat. Not a single soldier was lost during the exhausting and debilitating marches. Although French seaplanes and British aircraft on reconnaissance flights managed to photograph the Ottoman troop concentrations and marches and even attempted to scatter the forces with their small makeshift bombs from time to time, poor weather and mechanical failure rendered them unable to fly continuously and thus inable to identify the axis of the main advance until

31 Elgood, Egypt and the Army, pp. 58, 66–68, 85–86, 112–113, 115–118; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp.  2–3, 11–15, 19, 23; Safi, The Ottoman Special Organization, pp.  48–49, 51–53; Arthur, General Sir John Maxwell, pp. 128, 135–137, 151–156; Frederick P. Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, Country Life, London, 1920, pp. 6–10. 32 Despatches from Lt.Gen. Sir J.G. Maxwell, 11 February-1 August 1915, TNA, WO 33/796; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 22–25, 31–34; Elgood, Egypt and the Army, pp. 120– 127; Paul G. Halpern, A Naval History of World War I, UCL Press, London, 1994, pp. 107–108.

122  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.3 An Ottoman field artillery battery on the way to the Suez Canal.

27 January. Only then did it become obvious that the main assault would be launched against the 2nd Sector.33 Nevertheless, the operational part of the campaign failed in every respect. Mersinli Cemal Pasha and the main group reached the canal a few days late, on 26 January. They were surprised by the enemy defensive preparations and the presence of warships in the canal. Once again, Ottoman intelligence had grossly underestimated the total combat strength of the enemy (instead of a reinforced division, they faced two reinforced divisions, a cavalry brigade and the camel corps). In addition, nine warships and some 20 armed launches covered the various parts of the canal. The northern and southern wings launched their feint attacks against Kantara and Kubri on the night of 26/27 January as planned, but these proved ineffectual and weak. The Mahsusa operatives and Bedouin, who were supposed to incite the locals to rebel, failed to infiltrate the defensive lines. Instead of deceiving the enemy into pulling troops from the Tussum-Serapeum sector as planned, the Ottoman forces basically reinforced Wilson’s expectation that the real target area was between Lake Timsah and the Bitter Lakes. Wilson, 33 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 30–34, 38–41; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 180–182; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 177, 189–194, 197, 199–200; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 85–90; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 17–19; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp.  28–31; Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, pp. 52–55; Elgood, Egypt and the Army, pp. 118–119; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 66–68, 70.

The year of uncertainty  123 who had already despatched the New Zealand Infantry Brigade to reinforce these critical sectors the day before, alerted his reserves.34 On 28 January, army and corps staffs held an emergency meeting to discuss the assault plan and make amendments according to the updated enemy estimates. The main assault group was divided into three parts. The Northern Group, the 68th Regimental Combat Team, would launch a diversionary attack against Ferry Post, while the Southern Group would launch demonstrations around Deversoir. The main assault group and following echelons were reduced, the former to two reinforced regiments (73rd and 74th), while the second (the remaining units of the 25th Division) and third (two regiments of the 10th Division) echelons remained behind until further notice. They also agreed to delay the main assault and canal crossing attempt to the night of 2/3 February. Orders were issued to the right and left wings to renew their feints and try to infiltrate some Mahsusa teams into Egypt. Von Kress offered a last-minute suggestion to place the 15cm howitzer battery in a forward position close to the Bitter Lakes, hoping to sink some ships to block the canal traffic. This proposal was rejected, given the difficulty of moving the howitzers and the vulnerability of the forward positions.35 On 2 February, an unexpected sandstorm erupted just as the assault detachments and heavy weapons had commenced their final approaches to their positions. The storm caused massive delays and much confusion. The engineers and bridging train lost their way and arrived at the meeting point two hours late. Another hour was lost due to the difficulty of manhandling pontoons and bridging equipment on the soft sand. Unaware of the delay, the machine-gun platoons and some infantry companies opened covering fire at around 3.30 am, half an hour before the start of the actual crossing attempt. Three pontoons from the very first group reached the other side, but others came under heavy and sustained machine-gun and rifle fire. The resolute Ottoman assault detachments made attempt after attempt, but the steel pontoons proved a poor choice as they sank easily once they were punctured with bullets. The Egyptian Mountain Artillery Battery, which happened to be positioned nearby, scattered the engineers waiting at the embarkation points to construct the footbridge. With first light, the warships joined the firefight and managed to destroy most of the pontoons and bridging equipment. The three platoons which reached the west bank were either killed or captured.36

34 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp.  42–43, 46–47; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 179, 197–202; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 53–54, 90; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 37–38; Fortna, The Circassian, pp. 162–164; Fred Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, 2nd edition, Whitcombe and Tombs, Auckland, 1921, pp. 46–47, 50; Elgood, Egypt and the Army, pp. 128–129; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, p. 71. 35 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp.  48–50, 62–63; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  203–210; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp.  91–92; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 20–22; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 71–72. 36 Despatches from Lt.Gen. Sir J.G. Maxwell, 11 February-1 August 1915, TNA, WO 33/796; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp.  51–55, 63; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  183–184; Kressenstein,

124

The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.4 One of the few pontoons that crossed the canal and the dead bodies of Ottoman soldiers lying at the back.

The feints and diversionary attacks began at first light. The 68th Regiment reluctantly attacked Ferry Post, retreating to safety with the first casualties, but sustained field artillery fire caused much damage and kept the Indians busy from launching counter-attacks. The diversionary attack against Serapeum also kept the enemy busy, but did not provide any relief. At Tussum outpost, the Ottoman infiltration attempt was discovered early and these forces came under enfilading fire which provided cover for the 92nd Punjabi Battalion to counter-attack and take some Ottoman soldiers prisoner. The 15cm howitzer battery initially managed to hit HMS Hardinge several times, forcing it to take refuge, but it failed to achieve the same result against the French ship Requin, which outgunned and silenced the battery. Cemal Pasha ordered the 28th Regiment to reinforce the covering force, but weak firepower and lack of bridging and water-crossing equipment destroyed any chance of success. Moreover, the presence of sustained naval fire not only effectively eliminated any chance of bridging, but also demoralised the Ottomans Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 92–93; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 211– 212; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 22–28; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 39–41; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 72–74; Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, pp. 13–14.

The year of uncertainty  125 who were subjected to sustained bombing. However, the real threat was the accurate machine-gun and artillery fire which inflicted serious casualties on the units attempting to cross or recover the boats. The feints of the northern and southern wings failed miserably. Most of the tribal warriors deserted when they discovered that there would be no opportunity to loot or reap any bounty.37 Although the 10th Division was still fresh and had yet to be committed, Cemal Pasha recognised the futility of continuing the offensive without pontoons and effective artillery cover, and overruled the urgings of von Kress. He was now anxious to save his expeditionary force from complete destruction. Cemal Pasha managed to break contact skilfully and withdraw the Ottoman units largely intact. On 4 February Wilson and his troops, who were waiting for the renewal of the attacks, discovered to their amazement and relief that the Ottomans had slipped away, leaving just a weak rearguard. Surprisingly, this weak Ottoman detachment managed to keep probing patrols at bay throughout the day and retreated during the night. A squadron of the Imperial Service Cavalry reinforced with infantry managed to capture only a small part of the detachment the following day.38 The Ottoman Expeditionary Force encountered enormous problems during its return. The service support units failed to provide sufficient water to some units, and almost half the camels were lost along the way. However, discipline was maintained and the soldiers marched stoically back in order. Cemal Pasha reached Beersheba on 15 February. Von Kress, as the commander of the hurriedly activated Desert Command, remained behind to cover the entire Sinai region, conduct raids and sabotage missions, and continue the construction of roads and bases, supplied with a few token companies. First Cemal Pasha and later the Ottoman High Command proclaimed the attack as a victory under the pretext that it was merely a reconnaissance-in-force, adding that the real campaign would start soon.39 The Suez Canal Campaign, a premature operation born of German pressure, failed to achieve its prime objective of establishing a bridgehead. It did not even

37 Despatches from Lt.Gen. Sir J.G. Maxwell, 11 February-1 August 1915, TNA, WO 33/796; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp.  56–58, 63–64; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  184–186; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  212–215, 221–234; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 92–94; Behçet, Büyük Harpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 22–28; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 29–31; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 74–76; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 42–46; Halpern, A Naval History, p. 108. 38 Note on the Intentions of the Enemy, 11 February 1915, TNA, WO 157/689; Despatches from Lt.Gen. Sir J.G. Maxwell, 11 February-1 August 1915, TNA, WO 33/796; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 59–60; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 215–221; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 94–95; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 346–349; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp.  28–29, 31; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 46–50; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 77–78. 39 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 65–68, 77–79; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 186, 189–190; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  265–270; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 97–101; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 32–35; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 79–80, 83.

126  The year of uncertainty succeed in blocking the canal due to lack of vision and preparation. However, it had a significant effect in demonstrating the capacity of the Ottoman Army to traverse the Sinai Desert and move a large force to the edge of the canal. The boldness of the undertaking increased the concerns of the British colonial administration and effectively pinned down the large British-Egyptian garrison for more than a year. When the Ottomans threatened the canal one year later, there were almost 400,000 troops concentrated in Egypt to face the attack. Consequently, in contrast to conventional wisdom, the Suez Canal Campaign should be regarded as a long-term success given the light casualties (fewer than 1700 soldiers and around 100 volunteers) and the small size of the resources committed to the enterprise compared to the much larger British commitment.40 While the Ottoman troops were recuperating, Sultan Mehmed V announced the long-awaited call for Jihad specially targeting the Egyptians on 5 February, showing clearly how disjointed the political and military efforts were.41

Libya Campaign The Ottoman Army had a small group of undercover military personnel and a well-functioning alliance with the Sanusiyya religious fraternity and other local forces, thanks to the prescient policy of maintaining a core cadre of officers and technicians and continuing military aid to the insurgents following the Ouchy Peace Treaty of 1912.42 Moreover, the Libyans heartily welcomed the declaration of a Jihad. Oddly, they paid no attention to the fact that the Jihad was aimed only at the enemies of the Ottoman Empire, which did not include Italy at that time. The major problem for the Ottoman officers was the socio-political nature of the locals, who were perpetually divided, factionalised and reluctant to fight against British troops. The Libyans merely wanted to continue their struggle for independence against the Italians; however, the Ottomans were unable to openly target the Italians due to their precarious neutrality. They were also unwilling to commit forces to incite rebellion within the Egyptian population and had no plans for an invasion of western Egypt. In effect, aggressive actions such as these were discouraged as they were likely to place Ottoman military advice and aid at risk.43 40 Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye, pp. 68–76; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 187–188; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 171–173; M.G.E. Bowman-Manifold, An Outline of the Egyptian and Palestine Campaigns, 1914 to 1918, 2nd edition, The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, 1923, pp. 13–14; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 350–351; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 252–262; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 99; Behçet, Büyük Harpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 24–25, 33–34; Muzaffer, Büyükharpte Mısır Seferi, pp. 36–40; McKale, War by Revolution, pp. 100–101; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 229–230; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 78, 80–82; John Terraine, The First World War, 2nd printing, Leo Cooper, London, 1983, p. 57. 41 The Imperial Decree, 9 February 1915, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, p. 146. 42 E.E. Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, Claredon Press, Oxford, 1954, pp. 11–28, 62–89. 43 Şükrü Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Hicaz, Asir, Yemen Cepheleri ve Libya Harekâtı, vol. 6, Genkur Basımevi, Ankara, 1978, pp. 32–38, 627–629; Jafar al Askari, A Soldier’s Story:

The year of uncertainty 127 Additional groups of Ottoman officers and other volunteers began to arrive in Libya after September 1914. Their arrival infused the spirit of resistance with new momentum. The Sanusis and other groups reconquered the interior of the country, and the Italians once again took refuge in their coastal fortified bases.44 Following a series of victories against the Italians and the arrival of Nuri (Killigil) Pasha (younger brother of Enver Pasha) and Major Cafer Askeri45 with a command group, technicians and an infantry battalion, the Sanusis were forced to bow to continuous requests from İstanbul and slowly and reluctantly initiate attacks against British targets. Hostilities between Sanusis and the British garrison of Sollum erupted after Ottoman officers orchestrated a provocative raid on a British outpost at Sidi Barani on 22 November 1915. The crisis escalated quickly, and the British garrison evacuated Sollum and retreated to Mersa Matruh the following day.46 Nuri Pasha was forced to transform tribal warriors into conventional units in order to occupy at least a portion of western Egypt in an effort to incite rebellion. It was an impossible mission under the conditions, with limited numbers of Ottoman officers, a problematic supply of weapons and ammunition (the only source other than spoils of war were infrequent German submarine shipments), and the questionable loyalty of the Sanusi and tribal leaders. The Sanusi leader Sidi Ahmad al Sharif (also known as the Grand Sanusi) was so reluctant to fight that he often personally sabotaged Nuri’s offensive plans. At the same time, his tribal warriors were unwilling to face danger and hardship away from their tribal areas. The only reliable force, the Ottoman-trained Sanusi regular troops, was no match for its adversaries (with the chief exception of the Numune [model] Battalion) and encountered difficulties fighting a conventional enemy using conventional tactics and techniques. British firepower, aircraft and particularly armoured cars terrified the Libyan soldiers and tribal levies.47 The British theatre commander concentrated his two reinforced brigades, auxiliary units and armoured cars and aircraft, and following a series of minor setbacks, the British troops halted the Ottoman-Sanusi attackers at Bir-i Ebu Tunus (Halazin) on 24 January 1916 and recaptured Sollum on 15 March. The reversal broke the fragile alliance between the Sanusis and Mahsusa operatives, although

44 45 46 47

From Ottoman Rule to Independent Iraq, (trans.) Tariq al Askari, Arabian Publishing, London, 2003, pp. 57–58, 65, 70; Rachel Simon, Between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman Involvement in Libya during the War with Italy (1911–1919), Klaus Schwarz Verlag, Berlin, 1987 pp. 104–109. Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 629–640; Simon, Between Ottomanism and Nationalism, pp. 107–109. Better known as Jafar al Askari, who would change sides following his capture by British troops and thereafter become the commander of Sheikh Faisal’s regular troops. Al Askari, A Soldier’s Story, pp. 54–75; Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 641–648; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 105–107. Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 642–654, 808–821; al Askari, A Soldier’s Story, pp. 58–60, 76–77; Simon, Between Ottomanism and Nationalism, pp. 129–131; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 103–104, 107–118.

128  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.5 An Ottoman officer and Sanusi tribal fighters captured by the British during Agagir attack on 26 February 1916.

Nuri Pasha eventually regained the confidence of the Sanusi leaders with the help of ardent patriots such as Sulayman al Baruni and the Ottoman-trained Libyan officers. This time, Nuri persuaded Sidi Ahmad to attack from the south, where the British military presence was weakest and the Sanusis easily captured the Western Oases between 24 April and 15 June 1916. In reality, this was their second offensive operation against the oases, but this time they had the support of the local population. A much-anticipated British expedition marched in September 1916 and ended with success in February 1917.48 The Mahsusa continued their operations in Libya, this time aimed exclusively against the Italians, even after the new Sanusi leader Muhammad Idris al Mahdi reached agreement with both the Italians and the British. With the transfer of the majority of Italian troops to the European theatre, the Ottomans and their allies gained control of a significant percentage of the country and the officially assigned Ottoman governors and provincial administration functioned smoothly until the end of the First World War.49 Militarily, the Ottoman-led Sanusi attacks did not achieve anything meaningful. Psychologically, however, these attacks, in combination with the repeated Ottoman Suez Canal campaigns, appeared to confirm the British authorities’ worst fears. The desertion of several Egyptian officers – and even entire companies – immediately after the fall of Sollum increased their fears. For the Ottomans, this

48 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 655–680; al Askari, A Soldier’s Story, pp. 76–92; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 119–144. 49 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 672–673, 684–725.

The year of uncertainty  129 was an inexpensive operation, costing the Ottoman Empire fewer than 100 officers and other ranks, and limited amounts of war materiel (largely financed by the Germans), and it was highly cost effective in forcing both the British and Italians to allocate much-needed forces away from major theatres and spend large amounts of money to keep the local grandees loyal.50

Mesopotamia Front The series of humiliating defeats and the surrender of the 38th Division were instrumental in changing attitudes in İstanbul, albeit not decisively. Enver Pasha and the General Staff still treated the Mesopotamia Front as a sideshow and continued to retain confidence in their unconventional warfare strategy. They now believed that a change in leadership, replacing the leaders who had proven so ineffectual with a coterie of fresh, dynamic officers well versed in unconventional warfare would deliver them victory. As a consequence, Enver Pasha decided to promote and appoint his loyal friend, Colonel Süleyman Askeri Bey, as the Iraq regional commander.51 As the de facto director of the Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, Süleyman Askeri had all the requisite qualifications to conduct unconventional warfare on a grand scale. He was a highly talented officer and a veteran of the decade-long counter-insurgency operations against the Balkan Komitadjis and rebels. He was also very familiar with Mesopotamia, having spent time in the region as a gendarmerie inspector. He was confident in his own ability and his strategy of unleashing unconventional warfare against a conventional enemy.52 Süleyman Askeri arrived in Baghdad with his special staff and the elite Mahsusa unit, the Osmancık Volunteer Battalion (named after the founder of the Ottoman dynasty Osman Gazi, and comprising six light companies, each 100 strong) on 20 December 1914.53 He immediately outlined his concept of operations, making drastic changes as he saw the need. In his view, success could only

50 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 648–649, 680–681, 684, 735; Simon, Between Ottomanism and Nationalism, pp. 109, 126, 132; al Askari, A Soldier’s Story, p. 76. 51 Dispatch from Enver Pasha to Iraq and Surrounding Regions Command, 20 December 1914, ATBD, no. 118, pp. 8–9; From the Office of the Prime Minister to Minister of War, 23 December 1914, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2016, pp. 42–43; Cavid, Harb-i Umumi Vesaikinden Irak Seferi ve İttihad Hükümetinin Hayalat ve Cehalet-i Siyasiyesi, Müdafaa Matbaası, İstanbul, 1334 [1918], pp.  34–37, 44–49; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, p. 20. 52 Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 212–214, 391–395; Phillip H. Stoddard, The Ottoman Government and the Arabs 1911- to 1918: A Preliminary Study of the Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, Princeton University Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, 1963, pp. 119–121. For more information on Süleyman Askeri, see Nurettin Şimşek, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa’nın Reisi Süleyman Askeri Bey Hayatı, Siyasi ve Askeri Faaliyetleri, IQ Kültür-Sanat, İstanbul, 2008. 53 Dispatch from Süleyman Askeri to Cavid Pasha, 24 December 1914, ATBD, no. 118, pp. 16–17; Nezihi Fırat and Behzat Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, İran-Irak Cephesi, vol. 3, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1979, pp. 120–121; Stoddard, The Ottoman Government and the Arabs, pp. 122–123; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 392–393.

130  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.6 Ottoman main barracks in Baghdad.

be achieved by pinning down the British troops with regular units and then hitting them from every direction at every opportunity using the tribesmen. Accordingly, Süleyman Askeri reorganised the beaten and demoralised defence forces into a composite division (Müretteb Tümen) and several regimental-sized composite detachments. To deny the British river ships the freedom of movement they had enjoyed thus far, Süleyman Askeri enlisted the help small German mission. Major Fritz Klein and Lieutenant Müller, both recently commissioned as reserve officers, were on a special mission to Persia. While waiting for the arrival of other Germans they opened a workshop in Baghdad.54 The Germans began to produce cable-operated mines using whatever materials they could find. Süleyman Askeri planned to concentrate all his available forces close to Qurna, aware of the Indian government’s plan to reinforce Force D. In order to divert as many enemy units as he could from the main theatre, he decided to send a detachment (the Kerha Müfrezesi) under the command of Captain Mehmed Tevfik,55

54 Klein was the German military representative in Baghdad. He was primarily occupied with liaison and logistic assistance to German-led operations in Persia. Veit Veltzke, Unter Wüstensöhnen: Die deutsche Expedition Klein im Ersten Weltkrieg, Nicolaische Verlagbuchhandlung, Berlin, 2014, pp. 64–65, 69–73. 55 Mehmed Tevfik had been a Member of Parliament representing Baghdad in the lower house before the war. Given his local power base and connections, he was commissioned as a reserve captain and appointed to the Mesopotamia Front. Dispatch from Süleyman Askeri to Ministry of War, 6 February 1915, ATBD, no. 118, pp. 68–70.

The year of uncertainty  131 r­ einforced with tribal warriors, to southern Iran to destroy the Abadan oil pipeline and attack British outposts.56 While Süleyman Askeri was confident in his own ability, he had little confidence in that of his subordinates and decided to centralise his command and decision-making processes. His approach appeared to work; in less than a month, despite the debilitating effects of heavy showers and catastrophic flooding on his campaign, his new approach had achieved small but encouraging successes. The Kerha Detachment and its local allies cut the pipeline in several places and incited tribes to attack British installations. British General Barrett, who was keen to preserve the integrity of his units, had no alternative but to despatch a detachment under Brigadier General C.T. Robinson to Ahwaz. Barrett’s misgivings on the reliability of composite units were to prove justified. While Mehmed Tevfik encountered serious problems and suffered a number of reversals in Ahwaz, he succeeded in provoking Robinson to attack shortly after the arrival of his forces. Robinson was determined to impress the locals by punishing Mehmed Tevfik’s tribal allies in Ghadir and the Ahwaz Detachment launched a hasty attack on 3 March. The tribesmen let the detachment advance, and then attacked from every direction. The detachment was severely mauled and barely managed to withdraw, leaving some weapons and heavy equipment behind. The defeat prompted Barrett to send the newly arrived 12th Brigade under Brigadier General K.S. Davison to Ahwaz to assist before it was too late. At the same time, Süleyman Askeri decided to reinforce the Kerha Detachment by appointing Dağıstanlı Mehmed Fazıl Pasha57 as the new commander and despatching additional units to bolster its numbers.58 Süleyman Askeri now launched a guerrilla campaign designed to harass and weaken the British.59 However, contrary to his expectations, it was the regular 56 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 121–123, 131–132, 144–149; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 395–397; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 465–466; Stoddard, The Ottoman Government and the Arabs, pp. 123–127; Veltzke, Unter Wüstensöhnen, pp. 133–137; E.W.C. Sandes, In Kut and Captivity with the Sixth Indian Division, John Murray, London, 1920, pp. 14–15. 57 Dağıstanlı Mehmed Fazıl Pasha was a close relative of Sheikh Shamil (Imam of Dagestan and Chechnya) and a retired general. He volunteered for service with his Circassian followers. He initially served at the Caucasus and later was assigned to his homeland Iraq. Several detachments of tribal cavalry were also placed under his command. He was killed in action during the battle for Sabis on 9 March 1915. Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, p. 809. 58 Précis of Correspondence Regarding the Mesopotamia Expedition: Its Genesis and Development, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 13–20; F.J. Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, vol. 1, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1924, pp.  166–169, 173–174, 179, 183–185, 187–189; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 149–153; Veltzke, Unter Wüstensöhnen, pp. 145–159; Wilfrid Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, Andrew Melrose, London, 1932, pp. 78–79, 82–83; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia 1914–1917, pp. 23–29; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 71–72. 59 Dispatch from Süleyman Askeri to Ministry of War, 16 January 1915; from Süleyman Askeri to Ministry of War, 17 January 1915, ATBD, no. 118, pp.  25–36; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 149–151; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 68–71.

132  The year of uncertainty units that repelled the overconfident British advance to the Ruta (Rota) canals on 20 January 1915. Barrett ordered a strong demonstration against the Ottoman positions at Ruta to disperse them and to boost his troops’ morale. The 17th Indian Brigade, reinforced with ships, cavalry and artillery, commenced a difficult advance towards the forward Ottoman positions, prompting the Ottoman troops and tribal contingents to retire, provoking a disorganised pursuit. When the British troops tried to cross the canals, they became stuck in the mud and were targeted by heavy fire. Barrett ordered a retreat and his troops withdrew with great difficulty, relentlessly harassed as they moved. While Ruta was a small but encouraging victory, Süleyman Askeri was seriously wounded in both legs.60 In spite of his wounds, Süleyman Askeri remained confident and optimistic, refusing to hand over his duties even temporarily. Such was his faith in the military potential of the local tribes that he declined Enver’s offer of a special task force to assist. The General Staff did not share his optimism and despatched the 35th Division, an original Iraqi unit, and two battalions of the elite İstanbul Fire Brigade Regiment, under the command of Major Ali [Çetinkaya]. Instead of preserving original unit structure, Süleyman Askeri distributed the new battalions to provisional formations.61 Given the news of an increasing Ottoman build-up in Mesopotamia and dire problems in Ahwaz, Barrett realised that Force D required urgent reinforcement. The Indian government reluctantly reorganised the force as an army corps of two divisions and a cavalry brigade under the command of Lieutenant General Sir John Nixon. At the beginning of April, two more brigades (the 30th Indian Brigade from Egypt and the 33rd Indian Brigade from India) arrived in Basra. These two brigades and the 12th Brigade, which was already in theatre, were reorganised as the 12th Division under the command of Major General George F. Gorringe.

60 Dispatch from Süleyman Askeri to Ministry of War, 21 January 1915 ATBD, no. 118, pp. 37–45; From Governor of Baghdad to Ministry of Interior, 14 February 1915, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp.  47–50; Despatches Regarding Operations in the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 28–31; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 125–131; Orhan Avcı, Irak’ta Türk Ordusu, Vadi Yayınları, Ankara, 2004, pp. 33–37; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 74–76; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 162–165; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 21–22. 61 Dispatch from Süleyman Askeri to Ministry of War, 15 January 1915; from Süleyman Askeri to Chief of General Staff, 28 January  1915, ATBD, no. 118, pp. 22–24, 55–57; Interrogation Report of Yuzbashi Hussein [Captain Hüseyin], 13 April 1915, TNA, WO 157/776; Ali Çetinkaya, Askerlik Hayatım 1914–1922, (eds.) Oktay Şimşek, Zeki Dilek, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2012, pp.  16–17, 89–90; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 158–161; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 391, 393; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 93–96.

The year of uncertainty  133

Figure 4.7 Süleyman Askeri tried to command the Ottoman attack against the British fortified camp at Shaiba from his stretcher.

Nixon arrived on 9 April. Barrett promptly refused to serve under Nixon and was replaced by Major General Charles V.F. Townshend.62 Süleyman Askeri decided to launch an immediate attack on the British fortified camp at Shaiba (Şuayyibe), hoping to strike before the British build-up could 62 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 21–22, 24; Charles Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1920, pp. 39–41; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 177–178, 185–189, 193–199; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 33–34; Paul K. Davis, Ends and Means: The British Mesopotamian Campaign and Commission, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Rutherford, 1994, pp. 70–72; Charles Townshend, When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq 1914–1921, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, pp. 72–74.

134  The year of uncertainty transform its units into an overwhelming force. While his timing was right, he appears to have ignored the fact that he had organised his units to wage an unconventional war rather than to attack conventional infantry in entrenched positions with superior firepower. His plan was also undermined by an exaggerated force assessment of the tribal contribution,63 poor reconnaissance and a lack of combat intelligence.64 The Ottoman troops advanced from Nasiriya establishing food depots along the way. Their advance was well monitored by British military intelligence. The British ships (known as the Euphrates Blockade Flotilla) opened fire on boats carrying equipment and supplies at every opportunity, delaying the Ottoman build-up and advance. Following a further series of delays, the Ottoman troops occupied Barjisiya Woods and established advanced assault positions on 12 April.65 Süleyman Askeri ordered his forces to attack immediately. The Ottoman regular units under command of Major Ali [Çetinkaya] launched a reconnaissance-in-force, specifically targeting the southern salient, without achieving any meaningful result other than arousing the already alerted defenders. The following morning, they launched frontal attacks from three directions. The heroism of the Ottoman soldiers mattered little in the face of superior British firepower and their simple but effective entrenchments reinforced with barbed-wire entanglements. The tribal warriors waited patiently for the breakthrough, most staying out of the battle. Once the Ottoman assault had run out of steam, the 6th Indian Cavalry Brigade launched a probing counter-attack which was easily repulsed. Later in the day, the 16th Brigade renewed the counter-attack with effective fire support. While the Fire Brigade battalions mounted a stiff resistance, the composite detachments began to give way under systematic enemy attacks. With the first sign of success, the British cavalry joined the attack from the northern flank. Fortunately, these counter-attacks ceased at sunset.66

63 Süleyman Askeri would receive only half his estimate of 20,000 tribal warriors – and of these, just over 1000 actually joined the battle. Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, p. 175; Black Tab (pseudonym), On the Road to Kut: A Soldier’s Story of the Mesopotamia Campaign, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1917, pp. 69–70. 64 Dispatch from Süleyman Askeri to Ministry of War, 1 February 1915; from Süleyman Askeri to Ministry of War, 2 February 1915, ATBD, no. 118, pp. 58–67; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 171–177; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 200–201; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 397–398; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 96–98. 65 Mesopotamia G.H.Q. Summary of Intelligence, April 1915, TNA, WO 157/776; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 169–173; Çetinkaya, Askerlik Hayatım, pp. 133–164; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 191–192; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 83–84; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 73–74, 98–106; Quetta Staff College Officers, Critical Study of the Campaign in Mesopotamia up to April 1917, Government of India Press, Calcutta, 1925, pp. 12–17. 66 Despatches Regarding Operations in the Persian Gulf and in Mesopotamia, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 36–41; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 179–188; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 197–208; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 75–77, 106–110; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 87–90; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 17–20;

The year of uncertainty 135 The British counter-attack effectively ended any chance of Ottoman success. Furthermore, the diversionary attacks by the Dicle (Tigris) and Kerha detachments failed completely. Süleyman Askeri, who was still hoping to mount one last-ditch effort, obstinately rejected any suggestion of a general withdrawal. This fatal decision gave the British defenders an excellent opportunity to crush the disorganised and exhausted Ottoman troops, which they achieved on 14 April. Following a courageous but hopeless stand, the Ottoman troops were routed (losing more than half their number). The hapless but proud Süleyman Askeri committed suicide, leaving his force leaderless. While the British forces did not mount a pursuit, most of the Ottoman heavy weapons and equipment were left behind and isolated soldiers and small units fell prey to their former tribal allies, who looted and plundered during the ignominious flight.67 The Shaiba battle put paid to Enver Pasha and Süleyman Askeri’s concept of unconventional warfare – essentially a failed attempt to imitate the successful Libyan Campaign – and any hope of recapturing Basra. The local population either watched the unfolding events passively or attempted to benefit from the power vacuum by various means, including launching sporadic rebellions and attacking friend and foe alike. Enver Pasha and his staff learnt the hard way that it was impossible to wage unconventional war against a highly trained and disciplined modern conventional army without active popular support.68 Colonel Nurettin [Sakallı] was appointed as the new commander and was given two very weak composite divisions (the Müntefik Detachment defending the Euphrates and Dicle Composite Division defending the Tigris), the brigade-size Kerha Detachment, the remnants of various gendarmerie and border guard battalions and some irregular tribal cavalry of highly dubious combat value.69 Nurettin hastily established defensive positions in Nasiriya and between Ruta and Amara.70

67

68 69

70

Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 84–86; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 23–24; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 8–10. ‘Şuayyibe Harekâtı’, undated after-action report, ATBD, no. 118, pp. 101–105; From Subgovernor of Müntefik to Ministry of Interior, 17 April 1915, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp. 54–55; Mesopotamia G.H.Q. Summary of Intelligence, April 1915, TNA, WO 157/776; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 189–204; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 209–220; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 77–80, 110–115; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 90–92; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 21–23; Taşköprülü Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya Savaşın ve Esaretin Günlüğü, (eds.) Mesut Uyar and Ahmet Özcan, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 10–12; Black Tab, On the Road to Kut, pp. 71–72; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 86–91; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 24–25; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 10–13. Dispatch from Nurettin to Ministry of War, 15 June 1915, ATBD, no. 118, pp. 97–100; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 204–207; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 397–398; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, p. 453. Nurettin took over the command on 19 May 1915. According to British intelligence reports, he arrived at Baghdad on 22 May. Imperial Decree, 20 April 1915, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp. 56–57; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, p. 225; Mesopotamia G.H.Q. Summary of Intelligence, May 1915, TNA, WO 157/776. Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 212–213, 225.

136  The year of uncertainty It had become obvious to the Ottoman General Staff that the British would not be satisfied with simply taking Basra, but would advance further with the ultimate goal of capturing Baghdad. However, they also expected an amphibious landing against the Dardanelles and a possible Russian offensive in the east. With a further threat to the empire’s territory in Palestine, all the established Ottoman forces were engaged in defending the empire’s borders, there was no strong pool of reinforcements ready to move to Mesopotamia and only one or two divisions that could be spared.71 Given these circumstances, they had no option but to formulate a new strategy. The revised strategy for Mesopotamia took the form of a conventional war of attrition in which the Ottoman forces would attempt to lure, delay and exhaust the British advance, which would be canalised along the riverbeds, their forces annihilated once they penetrated deep inside Mesopotamia. It was impossible for both sides to advance and outmanoeuvre the other away from the rivers owing to the absence of potable water, general lack of metalled roads and shortage of land transport. Thus, any defence or advance was tied to the vicinity of the rivers. Tribal warriors would be employed only as auxiliary troops for screening tasks and harassing enemy lines. The Ottoman General Staff’s assessment and arrangements were tailored to the circumstances. For the British, the victory at Shaiba with its comparatively small loss of life72 not only tangibly increased the confidence of Nixon and the Indian government, but also blinded them to the hard fact that their precarious logistics and lines of transport and communication were already stretched dangerously thin.73 Nixon and a number of the other British Indian officials were keen on taking advantage of the evident demoralisation and disorganisation of the Ottoman troops, and the overt hostility of the Arabs. Nixon decided initially to advance up the Tigris to Amara and then via the Euphrates to Nasiriya under the pretext of securing Basra. The British government, however, prohibited any advance before the Ahwaz-Abadan region could be secured and the local tribes subdued. Nixon despatched Gorringe’s 12th Division to complete these tasks on 21 April.74 Almost simultaneously, Mehmed Fazıl Pasha decided to evacuate the Ahwaz region. He had experienced enormous difficulties in command and control not only of the tribal contingents, but also of his regular battalions. Most of the gendarmerie and border guard soldiers were poorly trained, ill-equipped and demoralised. Desertion was a common problem, and he had very few professional officers. To make

71 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 268–271, 345–347; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 399–401. 72 In contrast to light British casualties, the Ottoman loss was heavy – overall 8000 casualties, including prisoners. 73 George Buchanan, The Tragedy of Mesopotamia, William Blackwood & Sons, London, 1938, pp. 40–62; Busch, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894–1914, pp. 27–30. 74 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 23–25; Report from General Sir J.E. Nixon Operations of IEF D, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 1–2; Douglas Goold, “Lord Hardinge and the Mesopotamia Expedition and Inquiry, 1914–1917”, The Historical Journal, vol. 19, no. 4, December 1976, pp. 927–928; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 61–68, 75–76.

The year of uncertainty  137 the matters worse, most of his tribal warriors had deserted following news of the British victory in Shaiba. The Kerha Detachment slipped away even before Gorringe had completed his concentration. Unable to catch the Ottomans, Gorringe attacked the tribes around the Karun and Karkha rivers which had collaborated with the Ottomans, chief among them the Beni Taruf. It was a classical colonial punitive campaign. The British troops burnt villages and farmlands, and killed any tribesmen showing resistance. Nixon employed similar tactics in Basra province against what he perceived to be hostile tribes, using other tribal contingents and his river flotilla.75 Following lengthy and heated discussions, Nixon was finally granted permission to advance on 23 May. Townshend (with two of his brigades) was tasked to conduct operations against the Ottoman positions near Qurna and, if possible, capture Amara. The Dicle Composite Division commander, Major Abdülhalim, had three composite battalions, all occupying mostly independent company-size defensive positions. He had limited firepower and means of transportation. Townshend did not try to destroy each and every one of these positions, instead neutralising them with effective artillery fire, his guns mounted on sloops or boats, and outflanking them. The troops disembarked and re-embarked rapidly and with impunity, the Ottoman mines regarded as no more than a nuisance. In most cases, locals and prisoners pointed out their locations, while many malfunctioned and failed to detonate. The Ottoman defenders generally disengaged under fire with little resistance. Abdülhalim tried to save his troops by embarking them on the steamer Musul, the gunboat Marmaris and various other small sloops and boats. However, on 1 June, the British river flotilla caught up with the Ottoman convoy and sank a number of the boats. In the ensuing panic, some of the soldiers reached land and escaped while others surrendered the following day.76 Nurettin then despatched a composite regiment consisting of two Fire Brigade battalions and some local reinforcements to Amara. He ordered the Amara station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Seyfullah, to organise a defence and to hold the town at all costs. Nurettin also ordered Mehmed Fazıl Pasha to reinforce the Amara defence from the east. Seyfullah wasted valuable time conducting reconnaissance and holding discussions. He finally ordered the composite regiment to establish a defensive line 12 kilometres to the south. In the meantime, Townshend 75 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 65; Mesopotamia G.H.Q. Summary of Intelligence, May–June 1915, TNA, WO 157/776; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 213–225; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 224–234; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 92–96; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 38–46; Edmund Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, Cassell and Co., London, 1919, pp. 242–245; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 26–27. 76 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp.  25–27; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 235–249; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 234–259; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 50–67; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 97–111; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 80–82; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 95–104; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, p. 466; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 27–28; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 17–19.

138  The year of uncertainty was advancing as rapidly as possible, leaving his main body behind. He caught the Ottoman troops in open terrain on 3 June before they had time to prepare even makeshift rifle pits. Two battalions surrendered after a short pursuit while the remaining Ottoman soldiers scrambled to embark on every available sloop in a desperate attempt to escape to Amara. Tribesmen flooded Amara and began to loot the town. Amid the chaos the other battalion and remnants of the Dicle Division surrendered in Amara the same day. Mehmed Fazıl Pasha retreated to Kut al Amara, losing all his tribal levies and half of his soldiers who deserted along the way.77 Nurettin was in very difficult situation. He had just lost his most important asset, his two Fire Brigade battalions, and his irreplaceable river ships, artillery and heavy equipment, without achieving any meaningful result. The series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the British encouraged the local Shia religious leaders and rebellions, and public disorder erupted in several provincial centres, including Najaf and Karbala. Nurettin was forced to initiate a radical reorganisation and redeployment. He re-formed the 35th and 38th divisions by transforming some of the gendarmerie, border guard and depot battalions into conventional infantry battalions. The 35th Division under Major Namık was despatched to Nasiriya, while the 38th Division under Major Refik was tasked with the defence of Kut al Amara. Clearly these new formations, in terms of weapons, equipment, training, command and control, were far from the standard regular infantry units; nevertheless, the reorganisation simplified the organisational table and clarified the hierarchy.78 Encouraged by his easy victory, Nixon turned his attention to Nasiriya. This time, Gorringe was tasked to launch the operation with the 30th Brigade task force on 26 June. Against high expectations, the advance was slow and bloody. There were several obstructions on the river, including a dam, belts of mines and barriers created by sunken ships, all defended by independent detachments. The 12th Brigade was rushed to reinforce the British force on 8 July in the hope that this would accelerate the advance. Müntefik Detachment commander Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Tevfik created a complex mobile defence system and reacted dynamically to the British attacks with small counter-attacks and by moving units between defensive positions. The tribal contingents under the command of Sheikh Ajaimi [Uceymi] Sadun also showed surprising bravery and achieved some

77 From Governor of Baghdad to Ministry of Interior, 4 June 1915, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp. 68–69; Mesopotamia G.H.Q. Summary of Intelligence, June 1915, TNA, WO 157/776; Report from General Sir J.E. Nixon Operations of IEF D, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 2–3; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 249–265; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 260–265; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 68–72; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 112–121; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 47–49; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 83–84; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 28–29. 78 From Subgovernor of Zor to Ministry of Interior, 29 June 1915, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp. 70–71; Mesopotamia G.H.Q. Summary of Intelligence, June 1915, TNA, WO 157/776; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 268–287.

The year of uncertainty  139 notable successes, attacking from all directions, targeting both combat and support units. Unexpected resistance and increasing casualty numbers forced Gorringe to use his reserve brigade and surplus troops. Nurettin also sent in groups of reinforcements.79 Ultimately, firepower and naval superiority decided the fate of the Müntefik Detachment after a defence lasting 20 days. Gorringe launched the final attack on Nasiriya from both banks of the river on the morning of 24 July, and the first line of defence began to crumble under enemy fire and flanking attacks. Ahmed could not use tribal contingents to counter-attack, so he attempted to pull his regular forces back, finally evacuating Nasiriya during the night. Just as at Amara, tribesmen began looting the town and attacking isolated Ottoman soldiers. After a harrowing week-long march, Ahmed and some 1500 soldiers reached Kut al Amara.80 The Ottoman situation in Mesopotamia was rapidly deteriorating. The loss of Nasiriya fuelled large-scale rebellions, particularly in Samawa and Hilla. Nurettin was forced to send two infantry battalions and several other detachments to suppress rebellions and defend towns against tribal attacks. Fortunately, Nixon was unaware of the seriously weakened Ottoman position in the northern Euphrates Valley. With enormous difficulty, a new regiment, the 141st, was formed and tasked to defend Samawa on the Euphrates River with Ajaimi Sadun’s tribal contingents (some 2000 strong) forming an important element of the defensive effort. Nurettin reorganised the tribal cavalry at the Tigris and transformed it into an irregular cavalry division under Mehmed Fazıl Pasha (consisting of İzzet Pasha’s 1st Brigade and Mazhar Pasha’s 2nd Brigade). Two irregular camel-mounted (hecinsüvar) regiments, two irregular infantry battalions and two mountain batteries (equipped with old 75mmm Krupp mountain guns) were also sent to reinforce them.81 Nurettin abandoned the forward defensive positions around Ali al Sharqi on the Tigris River and tasked the 38th Division with the defence of Kut, even though the Ottoman General Staff had repeatedly ordered him not to abandon any territory without a fight. Lieutenant Colonel Refik retained a covering force at Sheikh Saad and commenced defensive works around Es Sinn and Kut.

79 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 27–28; War Diary Mesopotamia Intelligence, July 1915, TNA, WO 157/777; Report from General Sir J.E. Nixon Operations of IEF D, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 3–4; From Subgovernor of Müntefik to Ministry of Interior, 22 May 1915, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, pp. 66–67; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 287–320; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 274–290; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 131–145; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 52–57; Murphy, Soldiers of the Prophet, pp. 82–83; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 106–114. 80 Report from General Sir J.E. Nixon Operations of IEF D, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 5–6; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 321–341; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 290–298; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 146–152; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 58–61; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 30–31. 81 The overall strength of the irregular division was 3656 cavalrymen, 1980 infantry and 338 camelmounted warriors.

140  The year of uncertainty Meanwhile, the 35th Division was re-formed once again from scratch and despatched to reinforce Kut.82 With the fall of Nasiriya, Nixon and the Indian government lost no time in pressuring London to authorise the capture of Kut al Amara. After a month of deliberation that saw a constant exchange of messages, they secured approval.83 On 23 August, Nixon ordered Townshend to destroy and disperse the Ottoman units and to occupy Kut. Following a brief preparation and lengthy troop movements, Townshend completed the concentration of his forces at Ali al Gharbi on 11 September. The advance, known as ‘Townshend’s Regatta’, began the next day. On 13 September, the Ottoman covering force evacuated Sheikh Saad and fell back to Es Sinn. The Ottoman defence covered the area between the marshes on both banks of the river, with the 35th Division on the right bank and the 38th Division on the left. Townshend decided to throw his main body and flank against the Ottoman left while retaining a light force on the right bank to pin the Ottomans there as long as possible. Surprise was the pivotal element of the plan.84 The British troops began their advance to attack on 27 September, having spent a day disembarking, concentrating and building a floating bridge. The Ottoman defenders waited patiently, firing only on targets of opportunity. The main attack proceeded more or less according to plan the following day. The reinforced 17th Brigade succeeded in flanking the weakly defended Suwada marsh. Although Nurettin managed to move the 104th Regiment from the right bank, the British had already moved behind the main defensive line. Throughout the day, the Ottoman troops fought desperately to stop the British pincer closing to encircle them, finally exhausting the British infantry. During the night, Ottoman forces slipped away, taking most of their guns and equipment. Townshend entered Kut on 30 September having won, according to Chandler, “one of the most brilliant actions, possibly the most brilliant, fought by the Indian Army”.85 82 War Diary Mesopotamia Intelligence, July 1915, TNA, WO 157/777; War Diary Mesopotamia Intelligence, August 1915, TNA, WO 157/778; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 344–352, 357–358; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, p. 463. 83 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 28–30; Goold, “Lord Hardinge”, pp. 927–928; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 86–88; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 117–121. 84 Report from General Sir J.E. Nixon Operations of IEF D, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 6–7; War Diary Mesopotamia Intelligence, September 1915, TNA, WO 157/779; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 362–365; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 301–318; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 87–112; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 37–41; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 158–160; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 32–33; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 26–32. 85 Report from General Sir J.E. Nixon Operations of IEF D, 1915, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 7–9; War Diary Mesopotamia Intelligence, September 1915, TNA, WO 157/779; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 365–369; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 1, pp. 319–338; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 116–121; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 41–50; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 160–163; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 14–20; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 18–20; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 125–130; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 33–34; Sandes, In Kut and ­Captivity, pp. 32–48.

The year of uncertainty  141 Overall, the battle for Es Sinn was an embarrassing failure for Nurettin. He had been completely deceived by the enemy demonstration on the right bank, despite the fact that some Indian deserters had informed him of the essentials of Townshend’s plan. His units, particularly the 38th Division, suffered heavy casualties. However, to his credit, he managed to withdraw his troops in good order and made excellent use of the leisurely approach of his adversary, fortifying a new defensive position further north at Ctesiphon (Selman-ı Pak). It was an ideal place for a defence. The ruins of the massive earthen walls of the ancient city provided excellent high defensive and observation places in otherwise completely flat country. Nurettin constructed two floating bridges to move units between both banks and, in case of defeat, to withdraw his troops quickly and in an orderly fashion. In addition, having petitioned consistently, he received the elite 51st Division (previously known as the 1st Expeditionary Force)86 and the 45th Division, which, while a new formation, was ultimately to prove less than effective. The General Staff promised to send more troops, but clearly these would take some time to materialise.87 Nurettin divided the defence into seven sectors (three on the right bank and four on the left) and positioned his three infantry and one cavalry divisions on the left, leaving the right bank to the 35th Division. The units prepared two main defensive lines (the first line extending 12 kilometres) and numerous positions in between. There were also 15 redoubts in the first line. Motor pumps flooded a number of areas close to the river. The right bank was covered with canals, small hills and remnants of the old riverbed, and was not promising ground for a large offensive. Nurettin anticipated that Townshend would employ a similar flanking manoeuvre to the one that had brought him victory at Es Sinn.88 Thus, he kept his more dynamic and dependable 51st Division to the rear to counter this manoeuvre. The cavalry division was tasked to cover the left flank and harass the enemy attack forces. This was a gamble worth taking. The only major issue was Nurettin’s lack of confidence in his units. Having suffered a series of humiliating defeats, he had enormous misgivings over the ability of his officers and the courage and endurance of the rank and file. This may have been the reason he refused to activate two army corps headquarters,

86 British field commanders unanimously praised the 51st Division. According to Aylmer; “Until Townshend met the Turkish 51st Division at Ctesiphon, our troops had long been opposed to very second rate Turkish units. After that all the Turkish reinforcements were the real thing ‘Real Turks’ ”. From Sir Aylmer to Jones, 6 July 1932, TNA, AIR 1/674/21/6/87. 87 IEF D Intelligence Summary, October 1915, TNA, WO 157/780; Süleymaniyeli Mehmed Emin, Selman-ı Pak Meydan Muharebesi, Matbaa-i Askeriye, Dersaadet, 1337 [1921], pp. 3–13; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 371–375; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 21–23; Townshend, My Campaign, p. 122. 88 The flanking manoeuvre was Townshend’s obsession. As he proudly declares in his memoir, “I always applied the principle of mass against the enemy’s weakest point by using the Turning Manoeuvre with the Principal Mass of my force against the adversary’s flank and rear”. Townshend, My Campaign, p. 9.

142  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.8 Colonel Sakallı Nurettin (in the foreground with binoculars) and his troops in front of great arch of Ctesiphon before the battle. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

as the General Staff had suggested, instead keeping his divisional commanders under his direct control.89 In the British forces, euphoria had reached high levels following the victory at Es Sinn. Nixon was now more certain than ever that, had Townshend pursued the Ottomans relentlessly, he could have entered Baghdad without a fight.90 Even early news of the Ottoman defensive preparations at Ctesiphon did not discourage him. The British government initially did not share his enthusiasm, and on 6 October, Nixon was ordered to halt his advance. However slowly but surely, political expectations and calculations gained ground, with the capture of Baghdad 89 Mesopotamia War Diary Intelligence, November 1915, TNA, WO 157/781; Emin, Selman-ı Pak Meydan Muharebesi, pp. 13–19, 22–26; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 375–376, 380–382, 384–385; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 467–468; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 35–36. 90 The idea of capturing Baghdad was always uppermost in the minds of the British political and military leaders, who had openly discussed this aim immediately after the surrender of Basra. Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 23, 31; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 54–56, 59–61; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, p. 15; Townshend, When God Made Hell, p. 82.

The year of uncertainty  143 promising a much-needed victory following the recent bloody setbacks at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. The British public needed encouraging news and, with each passing day, Baghdad appeared to represent the required tonic. Unsurprisingly, Nixon received his approval on 24 October.91 Townshend commenced his advance on 18 November following a five-week preparation. He had four infantry brigades, the 6th Cavalry Brigade and some reinforced divisional troops. The advance guard easily pushed past the Ottoman covering force at Zor. During the operational planning for Ctesiphon, Townshend had ignored the Ottoman troops on the right bank and positioned all his troops on the left, just as Nurettin had predicted. He divided his combat units into four columns (A, B, C and a flying column). His plan involved the first three columns attacking the Ottoman main defensive line in stages, forcing them to commit their reserves and retreat to the second line, where the flying column would outflank them from the left, fall behind the defence and block the Ottoman forces’ escape towards the Diyala River.92 At midday on 21 November, just as scheduled, Column C advanced to contact and the others followed its lead. The advance continued during the night, the units plagued by confusion and chaos. Despite serious problems, the columns began their attacks in stages early in the morning. The Ottoman troops waited for their advance and then opened well-disciplined and concentrated fire. This was an enormous shock for the British troops, who were expecting a feeble defence that would melt in the face of their rapid advance. Given his previous bitter experiences, Nurettin was quick to disable the British river flotilla which threatened to advance and provide fire support. The height of the river banks was also instrumental in restricting naval gunnery. The Ottoman regiments retreated to the second line in an orderly fashion when the enemy attacks and gunfire began to cause unnecessary casualties. Nurettin moved two regiments from the right bank and left just one in place. In the confusion of battle and under heavy Ottoman fire, the flying column attacked towards the second defensive line instead of outflanking it. The 51st Division launched its counter-attack quickly and decisively. The British cavalry suffered heavy casualties and were only saved by reinforcements from Column B. Townshend had no reserves and had to wait for nightfall to extract

91 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 31–38; The Campaign in Mesopotamia, TNA, AIR 1/674/21/6/87, Part 1, pp. 7–9; Goold, “Lord Hardinge”, pp. 931–934; Galbraith, “No Man’s Child”, pp. 359–360, 365, 368–371; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 113–133; F.J. Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, vol. 2, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1924, pp. 4–33; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 79–83; Busch, Britain, India, and the Arabs, pp. 30–36; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 2–7; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 133–134. 92 Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 34–71; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 143– 150, 163–167; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 56–59; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp. 166– 170; W.D. Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, Forster Groom & Co., London, 1923, pp. 43–44, 47–58; Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara: At War in Mesopotamia 1915–1916, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2014, pp. 31–34; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 53–59, 66–71.

144  The year of uncertainty his forces.93 Over the next two days, both sides launched a series of attacks and counter-attacks. It was a terrible ordeal and Townshend finally abandoned his assault, having suffered heavy casualties and wary of the possibility of Ottoman reinforcements.94 Nurettin, however, was pessimistic about the potential course of the battle and anxious to avoid another defeat. Both sides began to withdraw at almost the same time without the knowledge of the other.95 The Ottoman side realised what had occurred slightly earlier than the British and immediately pursued the enemy, albeit without much success. Initially, valuable time was lost in reorganising the units. Then, just as the troops of the Ottoman advance guard were catching the British at Aziziya, they discovered a large amount of supplies and equipment, which Townshend later claimed to have destroyed during the retreat. This lucky find, however, disrupted the pursuit as the regular cavalry units stopped to secure Aziziya from the local tribes. Finally, once the 45th and 51st divisions caught up to the British rearguard at Umm atTubul (Delabadiya), the hasty night and day attacks failed, and both divisions suffered casualties. Most damagingly, however, a random artillery shell killed Colonel Mehmed Ali, acting commander of the newly founded XII Corps, and some key members of his staff, disrupting the pursuit and discouraging the Ottoman troops. Despite this, they captured three gunboats (including HMS Firefly) and three barges. Ultimately, however, Townshend successfully exploited Ottoman weaknesses and entered Kut on 3 December. After these series of poor command decisions and setbacks, the Ottoman High Command once again lost faith in Nurettin.96

93 Report by Brevet-Colonel S.H. Climo the Operations of the 30th Composite Brigade during the Battle of Ctesiphon, 1917, TNA, WO 106/53; Emin, Selman-ı Pak Meydan Muharebesi, pp. 32–60; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 388–392; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 72–91; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 169–180; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 59–62; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, p. 172; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 59–75; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 23–26; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-alAmara, pp. 35–40; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 59–62, 71–80. 94 Townshend erroneously claims that Halil (Kut) Pasha “appeared on the scene, like Blücher at Waterloo”. Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 10, 180–184; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 75–88; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 40–42; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 81–89. 95 Mesopotamia War Diary Intelligence, November 1915, TNA, WO 157/781; Emin, Selman-ı Pak Meydan Muharebesi, pp.  78–93; İlhan Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 1975, pp.  194–196; Halil Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı Halil Kut Paşa’nın Hatıraları, (ed.) Erhan Çiftci, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, p. 148; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 26–27; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 37–40. 96 Mesopotamia War Diary Intelligence, November 1915, TNA, WO 157/781; G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence, Summaries, December 1915, TNA, WO 157/782; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 395–421; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 92–125; Townshend, My Campaign, pp.  185–219; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 490– 493, 497–498; Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, pp. 189, 196–205; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, pp.  176–188; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 149–150; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 90–93; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 27–29; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 44–56; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 167–173; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 41–42; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 92–116.

The year of uncertainty  145

Figure 4.9 Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz with his personal staff in İstanbul.

Townshend was keen to make a stand in Kut al Amara to safeguard his territorial gains and to protect Basra. He received approval from his superiors to entrench at Kut as another Indian Army corps of two combat-experienced divisions was soon to arrive in Iraq to relieve his force.97 Nurettin, on the other hand, embarked on a siege of Kut by positioning most of his troops around the town and sending mobile detachments (mostly cavalry except for a composite brigade reinforced with gendarmerie and border guards) downstream to block the arrival of an enemy relief force on 7 December.98 Townshend just had time to send the 6th Cavalry Brigade and as many wounded and sick as he could down the river before he was permanently cut off.99 97 Report from Lt.Gen. Sir P.H.N. Lake on the Defence of Kut al Amara, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 2–5; Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 41–43; G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence, Summaries, December 1915, TNA, WO 157/782; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 198, 209–212; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 56–69; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 139–143. 98 XIII Corps (35th Division and Mehmed Fazıl Pasha’s composite cavalry brigade) was in charge of covering the left bank with outposts and piquets, while XVIII Corps (38th, 45th and 51st divisions) were positioned against the enemy defences. Nurettin kept the newly arrived 52nd Division in reserve. 99 Report from Lt.Gen. Sir P.H.N. Lake on the Defence of Kut al Amara, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 6–7; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 421–432; Moberly, The Campaign in

146

The year of uncertainty

By now, the Ottoman General Staff had begun to recognise the necessity of reorganising units that had endured a series of crises into an overall defence. They also had to overcome a lack of trust and confidence in the commanders on the ground. Moreover, the German General Staff had requested a concentrated effort in Persia against the British and Russians under the pretext of the liberation of the Persian people. The Sixth Army was born of efforts to fulfil these two widely divergent aims. Field Marshal Freiherr Colmar von der Goltz was appointed commanding general and Colonel Kazım [Karabekir] his chief of staff, selected by Enver Pasha in order to monitor and balance the German influence. Von der Goltz arrived in Baghdad with his small staff on 7 December 1915. In addition to the Sixth Army, von der Goltz was in charge of all Ottoman-German expeditionary forces and teams (including military attachés and intelligence operatives) in Persia and Afghanistan. Due to von der Goltz’s dual responsibilities, Iraq and Surrounding Regions Command was preserved under the Sixth Army with two new army corps, XIII and XVIII corps, attached to it.100 Nurettin was very upset by the degradation of his status and interpreted this new organisational change as a measure of distrust and as discrediting him. He was determined to show the General Staff how wrong they were by capturing Kut prior to handing over command to von der Goltz. In his determination to achieve this, Nurettin ignored the effects of rapid, protracted and almost continuous marching and advance guard actions on his men. He also failed to concentrate his troops properly and carefully reconnoitre the enemy’s position before launching his attacks. Following a cursory evaluation, Nurettin identified Hudeyra Fort (known in British official sources as ‘Fort at Kut’) as the nerve centre of the enemy first line of defence and tasked the 38th Division to capture it while the 45th and 51st divisions would attack the centre. The assault began on 10 December. Despite an Ottoman artillery bombardment of the fort lasting two days, the 38th Division’s attacks failed with heavy casualties. The other divisions also failed dramatically, mostly due to poor fire support and heavy enemy machine-gun fire. Determined to achieve success, Nurettin obstinately continued to send in troops the following day. The bloody carnage was repeated in its entirety.101

 Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 126–147, 164–165; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 190, 213, 217, 220; Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, p. 189; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 99–104; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 173–179. 100 The 52nd Division arrived in theatre a month later. Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 376–378, 412–413, 427, 483–493, orbat 11; Colmar von der Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, (eds.) Friedrich von der Goltz, Wolfgang Foerster, E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1929, pp. 416– 419, 422–423, 430–431; Hans von Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha in Mesopotamien und Persien, Dieterichische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Leipzig, 1922, pp. 17–20, 44–46; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 444, 447–454, 459, 500; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 142–144; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 184–185; İsmail Hakkı Okday, Yanya’dan Ankara’ya, Sebil Yayınevi, İstanbul, 1975, pp. 244–255. 101 Report from Lt.Gen. Sir P.H.N. Lake on the Defence of Kut al Amara, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 8–10; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 449–459; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 89–92; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia,

The year of uncertainty 147 Reluctantly, Nurettin abandoned frontal attacks against the enemy line and instead focused on eliminating the British beachhead on the left bank in Woolpres (Elhan). Two battalions (and later a regimental group) attacked almost continuously for ten days without destroying the British position because of effective enemy fire from the other bank. Undeterred by a series of blunders and an everrising toll of casualties, Nurettin ordered his fresh division, the 52nd, to capture Hudeyra Fort. The success of the plan depended on cutting the wire and breaching the fortification prior to the start of the main assault. Small detachments attempted to cut the wire during the night and the artillery sought to breach the wall with a sudden intense barrage on the morning of 27 December. The Ottoman infantry managed to reach the walls and even captured some parts of the first line, but were mown down by accurate machine-gun fire from both sides. Nurettin sent more troops to renew the assault until late in the night, when the forward elements were ordered back. On his arrival, von der Goltz ended the futile and bloody assaults and initiated a lengthy siege operation.102

Gallipoli Front The Ottoman General Staff had long believed that the most vulnerable parts of the empire were its capital, İstanbul, and the Straits. Previous conflicts and crises had clearly established a pattern in which the enemies of the empire had tried to force the Straits in order to dictate their terms to the Ottoman government. The Dardanelles Straits and Gallipoli Peninsula had been part of an organised Fortress Command (Çanakkale Müstahkem Mevki Kumandanlığı) from very early times which had seen fortresses and other fortifications built, enlarged and rebuilt during the reign of several Ottoman sultans. From time to time, responsibility for the area’s defence was transferred to other operational commands, but the Fortified Zone Command had retained responsibility for the defensive system itself.103 vol. 2, pp. 169–176; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 223, 225–230; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 500–502, 512–513; Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, pp. 208– 211; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 30–34; Rahmi Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1988, pp. 138–140; Şükrü Kanatlı, Irak Muharebesinde 3. Piyade Alayı Hatıraları, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1945, pp. 13–21; Okday, Yanya’dan Ankara’ya, pp. 288–290; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 185–191; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 43–44; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 124, 137–142. 102 Report from Lt.Gen. Sir P.H.N. Lake on the Defence of Kut al Amara, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 10–11; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 467–493; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 92–95; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, pp. 432–434; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 176–182; Townshend, My Campaign, pp. 231–234; Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, pp. 211–217; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 151–152; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 513–517; Townshend, When God Made Hell, pp. 184–185; Okday, Yanya’dan Ankara’ya, pp. 290–291; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 44–45; Sandes, In Kut and Captivity, pp. 152–163. 103 Sedad Doğruer, Boğazlar Meselesi ve Çanakkale Muharebe-i Bahriyesinde Türk Zaferi, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1927, pp. 10–18, 51–53; Michael Forrest, The Defence of Dardanelles: From Bombards to Battleships, Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2012, pp. 5–19; Saim Besbelli, Birinci

148  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.10 Cevad [Çobanlı] Pasha and the Dardanelles Fortified Zone Command staff. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

During the Ottoman-Italian War of 1911–1912, the Italian Navy launched several demonstrations and bombarded a number of the outer fortifications.104 During the Balkan Wars, the entire peninsula had been fortified against possible amphibious operations, although instead of naval attack or amphibious landing, the threat had materialised from the land.105 The Composite Gallipoli Corps had utilised the ageing Crimean War era Bolayır (Bulair) defensive line

Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Deniz Harekâtı, vol. 8, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1976, pp. 88–92. 104 Büyüktuğrul, Osmanlı Deniz Harp Tarihi, vol. 4, pp. 94–96, 105–113. Although the Italians had limited capacity to launch an amphibious landing, the Ottoman leadership decided to activate a field army with six divisions to take over the land defence from the Fortified Zone Command. The Çanakkale (Dardanelles) Provisional Army was activated under the command of Ali Rıza Pasha in October 1911. II Corps (5th, 9th and İzmit divisions) and III Corps (Bursa, Çanakkale and Edremit divisions) were placed under command of this new field army. Ali Rıza Pasha tasked II Corps with the defence of the Gallipoli Peninsula and III Corps with safeguarding the Anatolian side of the Straits. The Seddülbahir (Helles), Kabatepe (Gaba Tepe) and Kumkale regions were identified as possible main landing sites. Two regular divisions and a first-rate reserve division, Bursa, were assigned to the defence of these key regions. Hamdi Ertuna, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Tarihi Osmanlı Devri, Osmanlı-İtalyan Harbi (1911–1912), Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1981, pp. 372–383. 105 Initially, XV Provisional Army Corps (Çanakkale and Edremit divisions) was tasked with defending the Dardanelles against enemy landings given the continuing Italian threat and the added possibility of attacks by Greek forces.

The year of uncertainty  149 against a Bulgarian approach from Thrace.106 While the peninsula defence system remained incomplete, it allowed staff and artillery officers to analyse and practise the concepts of defence against amphibious operations. These experiences also highlighted some of the requirements and limitations of the army’s basic defensive principles. The Fortified Zone Command, for example, discovered not only the serious limitations of the current Straits defence and how to remedy these, but also the necessity to prepare and coordinate a defence against landings. A defensive system to counter landings based on a provisional army or army corps with six divisions was also devised during these crises.107 Recognising this obvious threat, the General Staff began to concentrate most of the army corps and divisions around İstanbul, Thrace and Western Anatolia following the declaration of mobilisation. In accordance with the mobilisation and concentration plan, III Corps was tasked with reinforcement of the Gallipoli Peninsula and Asian coastline defence against a possible enemy landing. The Dardanelles Fortified Zone Command was in charge of the naval defence and necessary defensive preparations to repel enemy landings. However, only the 9th Division was initially assigned to reinforce the Fortified Zone against possible landings. Obviously, at this stage, the General Staff was gambling on the slow pace of enemy action and was expecting a naval attack with limited amphibious landings against fortified positions.108

106 XV Corps was disbanded and a new formation, the Composite Gallipoli Army Corps, was activated under the command of Çolak Fahri Pasha. Fahri Pasha wisely left the Fortified Zone Command to deal with any naval attack against the Straits and instead focused on the land defence system. He quickly implemented the old defensive plans, modifying them slightly. Instead of holding the Anatolian side with two divisions, he activated the Menderes Divisional Group and tasked it with the defence. He kept his two best divisions in reserve and manned the southern side of the peninsula with two reserve divisions. He allocated most of his firepower to the Bolayır defensive line. Hikmet Süer, TSK Tarihi Osmanlı Devri Balkan Harbi Şark Ordusu İkinci Çatalca Muharebesi ve Şarköy Çıkarması, vol. 2, Section 2, Book 2, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 30–35, 50, 72–76; Hüsnü Ersü, 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde Şarköy Çıkarması ve Bulayır Muharebeleri, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1938, pp. 14–26; Muhterem Saral et.al., Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Çanakkale Cephesi Harekâtı, vol. 5, Book 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 33–39, 44–47. 107 Some of the Ottoman Army’s key military leaders and units gained first-hand battle experience during these wars. Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] was the Chief of Operations Branch of the Composite Corps and was one of the key planners of the Şarköy-Bolayır amphibious operation. Likewise, most of the future soldiers of the 9th and 19th divisions learnt their trade during these crises and wars. These men were mostly from the Dardanelles or neighbouring regions, and knew the terrain intimately. The recent rehearsals ensured that they learnt the basics of entrenchment, musketry in the field and independent small unit actions. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, (ed.) Suat Akgül et.al., Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 2011, pp. 5–6; Şefik Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları ve 27. Alay, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1935, pp. 30–31; Edward J. Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I: A Comparative Study, Routledge, London, 2014, pp. 17–19. 108 Halis Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, (ed.) Serdar H. Ataksor, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2008, pp. 26, 32–41; Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, vol. 1, pp. 157–159, 177–179,

150  The year of uncertainty On 16 August, Enver Pasha asked Germany to send a new mission of specialists to reorganise and reinforce the defence of the Straits. To ensure that the Ottomans entered the war as soon as possible, Berlin immediately met this demand, and included additional personnel beyond that which had been demanded in order to address the technical and administrative vacancies created by the departure of the Limpus mission – all in all, 26 officers and 520 soldiers. Under the command of Admiral Guido von Usedom, the mission – which was formally named as Sonderkommando Kaiserliche Marine Türkei – left for Ottoman lands secretly in small parties, and all of them succeeded in reaching their posts by the end of August. As such, a strong, autonomous mission entirely independent of von Sanders had taken over the defence of the Straits, which he had viewed as his own domain. Von Usedom was appointed inspector-general of both the İstanbul and Dardanelles fortifications and other naval defences. His deputy, Vice Admiral Johannes Merten, was given responsibility for supervising and mentoring the Dardanelles defences, while Captain von Kühlwetter became the inspector of the Bosphorus defences (due to his chronic illness, he was replaced by Captain Reclam in December).109 Colonel Cevat [Çobanlı], commanding officer of the Fortified Zone, deployed his 2nd Heavy Artillery Brigade, 8th Heavy Howitzer Regiment and miscellaneous combat and combat support units into 14 permanent fortifications and some 40 mobile batteries. A bewildering variety of mostly obsolete artillery pieces of all calibres and types covered the Straits. In addition, eight contact mine belts (the number of mine belts would eventually reach 11) were laid and two fixed torpedo launchers were deployed. In direct contrast to contemporary accounts and some modern analysis, mine belts (not the fortresses) were the primary defensive component which the fortresses and mobile howitzer batteries were tasked to protect and support.110 Von Usedom and his team provided crucial help to the Ottoman

199–200; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 1, pp. 1–3; Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness, pp. 19–20. 109 From von Usedom to Müller, 9 September 1914; from von Usedom to Kaiser, 8 December 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; Hermann Lorey, Der krieg in den türkischen Gewässern, Zweiter Band: Der Kampf um die Meerengen, Verlag von E.S. Mittler&Sohn, Berlin, 1938, pp. 3–11; Deutsche Offiziere in der Türkei, Reichsarchiv, Berlin, 1940, p. 39; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 155, 161, 187; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 102–103; Okday, Yanya’dan Ankara’ya, pp. 187, 223–224. 110 Defence Plan of the Fortified Zone Command against Naval Attacks, 8 November 1914; Inventory and Location of Artillery Guns, ATBD, no. 132, January 2014, pp. 1–8, 76–79; From von Usedom to Müller, 9 September 1914; from von Usedom to Kaiser, 8 December 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 44–47, 81–91, 93–97; Sedad, Boğazlar Meselesi ve Çanakkale, pp. 109–118; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 2, pp. 11–19; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 93–96, 103–108; Forrest, The Defence of Dardanelles, pp. 45–71, 75–78; Victor Rudenno, Gallipoli: Attack from the Sea, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2008, pp. 26–30, 34; E. Michael Golda, “The Dardanelles Campaign: A Historical Analogy for Littoral Mine Warfare”, Naval War College Review, vol. 51, no. 3, Summer 1998, pp. 83–87, 91–92; Carl Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, Druck und Verlag Gerhard Stalling, Oldenburg, 1927, pp. 50–51.

Orhaniye

Seddülbahir

Ocean Kumkale çakaltepe

Bouvet

Irresistible

Map 4.2  The Ottoman defence of Dardanelles Strait.

Ertuğrul

Domuzdere

Anadolu hamidiye

Çimenlik

Anadolu mecidiye

Capital ship sunk

Minefield

Fortress/heavy artillery position

Legend

Turgut reis

Anadolu mesudiye

Hasan mevsuf (dardanos)

h



Rumeli hamidiye Rumeli mecidiye Yildiz

Rumeli mesudiye (baykuş)

Kayalik tepe

Değirmen burnu N am az

The year of uncertainty  151

152  The year of uncertainty defenders in planning and training.111 However, despite its promises, Germany did not supply much-needed new guns, ammunition and equipment. All transportation between Germany and the Ottoman Empire was at the mercy of Romania and Bulgaria, and only a fraction of the promised help arrived.112 III Corps remained on high alert to reinforce the defence at Tekirdağ until the proclamation of war and, on 2 November, Esad Pasha moved his headquarters and remaining units to the Dardanelles.113 Just one day later, the combined British and French flotilla commenced limited naval bombardment of the outer fortifications, dramatically increasing the likelihood of an attack. The Ottoman General Staff started to strip officers and heavy artillery guns, mainly from Edirne but also Erzurum and other fortresses, and transferred them to the Dardanelles. Officers and units arrived to their new positions in relatively short time, but not the guns. It took lots of time and energy to dismantle and transport fortress guns and their ammunition.114 Cevad and his staff were unhappy at the prospect of relinquishing control of the defence against the landings. They regarded the new division of responsibility as detrimental to the integrity of the defensive plan. The Dardanelles region had been under the control of the fortress artillery for over a century. 111 From von Usedom to Kaiser 15 October 1914 and November 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 2, pp. 11, 17–19. It is important to note that with increased numbers of German officers and technicians, the duplication in authority and their privileged positions created uneasiness and, to a certain extent, antagonism among the Ottoman artillery officers. Eyüp Durukan, Günlüklerde Bir Ömür II: Sofya Esaretinden Çanakkale Zaferine (1913–1915), (ed.) Murat Uluğtekin, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2014, pp.  338–340; Selahattin Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, Yeditepe Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 54–55; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp.  51–53; Mehmet Şevki Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale: Cephaneniz Yoksa Süngünüz Var, (ed.) Tuncay Yılmazer, Yeditepe Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2008, pp. 41–42. 112 Ulrich Trumpener, “German Military Aid to Turkey in 1914: A Historical Re-evaluation”, The Journal of Modern History, vol. 32, no. 2, June 1960, pp. 145–149; Hans Kannengiesser, Campaign in Gallipoli, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1928, pp. 57–58. Cannons and machine-guns from the old warships were also dismantled and deployed as reinforcements to existing fortifications or newly constructed positions. Likewise, the ancient battleship Mesudiye was anchored as a floating battery until it was sunk by the British submarine B11 on 13 December. However, its guns were salvaged and transferred to nearby fortifications. Incident Reports, 13 December 1914, ATBD, no. 132, January 2014, pp. 60–64; Nazmi, Çanakkale Deniz Savaşları Günlüğü (1914–1922), (ed.) Cevat İnce, Çanakkale Deniz Müzesi Komutanlığı, İzmir, 2004, pp. 15–20; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 143–144, 148; Julian S. Corbett, Naval Operations, vol. 2, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1921, pp. 72–73; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 109–110, 155, 427–428; Büyüktuğrul, Osmanlı Deniz Harp Tarihi, pp. 413–414; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 59–60; Rudenno, Gallipoli, pp. 19–23; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 138–141. 113 Reports and Returns between Fortified Zone Command and the Ottoman High Command, 3 November 1914, ATBD, no. 132, January 2014, pp. 26–36; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 3, pp. 356–358, 360–365; Fahrettin Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası (1912–1922), İnsel Yayınları, İstanbul, 1970, pp. 81–82. 114 From von Usedom to Kaiser 15 October 1914 and November 1914, TNA, CAB 45/215; Lokman Erdemir and İsmail Güneş (eds.), Meçhul Subay: Çanakkale Cephesinde Bir Topçu Subayının Günlüğü, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 11, 13–15, 31–33; Rudenno, Gallipoli, p. 13.

The year of uncertainty  153 Unsurprisingly, the Fortified Zone Command regarded itself as the rightful military guardian of the Dardanelles defence. Esad Pasha approached the problem diplomatically, wary of offending the Zone Command staff. After several meetings, he approved the existing defence plans and allowed the Zone Command staff to resume their traditional role.115 As with previous plans and deployments, the Fortified Zone Command expected the main landings to occur at the southern tip of the peninsula (SeddülbahirCape Helles region) and the Kabatepe region, as these two areas offered the shortest avenues of approach to overcome the Straits defences on the peninsula. Consequently, most of the available troops were allocated to these areas, while the other suitable landing sites at Bolayır-Saros, Kumkale and Beşika were covered by a weak screening force on the coastline and some mobile reserves positioned behind. The Ottoman artillery experts argued the case for destroying the enemy landing forces on the coast using mutually supporting prepared positions, denying them the opportunity to establish beachheads. They knew from previous campaigns that naval artillery fire, with its flat trajectory, posed little serious threat to entrenched infantry. The lack of paved roads on the peninsula and the limited mobility of the infantry regiments also influenced their thinking. As a result, the main defensive body was sited in forward positions close to the possible landing sites, while small reserves were retained in the interior. In addition, most of the mobile artillery batteries and machine-guns were sited close to the coast in covered firing positions.116 The key principle of the defensive concept was to anchor battalion and regiment-level defensive positions around selected fortified points. Zığındere, Kumtepe, Kabatepe and three other locations (Teke, Eskihisarlık and Seddülbahir) at Helles were selected as critical positions for fortification. The construction and improvement of defensive positions overlooking possible landing sites was commenced early, but the shortage of barbed wire and other entrenching material slowed progress. By the end of March, only some sections of Seddülbahir and Kabatepe had been fortified. The main problem at this stage was the lack of troops, with the Ottoman General Staff initially assigning only the 9th Division and four local gendarmerie battalions to perform this immense defensive work. Headquarters III Corps and the 7th Division arrived later. This was a serious limitation. Previous experience told them that at least six divisions would be required to prepare and conduct the defence. The additional divisions were finally allocated at the end of March following the arrival of Liman von

115 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 2, pp. 361–368, 374–375; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 45–46; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 3, pp. 431–432; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 83–84; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 54–55. 116 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 3, pp. 462–463; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 2011, pp.  7–9; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 54–105; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 214–217; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar  – Hatıralar, pp. 79–80; Aker, Çanakkale  – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 12–13; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 102–106, 110.

154  The year of uncertainty Sanders.117 In the meantime, the Fortified Zone Command decided to assign permanent fire support units from its reserve personnel to fortified points to compensate for the constant rotation of the infantry units. While it was easy to allocate personnel from the reserves, it was far more difficult to arm them. Eventually, a motley collection of antiquated weapons discarded by active army and navy units, and others purloined from surplus stocks, were given to these new units. This was a desperate measure, as most of these weapons were too old to be reliable and prone to malfunction. They had no spare parts and limited stocks of ammunition.118 The Allied fleet,119 which largely consisted of surplus obsolete warships120 under command of Admiral Sackville Carden, began to bombard the outer forts methodically on 19 February – the anniversary of the British forcing of the Dardanelles in 1807 – and ceased on 25 February. Small demolition teams of Royal Marines landed at Helles and Kumkale, and destroyed the remaining guns between 27 February and 3 March, encountering little resistance. These easy successes had a profound effect on the attackers. First, they reinforced the widely held belief in the poor fighting qualities of the Ottoman Army. Second, serious concerns about opposed landings all but disappeared as the confidence of the Allied forces mounted. Interestingly, only a few Allied staff officers recognised the significance of the failed Marine landings on 4 March. On this occasion, the Marines met unexpected resistance and had to be extricated under heavy naval bombardment. While Ottoman casualties numbered fewer than 50, the 5th Fortress Regiment was disbanded and its personnel reassigned to other units. Two days later, the fleet began to bombard the intermediate fortifications. This time, however, it came under heavy fire and encountered enormous problems. Mobile howitzer batteries and searchlights hindered mine-clearing operations and long-range naval fire, which lacked effective observation and failed to reduce the intermediate and inner fortresses. In the battle between flat-trajectory naval fire and plunging howitzer fire, the mobile howitzers performed far more effectively and fired with relative

117 Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 187, 214–215; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 97–98. 118 Among these, a number of ex-Navy 1-inch (three- or four-barrelled) Nordenfelt and 37mm Maxim-Nordenfelt (known as a ‘pom-pom’) rapid fire guns were organised into platoons (two or three guns) and companies (12 or 13 guns) and assigned to fortified positions. Similarly, some of the surplus 87mm Krupp L/24 M1886 field guns from the Fortified Zone Command inventory were also distributed to two-gun platoons in various locations, including Kabatepe. Çanakkale Muharebelerinde 19ncu Tümen Cerideleri (The 19th Division War Diaries during the Dardanelles Campaign hereafter, The 19th Division War Diary), vol. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 2015, pp. 309, 315, 336–340, 355; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, p. 71; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, p. 233. 119 The majority of the ships were British, but the fleet included a squadron of French battleships and a Russian cruiser, Askold. 120 With the chief exceptions of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the most formidable battleship at that time, and modern cruiser HMS Inflexible. However, in terms of fire power and range these obsolete ships armed with 12-inch guns had tremendous advantage over the Ottoman fortress guns.

The year of uncertainty  155 impunity. The Ottomans exploited pauses in the action, rapidly repairing damage and improving fortifications. It soon became apparent to the Allies that they could not silence the forts, let alone destroy them. Similarly, firepower also effectively curbed the operations of the Allied minesweepers and most mine belts remained more or less intact.121 Given these circumstances and amidst a crisis of confidence, Carden collapsed and the new fleet commander, Admiral John de Robeck, gambled on forcing the Straits using all the naval power at his disposal after getting Churchill’s approval. The Allied armada, organised in four battle lines, entered the Straits, the powerful modern battleships firing salvo after salvo from a distance in an attempt to dominate the forts. Under cover of their fire, a second line of battleships joined them, using short-range bombardments, also aiming to reduce the forts. By now, the Ottoman defenders were well aware of the Allied routine and their limited capacity to sustain damage. They held their fire and waited patiently in their redoubts for the ships to reach effective fire range. One by one, the Allied ships were devastated by the accurate, relentless fire. The mobile howitzers wreaked havoc on the wooden decks of the ships with their plunging fire.122 But by far the greatest damage was inflicted by the mines. First, the French battleship Bouvet struck a mine and sank quickly.123 Then Inflexible, Irresistible and Ocean also struck mines, one

121 Von Usedom, The Comprehensive Despatch on the Battle of the Dardanelles from 19 February 1915, TNA, CAB 45/215; Dispatch from the 9th Division to the Fortified Zone Command, 5 March 1915; from the 19th Division to the Fortified Zone Command, 7 March 1915, ATBD, no. 88, pp. 13–17; The 19th Division War Diary, pp.  78–87, 95–96, 101–102, 151–159, 172, 181–183; Incident Reports from Fortresses, 19–20 February 1915; Incident Reports from Fortresses, 25 February–1 March 1915; Reports and Returns between the 9th and 19th divisions, 4 March 1915; From Fortified Zone Command to Ottoman High Command, 5 March 1916, ATBD, no. 132, January 2014, pp. 85–112, 169–184, 217–224; Dardanelles Operations, Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1 annexes, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, 1924, pp. 51–55; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 2, pp. 48–76; Nazmi, Çanakkale Deniz Savaşları, pp.  39–46 Corbett, Naval Operations, pp. 75–78; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 106–170; Corbett, Naval Operations, pp. 143–149, 157–174, 178–195, 205–210; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 158–174; Sedad, Boğazlar Meselesi ve Çanakkale, pp. 146–168; Forrest, The Defence of Dardanelles, pp. 94–116; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar  – Hatıralar, pp. 57–62; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, pp. 250–251; Rudenno, Gallipoli, pp. 33–43; Roger Keyes, The Fight for Gallipoli, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1941, pp. 16–23; Erdemir and Güneş, Meçhul Subay, pp. 35–39; Robin Prior, Gallipoli: The End of the Myth, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2010, pp. 35–53. 122 Almost all the battleships took several hits. However only the French ships Suffren and Gaulois and the British ships Agamemnon and Inflexible (which also struck a mine later) were seriously damaged. 123 Early military reports credited the heavy artillery battery at the Rumeli Mecidiye Fortress for the sinking of Bouvet but later on, depending upon mostly British newspapers and Allied declarations, the Ottoman authorities corrected the official account and credited mines instead. Interestingly, modern archaeological surveys and recent scholarship seem to prove that Ottoman heavy artillery fire was responsible of sinking Bouvet. Ayhan Aktar, “Who Sank the Battleship Bouvet on 18 March 1915? The Problems of Imported Histiography in Turkey”, War & Society, vol. 36, no. 3, August 2017, pp. 197–216.

156  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.11 Ottoman and German crew of a Krupp 240mm heavy gun.

after the other. Inflexible managed to limp away from the battle zone, but the other ships were abondoned and left to their fate. De Robeck had no alternative but to halt the operation and withdraw.124 Following this disaster of losing seven of his 16 capital ships,125 de Robeck dared not mount another attempt to force the Straits. He consulted newly appointed Mediterranean Expeditionary Force Commander General Ian Hamilton, and they

124 Von Usedom, The Comprehensive Despatch on the Battle of the Dardanelles from 19 February 1915, TNA, CAB 45/215; Incident Reports from the Fortresses and Independent Formations, 18 March 1915; Order of the Day, 19 March 1915, ATBD, no. 132, January 2014, pp. 266–293; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 170–186, 203–209; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 2, pp. 77–96; “Zwei Dardanellen kämpfe”, (ed.) Eberhard von Mantey, Auf See unbesiegt: Erlebnisse in Seekrieg erzählt von Mitkämpfern, Erster Band, J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, München, 1922, pp. 107–111; Dardanelles Operations, Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1 annexes, pp. 78–81; Corbett, Naval Operations, pp. 211–223; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 175–186; Sedad, Boğazlar Meselesi ve Çanakkale, pp. 169–176, 180–192; Forrest, The Defence of Dardanelles, pp. 120–135; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 39–44, 66–75; Rudenno, Gallipoli, pp. 48–56; Keyes, The Fight for Gallipoli, pp. 43, 46–77; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 145–148; Erdemir and Güneş, Meçhul Subay, pp. 41–43; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 54–59; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 53–91. 125 Six of them sunk and one was so damaged that it was put out of war.

The year of uncertainty  157 agreed on the need for a combined operation to break the Straits defences.126 With increased confidence, the Ottoman defenders awaited another naval attack as the weeks passed. They had suffered fewer than 100 casualties and lost only four guns destroyed. Other than this, the defensive system remained intact with sufficient ammunition for future battles and eight undamaged mine belts.127 With the telltale signs of an amphibious operation increasing with each passing day, the Ottoman High Command decided to deploy more divisions to the area.128 Experiences from the Ottoman-Italian War clearly pointed to the importance of command and control, both of an increased number of divisions and of the Fortified Zone. This experience told the Ottomans that a field army and two army corps headquarters would be required to command the increasing number of units and to coordinate the overall defensive effort. Again, in similar fashion to the Ottoman-Italian War, instead of tasking the available First Army Headquarters, a completely new army, the Fifth Army, was activated, with Liman von Sanders appointed commanding general on 24 March 1915.129 Von Sanders and his small staff arrived and took command of the entire Dardanelles defence system on 26 March. He was briefed by Esad Pasha and decided to 126 Damage Reports from the Fortresses, 19–21 March  1915; From Fortified Zone to Ottoman High Command, 20 March 1915, ATBD, no. 132, January 2014, pp. 294–298; From d’Amade (commander of le corps expéditionnaire d’Orient) to Chief of General Staff 3rd Division, 19 March 1915, Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1 annexes, pp. 225–230; Ian Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, George H. Doran Co., New York, 1920, pp. 40–42, 48; Cecil F. Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, Military Operations Gallipoli, vol. 1, William Heinemann, London, 1929, pp. 98–100 Keyes, The Fight for Gallipoli, pp. 77–101; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, p. 252. 127 Von Usedom, The Comprehensive Despatch on the Battle of the Dardanelles from 19 February 1915, TNA, CAB 45/215; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 212–217, 267– 270; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 2, pp. 96–98; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 44–48. Contemporary Western observers (especially Mühlmann) and modern scholars have claimed that the Ottomans consumed most of their ammunition and had limited means to stop ‘one more push’. The Ottoman documents and personal war narratives contradict this ‘opportunity lost’ theory. See Edward J. Erickson, “One More Push: Forcing the Dardanelles in March 1915”, The Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 24, no. 3, September 2001, pp. 158–175; Sedad, Boğazlar Meselesi ve Çanakkale, pp. 177–178; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 73–74. 128 From General Staff Intelligence Division, 6 March  1915, 7 March  1915, 14 March  1915, 10 April 1915 Osmanlı Belgelerinde Çanakkale Muharebeleri, vol. 1, Başbakanlık Basımevi, Ankara, 2005, pp. 29–31, 43, 60–61. Initially, the 5th Division from II Corps was tasked to cover the isthmus and Saros (Xeros) Bay coast. At the beginning of March, the 11th Division from IV Corps was tasked to cover the Anatolian coast, particularly the Kumkale region. Both units remained under the command of their original corps until the activation of the Fifth Army. Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 187, 214–215; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 137, 149–151. 129 Dispatch from the Ottoman High Command, 25 March 1915, ATBD, no. 88, pp. 18–19; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 2, pp. 102–105; Otto Liman von Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, (trans.) Carl Reichmann, The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore, 1928, pp. 56–57; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 3, pp. 468–470; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 217–218; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, p. 80; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, p. 188.

158  The year of uncertainty see the situation on the ground for himself instead of relying on maps and overlays. The German commander, accompanied by a coterie of officers, inspected the 9th Division defensive positions on 31 March, identifying a number of problems with the defensive layout. His brief inspection over, von Sanders dismissed the previous defensive plans and existing deployments as flawed and refused to listen to advice from the Fortified Zone Area Command. He radically overhauled the entire defensive system and reorganised the command and control structure, categorically rejecting the Ottoman defensive concept and its assumptions as unsuited to defence against a modern amphibious attack. He was convinced that it was a mistake to deploy units in strength along the entire length of the coast. He assessed naval firepower as a significant threat, asserting that forward defence of the coastline under direct naval fire was far from the optimum defensive strategy. Instead, he placed thinly manned observation and screening posts in overwatch above the beaches while maintaining the main bodies as mobile reserves. He also moved most of the artillery batteries and machine-guns from the coastline to covered reserve positions.130 Von Sanders’ concept of defence in depth was based on early identification of the enemy’s intent and detection of the main landings by his screening force. Mobile reserves would then be rushed in to crush the enemy forces and deny them a foothold on land. Surprisingly, he did not consider capitalising on the inhospitable terrain and taking advantage of the vulnerability of the enemy infantry in boats during the final approach to the coast. He appeared to be unaware of the poor road network and ignored the fact that the peninsula did not provide the depth required for mobile defence, or that the Ottoman infantry and artillery units had limited mobility. The logistic trains were even less mobile and units were forced to stockpile second-line ammunition, food and fodder to maintain them during the initial phase of any attack. Moving the units away from the coastline also saw the stockpiling of supplies away from decisive points.131 In addition to thoroughly overhauling the defensive concept and system, von Sanders identified the Bolayır-Saros region and Beşika Bay as the probable main

130 The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 1, pp. 384–390; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 175–176; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 57–61; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 219–230; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 78–80; Mahmud Sabri, Seddülbahir Muharebesi ve 26. A. III.Tb. Harekâtı, Harp Akademisi Matbaası, Yıldız, 1933, pp. 6–12; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 21–27, 31–32; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 113–116, 120–124, 133–134, 136–137; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 14–15; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp.  84, 87–88; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 91–92; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 110–113; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 80–81; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 188–189. 131 Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 79, 109–110, 212–217; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 6, 9–11; Mehmed Celaleddin, Harb-i Umumide Çanakkale Muharebat-ı Berriyesi Kumkale Muharebatı, (ed.) Murat Karataş, Nobel, Ankara, 2007, pp. 8, 17; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 95–96; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 110–113.

Ertuğrul

Map 4.3  The Ottoman Fifth Army defence on 24 April 1915. Orhaniye

Seddülbahir

Ocean

Domuzdere

Kumkale çakaltepe

Bouvet

Irresistible

Anadolu hamidiye

Çimenlik

Anadolu mecidiye

Capital ship sunk

Minefield

Fortress/heavy artillery position

Legend

Turgut reis

Anadolu mesudiye

Hasan mevsuf (dardanos)

h



Rumeli hamidiye Rumeli mecidiye Yildiz

Rumeli mesudiye (baykuş)

Kayalik tepe

Değirmen burnu N am az

The year of uncertainty  159

160  The year of uncertainty landing sites, in direct contrast to previous appraisals.132 However, he was reluctant to mass all his available forces in these locations in case the enemy landed at a number of sites simultaneously. Accordingly, he divided his units133 into three groups: Saros (5th and 7th divisions), Gallipoli (9th and 19th divisions) and Asia (3rd and 11th divisions), thereby effectively dissipating combat power throughout his area of responsibility. He ordered the divisions to maintain reserves at all levels and commit small squads of troops to fixed defensive positions in order to achieve economy of force. The 5th and 19th divisions were retained as an army reserve directly under his personal command. The dispositions of the divisions were contrary to all the principles of defence. There was no centre of gravity, a very weak screening force without fire support and effective communication to the command centres, and cumbersome groups of reserves some distance away. The result of this defensive concept was that only one battalion (2/27th Battalion) was allocated to the Kabatepe region, a reinforced battalion (3/26th Infantry) to Cape Helles and another (2/26th Battalion) to the left and right flanks, and a company to Kumkale (6th Company of the 3/31st Battalion). In contrast to the belief of many modern commentators, von Sanders’ interference did not improve the coastal defences and may even have weakened them. His new defensive concept was instrumental in promoting confusion, aroused serious opposition and impeded preparations to repel a possible invasion. Just a month before the 25 April landings, relations between the Ottoman commanders and their German advisers reached an all-time low, creating an incendiary atmosphere that damaged the decision-making process and belief in the wisdom of the defensive concept that was to protect them from invasion.134

132 It looks like the capture of former British Vice-Consul of Dardanelles Charles Palmer (at the time, a lieutenant of Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve who had been captured with the submarine HMS E15) and his confession of planned Allied landing sites during his interrogation played some role in reinforcing von Sanders’s obsession with Bolayır. Tim Travers, “Liman von Sanders, the Capture of Lieutenant Palmer, and Ottoman Anticipation of the Allied Landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915”, The Journal of Military History, vol. 65, no. 4, October 2001, pp. 967–979; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, p. 109. 133 Von Sanders had to spend almost a month persuading the General Staff to release the 3rd Division and a cavalry brigade. He also managed to secure the newly activated XV Corps Headquarters under the command of Major General Erich Paul Weber. The Fifth Army order of battle at the beginning of April 1915 was as follows: III Corps (7th, 9th and 19th divisions), XV Corps (3rd and 11th divisions), 5th Division and 1st Cavalry Brigade. Each corps also received two gendarmerie battalions as reinforcements. Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 217–235. 134 Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 59–61; Saral, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 225– 239; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 15–16, 18; İnönü, Hatıralar, vol. 1, pp. 145–146; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar  – Hatıralar, pp. 78–80; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp.  175–177; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 92–94; Tim Travers, Gallipoli 1915, Tempus, Stroud, 2002, pp.  38–42; Remzi Yiğitgüden et.al., Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Çanakkale Cephesi Harekâtı, vol. 5, Book 2, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1978, pp. 8–10, 44–48, 91–94, 218–227; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası (1912–1922), pp. 80, 84–85; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 102–105, 113–116; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 100–109; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen

The year of uncertainty  161 Unaware of the structural problems plaguing the Ottoman defenders, General Ian Hamilton, after some deliberations and much discussion, selected the southern tip of the peninsula, Cape Helles, as the main landing place (29th Division under Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston), placing the secondary landing site (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, Anzac, under Lieutenant General William Birdwood) north of Kabatepe (Gabatepe). He later added a feint landing on the Asian side of Kumkale by the French (the 6th Colonial Regiment under Colonel Ruef) and demonstrations at Saros and Beşika bays using additional vessels, the French and the Royal Naval Division. His staff identified three main landing beaches (V, W and X) for the 29th Division and two flanking sites (S and Y). The primary objective was the Kilidbahir Plateau which dominates most of the fortresses on the European side of the Straits. Under Hamilton’s plan, the units would rush the high ground – for the 29th Division, this was Achi Baba (Alçı Tepe),135 and for the Anzacs, the Sari Bair (Kocaçimen) Range – after establishing secure beachheads. At this stage, the Anzacs would cut off the Ottoman reserves by capturing Maltepe, which overlooks the Straits, while the 29th Division would advance to Kilidbahir. The plan appeared simple and clear-cut, at least on paper.136 The night of 24/25 April 1915 was clear and lit by bright moonlight, allowing the Ottoman observation posts to quickly spot the approaching Allied ships. The first sightings were reported from the Arıburnu (later renamed Anzac after the Anzac Corps) region as early as at 2.00 am and from Kumkale at 3.30 am. To the dismay of the Ottoman troops, none of these early warnings was regarded as cause for concern. Halil Sami, commanding officer of the 9th Division, who was in charge of the southern part of the peninsula including Anzac, and his staff initially assessed the sightings as simply a naval demonstration and did not react. However, when reports of physical landings began to materialise, messages from the front-line units quickly began to choke the lines of communication. The initial inaction and misreading of the situation saw four platoons of the 2/27th Battalion at Anzac and the 3/26th Battalion at Helles face the first two waves of the landing

1915, pp. 81–86; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 119–120; Robert Rhodes James, Gallipoli, 2nd edition, Pimlico, London, 1999, pp. 72–76. 135 Achi Baba would soon become ‘the hill which stood between us and Constantinople’. Compton Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, 2nd edition, Panther, London, 1965, p. 38. 136 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 111–115, 119, 131–139; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 86–101; C.E.W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918: The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, 12th edition, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1941, pp. 220– 222, 225–230; C.E. Callwell, The Dardanelles, Constable and Co., London, 1924, pp. 38–53, 58–59; Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, 1923, pp. 39–43; From Hamilton to d’Amade, 17 April 1915; Instructions of Ruef, 19 April 1915; from Braithwaite to d’Amade, 21 April 1915, Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1 annexes, pp. 126, 131–133, 136–137; Keyes, The Fight for Gallipoli, pp. 104–111; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, pp. 253–255; Chris Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, 2nd edition, Army History Unit, Sydney, 2015, pp. 75–86; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 47–53; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 72–88.

162  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.12 An Ottoman infantry battalion conducting an alarm exercise before the Allied landings. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

alone. Moreover, Halil Sami did not inform the chain of command through the correct hierarchy. His staff officers sent their first reports directly to Lieutenant Colonel Kazım [İnanç], chief of staff of the Fifth Army, while his corps commander, Esad Pasha, received his information from the 19th Division commander, Mustafa Kemal, at 5.50 am – almost half an hour after Fifth Army Headquarters had been alerted and despite the fact that they were sited within walking distance of his location.137 Esad Pasha immediately called von Sanders but learnt to his dismay that the German general had left for the Bolayır fortifications. Although there were almost no first-hand reports of the actual landings at Fifth Army Headquarters, von Sanders, who was obsessed with the idea that the landings would occur at Bolayır and

137 The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 21; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, p. 518; Aker, Çanakkale  – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 20–23, 27, 32; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 120– 124, 127–130, 133–134, 136–137, 164–165, 168–170; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 91–101; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 173–178; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, pp. 245–262; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, pp. 257–258; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 87–88; Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, pp. 87–101.

The year of uncertainty  163 Saros, rushed to the Bolayır fortifications, leaving most of his staff behind.138 Esad Pasha’s task was not easy. He had to manage von Sanders’ mistrust of Ottoman officers and his own independently minded Ottoman subordinates, while at the same time, ensuring that the Ottoman and German officers avoided infighting during the gravest crisis of the war thus far. However, instead of giving clear orders to Halil Sami and Mustafa Kemal, the 9th and 19th Division commanders, respectively, on how to respond to the invasion, Esad Pasha decided to go to Bolayır. This was his first serious mistake of the day.139 When Esad Pasha found him, von Sanders was observing the Allied ship movements at Saros Bay. Accounts of this meeting note that Esad Pasha merely expressed his opinion that the enemy’s principal landings were at Helles and Anzac, and then asked for the release of the 19th Division and heavy artillery to bolster the Ottoman defences. However, von Sanders was not receptive to polite advice at this stage of the battle. He remained blind to the gravity of the situation and the reality of the landing points as the main enemy effort. He continued to wait for a main landing at Bolayır for another two days, well after the Allied aims and plans were evident for all to see, and ignored all the other landings, regarding them as evidence of an elaborate ruse. Esad Pasha managed only to gain permission to move his tactical command post from Gallipoli to Maltepe by sea. When he arrived at his new command post at around noon, having lost almost half a day, he discovered that his subordinates had already committed their forces. From the Ottoman perspective, it was just as well they did.140 While von Sanders and Esad Pasha were wasting valuable time in discussion and monitoring the situation, unit commanders at various levels had taken the initiative and reacted according to their means. The most effective reaction to the landings took place in the Anzac region around North Beach and Brighton Beach. Lieutenant Colonel Şefik [Aker], commander of the 27th Regiment, was convinced that the main Allied landing would occur in this area and, in early March, had begun construction of a comprehensive defensive system in anticipation. This construction activity was halted suddenly with the introduction of von Sanders’ new defensive concept. Under the new organisation, only one battalion was left to defend the region while the remaining battalions of the 27th Regiment were tasked as the northern reserve of the division.141 When Şefik heard gunfire 138 Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 177–178; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 92–93; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, p. 42; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 163–165; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 109–113; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 118–119. 139 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 518–520; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, p. 14; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 87–88. 140 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 520–521; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 178–179; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 88–89; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 42–44. 141 The 27th Regiment War Diary, Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etüdler Başkanlığı Arşivi (Türkish General Staff Military History and Strategic Research Division Archive, hereafter ATASE), Birinci Dünya Savaşı Koleksiyonu (First World War Collection, hereafter BDH), Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 12–15.

164  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.13 Colonel Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk]. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

coming from Anzac at around 4.45 am, he called the divisional command centre to request permission to march to oppose the landing. When his request was refused, he did not give up and repeatedly called the division until the divisional commander, Colonel Halil Sami, relented and, at 5.45 am, granted him permission to advance against the landing at Anzac. The 27th Regiment barely reached Third (Gun) Ridge, a position of considerable natural strength, in time to repulse Australian patrols at 7.30 am. Having consolidate his position, Şefik called for help from the army reserve, the 19th Division.142 142 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 21–23; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 32–42; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 101–106; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, pp. 345–349; Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, pp. 119–123, 136–141; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 55, 68, 79–80, 125, 131; Mücip Kemalyeri, Çanakkale Ruhu Nasıl Doğdu ve Azerbeycan Savaşı (1917–1918), Baha Matbaası, İstanbul, 1972, p. 38.

The year of uncertainty  165 Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk], commander of the 19th Division, having confirmed the reliability of the reports, alerted his regiments and informed Esad Pasha, his corps commander. He also sent cavalry patrols in the direction of Anafarta and Kabatepe to establish his own observation and reconnaissance system. As the former commander of the defence of southern Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal knew that the initial reports must be taken seriously, and units were despatched immediately. However, the 19th Division was the reserve for the Fifth Army and he had to await orders from von Sanders before he could respond.143 Mustafa Kemal was in a most invidious position. He knew that a rapid reaction was required before it was too late; however, at the same time, von Sanders’ defensive concept seriously limited his initiative. The Ottoman officers were trained in and operated under the German mission command (auftragstaktik) system. An important principle of this system was never to hesitate in a command void. Ottoman officers were not accustomed to receiving detailed and restrictive operational orders, and thus Mustafa Kemal and Halil Sami decided to take the initiative.144 However, each adopted a different approach to the task at hand. Halil Sami was the commander in charge of the regiments that had been fighting off the enemy landings at Helles (Seddülbahir) and Anzac. Patchy intelligence and contact reports made it difficult to read the enemy’s intent and determine where to send his men to mount the most effective defence. The confusion generated by conflicting reports of landings and enemy sightings left him all but operationally blind, hampering Ottoman efforts to repel the attackers before they gained a foothold. Halil Sami was happy to delegate power to his subordinates, and allowed them plenty of discretion to fight their own battles. This attitude worked well with the 27th Regiment at Anzac and the 26th Regiment at Helles. However, delegations of power did not work well with the 25th Regiment commander, Lieutenant Colonel İrfan. He actively avoided responsibility, delegation and the use of initiative. Like Halil Sami, he was happy to allow his battalion commanders to respond to developments.145 At 7.30 am, Halil Sami finally requested Mustafa Kemal to send a battalion to support the 27th Regiment. This request was the pretext that Mustafa Kemal had been seeking. At this stage, he was unaware of the serious situation at Helles, given the stream of contradictory orders and reports coming from the 9th Division command centre. Instead of sending a battalion as had been requested, Mustafa Kemal decided to take an entire regiment. He gave preliminary orders to his two other regiments (the 72nd and 77th) and rushed towards Anzac Cove without authorisation from his chain of command other than sending a report to the corps headquarters at 8.00 am informing them that he was advancing towards Anzac.146 143 Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, p. 14; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, p. 88. 144 Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, p. 15; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 125, 131; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 220–221. 145 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 106–107, 220–227. 146 Mustafa Kemal was clearly disobeying orders by committing his entire division without authorisation from Esad Pasha and von Sanders. Although Ottoman military doctrine encouraged

166  The year of uncertainty After the successful landing of the first two waves, Anzac troops should run to reach and hold the dominant Third Ridge. The Anzac forward elements reached the Third Ridge. Although they arrived there first, they were unable to hold it due to their numerical weakness and isolation from the main body. With the arrival of Şefik’s troops, the focus changed to which side could deploy the most troops to the critical position in the shortest time.147 Mustafa Kemal reached Chunuk Bair (Conkbayırı) just in time and the Ottomans won the second stage of the race. Kemal arrived at 10.00 am to find elements of the original defenders retreating under enemy pursuit. He halted the fleeing soldiers and ordered them to fix bayonets and stand their ground. As the soldiers established a makeshift defensive perimeter, Mustafa Kemal realised that he could not wait for the rest of his regiment to arrive. He ordered the 2nd Battalion to launch an immediate attack in the direction of Battleship Hill (Düztepe), angrily sending orders to his other battalions, which were still marching, to join the attack immediately from the south. The hasty piecemeal attack achieved its aim and drove the Anzac forward elements off Battleship Hill, but the attack lost its momentum under increasing Ottoman fire from the hill Baby 700.148 By 11.30 am, Mustafa Kemal believed the time had come to launch a major coordinated counter-attack. He began by rallying as many troops and stockpiling as many weapons as he could find. He established contact with Şefik and took him under his command while his two battalions attempted to push the Anzacs back over Second Ridge. He divided the landing area into two sectors and gave responsibility for the southern sector to Şefik, sending a message explaining his plan and his requirements for the 27th Regiment, then ordering him to attack the enemy’s flank, concentrating on Lone Pine. This was a classic example of a ­mission-oriented order which consisted of just a few sentences. With their p­ revious military education, well-established military doctrine and common experiences, both Mustafa Kemal and Şefik understood the situation in almost identical terms and knew how to respond. There was no need to issue long and complex orders to enforce command and coordination. At 10.40 am, Mustafa Kemal sent orders

commanders to exercise their initiative, Mustafa Kemal certainly exceeded his authority to fill what he saw as a command void jointly created by von Sanders and Esad Pasha. On so many occasions, great captains of war have gambled in chancing their arm against the enemy, and Mustafa Kemal was certainly gambling in planning his counter-attack against the landing. In doing so, he was risking not only his career but the entire operation. Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 15–16; The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 47–48, 50; İzzettin Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, (eds.) İsmet Görgülü, İzzeddin Çalışlar, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 1997, pp. 94–95; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 107–109. 147 Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 40–41. 148 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 27–28; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 16–17; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 109–111; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, pp. 288–297; Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, pp. 125–126, 147–148; Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, Sceptre NZ, Auckland, 1990, pp. 104–111.

The year of uncertainty  167 to his units in the rear to march forward.149 Although a mistaken report of new landings at Kumtepe created much confusion and prompted Mustafa Kemal to leave the battlefield to clarify the situation, the counter-attack proceeded at noon as planned. Professionalism and initiative carried the day.150 The ever-resourceful Şefik kept the Anzacs at bay in the southern sector while Hüseyin Avni not only checked the Anzac forward position at Baby 700 but also flanked the northern Anzac positions from farther north. In the meantime, the 2nd Australian Brigade instead of advancing north according to the plan was immediately diverted to the south. When the brigade commander, Brigadier General James W. MacCay, arrived at around 6.30 am, the 3rd Brigade commander, Brigadier General Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan, urged him to go the south, which McCay did without questioning. Şefik’s action simply scared the Anzacs more and reinforced their decision to invest to the south, thereby destroying any chance of capturing the critically important Sari Bair Range. Unfortunately for the Ottoman side, Mustafa Kemal lost valuable hours by moving back and forth while the 72nd and 77th regiments arrived too late to take part in the midday counter-attacks. When Mustafa Kemal returned to the front line, he decided to husband the 72nd Regiment as a fresh unit for exploiting any breakthrough and for launching continuous counterattacks on 26 April.151 However, the optimistic Mustafa Kemal made two serious mistakes in that first hectic 24 hours: he underestimated the problems that bedevilled the 77th Regiment which consisted of ill-trained and poorly led soldiers, and he ordered a disorganised and piecemeal night attack. Although the attackers initially overcame the Anzac forward defensive positions and some elements managed to infiltrate the enemy’s rear, overall, the night attack was a failure and the 77th Regiment disintegrated as a result. This was an unnecessary loss and ultimately placed further stress on Mustafa Kemal and the surviving force elements.152 The

149 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 28–33; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 17–18; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 41–51; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 111–112. 150 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 34–35; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 19–20; Kemalyeri, Çanakkale Ruhu, pp. 38–45; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 112–113. In his memoir, Esad Pasha implicitly accuses Mustafa Kemal of leaving the battlefield. According to his account, Mustafa Kemal had decided to withdraw his division, but Esad Pasha stopped him. Esad Pasha attempts to give the impression that he saved the day by ordering Mustafa Kemal back to fight. Mustafa Kemal’s actions throughout the day, available documents, war diary entries and personal war narratives, do not support this claim. Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 521–522, 528–529. 151 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 37, 50–51; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 52–68; Kemalyeri, Çanakkale Ruhu, pp. 45–48; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 115–122; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 179–191; Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, pp. 149–164; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 111–140; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 78–85. 152 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 43–47, 51–54, 71–72; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 68–74; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 523, 530–532; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 122–125;

168  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.14 Esad [Bülkat] Pasha giving orders behind a Krupp 75mm mountain gun. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

combat stress affected the Anzac leadership more, and both division commanders, Bridges and Godley, fearing an imminent catastrophe, managed to convince their corps commander Birdwood for evacuation and re-embarkation. Hamilton, on the other hand, knowing quite well that re-embarkation during night was beyond the means of the navy, ordered them to stay put and dig in.153 Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, pp. 319–321, 466–476; Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, pp. 164–167; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp.  141–151. The recruitment district of the 77th Regiment was the province of Aleppo in what is now Syria. For this reason, it was widely known as an ‘Arab’ regiment. The poor performance and disintegration of the 77th Regiment on 25 April 1915 has been seen as evidence of the poor quality of Arab soldiers. The Ottoman military authorities initially blamed these soldiers, with around two dozen deserters from the 77th Regiment summarily executed to overcome the disorganisation of the regiment and to set an example for the incoming units. Following a detailed examination, Mustafa Kemal identified the real culprit as the commanding officer of the regiment, Major Saip. According to Mustafa Kemal’s report and other contemporary reports, the men of the 77th fought well with tenacity that surprised their officers. However, they were completely dependent on their officers and, when they lost them, simply disintegrated. For Mustafa Kemal and the two battalion commanders of the 77th, the soldiers bore little responsibility for the rout.Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, p. 199; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 20–37. 153 Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, pp. 452–463; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 142–145; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, pp.  259–260; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 76–79; Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, pp. 167–168.

The year of uncertainty  169 Esad Pasha arrived at Maltepe at noon. Instead of reprimanding Mustafa Kemal for using his initiative and making executive decisions without guidance from his chain of command, he encouraged him to continue his operations against the Anzacs. However, Esad Pasha made his second big mistake by underestimating the danger posed by the British landings at Helles. Mustafa Kemal’s decision to commit his division at Anzac and the continuous reports coming from this region overshadowed the magnitude of the threat at Helles.154 In contrast to the reasonably swift reaction at Anzac Cove, Halil Sami, commanding officer of the 9th Division, went into a state of command paralysis over the landings and lost touch with developments as they were reported by his subordinate commanders. In most cases, he simply allowed them to proceed without interfering. On the rare occasions, he actually issued a command it was invariably the wrong decision such as his infamous order to withdraw from Krithia (Kirte) on 27 April. Fortunately for the Ottomans, Halil Sami’s subordinates decided to ignore most of his orders and held their ground. Most damagingly, Halil Sami made only limited attempts to keep his superiors and neighbouring units updated with the progress of operations in the Helles area. The relatively few reports he sent were contradictory. As a result, Esad Pasha and the other field commanders formed a false impression of the situation at Helles.155 Major Mahmud Sabri, commander of the 3/26th Battalion, who was literally in charge of the defence of the entire Cape Helles area, did not receive any substantial help (except the fire support provided by some nearby artillery batteries of the Fortress Zone) and was forced to fight alone against the so-called elite British 29th Division until late afternoon. His troops (one company each) around V (Ertuğrul Koyu) and W (Teke Koyu) beaches inflicted serious casualties and pinned the enemy in place for a period of time, effectively exploiting the available fortified positions and assisted by the rapid arrival of reserves positioned nearby. However, there were only two platoons (one from the 3/26th Battalion and the other from the 2/26th Battalion) in relatively weak positions at S (Eski Hisarlık) beach and a platoon (from the 2/26th Battalion) at X (İkiz Koyu) beach. There were no defenders at all at Y (Sarıtepe) beach. Clearly, the 2/26th Battalion failed to show the same level of efficiency in its response to the landings and the British troops captured their initial objectives at S, X and Y beaches with relative ease. Fortunately for the Ottomans, Hunter-Weston ignored the opportunities for flanking manouevres at S and Y beaches and stubbornly continued to reinforce his main effort at V and W beaches, thereby allowing the 25th Regiment a breathing space in which to send for reinforcements, albeit in a piecemeal fashion.156 154 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 521–522; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 89–91, 96. 155 Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 265–270, 290–294; Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness, pp. 49–50; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, p. 92. 156 Sabri, Seddülbahir Muharebesi, pp.  6–13; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 228–254; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 201–215, 224–251; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 129–140; J.C. Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers 1914–1918, vol. 1, Gale & Polden, Aldershot, 1949, pp. 50–55; Callwell, The Dardanelles, pp. 61–86; Erdemir, Güneş, Meçhul Subay, pp.  63–67; Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness, pp. 46–50; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 53–62; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 89–107; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 176–190.

170  The year of uncertainty The battle developed quite differently for the defenders at Kumkale. Under the Allied grand plan, Kumkale was chosen as a temporary diversionary landing site and the French 6th Colonial Regiment (three infantry battalions reinforced with a field artillery battery and machine-guns) was selected to conduct this limited operation.157 Although Captain Şevki, commander of the 6/2nd Company, 31st Regiment, had reported signs of a possible landing very early on, the 3rd Division and XV Corps Headquarters reacted slowly and hesitantly. There were two conflicting sets of orders, one of which advised allowing the enemy to land and advance to the Menderes River and then launching counter-attacks to annihilate enemy forces. The other set of orders simply advocated launching immediate counter-attacks. Divisional commander Colonel Augustus Nicolai initially did not issue clear orders, instead opting to wait and see how events unfolded. The increasing urgency of incoming reports troubled him and he became concerned that he would be accused of inaction, so he made a fatal decision to commit his reserve 39th Regiment in several groups instead of as a whole.158 In the meantime, the French were having difficulties of their own. The steamers were unable to move quickly in the unexpectedly strong current. The first wave lost three hours and the landing did not commence until around 9.30 am. However, their fortunes turned thanks to the disorganised Ottoman defence and the availability of massive Allied naval fire support which saw four battleships and various small vessels bombard the Ottomans for over four hours and continue to do so once the landing had commenced. The French also prudently landed a field artillery battery with the first wave, thus gaining a significant advantage when the counter-attacks began during the night.159 Lieutenant Colonel Nurettin, commander of the 39th Regiment, launched his counter-attacks without prior preparation and without allocating objectives properly. The battalions advanced blindly, most unaware of the others, and from all directions. Unsurprisingly, the soldiers became hopelessly mixed during the ensuing night battle inside the village and the nearby cemetery. Many officers were shot while trying to deal with confusion. By morning, command and control had collapsed, and demoralised soldiers from both sides began to surrender in groups. Given conflicting messages and widespread confusion, Nicolai was reluctant to send more troops. Similarly, Weber also vacillated (in addition to the problems at 157 Instructions for embarkation, 22 April 1915; Operational Order, 22 April 1915, Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1 annexes, pp. 142–147; Reginald Kann, “La Premier Épisode de La Campagne D’Orient: L’Operation de Koum-Kale aux Dardanelles”, Revue Militaire Générale, vol. 18, no. 9, September 1921, pp. 618–619; AspinallOglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 133, 257–258. 158 Celaleddin, Harb-i Umumide Çanakkale, pp.  1–17; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  52–57; Şerif Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, Güncel Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2003, pp. 12–18. 159 Henri Feuille, Face aux Turcs: Gallipoli 1915, Payot, Paris, 1934, pp. 28–32; Kann, “La Premier Épisode”, pp. 619–623; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 259–260; Celaleddin, Harb-i Umumide Çanakkale, pp. 18–38; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 548– 551; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 58–67.

The year of uncertainty  171 Kumkale, he was also concerned by the naval display around Beşika Bay), and once he reached a decision, it was simply to order all units to retreat to the river. Fortunately for the Ottomans, Hamilton, who was under pressure to reinforce Helles, ordered the termination of the operation the following day. While he later changed his decision once he learnt of the unexpected success of the French, it was too late to halt the re-embarkation.160 All in all, the Ottoman defence against the Allied landings was marked by tensions between field army and other command levels, and the command void resulting from these tensions. Liman von Sanders radically overhauled the peninsula’s defensive concept and plans, creating widespread opposition and hostility. Of the several serious mistakes von Sanders made in response to the Allied invasion, none was greater than his refusal to abandon his conviction that the invasion would take place at Bolayır and Saros against the reality of the 25 April landings. He not only refused to release reserves and heavy weapons, but also failed to provide any concrete orders. The immense pressure of the developing situation simply exacerbated the command void at the top. Consequently, commanders at field army and corps levels were unable to influence the situation until too late.161 Esad Pasha failed to step in and fill the void caused by von Sanders’ prevarication, and wasted half a day attempting to convince von Sanders of the necessity for action. When the senior Ottoman officer finally arrived at the battle site, it was simply too late to push the Australians and New Zealanders back into the Aegean. In contrast to his obedient and compliant attitude to von Sanders, Esad Pasha was an ardent believer in mission command. He did not expect the same total obedience he showed to von Sanders, instead allowing his divisional commanders to prosecute operations as they saw fit. Esad Pasha attempted to perform efficiently under extremely difficult circumstances, monitoring developments and providing much-needed logistic and administrative support, despite his initial slowness to react. At this stage of the war, there was no understanding or doctrine on dividing the responsibilities of the direction of combat into main, tactical and rear headquarters. Esad Pasha became the first Ottoman general to appreciate the importance of separating his staffs into a main and rear headquarters, and officially recognising Mustafa Kemal and Halil Sami as the commanders in 160 Around 400 Ottoman soldiers were taken prisoner, while 200 French soldiers (mostly Senegalese) were captured. Overall, the French lost 786 men (including 176 killed in action and 481 wounded). Dispatch from Ottoman High Command to Fifth Army, 26 April 1915; from First Army, 26 April 1915; from XV Army Corps to Fifth Army, 28 April 1915, ATBD, no. 88, pp. 38–39, 56–57; Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1, pp. 44–45; From d’Amade to Ruef, 26 April 1915; the Report of Colonel Ruef, 28 April 1915, Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1 annexes, pp. 163– 164, 167–171; Feuille, Face aux Turcs, pp. 32–35; Kann, “La Premier Épisode”, pp. 623–626; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 145–146, 150–152, 157–159; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 260–264; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 68–79; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 19–27. 161 Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 196–208; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 42–44.

172  The year of uncertainty charge of tactical headquarters on 25 April. Esad Pasha effectively relieved them of logistical responsibilities (of planning for incoming units, the supply of ammunition and food, of furnishing detailed reports and returns and all other crucial but time-consuming administrative staff work), allowing them to focus on immediate operational issues and problems. This flexible attitude, based on trust, was vital for the execution of the successful counter-attacks that stopped the Anzac forces from breaking out of the larger Anzac Cove area, and the eventual success of the campaign.162 The record at divisional and regimental level was better, but by no means problem free. Halil Sami reacted to events and sent erratic reports demonstrating that he struggled with the responsibility of commanding a front-line unit under pressure, while Mustafa Kemal, Şefik and Mahmud Sabri were the outstanding frontline commanders of the day. Instead of seeking to receive clear orders or trying to assess the situation from scraps of delayed and often misleading information which trickled back to the command centres, they rushed forward to the areas of greatest danger. They not only used their initiative well beyond the level of their command, but also acted decisively when confronted with new developments. All three commanders demonstrated outstanding combat leadership by displaying personal courage under fire and inspiring their soldiers to greater deeds, as most of them knowingly headed towards certain death in advancing to face the invasion force.163 The general performance of the Ottoman troops during the amphibious landing phase exceeded all estimates and expectations, surprising not only the Allied planners but also the Ottoman General Staff. Company- and platoon-size units kept the amphibious landings at bay for hours and, in some cases, more than a day. Unfortunately for the Ottoman defenders, von Sanders and later Enver Pasha did not appreciate the deadly effect of modern firepower on entrenched infantry. Equally, they were unable to recognise the destructive power of naval bombardment on infantry units attacking in dense formations in direct line of sight to the guns.164 On 26 April, having finally comprehended the battlefield situation, von Sanders began to redeploy regiments from Anatolia and Saros to reinforce the 9th and 19th divisions, but he continued to stay in Bolayır. The Fortress Command also started to transfer mobile heavy artillery batteries to the Fifth Army, albeit slowly. The number of heavy batteries that had been transferred reached 12 at the end of May. However, the piecemeal arrival of the regiments and heavy weapons reduced the effectiveness of their contribution to the defence. Von Sanders 162 Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 88–91; Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness, pp. 56–59; Prior, Gallipoli, p. 248. 163 Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 153–154, 167–168, 180–181, 191; Erickson, Ottoman Army Effectiveness, pp. 35–38, 64; Prior, Gallipoli, p. 247. 164 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, p. 255; Callwell, The Dardanelles, pp. 117– 118; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 99, 107, 123, 244; John North, Gallipoli: The Fading Vision, 2nd printing, Faber and Faber, London, 1967, pp. 357–358.

The year of uncertainty  173 nominated the 9th and 19th divisional commanders as tactical group commanders (Southern and Northern groups) and ordered them to attack the enemy at every opportunity. On 27 April, Mustafa Kemal launched a hasty counter-attack with five regiments (27th, 33rd, 57th, 64th and 72nd) with limited preparation and fire support. Long before the Ottoman troops were assembled in their attack positions, the Anzacs were thoroughly alerted and ready to face the onslaught. Unsurprisingly, the attack collapsed against concentrated infantry, artillery and naval gunfire. Mustafa Kemal repeated the counter-attack during the night, with the same dreadful result.165 Undeterred by the failure of these hasty counter-attacks, von Sanders sent Mustafa Kemal four more regiments (13th, 14th, 15th and 125th), urging him to continue his attacks until he had repulsed the enemy completely. Esat Pasha wrote a report to Enver Pasha asking his assistance in halting these relentless and wasteful counter-attacks, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. After several unexpected delays, the attacks began again on 1 May with limited artillery preparation fire. The courage and zeal of the soldiers attacking literally in human waves did not see them prevail against an established and fortified beachhead supported by massive naval gunfire. Mustafa Kemal continued his attacks during the night and into the following day, convinced that the enemy was at breaking point. All these followup efforts failed abysmally. Around-the-clock frontal assaults launched by Ottoman troops on 27 April and 1 May also ended in failure and at a staggering cost of 14,000 casualties.166 To their credit, Şefik and later Esad Pasha realised the futility of counterattacks against dug-in infantry before anyone else. They understood that, without effective and accurate fire support, coordination, sound planning, preparation and good use of terrain, there was literally no chance of success. It was impossible to move reserves up in time to exploit the opportunities offered by a counterattack, as the terrain was simply too difficult to traverse quickly. Unfortunately, their acquired wisdom was not shared with or developed by others. The erroneous belief that, with determination and the use of cold steel, the enemy could be repulsed from its tiny beachhead was the root cause of the futile and costly

165 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp.  73, 80–89, 93–96; from von Usedom to Kaiser, 23 May  1915, TNA, CAB 45/215; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 41–50; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 536–542; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 131–151; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 295–298; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, pp. 507–515; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 94, 100–101, 103–103; Roberts, The Landing at Anzac 1915, pp. 178–184; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 169–176; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 104–112; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 95. 166 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; The 19th Division War Diary, vol. 2, pp. 79, 182, 199, 201; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 51–65, 83–86; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 542–574; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 179–180; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 152–162; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 309–315; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 1, pp. 539–542; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp. 95–96; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 127–130.

174  The year of uncertainty mass attacks in which so many Ottoman soldiers lost their lives for limited or no gains at all.167 At Helles, the 9th Division, which faced the main enemy thrust, had no means of launching large counter-attacks. Instead, it confronted Hunter-Weston’s first coordinated assault in the First Battle of Krithia (Kirte) following the landing on 28 April. The Allied attack (by the 29th Division, the French 175th Regiment and some elements of the Royal Naval Division) stalled after advancing less than 2 kilometres, and the Ottoman company-level counter-attacks forced the Allied troops to retreat to their starting positions.168 Unfortunately for the Ottomans, the cult of the offensive also dominated operations at Helles. Von Sanders assigned Colonel Eduard von Sodenstern as the Southern Group commander following the arrival of the 7th Division (19th, 20th and 21st regiments). Von Sodenstern was well aware of his superior commander’s intent and concept of operations. He launched a night attack immediately on his arrival on 1/2 May without seeking sound intelligence on the enemy and the terrain. The attack was disorganised and limited gains were lost under continuous enemy counter-attacks and heavy naval gunfire the following day.169 Von Sodenstern repeated the night attack following the arrival of the 15th Division (38th, 45th and 56th regiments) on 3/4 May. The 15th Division’s regiments had barely reached their start points and joined the attack late. While the 9th Division’s attacks stalled in front of the British trenches, the French colonial soldiers were routed. The Ottoman soldiers reached Seddülbahir village, but they were unable to hold their ground and were repulsed, falling back to their original positions the next day. With these two costly failures, von Sanders relieved von Sodenstern and assigned Erich Paul Weber as commander of the Southern Group.170 Hamilton now decided that the time was ripe for exploiting the Ottoman weakness evident in the catastrophic failures at Helles. At the same time, he was keen 167 The 27th Regiment War Diary, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 5338, Dosya H-10; Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 64, 87–88; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, p. 574; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 94–95. 168 Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 301–318; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 281–295; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 166–174; Feuille, Face aux Turcs, pp. 37–39; Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, pp. 56–59; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 131– 135, 139. 169 Captured Operation Order of the Ottoman 9th Division with British Comments, Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1 annexes, pp. 226–230; Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1, pp. 54–57; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 70–72; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 106–116; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 324–356; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 317–319. 170 Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 362–394; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 73; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 320–321; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die ­Dardanellen 1915, pp. 119–121; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 179–183; ­Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 132–138; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 96–100; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 247–265; Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, p. 59.

The year of uncertainty  175 to use two freshly arrived brigades. The offensive (the Second Battle of Krithia) was launched on 6 May after a short artillery bombardment. For a whole day, Allied troops advanced slowly to establish contact. The real attack, however, commenced the following day. While the attacks were intense, they were also very disorganised and disjointed. The Allies managed to seize the forward defensive positions but were unable to penetrate further against fierce counter-attacks. Hamilton reinforced the attacks with fresh units the next day, but the anticipated breakthrough did not materialise. Both sides recognised the stalemate and began to dig in, rapidly covering the tip of the peninsula in extensive trench networks from sea to sea.171 The officers in the chain of command under von Sanders eventually realised that frontal attacks would not dislodge the Anzacs from their positions which were supported by an impressive array of naval, artillery and machine-gun fire. The Ottoman commanders then concluded that the only option was to build a network of trenches and strongholds to withstand future enemy attacks. In what became a strategy of attrition, they ultimately succeeded. At the same time, impressed by overly optimistic reports and tales of heroism from the battlefield, Enver Pasha and the Ottoman General Staff were convinced that the enemy could be repelled, at least on the Anzac Front, with one last push.172 The 2nd Infantry Division, commanded by Hasan Askeri [Yücekök], was rushed to Anzac from İstanbul. Supported by the 5th, 16th and 19th infantry divisions, the 2nd Infantry launched a large-scale frontal assault with 42,000 troops on 19 May 1915. The charge was sustained for more than six hours, with successive waves of infantry attacks. Yet it failed to achieve any of its objectives. Although some units managed to break in enemy positions, they were thrown back by the defenders. Coordinated naval and field artillery barrages, and machine-gun and other small arms fire, took a heavy toll on the Ottoman offensive, resulting in 9500 casualties, including 3420 dead. The 2nd Division was literally evaporated. This, for the time being, was the end of

171 Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 403–424; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, pp. 327–347; Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1, pp. 58–68; C.E.W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918: The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, 12th edition, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1941, pp. 1–43; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 190–207; Feuille, Face aux Turcs, pp. 51–64; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 119–129; Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, pp. 20–24; Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, pp. 60–61; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 139–144. 172 Dispatch from Fifth Army to the Ottoman High Command, 25 April 1915; from Fifth Army to the Ottoman High Command, 25/26 April 1915; from the Ottoman High Command to Fifth Army, 26 April 1915; from First Army, 26 April 1915; from Fifth Army to the Ottoman High Command, 26/27 April 1915; from III Army Corps to the Ottoman High Command, 27 April 1915; from First Army to the Ottoman High Command, 27 April 1915; from First Army to the Ottoman High Command, 27 April 1915; from III Army Corps to Fifth Army, 27 April 1915; from Fifth Army to the Ottoman High Command, 30 April 1915, ATBD, no. 88, pp. 29–58; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, p. 181; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 4, pp. 566–569; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 94–95; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 175–183; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 98; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 70.

176  The year of uncertainty one of the finest divisions in the Ottoman Army. “Having grossly underrated the enemy”, as von Sanders would later admit, on 19 May, he and the Ottoman High Command made a catastrophic error of judgement that can only be described as a military blunder.173 While the Ottoman units were recovering from the heavy casualties they had incurred, the bodies of the fallen lying in no man’s land between the trenches began to bloat and distend, the stench increasing with the effects of hot weather. Life in the trenches became intolerable as the smell from the decaying bodies attracted millions of flies. Moreover, the cries of the wounded who could not be evacuated added a psychological burden to the already strained Ottoman troops. The need to recover the wounded and bury the dead became a pressing issue, not only for the troops in the trenches, but also for their commanders. The first approach came from the Australians, to which the Ottomans happily agreed. The truce commenced on 24 May and saw the dead buried decently and the wounded evacuated. For understandable reasons, all intelligence officers from both sides flooded the Anzac to get a better picture of the other side’s defences. At the same time, it marked the first human encounter between the combatants on both sides. The Australian troops in particular realised that the Ottoman soldiers they encountered did not correspond to the image portrayed by the press at home or in official propaganda. In fact, they began to develop a healthy respect and even some sympathy for their opponents, who were gradually transformed from the ‘Terrible Turk’ into ‘Johnny Turk’.174 The continual influx of units in groups, hasty attacks and the high casualty toll severely damaged the command, control and unity of corps and divisions. Von

173 Atatürk, Arıburnu Muharebeleri Raporu, pp. 101–109; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 5, pp.  587–592; Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 184–211; Cecil F. Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, Military Operations Gallipoli, vol. 2, William Heinemann, London, 1932, pp. 17–20; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 139–160; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 183–184, 192–196; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 219–223; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 95–98; Mehmed Fasih Kayabalı, Kanlısırt Günlüğü: Mehmed Fasih Bey’in Çanakkale Anıları, (ed.) Murat Çulcu, Arba Yayınları, İstanbul, 1997, pp. 216–217; Feuille, Face aux Turcs, pp. 73–75; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, p. 119; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 187–191; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 138–142; C.G. Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns: Official War History of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914– 1919, Wilson & Horton, Auckland, 1921, pp. 42–49; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, pp. 265–266; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 98. 174 Mesut Uyar, “Who Called for a Ceasefire? Gallipoli 1915”, Wartime, no. 73, Summer 2016, pp. 54–59; “Correspondence Relating to Armistice Kaba Tepe Area 24th May 1915”, TNA, WO 158–921; Correspondence with Sir A. Skeen, TNA, CAB 45/239; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 5, pp. 593–604; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 98–105; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 243, 245–249; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 164–168; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 223–227; Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, pp. 59, 71–74; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 143–147; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 51–53; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp.  98–100; Hasan Cevdet Temizkanlı, Kıyamet Koptuğunda: Hasan Cevdet Beyin Çanakkale ve Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü, (ed.) Mutlu Karakaya, Yeditepe Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 28–29; North, Gallipoli, pp. 357–358.

The year of uncertainty  177

Figure 4.15 Anzacs burying the dead Ottoman soldiers during the 24 May Truce.

Sanders decided to reorganise the defence architecture and remove a number of the affected divisions from the battlefield. Accordingly he created four groups: Northern Group (Esat Pasha’s III Corps Headquarters commanding the 5th, 16th and 19th divisions and the Anafartalar Detachment), Southern Group (Weber’s XV Corps Headquarters commanding the 7th, 9th, 12th and 15th divisions, 22nd Regiment and two battalions from the 11th Division), Saros Group (6th Division and 1st Cavalry Brigade under the command of General Back), Asia Group (Colonel Ahmed Feyzi [Tümay]’s 3rd Division) and finally the 2nd Division as the theatre reserve.175 While von Sanders and the other Ottoman commanders no longer permitted large-scale counter-attacks, this did not mean that the defenders remained passive. In fact, the opposite was true. The end of large unit actions allowed regimental commanders the necessary time, means and initiative to design and try out new techniques and tactics. Given their decade-long counter-insurgency experiences, most of the junior officers preferred small unit tactics and techniques to large-scale

175 Yiğitgüden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 428–429; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 183–184, 191.

178  The year of uncertainty operations. From the very beginning of the campaign, they had employed skirmishers and snipers in large numbers. Snipers created havoc in the Allied ranks, killing a large number of officers, particularly during the initial phase of operations, and continued to do so throughout. This saw opportunities lost to the Allied forces, and leaderless units often adversely affected the operations of other units. Ultimately, the Allies had to designate soldiers as snipers and find other ways to counter the sniper menace. Another interesting tactic was the introduction of mining – digging tunnels under the enemy trenches and destroying them with explosives. The enemy positions would then be stormed in an attempt to capture them. Mining warfare was first employed at Anzac near Quinn’s Post on 29 May. The study of mining was an important element in courses at the Imperial Military Academy, where semi-engineering curriculum was dominant. The Ottoman trenches were better constructed than those of the Allies and at least three defensive lines and hundreds of communication trenches and gunnery positions covered the Allied beachheads.176 The most significant problem with the defence was the general lack of artillery and ammunition, rather than the construction and siting of positions.177 An all-volunteer German pioneer company (200 strong) arrived to the peninsula in June. It was supposed to be employed for mining and counter-mining operations. However, most of the German soldiers either got sick or exhausted in a surprisingly short time before providing any significant contribution. Only 40 of them remained and were employed as technical advisers or supervisors.178 Hamilton launched his major assault at Helles (Third Battle of Krithia) during this large-scale reorganisation on 4 June. This time, the Allies drastically changed their assault tactics and techniques. Now the objective was the capture of Ottoman forward defence positions rather than major objectives well behind the Ottoman lines. Units would move and take their objectives step by step, according to detailed instructions and planning. There was even an armoured car company (eight Rolls-Royces under the command of Lieutenant Commander Josiah Wedgwood) specially despatched by Churchill. The attack would also be preceded by a lengthy and intense artillery bombardment. While the offensive began according to plan, the artillery preparation – apart from the very effective French artillery fire – generally did not make much impression on the entrenched Ottoman infantry. The 12th Division bore the brunt of the attacks by the French Corps and Royal 176 İsmail Cem, Muharebe Lağımları, Mekteb-i Fünun-u Harbiye-i Şahane Matbaası, İstanbul, 1297; Bruch Müller, Çanakkale Harbinde Lağım Muharebesine Dair Elde Edilen Tecarib, Matbaa-i Amire, İstanbul, 1332; Ataksor, Çanakkale Raporu, pp. 198–206, 208–212, 220–222; Emin Çöl, Çanakkale – Sina Savaşları: Bir Erin Anıları, 2nd printing, Nöbetçi Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2009, p. 53; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 22–23; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 86–87, 127–130, 199, 203–209; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 167–170; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp. 101–103; Temizkanlı, Kıyamet Koptuğunda, pp. 30–33; Mustafa Tevfik, Gelibolu Müfrezesi: Yüzbaşı Mustafa Tevfik’in Ölüm Kalım Mücadelesi, (ed.) Zafer Güler, Truva Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 116–119, 130–131, 143–144. 177 İrfan Tekşüt and Necati Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Çanakkale Cephesi Harekâtı, vol. 5, Book 3, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 98–99, 534–537. 178 Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 14–22; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, p. 182.

The year of uncertainty  179

Figure 4.16 An Ottoman firstline trench. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

Naval Division. Despite suffering heavy casualties, the 12th managed to recapture the enemy’s initial gains and repulse them. On the other hand, the 9th Division, which faced attacks from the 29th and 42nd divisions, wavered and lost its forward positions at the centre, but managed to hold those on the right flank. The relentless Allied assaults and mounting toll of casualties caused a crisis of command. Weber and his chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Perrinet von Thauvenay, lost confidence and asked for permission to retreat behind Achi Baba. Von Sanders acted decisively, sending more troops and forbidding any rearward movement. The ready availability of reinforcements saw the 9th Division repulse attacks by the Royal Naval Division. The Ottoman counter-attacks continued for another three days, achieving small gains at a high cost. Overall, Hamilton’s new tactical approach was instrumental in securing limited gains and inflicting some 9000 casualties, but he also paid a high price, suffering over 6500 casualties of his own.179 179 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 44–71; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 33–35, 41–53; Lepetit et.al., Les Armées Françaises dans La Grande Guerre, tome 8, vol. 1, pp. 84–88; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 124–125; Feuille, Face aux Turcs, pp. 92–97; Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, pp. 95–104; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 176–180; Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire)

180

The year of uncertainty

By now, von Sanders and the Ottoman General Staff had lost confidence in Weber. On 6 July, Second Army Headquarters under the command of Mehmed Vehib [Kaçi] Pasha was ordered to take responsibility for the Southern Group. Weary divisions were transferred to either Saros or Asia and replaced by fresh divisions. At the beginning of August, the second big reorganisation in less than two months was completed. Accordingly, the Fifth Army was organised into four groups and two small regions: Northern Group (Esat Pasha’s III Corps Headquarters commanding the 5th, 9th, 16th and 19th divisions), Southern Group (Mehmed Vehib Pasha’s Second Army Headquarters commanding II Corps [4th and 8th divisions], V Corps [13th and 14th Divisions] and XIV Corps [1st and 10th divisions]), Saros Group (Ahmed Feyzi’s XVI Corps Headquarters commanding the 6th, 7th and 12th Divisions and 1st Cavalry Brigade), Asia Group (Mehmed Ali Pasha’s I Corps Headquarters commanding the 2nd, 3rd and 11th divisions), Anafarta Region (also known as the Willmer Detachment; one infantry, two gendarmerie and two artillery battalions and some cavalry) and Tayfur Region (4th Independent Cavalry Regiment).180 With the apparent failure of amphibious operations and the subsequent costly stalemate, Hamilton found himself in an impasse. In order to salvage some form of result, he continued offensive operations, albeit reducing them in size. Hunter-Weston introduced a version of ‘bite-and-hold’ tactics in which the troops attempted to capture limited objectives using surprise, deception and concentration of artillery, particularly howitzers. Some surprising victories were gained, but they were far from decisive and the cost was high. Although the Ottoman defenders suffered more casualties in terms of percentages, unlike the Allies, they had some means of remedying their losses with the arrival of new conscripts.181 Throughout the crisis, the Royal Navy and its junior French partner waited patiently for breakthrough at land and did very little to share the ever-increasing burden of the expeditionary force. During the initial weeks of the landing, the Allied armada tried its best to provide continuous fire support by employing all the available warships. However, the surprise attack of the Ottoman torpedoboat Muavenet (under the joint command of lieutenants Ahmed Saffet [Ohkay] and Rudolph Firle) and sinking of the British battleship HMS Goliath on 12 May 1915 transformed the situation drastically. The Allied ships no longer acted freely, and security of the fleet gained paramount importance – especially after the

Division, pp. 34–41; Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, pp. 62–66; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 100–102; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 147–152. 180 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 77–97, 259–262; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 200–201, 205–206. 181 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 116–256; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 33, 79–112; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 343–346; Hüseyin Atıf Beşe, Dedem Hüseyin Atıf Beşe: Bir Cemiyet-i Osmaniye Askerinin Savaş Hatıratı, (ed.) Güliz Beşe Erginsoy, Varlık Yayınları, İstanbul, 2004, pp. 143–145; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 152–159; R.R. Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, Maclehose, Jackson & Co., Glasgow, 1923, pp. 46–69, 82–128; Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, pp. 67–69.

The year of uncertainty  181 appearance of German submarines. On 25 May, Lieutenant Otto Hersing’s U-21 torpedoed and sunk HMS Triumph. Just two days later, it was the turn of another pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Majestic to fall victim to U-21’s torpedoes, thereby forcing the major vessels to take refuge in protected harbours at the cost moral of troops on the peninsula. These disasters “cast a gloom over Anzac” and Helles. Although naval artillery was pretty useless against the Ottoman infantry in trenches, the presence of big ‘covering’ battleships behind provided much-needed moral support. Until the arrival of monitors in July and August, the Allied troops literally were left to their own devices and fate.182 According to a contemporary observer, “the Royal Navy never executed a more demoralizing maneuver in the whole of its history”.183 Submarine warfare was turning out to be double-edged sword, to the dismay of the Ottomans. In fact, they had been warned of the danger. At the very beginning of the war on 13 December 1914, Lieutenant Norman D. Holbrook’s obsolete submarine HMS B11 sunk the Ottoman ironclad Mesudiye, which had been planned to be used as a floating battery in the Dardanelles Strait. Holbrook’s feat later encouraged the British Navy planners who were desperately looking for ways to use naval power. The supplies and troop transportation in and around Dardanelles were heavily dependent on sea lanes. If the Allies were able to infiltrate enough submarines from the Strait to Marmara Sea, the Ottoman supply line could be cut off. Against the high potential, the Allied submarines had to deal with huge problems before hunting down the Ottoman ships. First of all, sneaking through the Dardanelles was a very difficult operation and seven submarines were lost (13 submarines managed to complete 27 successful passages) during this initial stage. Second, sustaining submarines was turned out to be equally difficult. Third, the Ottomans enforced submarine counter-measures quickly and effectively. A sizeable number of ships were salvaged, thereby reducing the real effect of submarine

182 From von Usedom to Kaiser, 23 May 1915, 20 July 1915 and 16 August 1915, TNA, CAB 45/215; Otto Hersing, Çanakkale Denizaltı Savaşı, (Turkish translation of the German original U 21 retet die Dardanellen), (trans.) Bülent Erdemoğlu, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 40–54; Rudolf Firle, “Die Vernichtung des englischen Linienschiffes Goliath vor den Dardanellen”, (ed.) Eberhard von Mantey, Auf See unbesiegt: Erlebnisse in Seekrieg erzählt von Mitkämpfern, Erster Band, J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, München, 1922, pp. 39–48; Rudenno, Gallipoli, pp. 118–144; Hermann Lorey, Der krieg in den türkischen Gewässern, Erster Band: Die Mittelmeer-Division, Verlag von E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1928, pp. 138–164; Nazmi, Çanakkale Deniz Savaşları, pp. 68–69, 73, 75; Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, pp. 68–69, 77–78; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 224–227, 264–269; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 35–40; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 170–173; Keyes, The Fight for Gallipoli, pp. 161–163, 176–179; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 247–248, 252–253; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 133–134; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 147–149; Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, pp. 33, 41; Erdemir and Güneş, Meçhul Subay, p.  87; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, p. 106; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 35–37. 183 Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, p. 69.

182  The year of uncertainty attacks.184 Moreover, the Ottoman land transportation system developed quickly and ever-increasing troops on the peninsula did not starve of food and other supplies. In short, the Allied submarines did cause moral shock and material hardship (especially during the summer of 1915). They forced the Ottomans to use land routes and small shipping, operating at night, but did not bring the Ottoman Fifth Army to its knees as the Allied navy planners had hoped it would.185 While Hamilton searched desperately for a solution, on 13 May, Birdwood proposed a limited operation to gain more breathing space at Anzac. His reconnaissance patrols had recently discovered that the Ottoman right flank was lightly held and vulnerable to a flanking manoeuvre. In just under two months, Hamilton’s staff and their Anzac counterparts extended the original idea into a major breakout operation with the aim not only of capturing the Sari Bair Range, but also of reaching the Straits, thereby cutting the Gordian knot. Kitchener and other decisionmakers in London, who were obsessed with British prestige and dreaded the ­prospect of an evacuation, warmly welcomed the proposed operation, so much so that they offered more divisions. By July, the volume of promised reinforcements had reached five divisions.186 There was “no doubt that with more guns or even with more ammunition for the guns” the British had, they “should have swept up the Peninsula” and by achieving “such a sweeping advance, the war could have been and probably would have been over by the end of 1915”.187 The Anzac sector was too small to accommodate the influx of a sizeable force, and thus the Suvla region next to Anzac was incorporated into the plan. Accordingly, most of the new divisions would land at Suvla Bay to establish a secure logistics base and avoid harassment by the artillery batteries that targeted Anzac on a daily basis. However, this was always planned as simply a subsidiary operation. The main operation still involved conquering the dominant ground behind

184 The final toll of ship losses was two battleships, five gunboats, one destroyer, 25 steamers and 3000 tonnes of smaller vessels. 185 From von Usedom to Kaiser, 23 May 1915, 20 July 1915, 8 September 1915 and 31 October 1915, TNA, CAB 45/215; From Enver Pasha to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 31 July 1915; from General Staff Intelligence Division, 14 May  1915, 25 May  1915, 8 June  1915, 13 August  1915; from Subgovernor of Bandırma, 18 August 1915, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Çanakkale, vol. 1, pp. 102, 106, 157, 190–191, 219, 223; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 1, pp. 38, 69–70, 113–128; Lorey, Der krieg, vol. 2, pp. 30–33, 131–150; Nazmi, Çanakkale Deniz Savaşları, pp. 57, 85, 94, 104–105, 117; Rudenno, Gallipoli, pp. 86–104, 154–191, 215–255, 272–274; Besbelli, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 109–111, 195–196, 243–244, 269–291; Keyes, The Fight for Gallipoli, pp. 170–174; Rıza Kaptan, AE-2 Denizaltı Gemisini Marmarada Nasıl Batırdım, (ed.) Bahadır Dülger, Millet, İstanbul, 1947, pp. 10–66; Vasfi Şensözen, I. Dünya Davaşı Yılları ve Kafkas Cephesi Anıları, (ed.) Saro Dadyan, Okuyanus, İstanbul, 2013, pp. 45–46. 186 Some British staff officers claimed that the idea was born independently at GHQ and Anzac HQ simultaneously. Rhys Crawley, Climax at Gallipoli: The Failure of the August Offensive, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2014, pp. 22–32; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 276– 278, 281–285, 288, 291–293; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 127–135; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 436–440; Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, p. 127; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, p. 268; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 260–261; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 160–164. 187 Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, p. 127.

The year of uncertainty  183 the already fixed Ottoman units surrounding Anzac Cove by flanking from the right with the help of highly complex and meticulous artillery and naval fires. Overall, these two operations comprised simply the first phase of an ambitious plan. The aims of the subsequent three phases, in sequence, involved capturing Third Ridge and Kabatepe, capturing the dominant ground north of Maydos (Maltepe) and finally destroying and silencing Ottoman artillery along the Straits with the cooperation of the navy. During its long evolution, an elaborate series of feint attacks was added to the plan to distract the Ottomans and persuade them to divert their troops away from the north.188 Whatever the precautions and deception methods the British and Anzacs employed, the movement of such a large body of troops in such a small area of operations could not be disguised, particularly from Greek islanders who were eager to sell information on every single ship and troop movement to Ottoman and German agents. Von Sanders and other Ottoman commanders soon identified that these were the signs of a major operation. Unlike the 25 April landings, this time they more or less knew where the offensive would occur.189 However, Enver Pasha and the General Staff disrupted plans to reinforce the Suvla region and Sari Bair Ridge by ordering von Sanders to allocate two corps to cover the Bolayır-Saros region. While von Sanders managed to persuade Enver Pasha that the assault would materialise to the south, he was still ordered to keep one strong corps at Bolayır. Although the German general realised the possible extent of the landing, he could do no more than reinforce Lieutenant Colonel Wilhelm Willmer’s detachment, which was tasked to cover the whole Suvla area (between Azmak Dere and Koyun Limanı) with a battalion, and order the 14th Regiment (5th Division) to take over responsibility for the right flank of the Northern Group

188 Crawley, Climax at Gallipoli, pp. 33–44; Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 1, pp. 330–331, 360– 361; Callwell, The Dardanelles, pp. 192–194; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 127, 133; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 444–472; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 164–165, 168. One very interesting and little-known event was the capture of the whole Anzac fire plan with its annexes by the Ottomans during the initial phase of the offensive. An unknown artillery staff officer from the 1st Australian Division Artillery Brigade who had been assigned to the front line decided to take all plans with him, against the standing orders. He was killed in action and all documents were captured by the Ottomans. Having the target lists and timetable, it was very easy to move units and guns from harm’s way. The captured documents not only betrayed the fire plan, but also how the British fire planning and control was working. For the captured documents and their Ottoman Turkish translations, see Captured Documents, August Offensive 1st Australian Division Fire Plan Dossier, ATASE, BDH, Klasör 3441, Dosya 38, Fihrist 1–20. 189 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 140–141; Crawley, Climax at Gallipoli, pp. 47–50. It is important to note that von Sanders identified Suvla and north of Anzac as the enemy’s objectives. Mustafa Kemal and Vehib Pasha were adamant that the offensive would target the Sari Bair Range, while Esad Pasha argued for Kabatepe. Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 266–267, 269–271, 328; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 79–81; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine Ait Tarihçe, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 2011, pp. 4–7 [This report was translated into English in the 1960s. The unpublished manuscript is deposited at the Imperial War Museum Archives, London, under the title of K03–1686, “Ataturk’s Memoir of the Anafartalar Battles”]; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 199–201.

184  The year of uncertainty (between Sazlı Dere and Azmak Dere, where Hamilton planned to launch his main operation) as the Ağıldere Detachment. While von Sanders may have felt more optimistic following these deployments, his plans to move reinforcements to the Northern Group from the Southern and Asia groups were delayed due to bitter disputes with İstanbul. In fact, the 64th Regiment, which had been sent to reinforce the Southern Group, returned on 21 July. While arrangements had been made to transfer troops from Asia, these did not always proceed as planned, with the first unit, the 33rd Regiment, transported to the European side as late as 7 August. Up to that point, the Ottoman defence relied chiefly on the terrain both for protection and to delay the advance of the enemy.190 The August offensive commenced with an Allied artillery preparation at Helles at 2.20 pm on 6 August. Three battalions of the 88th Brigade (29th Division) left their trenches and flung themselves against the left wing of the 10th Division an hour and a half hour later. Most of the attackers were shot to pieces and only some managed to reach the first line, capturing a portion of the 29th Regiment’s trenches. The 10th Division, with the assistance of the 1st Division’s machineguns on the left, easily dealt with the attackers.191 The next day, the 125th and 127th brigades (42nd Division) renewed the attack, targeting a place known as The Vineyard. This attempt also largely failed, with some minor gains around the 46th Regiment’s trenches.192 Likewise, the French attacks also collapsed spectacularly.193 The attacks and counter-attacks continued for a week but achieved little in the way of meaningful results. Vehib Pasha regarded them as no more than a nuisance and, when von Sanders asked for two regiments on 6 August at 7.20 pm, he immediately despatched Lieutenant Colonel Cemil [Conk]’s 4th Division (two regiments), sending the remaining regiment, the 12th, later that morning.194 The next feint was launched at Lone Pine (Kanlı Sırt) at 5.30 pm after an hourlong artillery preparation. In direct contrast to the Helles attacks, Major General Harold B. Walker planned his attack meticulously, using surprise, deception and speed. He kept the target area small and constructed a tunnel to achieve surprise and reduce the exposed area his men had to cross.195 On the other side of the line,

190 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 264–265, 271–273; AspinallOglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 163–167; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 80; Temizkanlı, Kıyamet Koptuğunda, pp. 48–54; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 141–142. 191 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 312–313; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 168–174. 192 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 319–320; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 175–177; Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, pp. 43–46; Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, pp. 74–76. 193 Feuille, Face aux Turcs, pp. 129–131; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 320–321. 194 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 322–323; Cemil Conk, Çanakkale Conkbayırı Savaşları, Erkanı Harbiyeyi Umumiye Basımevi, Ankara, 1959, pp. 171–181. 195 Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 497–505; David W. Cameron, The Battle for Lone Pine: Four Days of Hell at the Heart of Gallipoli, Viking, Melbourne, 2012, pp. 57–84.

The year of uncertainty  185 Major Ahmed Tevfik, commander of the 47th Regiment, also employed unorthodox tactics. In direct violation of orders, he had a policy of keeping the majority of his troops on the front line, believing that strong overhead protection would safeguard his soldiers.196 When the three Australian battalions (from the 1st Brigade) emerged from the tunnel and leapt from their positions, they were surprised to come across trenches covered with pine logs and earth and had to search for openings to enter the maze of trenches. Most of the Ottoman soldiers survived the artillery fire, as Ahmed Tevfik had correctly anticipated; however, due to intense pressure, sound and a mixture of dust and fumes, they were shocked and unable to offer strong resistance to the attackers. To make matters worse, the regimental reserve was weak. After some confusion, Colonel Rüşdü [Sakarya], commander of the 16th Division, sent in his reserve battalions, but they arrived too late. Following a long and bloody hand-to-hand fight, the Australians captured Lone Pine. Esad Pasha ordered all the lost ground retaken, forcing the 16th Division and its reinforcements into a series of counter-attacks that proved more costly than the previous Australian attack. The ensuing battle lasted four days.197 Esad Pasha immediately withdrew the 9th Division, which was covering the coastline south of Kabatepe, and moved it behind Third Ridge. He also requested reinforcements from the Fifth Army. While the arrival of the 4th Division a day later did not help the situation at Lone Pine, the extra troops were ready to reinforce Chunuk Bair when the main assault materialised. In this respect, Walker’s unexpected success backfired: instead of diverting the enemy from the main target area, it did just the opposite, prompting the rapid transfer of additional forces.198 The other feints were conducted during the night and early morning of 6/7 August, the first at Saros. A large company of Greek volunteers (around 300 men) from Crete, under the command of Pavlos Gyparis and a few French officers, landed between Sazlıdere and Karaçalı. They pushed past weak observation posts but were routed when the Independent Cavalry Brigade launched counter-attacks from several directions at 7.00 am. However, under close naval fire support, most of them managed to re-embark and escape with minimal losses.199 Early the next day, the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion (at Steele’s Post) attacked the Ottoman

196 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, p.  690; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 334–335; Aker, Çanakkale – Arıburnu Savaşları, pp. 89–91. In his report following the battle, Mustafa Kemal mistakenly accuses Ahmed Tevfik of not making the front line sufficiently strong. Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine, p. 12. 197 The 16th Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 688–690, 694, 710; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 331–341; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 505–565; Cameron, The Battle for Lone Pine, pp. 124–200; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp.  178–181; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 111. 198 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 690–694; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp.  202–205; Temizkanlı, Kıyamet Koptuğunda, pp.  54–55; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, p. 181. 199 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 380–381; Ferdinand Kugler, Erlebnisse eines Schweizers in den Dardanellen und an der französischen Front, Art. Institut Orell

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Figure 4.17 Cretan Greek volunteers wearing French uniforms marching on the island of Lemnos.

position at German Officer’s Trench, the attack launched far later than planned at 12.30 am. While several mines were exploded, this attack and the second one at 3.15 am failed completely. Faced with a series of protests, Birdwood cancelled the final attack. The 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment’s assault, which was launched at 4.30 am (from Quinn’s Post) also failed disastrously. The 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment’s attack (from Pope’s Hill) achieved some initial success, but the light horsemen lost their fragile hold after two hours. The 8th Royal Welch Fusiliers began their largely forgotten attack against The Chessboard later than planned. The battalion basically melted under intense fire even before reaching the launching position for the attack.200 The most notorious and costly feint was the attack on The Nek.201 From the outset, both commanders and planners were aware of the danger and futility of attacking The Nek in broad daylight. For this reason, the assault was originally to be launched concurrently with the New Zealand and Australian Division’s attack behind the Füssli, Zürich, 1916, pp. 89–91; Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, p. 258; Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 201–202. 200 Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 381–390; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 597–606, 621–622. 201 The Nek attack is the climax scene of Peter Weir’s acclaimed motion picture Gallipoli. Thanks to Weir’s interpretation and George Lambert’s famous painting, it has become the symbol of loss of innocence, the futility of war and British betrayal in Australia. Peter Weir later commented, “I felt somehow I was really touching history”. See Peter Weir, “Peter Weir on Gallipoli: ‘I Felt Somehow I was Really Touching History’ ”, Literature Film Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 1, February 1984, pp. 13–15.

The year of uncertainty  187 Ottoman lines. When the flanking manoeuvre failed to reach its objectives, Birdwood decided to proceed with the attack at The Nek regardless. Given the narrowness of the terrain, the two attacking regiments, the 8th and 10th Australian Light Horse, were divided into four lines. The first line was destroyed immediately after leaving its line. Despite the futility of the endeavour becoming ever more apparent, the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade continued to send the second and third lines to their doom. A last-minute intervention could only save part of the fourth line.202 The New Zealand and Australian Division, under the command of Major General Alexander Godley, was charged with the capture of the Sari Bair heights. In order to start his flanking move targeting Sari Bair, Godley had to eliminate five outposts, chief among them Bauchop’s Hill (Yayla Tepe), Old No. 3 and Tabletop (Pilavtepe), manned by the 2/14th Battalion, which overlooked the approaches of the advance. A  covering force comprising the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and the 40th Brigade was tasked with capturing these outposts as quickly and silently as possible during the early hours of 7 August. These posts had been subjected to continual scheduled bombardment by destroyers and monitors for almost six weeks. As a result, the covering force caught the defenders largely unaware, although they lost valuable time which would cost the follow-on force dearly.203 The right column (the New Zealand Brigade) started late and, after much confusion and several delays, barely occupied Rhododendron (Şahin) Ridge a kilometre away from their objective (Chunuk Bair) while the left column (the 4th Australian and 29th Indian brigades), lost its way and, by morning, was still some distance from its objectives. By failing to capture their respective objectives on time – due to general confusion in difficult terrain, tried and sick soldiers, but most importantly because of poor staff work and command decisions – the August offensive actually failed well before the bloody battles that were to come later.204 On 6 August at around 9.30 pm, General Frederick Stopford, commander of the newly activated IX Corps, launched the Suvla Bay landings. The corps was tasked with capturing and securing the Suvla region so as to create a base large enough to supply and support the offensive following the capture of Sari Bair Ridge. Stopford had five brigades to perform this secondary operation – his other four brigades had been attached to the Anzac Corps.205 Despite his concerns, the 202 Peter Burness, The Nek: A Gallipoli Tragedy, Exisle Publishing, Auckland, 2012, pp. 83–130; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 195–198; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 607–621, 623–624. 203 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 182–189; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 567–576; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp.  693–694; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 346–347; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp.  265–268; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 201–212; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 63–69. 204 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 189–195, 199–200; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 577–596, 652–658; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 256–258, 261–262, 268–275; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 213–217. 205 C.H. Dudley Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, Western Mail Limited, Cardiff, 1927, pp. 19–22; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 223–234; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, p. 142.

188  The year of uncertainty

Figure 4.18 An obsolete Krupp 75mm mountain gun firing in Suvla. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

32nd and 33rd brigades disembarked with relative ease while the 34th Brigade was landed around a kilometre from its planned disembarkation point. Despite landing unopposed, the inexperienced soldiers and officers of the 11th (Northern) Division became disorganised. Their confusion and chaos increased with the first combat actions against Lala Baba and Hill 10 (Softa Tepe). It took the force a long time to capture these small, lightly held hills, and it cost them substantial casualties.206 In contrast to his British counterparts, Willmer acted dynamically and successfully made use of enemy vulnerabilities and their leisurely advance. There were only two Ottoman gendarmerie battalions (Bursa and Gelibolu, from right to left) covering the long coast  – which included Ejelmer Bay (Ece Limanı) – in weak and isolated observation posts. The 2/31st Battalion was sited within half an hour’s marching distance, while the 1/31st Battalion was located farther east. The Ottoman outposts mounted serious resistance but did not wait to be destroyed, withdrawing to safer positions. Stopford, who was at sea and unaware 206 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp.  235–253; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 387–392, 395; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 22–25; Latter, The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers, pp. 70–73; Travers, Gallipoli 1915, pp. 142–144, 149; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 190–200.

The year of uncertainty  189 of developments, was completely isolated while his division and brigade commanders made limited attempts to gain high ground and essentially wasted time and energy bickering. Three battalions advanced to Jephson’s Post on Kiretch (Kireç Tepe) Ridge and, by 9.30 pm, the 6th Lincolnshire Battalion had captured Chocolate Hill (Pırnar Tepe).207 When the first reports of the enemy advance on the right flank arrived, von Sanders realised that this thrust posed a real threat and, on 7 August, he began to move units from the other groups to reinforce the Ağıldere Detachment and Northern Group. He directed XVI Corps (the 7th and 12th divisions under Colonel Ahmed Feyzi), which covered a wide area at Bolayır-Saros, to march to Suvla. He knew that it would take more than a day for the corps to pack up and march, so, ignoring the developments at Suvla, he ordered Willmer to send the 1/32nd Battalion from the north. More importantly, he tasked the 9th Division to rush to Sari Bair, leaving only the 26th Regiment to cover the Kabatepe region. At the same time, von Sanders anxiously ordered every unit on the Sari Bair Ridge to immediately launch surprise counter-attacks.208 In the meantime, Mustafa Kemal, feeling threatened, independently despatched the 1/14th Battalion to Hill 971 and two companies of the 1/72nd Battalion to Chunuk Bair.209 Thanks to this emergency measure, when the New Zealanders and Gurkhas finally commenced their advance, they came under fire immediately. Colonel Hans Kannengiesser, commander of the 9th Division, arrived at Chunuk Bair at around 7.00 pm with the forward elements of the 64th Regiment. He hastily organised the defence and ordered his regiment and the 1/72nd Battalion to counter-attack. At this critical moment, Kannengiesser was wounded and had to be evacuated. Although the Ottoman counter-attack, later boosted by the 25th Regiment, did not push the New Zealanders off Rhododendron Ridge, it effectively pinned them there. Similarly, the 1/32nd Battalion pinned the 4th Australian Brigade at Damakjelik (Damakçılık) Bair, which was some distance from any positions of tactical importance.210

207 From Willmer to Aspinall, 15 January and 16 February 1930, Isle of Wight County Record Office [Hereafter IWCRO], OG/AO/G/44, Papers of Cecil F. Aspinall-Oglander. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Rhys Crawley for sharing these important documents. Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 254–263; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 695–696, 699; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 391–398; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 186–187. 208 From Willmer to Aspinall, 15 January and 16 February 1930, IWCRO, OG/AO/G/44; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 83–84; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 342– 343, 389–390, 399–400; Tevfik, Gelibolu Müfrezesi, pp.  164–166; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 111. 209 The main problem at this stage was that the Ağıldere Detachment was under the direct command of the Fifth Army. To complicate these difficulties, Esad Pasha was highly territorial, paying little attention to enemy actions beyond his area of responsibility. For almost two days, an invisible wall separated the Northern Group from developments at Sari Bair. Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine, pp. 5–11; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp.  644–645, 691–692; Temizkanlı, Kıyamet Koptuğunda, p. 55. 210 Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, pp. 204–210; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 695–696; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 347–350; Mustafa

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Cemil, commander of the 4th Division, assumed command of the defence on the right flank (now named the Kocaçimen Group) at noon. He was surprised to find that the troops on Chunuk Bair and the surrounding ridge were already exhausted after forced marches, intense naval fire and heavy casualties, particularly among the officers. To make matters worse, the troops were hopelessly mixed, making command and control more difficult. There were even stragglers taking refuge in creeks. Instead of reorganising the defence and establishing his authority, Cemil simply reinforced the makeshift defence with two of his battalions (from the 11th Regiment) as they arrived, allocating the other two battalions and the 10th Regiment as the Group reserve, and asking for more reinforcements. He received just 12 machine-guns, manned by German Marines (four of these were later despatched to Suvla), which he positioned between Battleship Hill and Hill Q (Besim Tepe).211 While Cemil appreciated the difficulty of his position, constant interference by von Sanders and others made his task far more challenging. His other serious problems included a shortage of officers – almost half of them, including some regimental commanders, had been lost – and the constant need to reinforce vulnerable points by moving troops from one location to another. This may have been the reason why the Wellington Battalion (reinforced with elements of the 7th Gloucestershire) managed to filter onto the crest of Chunuk Bair which had previously been defended valiantly, but was discovered virtually unoccupied on 8 August. This important feat appeared to be the first real sign of eventual victory. However, throughout the day, Cemil tried his best to dislodge the occupying enemy by sending battalions from the 25th and 64th regiments against the New Zealanders, albeit with limited success. Vicious hand-to-hand fighting and naval gunfire caused more officer casualties including Nail, commander of the 25th Regiment. Only the timely arrival of two fresh battalions from the 33rd Regiment saved the situation. Interestingly, the fall of Chunuk Bair was not reported to higher command, so neither von Sanders nor Esad Pasha was aware of it until the following morning. At this stage, in order to better coordinate the defence, von Sanders replaced Cemil with Lieutenant Colonel Sylvester Böttrich, who, as the chief of the Railway Transportation Division in İstanbul, happened to be inspecting facilities at Maydos at the beginning of the crisis. Von Sanders also transferred the 9th Division and its reinforcements at Sari Bair to under command of Ahmed Feyzi, who was still on the road marching towards Suvla.212 The command

Tevfik, Gelibolu Müfrezesi, pp. 166–170; Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 204–208; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 634–646; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 276–279; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 111. 211 Conk, Çanakkale Conkbayırı Savaşları, pp. 24–26; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 695–699; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 351–352; Mustafa Tevfik, Gelibolu Müfrezesi, pp. 171–173. 212 Conk, Çanakkale Conkbayırı Savaşları, pp. 25–26, 44–46; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 700–704; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 353–360; AspinallOglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 212–214; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2,

The year of uncertainty 191 and control situation became even more confused with the arrival of the 8th Division (23rd and 24th regiments). Colonel Ali Rıza [Sedes] was the ranking officer, but Böttrich refused to recognise his authority – clearly the fault of the Fifth Army, which had not clarified command responsibility before transferring the reinforcements.213 On the evening of 8 August, Godley finally recognised the futility of expecting the 4th Australian Brigade to capture Hill 971 and decided to aim instead for part of the ridge between Hill Q and Battleship Hill. The 1/6th Gurkha and 6th South Lancashire battalions began their attack early in the morning, finally reaching the ridge between Chunuk Bair and Hill Q after a difficult march. As they consolidated their gains, they came under intense fire from both Ottoman forces and friendly fire, which forced them off the ridge. While the New Zealanders barely reinforced their position at Chunuk Bair, the five battalions that had tried to advance to the area close to Hill Q failed miserably.214 At the same time, the Ottomans were having problems of their own. Ahmed Feyzi arrived on the battlefield with the 7th Division while the 12th Division was still marching. Von Sanders ordered him to attack without waiting for the 12th Division. Ahmed Feyzi vehemently protested this order, stating that his soldiers were tired and disorganised. He asked for a day’s rest, reorganisation and preparation. Von Sanders immediately sacked him. After some hesitation and with conflicting orders, he finally assigned the divisions to Mustafa Kemal, the Anafartalar Group commander responsible for the Sari Bair and Suvla regions.215 pp. 666–678; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 280–284; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 218– 223; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 70–74. 213 Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 706–708; Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine, pp. 35–36; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 360–361; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp. 111–112; Tevfik, Gelibolu Müfrezesi, pp. 176–179. 214 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 215–220; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 687–700; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 365–366; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 285–300; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 224–226. 215 The ensuing developments proved that Ahmed Feyzi’s decision and proposal were correct. Mustafa Kemal basically used his plans and preparations to launch counter-attacks the next day. Dispatch from Fifth Army to the Ottoman High Command, 8 August 1915, ATBD, no. 88, pp. 106–107; Imperial Decree, 22 August 1915, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Çanakkale, pp. 229–230; From Willmer to Aspinall, 15 January and 16 February 1930, IWCRO, OG/AO/G/44; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 362, 400–405; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 151–152; Mehmet Lütfi Rifai, Hatıralarım, (ed.) Arif Suavi Okay, Günaydın Ofset, İstanbul, 2006, p. 111. Von Sanders had been considering Mustafa Kemal for this position well before his problems with Ahmed Feyzi, but seniority rules and Mustafa Kemal’s difficult relations with Esad Pasha had prevented him realising this earlier. Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine, pp. 18–21; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 84–86; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları, vol. 6, pp. 699–700, 704–705; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 109–110; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 112. In his memoir, reserve 2nd Lieutenant İsmail Hakkı [Sunata] from the 12th Division vividly describes the effects of forced march and widescale chaos and disorganization. Only 50 soldiers out of 1200-strong battalion managed to arrive to Anafartalar in the morning of 9 August. It took more than a day for the others to come. İ. Hakkı Sunata, Gelibolu’dan Kafkaslara Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anılarım, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları,

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Mustafa Kemal took his time, visiting Sari Bair and Suvla, and coordinating counter-attacks with his divisional commanders during the night of 8/9 August. Accordingly, he tasked the 12th Division to take over responsibility from the Willmer Detachment and to push the British IX Corps off the high ground – particularly from W (İsmailoğlu Tepe) and Scimitar (Yusufçuk) Hills – on the morning of 10 August. The Willmer Detachment, having been relieved, was to move to the Ejelmer Bay area to cover the northern coastline against potential landings. Lieutenant Colonel Ali Remzi [Alçıtepe]’s 7th Division, which had already launched attacks on the 4th Australian and elements of the 40th brigades, would continue its current offensive action. Lieutenant Colonel Selahattin Adil, commander of the 12th Division, had 11,000 combat effectives and was facing two British divisions. In order to cover his broad front between Kiretch Tepe and W Hill, he distributed his regiments thinly. While Selahattin Adil appeared to take considerable risks, once his counter-attack commenced, his gamble began to pay off.216 As Selahattin Adil was making his preparations, Major General Frederick Hammersley was concentrating his 11th Division to attack in the direction of Hill W and Anafarta Sagir (Küçük Anafarta) village, in accordance with Hamilton’s orders. It took some time for the units to prepare and, during the ensuing confusion, the 9th West York Battalion mistakenly withdrew from Scimitar Hill (Yusufçuk Tepe), which was one of the initial objectives. Unwittingly, Hammersley presented an ideal target for the Ottoman infantry and artillery. The 12th Division pounded the British infantry effectively with artillery and machineguns, and launched its attack shortly after. While the British managed to hold the small hills between Kiretch Tepe and Chocolate Hill, Selahattin Adil had achieved his aims.217 While the 7th and 12th divisions were successfully dealing with the enemy threat at Suvla, Mustafa Kemal was already organising the counter-attack at Sari Bair. Clearly, it was best to launch this attack in conjunction with the assault at Suvla, but Mustafa Kemal had little faith in the capacity of the 8th and 9th divisions to conduct counter-attacks on their own. During his brief fact-finding trip, he not only came across leaderless and confused troops, but also discovered the problematic relations between Böttrich and Ali Rıza. As a result, he İstanbul, 2003, pp. 126–129; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 96–100; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 223–224. 216 From Willmer to Aspinall, 15 January and 16 February 1930, IWCRO, OG/AO/G/44; Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine, pp. 22–32; Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 101–102; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 406–416. 217 From Willmer to Aspinall, 15 January and 16 February 1930, IWCRO, OG/AO/G/44; AspinallOglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 287–299; Sunata, Gelibolu’dan Kafkaslara, pp. 134–152; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 226–227; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 26–31; James, Gallipoli, pp. 294–297. Unfortunately for Selahattin Adil, von Sanders was angered by the fact that the British were able to hold Green Hill, so he was severely reprimanded. Adil, Çanakkale Cephesinden Mektuplar – Hatıralar, pp. 102– 104; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 202–207; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, p. 116.

The year of uncertainty  193

Figure 4.19 The Ottoman 8th Infantry Division officers proudly posing after their successful counter-attack on 10 August 1915. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

took personal command of the counter-attack, initially selecting two uncommitted regiments (23rd and 28th) and then carefully organising and positioning the 23rd (against Chunuk Bair) and 28th regiments (against Rhododendron Ridge). Both regiments placed two battalions at the front and kept one battalion to the rear. Mustafa Kemal moved at the head of his force until his troops reached their positions for the attack. He launched the counter-attack early in the morning of 10 August. The massive and well-coordinated attack was simply too much for the 6th Loyal North Lancashire and 5th Wiltshire battalions, which had earlier taken over the defence from the New Zealanders. Despite suffering heavy casualties, the Ottomans managed to dislodge them from their precariously held positions. Only the New Zealand machine-guns at The Apex stalled the attack, preventing a looming disaster.218

218 Dispatch from Fifth Army to the Ottoman High Command, 10 August 1915; from the Anafartalar Group to Fifth Army, 11 August 1915, ATBD, no. 88, pp. 110–115; Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine, pp. 37–40; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 371–377; AspinallOglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 303–308; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 707–715; Conk, Çanakkale Conkbayırı Savaşları, pp. 68–70; Bülkat, Çanakkale Hatıraları,

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While the August offensive (perhaps better known as the Suvla disaster) was nothing more than a tactical opportunity, it was widely regarded as the Allies’ last chance to conquer the Straits. Although the main attack against the Sari Bair Range, landings at Suvla and diversionary attacks at Anzac and Helles on 6 and 7 August achieved initial surprise and the Ottoman theatre command encountered difficulty in recognising and responding to the situation, its final failure, which coincided with the growing importance of the Western Front, persuaded British decision-makers of the futility of continuing the campaign. Stopford and some other elderly generals were scapegoated and Hamilton hastily launched the second offensive at Suvla between 21 and 27 August, but the only concrete result of these failed attacks was the acceleration of his own dismissal process.219 The new Allied theatre commander, General Charles Monro, immediately came to the conclusion that further offensive operations and even the effort involved in simply holding the line were futile and posed an enormous threat. Against the widespread belief that any form of withdrawal would damage British prestige, Munro regarded it as the only viable option and ordered the evacuation of the peninsula as soon as possible. His order was duly implemented during December 1915 and early January 1916, which became the sole strategic success for the Allied forces during the entire campaign.220 The obvious question is: were the Ottomans aware of the Allied preparations for evacuation? The available documents and personal war narratives clearly point out that they were. The rumours of an imminent Allied evacuation started early in September, well before a decision had been reached by the British. These

vol. 6, p. 710; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 86; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 226–228, 237–244; Temizkanlı, Kıyamet Koptuğunda, pp. 55–56; Rifai, Hatıralarım, pp. 113–115; Pugsley, Gallipoli, pp. 304–312; James, Gallipoli, pp. 297–301. Chunuk Bair was one of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces’ biggest and worst battles. Of the estimated 8500 New Zealanders who fought in the eight-month Gallipoli Campaign against the Ottoman empire, 2721 were killed, and many of those died in just four days, during the August offensive. Not surprisingly, Chunuk Bair is seen as the place where the New Zealand identity was forged. According to Pugsley: “on Chunuk Bair, New Zealand soldiers gave up their amateur status and found an identity as fighting men. . . . On Chunuk Bair we demonstrated our nationhood for the first time”. Pugsley, Gallipoli, p. 313. 219 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 314–325, 333–386; Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol. 2, pp. 853–906; Atatürk, Anafartalar Muharebelerine, pp. 42–56; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 429–460; Crawley, Climax at Gallipoli, pp. 7–8, 214, 242–245; Sunata, Gelibolu’dan Kafkaslara, pp. 156–164; Ian Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, vol. 2, George H. Doran, New York, 1920, pp. 60–77, 86–143, 271–278; Callwell, The Dardanelles, pp. 241–245; Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, pp. 274–275, 300–301; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 233–237; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 245–258; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, pp. 268–269, 275–276, 282; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 78–84; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp. 113–115; Temizkanlı, Kıyamet Koptuğunda, pp. 59–60, 62; James, Gallipoli, pp. 306–311; Prior, Gallipoli, pp. 190, 207–209. 220 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 2, pp. 397–478; Callwell, The Dardanelles, pp. 267–331; Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, pp. 278–292; Birdwood, Khaki and Gown, pp. 278–281, 284–297.

The year of uncertainty  195 rumours gave hope and morale to the soldiers, but at the same time dramatically affected their willingness and courage. No-one would like to be the last casualty of a campaign terminating. The soldiers had suffered a lot and were more than happy to let the enemy go without further bloodshed. Von Sanders, on the other hand, was anxious to strike and inflict serious casualties before such an eventuality. However, his field commanders were not keen, knowing too well that soldiers had had enough and would be very reluctant to carry out a very costly final attack. Battalion and company commanders were already having huge problems motivating their troops to conduct ordinary trench raids and reconnaissance-in-force duties. In order not to face an embarrassing setback, they did their best to convince their superior officers that a general offensive would be counter-productive under the conditions. To make the things far worse, some aggressive commanders and serious pushers like Mustafa Kemal were either assigned to out of theatre jobs or got disillusioned and took medical leaves. Similarly, some veteran divisions were also packing to join a new expeditionary force to Europe. The situation became more desparate for von Sanders after the evacuation of Suvla and Anzac. Although he was not very sure about the certainty of evacuation of Helles, he was adamant about making it costly. Not certain about the willingness of his divisions, von Sanders ordered a limited attack. On 7 January, after moderate artillery preparation fire, the 1st Division launched its attack but the soldiers were so reluctant that the British 13th Division understood it to be some kind of probing attack which they easily dealt with. In the end, von Sanders had to give up. The Ottoman Southern Group waited patiently for the evacuation of Helles and did little to hamper the operation.221 The British political and military leadership had initially decided to launch the Gallipoli Campaign in the expectation that the mere arrival of a British fleet and the simple waving of the Union Jack would be sufficient to frighten the Ottoman defenders into surrendering and encourage civilians to rise against the government. The Western literature of the campaign is peppered with ‘what ifs’ and ‘what might have beens’. Thanks to Gallipoli’s connection to ancient Greek history, in which most Allied officers were well versed, the whole affair was labelled as a ‘Greek tragedy’. Accordingly, whatever the ‘heroes’ of the campaign did and their sacrificies, it was doom to fail.222 221 Kayabalı, Kanlısırt Günlüğü, pp.  110, 123, 144–145, 153, 165, 169, 177–179, 186–187, 243; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 94–103; Tekşüt and Ökse, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 471–478, 492–499; Mühlmann, Der Kampf um die Dardanellen 1915, pp. 165–185; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 189–191; Sunata, Gelibolu’dan Kafkaslara, pp. 196–199, 204–206; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp. 129, 134; İbrahim Arıkan, Harp Hatıralarım: Bir Mehmetçiğin Çanakkale-Galiçya-Filistin Cephesi Hatıraları, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp.  58–61; Yazman, Bir Subayın Kaleminden Türk Çanakkale, pp. 430–443; Prior, Gallipoli, p. xv. 222 Mackenzie, Gallipoli Memoirs, pp. 48, 154; Alan Moorehead, Gallipoli, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1956, pp. 362–365; James, Gallipoli, pp.  xiv, 351–353; Terraine, The First World War, pp. 70–83; Cyril Falls, The Great War 1914–1918, Perigee Books, New York, 1959, pp. 126–136; James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of World War I, William Morrow and Co., New York, 1981,

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Figure 4.20 A regimental colour guard (either the 47th or 48th Regiment) posing on Lone Pine after the Anzac evacuation. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

An important percentage of the Ottoman Army (17 of 40 numbered divisions) and its officers (just under half of the regular officers) served in the Gallipoli Campaign. The casualty figures were astonishing: 166,507 men were killed, wounded or became seriously ill, of whom 1658 were officers. The Ottoman military never recovered from these losses (particularly the loss of officers). The availability of trained rank and file in Ottoman units was never again as high as it had been prior to Gallipoli.223 Indeed, “the flower of the Turkish Army” was lost on the rugged peninsula.224 This enormous sacrifice damaged the army in a very material sense. But pride in the unlikely victory was so immense that, psychologically, it boosted the combat effectiveness of the entire military, and the prestige and cohesion of its members was enormously enhanced. The units that fought in the campaign gained a special identity which they retained until the very end of the war. The Gallipoli pp. 126–127. For a criticism of Western literature of Gallipoli and ‘terrible ifs’, see Prior, Gallipoli, pp. xii–xiv, 43, 249–252. 223 Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 185, 192; Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası, pp. 113–114; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, p. 52. 224 Aspinall-Oglander, History of the Great War, vol. 1, p. ix.

The year of uncertainty 197 victory also provided considerable benefits to the military in terms of proficiency. A large number of officers served in the campaign and learnt their trade in a modern trench warfare environment. Nevertheless, the most significant benefit of the campaign was the creation of new bonds within the rank and file. Facing danger and hardship every day, their shared experiences in the trenches created a special brotherhood. Being a veteran of Gallipoli became a clear distinction and endowed substantial prestige.225

Caucasus Front On 2 March 1915, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha arrived in the theatre with a large group of reserve officers. While he was a battle-tested veteran officer, what confronted him was beyond anything he had experienced before.226 Reserve officer candidate Faik [Tonguç], who happened to arrive a few days later, vividly describes the scene in his memoir: It was impossible to walk on the streets without touching arms or legs of dead bodies. I witnessed more terrifying scenes inside an old army barracks. . . . Between the walls, dead bodies that had been simply piled up like timber tied to each other with ropes were lying . . . under the horrific gazes of stray dogs transformed into monsters by getting fed with dead bodies.227 Mahmud Kâmil Pasha wisely secured the service of one of the most talented Ottoman military doctors, Major Tevfik Salim [Sağlam], as the new chief medical officer of the field army. Tevfik Salim, an unassuming, scholarly looking young doctor, started work immediately, enforcing a strict quarantine and purification regime in all units and medical facilities. He then mobilised service support units and civilians to eradicate the source of epidemics. While the Ottoman medical corps had serious shortcomings, the real problems were general ignorance of sanitation and preventive medicine, and more importantly, combat-oriented generals who neglected medical support altogether. Having reorganised the mobile and stationary hospitals, Tevfik Salim painfully tracked down and transported medical equipment and supplies that had been dumped somewhere on the way from İstanbul, another example of the lack of organisation and the poor state

225 Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 9, pp. 192–193; Kemalyeri, Çanakkale Ruhu, pp. 7, 69, 123; Faik Tonguç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Bir Yedek Subayın Anıları, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 1999, pp. 163–164. 226 Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 3, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1991, pp. 353–354, 356, 373; Aziz Samih [İlter], Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları: Zivinden Peteriçe, Büyük Erkanıharbiye Matbaası, Ankara, 1934, pp. 38–39. 227 Tonguç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Bir Yedek Subayın Anıları, pp. 13–20, 31–32. For other witness accounts, see Halil Ataman, Esaret Yılları: Bir Yedek Subayın I. Dünya Savaşı Şark Cephesi Hatıraları, Kardeşler Matbaası, 1990, İstanbul, pp. 46–47; Mehmet Derviş Kuntman, Tabur Tabibi Derviş Bey, (ed.) Mehmet Ali Kuntman, Paraf Yayınları, İstanbul, 2011, pp. 156–157.

198  The year of uncertainty of communications. Thanks to his leadership and the extraordinary effort of his team, the epidemics were contained after reaching their dreadful peak of 9242 deaths in March 1915.228 Amid the catastrophe of epidemics, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha knew that he had limited time to establish a viable defence prior to the onset of the Russian main offensive. Before his arrival, Third Army units had reacted to tactical emergencies by sending any troops available without an operational plan, causing confusion and wasting the lives of conscripts in vain. Under the regulations, each division was tasked with establishing and operating a depot regiment to train new conscripts as replacements. In this way, the regional identity of units would be preserved so as to foster unit élan and improve integration. Nevertheless, the Sarıkamış catastrophe and ensuing emergencies destroyed the depot regiment system. Initially, depot regiments were rushed to the front line to reinforce XI Corps and the remaining depot regiments and all of their training cadres were used to replace the lost regiments of IX Corps. Later, due to a lack of depot regiments, all new conscripts were sent to units without any training and they simply melted away in a few weeks. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha halted this futile practice and, following the blueprint of Cemal Pasha in Syria, transformed depot regiments into permanent training camps.229 Mahmud Kâmil Pasha, who was very careful not to waste lives irresponsibly, also put an end to detrimental tactical ‘patching’ and instead concentrated on vital terrain. He identified Tortum in the north and Malazgirt in the south as the probable enemy staging areas for a final offensive against Erzurum. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha then evacuated indefensible or unimportant sites and concentrated his meagre units on a defence line anchored to these points. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha’s third priority was to make the recently reactivated IX Corps combat ready. In the face of constant calls for assistance, he husbanded IX Corps in Erzurum so as to strengthen its cadres and continue its training.230 228 Tevfik Sağlam, Büyük Harpte 3. Orduda Sıhhi Hizmet, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1941, pp. 11–19, 67–116, 131–136; Hikmet Özdemir, The Ottoman Army 1914–1918: Disease & Death on the Battlefields, (trans.) Şaban Kardaş, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2008, pp. 53–66, 78–81, 177–179; Ahmet Başustaoğlu, Bir Nefes Sıhhat: Tevfik Sağlam’ın Yaşamı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2016, pp. 126–138, 148–154; Fevzi Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi Hareketleri: Şark Vilayetlerimizde, Kafkasyada ve İranda, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1936, pp. 80, 90, 361–362; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 360–361, 371–372; İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 39–40; Felix Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesindeki Muharebeler, (trans.) Hakkı, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1931, pp. 60–61; Hakkı Altınbilek and Naci Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Kafkas Cephesi 3ncü Ordu Harekâtı, vol. 2, Section 1, Book 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 883–885. 229 İlter, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Hatıraları, pp. 12, 29–31, 39; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 359, 363, 380; Ragıp Nurettin Eğe, Babamın Emanetleri, Dergâh Yayınları, İstanbul, 2006, pp. 69–95; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 555–556. 230 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p. 90; E.V. Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Eserinin Tenkidi, (trans.) Nazmi, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1935, pp. 233–234; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 374, 404–405; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, p. 61.

The year of uncertainty  199 Despite all these measures and the general improvement of the medical situation, Ottoman combat strength remained well below establishment levels. Infantry regiments barely had 1000 soldiers, while divisional commanders considered themselves fortunate if they had 3000 combatants. The newly arrived 5th Expeditionary Force with 15,000 effectives had more soldiers than each corps of the army. The overall personnel strength of the Third Army was 59,399 (including recent reinforcements, gendarmerie and border guards, but excluding commissariat, line of communication and interior security troops), which was still less than half of its original strength. To make matters worse, most of the soldiers were raw conscripts and almost all the company-level positions were occupied by reserve officers. The remaining tribal cavalrymen deserted their units whenever they could. It was an army without effective command, control, firepower, logistic support and morale.231 One of the most controversial and notorious results of the continuous defeats suffered at the hands of Russians was the decree for relocation of Armenians of 31 May.232 The Ottoman political and military leadership were well aware of the Armenian leaders’ designs for independence or autonomy before the war. Some of them even tried to reach a deal with the Armenian revolutionary groups, promising them more autonomy and threatening them with heavy punishments.233 For whatever reason, they totally ignored the possibility of a well-coordinated rebellion and paid little attention to the increasingly urgent intelligence reports. Therefore, first the Zeitun events in March 1915 and then the rebellion of Van on 14–15 April 1915 and their timing (widely seen as a collaboration effort to facilitate the

231 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 81, 90; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 363– 364, 380–381; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 567, 619–620; Süleyman İzzet Yeğinatı, Büyük Harbin Başında 2. İhtiyat ve Nizamiye Süvari Tümenleri ile Aras Cenup Müfrezesinin Muharebeleri, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1939, pp.  112–113, 116, 122; Tonguç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Bir Yedek Subayın Anıları, pp.  47, 50–52, 60, 63, 66–67; Fahri Çakır, Elli Yıl Öncesi: Şark Cephesi ve Anadolu, Çınar Matbaası, İstanbul, 1967, pp. 56–57; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 91–92. 232 For the official documents about this decree and its application see Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermeniler (1915–1920), Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, Ankara, 1995, pp.  5–11, 18–178. 233 Cemal, Hatıralar, p. 407; Hilmar Kaiser, “Regional Resistance to the Central Government Policies: Ahmed Djemal Pasha, the Governors of Aleppo and Armenian Deportees in the Spring and Summer of 1915”, Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 12, no. 3–4, September–December 2010, pp. 176–211; Donald Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, p. 72; Garegin Pasdermadjian, Why Armenia Should be Free: Armenia’s Role in the Present War, Hairenik Publishing, Boston, 1918, pp. 15–17; A.P. Hacobian, Armenia and the War: An Armenian’s Point of View with an Appeal to Britain and the Coming Peace Conference, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1917, pp. 69–70; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 2, Section 3, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1983, pp. 71–72; Kamuran Gürün, The Armenian File: The Myth of Innocence Exposed, K. Rustem and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1985, pp. 187–190; James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–1916, (ed.) Ara Sarafian, Gomidas Institute, Princeton, 2000, p. 116.

200  The year of uncertainty Russian advance) petrified the leadership who were already encountering difficulty coming up with a workable plan against possible Russian onslaughts and protecting lines of communication while committing most of the assets to the Gallipoli Campaign. Presence and activities of the Armenian militia battalions (druzhiny) within the Russian Army added additional fuel to the already very high suspicion and paranoia. The relocation decree (after a regional one targeting the Armenians of Zeitun on 8 April) which aimed to remove Armenian population from eastern and southern Anatolia was born out of these fears and military urgency.234 Some contemporary observers and modern historians have claimed that the Ottomans had already prepared a grand plan to exterminate all Armenians and initated their plan by arresting Armenian leaders and intellectuals in İstanbul on 24 April, and used Van rebellion as a valid pretext or “excuse” for ethnically cleanse Anatolia from Armenians. According to their argument, the relocation decree was essentially a blueprint for the “genocide” that followed.235 The relocation of the Armenians did lighten the interior security and counterinsurgency duties of the regular units at the Caucasus Front. However, by removing thousands of Armenian villagers, the Ottoman Third Army substantially lost its traditional capacity to feed and billet troops by making use of villages and peasants. It took more than a year and much toil to create a new lines of communication system.236 Meanwhile, the Russians had appointed Yudenich the

234 It is important to note that Armenians living in other regions of Anatolia (with some exceptions) were also incorporated into relocation afterwards. Guenter Lewy, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, Utah University Press, Salt Lake City, 2005, pp. 90–109; Kaiser, “Regional Resistance to the Central Government Policies”, pp. 176–210; Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide, pp. 78–85; Gürün, The Armenian File, pp. 204–220; Edward J. Erickson, Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2013, pp. 162–182; Justin McCarthy, The Armenian Rebellion at Van, Utah University Press, Salt Lake City, 2006, pp. 180–210; Anahide Ter Minassian, “Van 1915”, Guerres mondiales et contemporains, no. 153, January 1989, pp. 40–41, 43–54; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 3, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1983, pp. 35–49; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye Hatıraları, pp. 141–147; W.E.D. Allen and Paul Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields: A History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1953, p. 299. 235 Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, Doubleday, Page & Co., New York, 1919, pp.  283–292, 298–300; Kaiser, “Regional Resistance to the Central Government Policies”, pp. 174–176; Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide, pp.  5–6, 14–15, 20–22, 86–96; Taner Akçam, The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2012, pp. xv–xix, 183–202; Vahakn N. Dadrian, “The Armenian Genocide: An Interpretation”, in (ed.) Jay Winter, America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003, pp. 62–68, 89–100. 236 Erickson, Ottomans and Armenians, pp.  197–212; Eğe, Babamın Emanetleri, pp. 105–107, 123–124, 133; Tuncay Öğün, Kafkas Cephesi’nin I. Dünya Savaşı’ndaki Lojistik Desteği, Dergâh Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 206–228, 277–305; Ludendorff, My War Memories 1914–1918, vol. 1, p. 176; Celal, Bir Teğmenin Doğu Cephesi Günlüğü, (ed.) Bahtiyar İstekli, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2009, pp. 62,73; Hans Guhr, Anadolu’dan Filistin’e Türklerle Omuz Omuza, (trans.) Eşref B. Özbilen, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, p. 108.

The year of uncertainty  201 ­ aucasus Army commander. Count Vorontsov-Dashkov had somehow retained C his position but had learnt his lesson not to meddle in front-line issues. However, while Yudenich was in a far more advantageous position than Mahmud Kâmil Pasha, he also had his share of problems. The Russian High Command decided to activate the Seventh Army in Odessa following the initiation of the British-led Gallipoli Campaign so as to be ready for the occupation of İstanbul. With little thought, Yudenich’s best corps, the newly activated V Caucasus Corps, was taken from him. Yudenich had no alternative but to create new formations from scratch using older peasant reservists and minority groups with problematic loyalty. Armed with old weapon systems, the so-called druzhiny battalions were a mixed bag. Most of them were barely able to defend static positions behind the front line while some ethnically based druzhiny such as Armenians and Baikal volunteers were enthusiastic and efficient, but difficult to control. By employing various unorthodox methods, Yudenich actually increased his combat effectives to 142 battalions. Fortunately for him, Caucasus cavalry units, which proved useless in trench warfare, returned from the Eastern Front, thereby further boosting the numerical superiority of the cavalry.237 As a combat-oriented general, Yudenich continuously harassed Ottoman forward detachments and inflicted serious casualties on a daily basis, even as he continued to reorganise his forces. However, he was unhappy and disturbed by the activities of Ottoman detachments reinforced with local irregulars in the east Black Sea region. He removed ineffectual leaders and revitalised his forces with experienced regiments. The new Russian Black Sea Group (30 battalions), under the command of General Vladimir Lyakhov, first attacked Rıza’s Coast Detachment, albeit without success. The Russian infantry was unable to bring its superior numbers and firepower to bear due to the trackless, broken and highly vegetated nature of the coastline. Moreover, Acara and Laz irregulars conducted effective guerrilla warfare, making use of the terrain and exploiting Russian vulnerabilities. They attacked from every direction, targeting convoys, isolated units and logistics bases. Fortunately for the Russians, the only Ottoman naval threat, the Yavuz, had been seriously damaged after hitting a mine near the Bosphorus, so Russian ships ranged freely until it was fully operational once more. Therefore, the Russian Black Sea Fleet saved Lyakhov from this bloody and miserable impasse by providing destroyers and small troop ships. Lyakov’s battalions, under the protection of naval gunfire, were able to embark and disembark behind Ottoman strong points, forcing them to retreat as far as Borçka. Lyakhov then turned his attention to the Stange and Mahsusa detachments. Stange and the new Mahsusa field commander Captain Halid (better known as Deli [‘crazy’] Halit), with barely 2500 men and without effective fire support, only managed to delay the Russian

237 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 83–84, 89; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 171–178; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 287–288, 290–292; N.G. Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, Voennoe Izdatelstvo Ministerstva, Moscow, 1946, pp. 40–42; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 92–94.

202  The year of uncertainty advance in the mountains. Lyakhov captured Artvin with difficulty on 27 March and the critical mountain village of İşhan on 8 April. The arrival of the Ottoman 29th Division to the south effectively ended any chance of a Russian advance without serious casualties. Instead Lyakhov decided to deal with local irregulars by launching a bloody counter-insurgency and repression campaign against the local Muslim population (Lazes, Acaras and Circassians). Most of the irregulars easily slipped away from the Russian assault columns, but their families were not so fortunate. The Russians made no attempt to identify the real culprits and, showing little mercy, burnt all the Muslim villages and farmlands and killed around 45,000 civilians, many of these seriously wounded and left to die. Thousands of refugees fled to the Ottoman side with few if any possessions, most perishing on the way or in disease-ridden Erzurum and Erzincan. Using these brutal scorchedearth tactics, Lyakhov secured the east Black Sea region until the end of 1917.238 Satisfied with the results of two months of harassment and limited assaults and keen on immediately capitalising on Ottoman weaknesses, Yudenich devised a grand offensive. According to his manoeuvre plan, the Russians would capture the staging areas of Tortum and Malazgirt (as had been predicted by Mahmud Kâmil Pasha), then outflank the Ottomans from both sides. The aim was not only to advance as far as Erzurum, but also to annihilate the Ottoman Third Army – all without receiving any serious reinforcements. It was to prove an overly ambitious plan. Yudenich obviously did not expect the Ottomans to anticipate and resist his complex manoeuvres. Moreover, he completely neglected consideration of how his troops would cover 200 kilometres with basic logistic support while maintaining combat effectiveness. His northern pincer in particular had to march through trackless mountains for most of its advance. The available evidence suggests that Yudenich not only underrated the Ottomans, but also overestimated the capacity of his units. He was also receiving encouraging signs of a brewing Armenian revolt. If successful, the Armenians could tie up sizeable Ottoman forces far away from the front or at least support the Russian troops on the way. The Kurds, on the other hand, would not dare resist the Russian advance under these conditions – and might even actively collaborate. One important element of his calculations concerned feed for his cavalry squadrons, which numbered more than 250. While 238 M. Adil Özder, Artvin ve Çevresi 1828–1921 Savaşları, Ay Matbaası, Ankara, 1971, pp. 128– 169; Arif Cemil Denker, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, (ed.) Metin Martı, Arma Yayınları, İstanbul, 2006, pp.  205–234; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 84–87; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 186–189; Michael A. Reynolds, Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires 1908–1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, pp.  143–144; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 293–295; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 608–614; Sinan Onuş, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa’dan Kurtuluş Savaşı’na Kızılca Kıyamet: Alb. Ali Rıza Bey ve Yzb. Fuat Bey’in Günlükleri, Kırmızı Kedi Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 42–50; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 94–95. Turkish historian Badem questions common accussations of massacres against Lyakhov and the number of Muslims killed, based on Russian documents and eyewitness reports. Candan Badem, Çarlık Yönetiminde Kars, Ardahan, Artvin 1878–1918, Aras Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2018, pp. 454–477.

Map 4.4  Caucasus and Persia theatres of operations.

The year of uncertainty  203

204  The year of uncertainty the pastures of the Muş and Bingöl plains would yield more than enough fodder to sustain his horses, the grass would only remain green until May. Yudenich had a small time frame in which to act before he risked losing his horses to hunger. This was a huge gamble, not unlike the Ottoman Sarıkamış offensive.239 Developments in Van and Persian Azerbaijan saved the Ottoman Third Army from the brunt of a massive Russian offensive during the critical months of March and April. Yudenich had a fatal attraction to Azerbaijan and one of his first orders was to re-establish Russian authority there. General Fyodor Chernozubov captured Tabriz on 17 January and repulsed the Ottomans and their local allies under the command of Ömer Naci, sending them fleeing towards the border. The presence of token Russian troops in some big towns, however, did not deter Kurdish tribes and other locals from continuing their attacks on the Russians and their local allies. The tipping point for Yudenich was the sudden appearance of the 1st Expeditionary Force, under Colonel Halil [Kut], from northern Iraq at the beginning of April. Moreover, the Armenians of Van and Bitlis also began their rebellions in several locations between 13 and 15 April. At first Yudenich ordered General Tovmas Nazarbekov to deal with Halil’s troops which were marching towards Dilman (Salmas). Nazarbekov was initially unable to halt the Ottoman advance and Dilman fell on 29 April. But after concentrating his troops, Nazarbekov managed to recapture the city a few days later, on 2 May. Enver Pasha’s plans to establish a strong base in Iran had failed once again. While Nazarbekov was advancing against Halil, Yudenich sent the 2nd Transbaikal Cossack Brigade (reinforced with four Armenian druzhiny and some other irregulars), under General Trukhin, to Van. It took more than a month for the cautious Trukhin to pass through the mountains and reach Van, where he finally arrived on 31 May.240 The diversion of critical forces to Iran did not end with Nazarbekov and Trukhin. Yudenich decided to launch a tour de force in Persia to re-establish Russian authority and to suppress rebellious Kurdish tribes once and for all, creating a cavalry-rich expeditionary force under General Charpentier to accomplish this.241 The troops were transported to Tabriz by rail. Charpentier marched from Tabriz to Dilman and then to Savuçbulak (Mahabad) with much pomp and a significant show of force. The Russian tour de force achieved some of its aims and captured Urmia on 2 June, but at the cost of keeping valuable assets away from the main 239 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 87–89; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp.  240–241, 248; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 565–566, 622– 623; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 298–299; Reynolds, Shattering Empires, pp. 143–144; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 97–99. 240 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 95–96; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 189–201; Recep Balkan, Büyükharpte Şark Cephesinde Sağ Kanad Harekâtı, Askeri Basımevi, İstanbul, 1946, pp. 13–14; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 581–598; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 296–300; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 401–403, 423–434; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 29–31; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 96, 103–104. 241 The Charpentier Expeditionary Force consisted of the 1st Caucasian Cavalry Division and 3rd Transbaikal Cossack Brigade (36 squadrons and some infantry).

The year of uncertainty  205 theatre for two and a half months. Charpentier struggled to reach Adilcevaz (north of the Van Lake), his exhausted troops finally drifting in on 26 June, having suffered further delays.242 The return of the Russians did not provide peace and security to Persia. In order to reinforce their weak conventional troops, the Russians started to recruit militia forces from the local and refugee Christians. An unexpected development helped them a lot. The Nestorians (also known as Jelus) of Hakkari region threw in their lot with Russia after some atrocities in June. They attacked the retreating Ottoman troops and their Kurdish allies, and blocked the southern approaches to the ­Armenian-held Van, which was under the Ottoman siege. The Nestorians, unlike their Assyrian and other Syriac cousins, were pastoralists and tough mountain tribesmen. For centuries, they allied with their Kurdish neighbours, but their ­alliance and good relations were broken down at the dawn of the twentieth ­century with the arrival of Western missionaries and changing socio-economic structure. They long felt threatened, and had been in good relations with the Russians before the war. Their sudden rebellion scared the Kurds so much that they forget their internal problems and unleashed a combined offensive against the Nestorians with the help of token Ottoman units. After a staunch and bloody defence, the Nestorians had no alternative but to take refuge in Dilman and Urmia. They were later joined with Armenian refugees from Van. Consequently, the Russians received around 30,000 armed and determined warriors with families. However, the arrival of such a large group of refugees not only destroyed the local economy and caused famine, but also deliberate attacks against the Muslims fuelled the conflict. Though most Russian senior officers tried to stop ethnic and tribal violence, they actually fuelled the conflict by their foundation and support of irregular formations. When the situation got out of hand, the Russians simply expelled thousands of people. Their policy of unsystematic requisitions and marauding uprooted thousands more.243 242 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 97–98; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 196–198, 201–204; Balkan, Büyükharpte Şark Cephesinde, pp. 15–16; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 104–105; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 625–652; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 299–300; Richard G. Hovannisian, Armenia on the Road to Independence, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1967, pp. 55–56. 243 Michael Zirinsky, “American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia during the Great War”, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, April 1998, pp. 12–14; Salahi R. Sonyel, The Assyrians of Turkey Victims of Major Power Policy, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2001, pp. 85–91; Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide, pp. 78, 85, 97–98; Peter Holquist, “Forms of Violence during the Russian Occupation of Ottoman Territory and in Northern Persia (Urmia and Astrabad) October 1914–December 1917”, in (eds.) Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz, Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian and Ottoman Borderlands, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2013, pp. 336–348; Eden Naby, “The Assyrians of Iran: Reunification of a ‘Millat’ 1906–1914”, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, April 1977, pp. 239–240, 248–249; Martin van Bruissen, “A Kurdish Warlord on the Turkish-Persian Frontier in the Early Twentieth Century: Ismail Aqa Simko”, in (ed.) Touraj Atabaki, Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers, I.B. Tauris, London, 2006, p. 70. Gaunt claims that Nestorian “tribes were the prime target among all the Syriac groups” and

206

The year of uncertainty

Given these highly problematic and unpromising early forays into Persia, the German leadership altered its strategy, deciding to enlarge its subversive and propaganda activities by despatching more German agents and funds.244 Baghdad became the nerve centre of German activities. Initially Major Fritz Klein, and later Field Marshall Colmar von der Goltz, directed and supported German missions in Persia.245 In the summer of 1915, there were at least four German groups (under the leadership of Wilhelm Wassmuss, Eric Zugmayer, Wilhelm Wagner and Oskar von Niedermayer) inciting and organising locals against the Russians and British.246 Enver Pasha and some of the other Ottoman leaders were deeply suspicious of German designs and Enver Pasha decided to contribute a number of Ottoman officers and soldiers to boost these efforts and also to control and limit independent German activities. Several joint German-Ottoman groups and delegations (the most important one was Hüseyin Rauf [Orbay]–Wassmuss–Niedermayer detachment) were sent to incite Persians and Afghans to rise against the British and Russians. After some initial successes, some of them became dysfunctional and dissipated well before reaching their overly ambitious targets; this was unsurprising, given the high incidence of vicious infighting between Ottoman and German officers. For example, the Rauf detachment disintegrated shortly after it crossed the border in June 1915. Others, such as the German-Ottoman mission to Afghanistan (Niedermayer–Hentig–Kazım), became pawns for local leaders vying for gains from the British and Russians. These agents and delegations failed to achieve any meaningful results, apart from increasing tension within the Indian government and forcing it to send more troops and organise a local force, the 4000-strong South Persian Rifles.247 While the situation in Persia was getting more complex each day, II Turkistan Corps, under General Mikhail Przevalski, launched its main offensive against

244

245 246 247

“the ethnic cleansing of Hakkari was a consequence of series of government decrees”. David Gaunt, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia during World War I, Gorgias Press, Piscataway, 2006, pp. 121–147. German diplomats and a few agents had been operating in Persia for some time. F.J. Moberly, Operations in Persia 1914–1919, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1929, pp. 55–59, 61–62, 66; Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien, pp. 105–106; McKale, War by Revolution, pp. 37–38, 50, 76, 80. Veltzke, Unter Wüstensöhnen, pp. 64–65, 69–73; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, pp. 416–419, 422– 423, 430–431; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 17–20, 44–46. English Translation of the Captured Diary of Zugmayer and Griessner, TNA, WO 106/925; Moberly, Operations in Persia, pp. 71–73; McKale, War by Revolution, pp. 80–82, 130–131. Mehmed Kenan Dalbaşar, Büyük Harpte İran Cephesi, vol. 2, Büyük Erkânı Harbiye Riyaseti Matbaası, Ankara, 1928, pp. 59–139; Kazım Karabekir, İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti 1896–1909, Türdav Ofset, İstanbul, 1982, pp. 459, 507–508; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 258–259, 335–336; İsrafil Kurtcephe and Mustafa Balcıoğlu, “Birinci Dünya Savaşı Başlarında Romantik Bir Türk-Alman Projesi: Rauf Bey Müfrezesi”, OTAM, no. 3, 1992, pp. 249–268; Moberly, Operations in Persia, pp. 74–103, 139–142, 176–177, 181, 210–211; McKale, War by Revolution, pp. 74, 127–145; McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express, pp. 209–229, 275–287; Gene R. Garthwaite, Khans and Shahs: A History of the Bakhtiyari Tribe in Iran, I.B. Tauris, London, 2009, pp. 133–138.

The year of uncertainty  207 the Ottoman X Corps in Tortum on 5 May. Przevalski planned an envelopment manoeuvre against the Ottoman left flank to open the road to Erzurum. At first, his plan appeared to work. The 30th Division, which had suffered the heaviest blow, retreated 20 kilometres. The 31st and 32nd divisions were also forced to retreat to preserve the integrity of the defence. At this critical moment, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha managed to reinforce X Corps by committing the newly reconstituted IX Corps in piecemeal fashion. The Russian assault ran out of steam and suffered heavy casualties. Przevalski wisely ordered a withdrawal before facing a heavy Ottoman counter-attack on 12 May.248 In the south, General Oganovski’s IV Caucasus Corps began its advance simultaneously with the Turkistan Corps but without coordination and mutual help. However, there were no regular Ottoman troops facing it, just a few irregular detachments, and they were easily routed. Malazgirt fell on 11 May and the Russian troops relieved the Armenian rebels in Van by repulsing the Ottoman besiegers on 16 May.249 Yudenich ignored the sorry state of his northern assault and exaggerated his success in the south. Instead of continuing according to his original plan, he decided to capitalise on Oganovski’s progress in the south, ordering Przevalski to launch ‘fixing’ attacks only, intending to fix the enemy in place. However, he was forced to wait for the arrival of Charpentier, Trukhin and Nazarbekov and allowing Oganovski and Przevalski time to rest and reorganise. Surprisingly, Yudenich and Oganovski ignored the fact that the summer heat had already dried up the lush green grass covering the plains and did not make any arrangements to feed the horses when they arrived.250 Russian attacks confirmed the validity of predictions. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha, now more confident than ever, used this breathing space effectively. He persuaded the General Staff to recall the 1st Expeditionary Force from Persia and to give him the 36th Division from Syria. In the meantime, he moved the 5th Expeditionary force to the south and organised a composite corps (the 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces, 36th Division [which had arrived on 7 June] and irregulars) under the command of Halil. When the Russians relaunched their assaults, the Third Army was better prepared to face them.251 II Turkistan Corps obediently followed the same offensive plan on 10 June. The Ottoman defence skilfully retreated and then launched vicious counter-attacks, 248 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 91–93; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 409–416; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 98–101; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 65–66. 249 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 94–95; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 194–195; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 101–102; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  677, 683, 688–692; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 303–304. 250 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 242–244; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 305–306; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 101–102. 251 Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 365–369, 439–440; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p. 98; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, p. 103; Balkan, Büyükharpte Şark Cephesinde, pp. 16–220; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 680–681, 687–688, 693–694; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 30, 32–33.

208  The year of uncertainty with reinforcements arriving from the south. Przevalski withdrew once again with heavy casualties on 13 June. Unknown to Przevalski, Oganovski, overwhelmed by his insurmountable problems, could not make effective use of his meagre gains. There were several lakes, including the Van Lake, in front of Oganovski which acted to canalise the advance routes into four. Oganovski, in the mistaken belief that he was facing a weak adversary, decided to divide his forces (48 battalions, 114 squadrons and 94 guns) accordingly. He would attack with the 66th Division from the north while the cavalry-rich assault columns of Nazarbekov (who also had three infantry regiments), Charpentier and Trukhin would advance simultaneously between the lakes. The obvious problems which Oganovski had failed to address were lack of mutual support and command coordination following the initiation of the offensive.252 Mahmud Kâmil Pasha left only X Corps to face II Turkestan Corps and moved more than half of the Northern Group to the south, where he managed to concentrate 26,600 men and 67 guns (the so-called Pasinler Group) under the command of Colonel Abdülkerim [Öpelimi]. Although the Ottoman side was still weaker, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha hoped to destroy the Russians in detail.253 While Mahmud Kâmil Pasha was regrouping his forces, IV Caucasus Corps launched its offensive with three groups moving away on 11 July. The Ottoman centre (the 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces) and the southern wing (the 36th Division) slowly wheeled back towards their planned defence line to the north-west and west of the Van Lake, while IX Corps, the 2nd Cavalry and 3rd Reserve Cavalry divisions secretly concentrated on the northern bank of the Murat River.254 Over a period of 10 days, the Russians had spread their forces all over the western plains of the Van Lake with limited communication and logistical support. Oganovski had no control and little notion of the location of his troops other than the fact that they were advancing somewhere. On 22 July, Abdülkerim from the north and Halil from the west launched their planned counter-attacks towards the exposed sides of the Russian assault columns. It was a disaster for Oganovski. Nazarbekov and Charpentier, away from the main blow, panicked and fled, leaving the infantry and supply trains at the mercy of the Ottomans. Trukhin also quickly withdrew his cavalry, following the southern coast of the Van Lake. Oganovski had no choice but to mount a fighting retreat under the

252 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 99–102; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 107–110; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp. 443–444; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 68– 69; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 662–675; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 304–305. 253 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 102–103; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 107, 109–112, 114; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 2, pp.  419–421; Çakır, Elli Yıl Öncesi, pp. 76–83. 254 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 103–104; Balkan, Büyükharpte Şark Cephesinde, pp. 20–25; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 70–71; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 695–702; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 306–307 Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 42–51.

The year of uncertainty  209 punishing blows of Abdülkerim. Local Armenians joined the retreating Russians with their large, slow-moving convoys, effectively blocking the roads. However, the advancing Ottoman pursuit columns were also having their share of problems. They were ordered to live off the countryside, a measure of sheer desperation born of a lack of supply trains and pre-stocked depots. On 26 July, Abdülkerim recaptured Malazgirt but was unable to annihilate the Russian 66th Division. At this stage Abdülkerim made a serious miscalculation and poor command decision. Instead of wheeling behind the Russian II Corps as planned, he decided to destroy IV Caucasus Corps and so continued the pursuit. The Ottoman forward elements entered Ağrı (Karakilise) on 3 August. However, the Russians were more mobile and, by sacrificing their rearguards, Oganovski, to his credit, saved most of his infantry during the 150-kilometre retreat. But he paid a terrible price – 10,000 casualties and whole supply trains lost. Moreover, the reckless drive caused the exodus of the Russians’ local ally, the Armenians.255 The newly promoted (Major General) Abdülkerim Pasha’s successful pursuit proved his undoing, creating a 70-kilometre gap between the Northern and Southern groups. After the initial panic, Yudenich decided to take advantage of this gap and massed troops under General Nikolai Baratoff at the north of the gap by making use of interior lines. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha recognised the gravity of the situation and ordered Abdülkerim Pasha to abandon some of his gains and withdraw all his infantry units to the west of the Murat River, leaving only the cavalry in the east. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha also despatched the 29th Division from the north to the rear of Abdülkerim Pasha to establish a reserve. Unfortunately for the Ottomans, there was insufficient time to complete these actions.256 When the Russian assault began on 5 August 1915, 29 infantry battalions and 18 squadrons poured thorough the Tahir pass. Oganovski, Charpentier and Nazarbekov were supposed to be attacking from east and south to fix the Ottoman units in front of them. This came as a surprise to the Ottomans – but they were far from shocked. The 3rd Reserve Cavalry Division and 17th Division reached Kılıçgediği Pass just in time to check Baratoff’s offensive over two days, while the 29th Division advanced towards the Russian concentration from the west on 16 August, forcing Yudenich to allocate three regiments from the second echelon. By seizing this opportunity, Abdülkerim Pasha managed to slip through the 255 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 104–107; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 213–221; Balkan, Büyükharpte Şark Cephesinde, pp. 26–119; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 70–72, 76–77; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 115–117; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 697–698, 703–791; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 51–60; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 308–310; Çakır, Elli Yıl Öncesi, pp. 84–97; Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, pp. 103–114; Hovannisian, Armenia on the Road to Independence, p. 56. 256 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 107–109; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 221–225; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 46–47, 58–59; Balkan, Büyükharpte Şark Cephesinde, pp. 120–139; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 117–120; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 746–753, 793, 849–851; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 311–314.

210  The year of uncertainty Russian pincer manoeuvres and launch critical counter-attacks on the way, saving his troops from encirclement. Both IX Corps and the Composite Corps retreated to their original defence lines, albeit not in good order. Regiments, combat support and service units were hopelessly mixed on the way back. Although the Russians captured Malazgirt on 11 August, they were unable to make good use of Ottoman vulnerabilities. Yudenich inflicted 6000 casualties and recaptured some of his supply trains, but was unable to destroy the Ottoman Southern Group as he had intended.257 While Mahmud Kâmil Pasha had saved his units from complete destruction, they had suffered heavy casualties and consumed a tremendous amount of ammunition and food stocks. Once again, all units (except X Corps) had to be reorganised and reinforced with personnel, weapons, ammunition and all sorts of equipment, of which the empire had limited supplies. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha decided to stabilise the defence line and employ active defence measures, shying away from any large-scale offensive operations while trying to rebuild his army. He also needed to prepare for winter. Unfortunately for the Third Army, the Ottoman General Staff, instead of reinforcing the Caucasus Front, decided to take its best divisions, the 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces (recently renamed as the 51st and 52nd divisions), and despatch them to the Mesopotamia Front on 9 October 1915. This was a devastating blow for the Third Army.258 On the other side of the front line, the situation appeared encouraging. Yudenich enjoyed superiority of 4:1 in infantry and 12:1 in cavalry. His troops harshly suppressed all insurgencies and enforced order, and were assisted by the active collaboration of the Armenians and some of the Kurdish tribes. Despite all his advantages, Yudenich, shocked by the Ottoman surprise counter-offensive, dared not risk another major offensive. To make matters worse, Russian military intelligence estimated the combat strength of the Ottoman Third Army as 130,000 men – while in reality, it was barely half of that. Russian estimates of heavy weapons and ammunition stocks were also exaggerated. Daunted by the illusion of a stronger enemy, Yudenich decided to rebuild his combat strength and wait for the New Year.259

257 Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 110–112; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 225–232, 238; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 60–67; Balkan, Büyükharpte Şark Cephesinde, pp. 140–239; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 44–45; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 120–123; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 799–849; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 314–319; Çakır, Elli Yıl Öncesi, pp. 98–118; Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, pp. 115–127. 258 Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 67–71, 75–78; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp.  74–75; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, p. 128; Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, pp. 128– 129; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 852–860. 259 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte, pp. 251–260; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 320–322; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p. 117.

5 The year of glory and disappointment 1916

The year 1916 started with the glory of Gallipoli and the imminence of another victory at Kut al Amara. For the first time after the Sarıkamış blunder, the future seemed bright as the Ottoman General Staff at last had both a strategic reserve (the divisions massed around the Gallipoli Peninsula) and the strategic initiative. Nevertheless, Enver Pasha and his German advisers lost touch with the realities on the ground and decided to realise their vision of becoming a full partner in alliance with Germany by contributing a sizeable number of troops to the European theatres of operations. They rightfully predicted that the British would not dare to advance at the Sinai-Palestine Front until the end of the year, and they felt sure of their strength at the Mesopotamia Front. However, their estimates of Russian intentions and military power could not have been more erroneous. General Yudenich launched a massive assault on 10 January 1916 by making good use of winter conditions and vulnerabilities against the hapless Third Army. Yudenich’s highly successful surprise attack was instrumental in not only altering the Ottoman General Staff’s plan, but also in causing much hardship to other major fronts. The Second Army, which had been reorganised, reequipped, reinforced and refitted for a European assignment, was reluctantly rerouted to the Caucasus. During the Summer of 1916, nearly half of the infantry divisions were facing the Russians. Due to the fact that strategic direction was largely in the hands of Berlin, the Persian dreams once again currency. An army corps was diverted to Persia to initiate a large-scale attack against the British and Russians, paying no attention that hard-worn Kut al Amara and even Baghdad were left essentially defenceless. Similarly, the Fourth Army in Sinai came under tremendous German pressure to launch another Sinai Canal offensive in order to divert more British divisions from the Western or Salonica fronts. The British, in their search for allies against the Ottomans, offered vast territories to different local Arab leaders. They finally convinced Sharif Hussein of Hejaz to throw his lot with the British by declaring the Arab Revolt in June. Luckily for the Ottomans, the revolt remained a local affair until the end of next year, thanks to energetic reaction of Fahreddin Pasha.

Palestine Front Cemal Pasha was deeply disappointed by the failure of his campaign. However, he disguised his military reversal with pompous public declarations that

212  The year of glory and disappointment the offensive had simply been a reconnaissance-in-force, promising to launch a second, larger expedition with increased preparation and additional troops.1 He then moved rapidly to prepare draft lists of troop requirements which he despatched to İstanbul. Cemal Pasha decided that his proposed canal expeditionary force should consist of three army corps, each with two divisions, as well as a strong garrison to protect Syria and the coastline. As a result, he requested an extra four divisions. He also sought the activation of additional battalions for the 22nd Hejaz Division. However, he recognised that his greatest deficiencies lay in heavy weapons and aircraft. His lack of firepower had seen British machine-guns and artillery stymie Ottoman attempts to cross the canal. His forces were then powerless to prevent the British massing their fire on concentrations of Ottoman troops. The only way to block enemy firepower was to employ more and heavier artillery – particularly howitzers and mortars. Cemal Pasha was also keenly aware that his final advance had been blinded due to a lack of intelligence on the enemy. Bedouins and long-range patrols simply could not provide sufficient reliable, continuous and timely information on enemy forces and dispositions. For this reason, he also included a strong aviation element in his shopping list.2 Despite having toyed for some time with the idea of launching another expedition with stronger contingents, the Ottoman General Staff now abandoned the concept altogether. The British and French naval build-up against the Dardanelles in February had demonstrated the wisdom of the pre-war concentration plan. Furthermore, the Caucasus and Mesopotamia fronts required constant reinforcement, given the high attrition rates and deteriorating battlefield situation. Therefore, instead of sending reinforcements, the General Staff decided to use Fourth Army troops to resolve deficiencies elsewhere. The 35th Division had already been ordered to reinforce the Mesopotamia Front during the Suez Canal Campaign, and the next step was the reassignment of the 36th Division to the Caucasus Front on 22 March. The 8th and 10th divisions, which were on loan, were recalled to the Straits region on 28 April and 2 June, respectively. The 25th Division followed shortly after. Almost all the machine-guns and modern field artillery guns were stripped from remaining divisions and sent to Gallipoli during that fateful summer of 1915. To make matters worse for the Fourth Army, the General Staff continued to reassign Syrian units and even raw conscripts to the Mesopotamia Front during the year. The drain of personnel and weapons

1 Cemal Paşa, Hatıralar: İttihad ve Terakki, I. Dünya Savaşı Anıları, (ed.) Alpay Kabacalı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2001, pp.  187–188; Ali Fuad Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye Hatıraları, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2003, pp.  68–69; Yigal Sheffy, British Military Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign, Frank Cass, London, 1998, p. 106; Nevzat Artuç, Cemal Paşa: Askeri ve Siyasi Hayatı, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2008, pp. 226–228. 2 Yahya Okçu and Hilmi Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, Sina Filistin Cephesi, vol. 4, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1979, pp. 260–262, 265, 268–270, 294; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 232–235.

The year of glory and disappointment  213 continued to such an extent that some units, including the 23rd Division, became ‘ghost’ formations.3 Cemal Pasha, however, would not abandon his plan without a fight. With the receipt of each reassignment order, he worked to delay unit departures while lobbying for the cancellation of the respective orders or negotiating to secure forces for Syria in return. Indeed, he clung to the 36th Division for almost three months despite desperate calls for help from the Caucasus. At the same time, he successfully raised new formations from scratch following the departure of each unit by making use of his autonomous political power base and influence. Between April and September 1915, Cemal Pasha activated XIV Corps Headquarters, four divisions (41st, 43rd, 44th and 53rd) and numerous small units. But it was an uphill battle. While Cemal Pasha squeezed Syria harder and harder to find conscripts, draught animals, weapons and equipment, at the same time he was forced to fight off continuous requests for troops from the General Staff, a fight he did not always win. The newly activated XIV Corps Headquarters was assigned to Gallipoli on 2 June and the 53rd Division to the Caucasus Front in December. Against all odds, Cemal Pasha managed to preserve some semblance of an army in Syria. Accordingly, the Fourth Army order of battle in June 1915 was: VIII Corps (23rd and 27th divisions), XII Corps (41st and 43rd divisions), the Desert Command (a brigade-size formation consisting of battalions on loan), the 44th Division and the Independent 22nd Hejaz Division. Many of the battalions were below strength and lacked organic firepower, while most of their recruits had received minimal training. The Desert Command remained a corps on paper only until its reorganisation in December. With the withdrawal of the major forces from the Gallipoli Front on 26 December 1915, the 3rd Division was assigned to establish a nucleus for further build-up. Unfortunately for the Desert Command, just prior to its departure for Syria, the division was stripped of its best officers and combatexperienced cadres, who were promptly sent to İstanbul.4 At the same time, Cemal Pasha continued to exert pressure on Germany and Austria-Hungary to provide concrete military assistance for the second canal expedition. He exploited German romantic notions and Christian interests and sensitivities, sending von Frankenberg to Berlin to present his case. He also urged von Kress to write detailed reports on the rich opportunities presented by a

3 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 272–274; Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, Vorhut-Verlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin, 1938, pp. 101, 113, 118–119; Ali Fuat Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu Mücmel Tarihçesi, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1948, p. 8. 4 Sıtkı Atamer, The 41st Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 272–274, 282–283; Fuad Gücüyener, Sina Çölünde Türk Ordusu, Anadolu Türk Kitap Deposu, İstanbul, 1939, pp. 18–27; Şerif Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, Güncel Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2003, pp.  59–60; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 121; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p.  9; Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi: 1915 Yılı Hareketleri, vol. 2, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1965, pp. 84–85.

214  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.1 Austro-Hungarian troops marching up Mount Zion to conduct a religious ceremony shortly after their arrival in Jerusalem in 1916. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

campaign in Egypt and the requirement for heavy artillery, aircraft and a variety of technical assistance to prosecute such a campaign successfully. Cemal Pasha and von Kress soon found political and military allies in Berlin to assist them with lobbying for assets for the campaign in Syria and against the canal. Their lobbying paid dividends, and the German High Command finally approved the activation of a special expeditionary force. Despite plentiful expectations and promises. however, the “mountain gave birth to a mouse”.5 The German Pascha Expeditionary Force was little more than a regimental-size combat support and service support unit which arrived in the theatre between April and August 1916.6 Similarly, after

5 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 126; Jehuda L. Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe: Die preußisch-deutschen Militärmissionen in der Türkei 1835–1919, Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf, 1976, p. 194; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 260, 263, 294, 298; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 235–237. 6 Later renamed Pascha I following the arrival of another expeditionary force in 1917, its units were the 60th Foot Artillery Battalion (four batteries: one 10cm gun battery [two guns], one 15cm howitzer battery [four guns] and two 21cm howitzer batteries [two guns each]), the 300th (Flieger Abteilung) Aviation Detachment (two flights of seven aircraft each), five machine-gun companies (nos. 601–607), four air (balloon) defence platoons (nos. 28, 133, 136, 142 and 177, each with two

The year of glory and disappointment 215 much hesitation and consideration, Austria-Hungary contributed just two artillery batteries of 10cm short howitzers (12 guns) under the fanciful name of the Mountain Howitzer Division (k.u.k. Gebirgshaubitzdivision von Marno).7 Finding troops and weapons was only one of the requirements for mounting a major expedition against the canal. Massive lines of communication and logistics infrastructure were necessary to transport and feed the troops and animals. Cemal Pasha initially invited top engineers, architects and other experts to assist in designing this infrastructure. Heinrich August Meissner Pasha, who had won fame and prestige planning and constructing the Hejaz railway line, played an important role in infrastructure briefings in February. He recommended the dismantling of militarily redundant sections of railway lines such as the Jaffa-Lydda section so that the railway tracks and sleepers could be reused in the construction of the Beersheba line. All he needed was a labour force. Other German and Austrian experts presented similar plans which were quick and inexpensive, but similarly labour intensive. Cemal Pasha energetically mobilised the civilian population and hired all the necessary engineers and technicians to build railways, paved roads, bridges, logistics bases, wells, water pipelines and a wide variety of storage sites. Thanks to his efforts, by the end of 1915, Beersheba (Bir üs-Sebi), Hafir al Auja and Maan had become important logistics bases and road junctions.8 A serious issue, feeding the population of Syria, also started to get out of control in the middle of 1915. With the declaration of war, the Entente introduced blockade and their warships effectively sealed off the Mediterranean Sea to the Ottomans. To make the matters worse, Syria was hit by a prolonged period of drought starting in 1915. Blockade and drought hit coastal Syria (including northern Palestine) harder than other regions.9 Coastal Syria had shifted from traditional subsistence agriculture to cash crops (initially cotton but later citrus fruits, olives, grapes and sesame) during the late nineteenth century. Coupled with a rapid rise of urban population, the region lost its self-sufficiency to feed itself.10 Food had

7

8

9 10

flak guns), two telephone platoons, one wireless platoon, two field auto transportation companies (nos. 506 and 507), three railway companies (nos. 3, 5 and 11), five railway control detachments (nos. 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10) and two mobile field hospitals (nos. 212 and 213). Walter Adam, “Die österreichisch-ungarische Artillerie in der Türkei”, in (ed.) Max Scharte, Der Weltkampf um Ehre und Recht: Der österreichisch-ungarische Krieg, vol. 5, Verlag Barth, Leipzig, 1922, pp. 508–509; Joseph Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü: 1914–1918 I. Dünya Savaşı, (trans.) Kemal Turan, Kayıhan Yayınları, İstanbul, 2014, pp. 177, 242–243; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 194–195. Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 279–294; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 75–76; George Macmunn and Cyril Falls, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine, vol. 1, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1928, pp. 85–86; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 237– 238; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 11–13. A.C. Bell, A History of the Blockade of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey 1914– 1918, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1937, pp. 367–374. Gad G. Gilber, “The Growing Economic Involvement of Palestine with the West, 1865–1914”, in (ed.) David Kushner, Palestine in the Late Ottoman Period: Plolitical, Social and Economic Transformation, Brill, Leiden, 1986, pp. 189–201.

216  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.2 Cemal Pasha transformed Beersheba into a major logistics base. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

to be imported from inner Syria (especially Hawran) or abroad (Egypt, India and America). Although the government was aware of the import dependency (not only Syria, but also some other provinces and big cities, especially İstanbul) and the strong possibility of a blockade in the event of war, it did practically nothing to avert the dangers due to the mistaken expectations of a short and victorious war. The Entente blockade cut off the empire not only from imports of food from foreign markets, but also domestic sea freight. Consequently, transporting food in sizeable amounts from other provinces of the empire became impossible.11 Wartime circumstances and faulty policies further exacerbated imbalance of food production and distribution. The supply requirements of a field army were immense, and their acquisition, storage and transportation were immense, too, leaving very little space for civilians. Cemal Pasha, like other field army commanders, prioritised military needs, but as the third influential leader of the empire, he had more power and autonomy. In a very short time, military commissariat 11 Ahmed Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1930, pp. 89–90, 119–120; Bell, A History of the Blockade, pp. 367–374, 579; Michael Provence, The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2005, pp. 34–35.

The year of glory and disappointment 217 officers gained control of the agrarian economy with the favourited position of the military as a buyer. Initially, they tried to supply the military with fixed prices and delivery quotas, and when these methods failed, confiscation and other arbitrary practices became the norm. When the overconscription of the male labour force in agriculture and forced requisition of drought animals were taken into account, it was no great wonder that small farmers deeply resented these policies and saw them as punishment, while big land owners and tribal leaders evaded the controls. Having no incentive to sell all their produce to commissariat officers or on the open market, small farmers started hoarding or preferring the black market.12 In terms of big landowners, the situation was completely different. Most of them had relatives in influential positions and were rich enough to bribe military and civil officials; therefore, they either sold their products illicitly or forced the commissariat to buy them with gold, thereby leaving the civilians to pay inflationary prices for what remained. The Druze tribal leaders of Hawran, on the other hand, used their grain surplus for their benefits better than any other. Not only did they sell it for ever-increasing prices, but they also gained exemptions from conscription for their farmhands. Cemal Pasha, who was scared of losing the grain of Hawran, did not employ military force like he did for others; instead, he bribed them and turned a blind eye to their black market connections.13 Against these chronic problems, the incompetence of the military’s food policy and wide-scale corruption, the food crisis was still in manageable proportions until locusts in Biblical proportions hit the region during the spring of 1915. Cemal Pasha mobilised everyone to fight and limit the effects of the locusts, but the efforts failed dramatically. Farmlands and orchards were destroyed, uprooting hungry and destitute people towards cities. The influx of refugees exacerbated the food crisis and brought a xenophobic climate. The Ottoman local civil and military officials tried various methods such as opening soup kitchens and orphanages, providing funding to community initiatives and even letting the Americans organise food deliveries and operate relief organisations. Despite these wellintentioned efforts, thousands of civilians died from starvation-related diseases. Although reliable statistics are not available, it is safe to say that around 400,000 people perished. Hunger and destitute were instrumental in tearing apart the fabric of society, leading to moral degeneration and prostitution, and undermining the legitimacy of the empire.14 Some cities like Beirut were affected more than oth-

12 Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, pp. 107–109, 134; Talha Çiçek, War and State Formation in Syria: Cemal Pasha’s Governorate during World War I, 1914–17, Routledge, London, 2014, pp. 233–235; Bell, A History of the Blockade, pp. 579–580. 13 Provence, The Great Syrian Revolt, pp. 35–38, 42–45; Çiçek, War and State Formation in Syria, pp. 170, 208–211, 219–222; Yoav Alon, The Shaykhs of Shaykhs: Mithqal al-Fayiz and Tribal Leadership in Modern Jordan, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2016, pp. 33–37; Falih Rıfkı Atay, Zeytindağı, Bateş Yayınları, İstanbul, 1981, p. 41; Eliezer Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, Frank Cass, London, 1993, p. 37. 14 Salim Tamari, Year of the Locust: A Soldier’s Diary and the Erasure of Palestine’s Ottoman Past, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2011, pp. 51–56, 102–103, 114, 118, 125–126, 128–129;

218

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Figure 5.3 A destitute family begging for food near a railway station.

ers, raising the accusations that Cemal Pasha and others used food as a weapon to decimate some groups like Maronites of Mount Lebanon.15 The obvious question is: how did the Ottomans managed to keep Syria and other neighbouring provinces loyal and under control, given the disastrous combined effects of war, blockade, natural disasters, hunger and epidemics? The easy and common answer is that Cemal Pasha ruled the region harshly and waged a terror campaign against real or imagined dissidents (earning him the epithet of al Saffah [the butcher]).16 However, the reality on the ground was complex and Conde de Ballobar, Jerusalem in World War I: The Palestine Diary of a European Diplomat, (ed.) Eduardo M. Moreno, Roberto Mazza, I.B. Tauris, London, 2011, pp. 67–68, 95–97, 119; Çiçek, War and State Formation in Syria, pp. 236–239, 243–249; Abigail Jacobson, “American ‘Welfare Politics’: American Involvement in Jerusalem during World War I”, Israel Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, Spring 2013, pp. 64–67; Melanie Tanielian, “Politics of Wartime Relief in Ottoman Beirut (1914–1918)”, First World War Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 2014, pp. 71–76; Emin [Yalman], Turkey in the World War, pp. 124, 128; Atay, Zeytindağı, pp. 70–71; Nicola Ziadeh, “A First-Person Account of the First World War in Greater Syria”, in (eds.) Olaf Farschid, Manfred Kropp and Stephan Dahme, The First World War as Remembered in the Countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, Orient-Institute, Beirut, 2006, pp. 267–270; Bell, A History of the Blockade, pp. 702–703; Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, p. 37; George Antonius, The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1945, pp. 240–241. 15 Antonius, The Arab Awakening, p. 242 16 Antonius, The Arab Awakening, pp. 149–151, 185–191, 202–204; Fruma Zachs, “Transformations of a Memory of Tyranny in Syria: From Jamal Pasha to ‘Id al-Shuhada’, 1914–2000”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 48, no. 1, January 2012, pp. 75–77.

The year of glory and disappointment  219 ­ ultidimensional. Cemal Pasha did employ force, but “pursued a dual policy, m using velvet glove one time and then turning around and applying the mail fist”.17 First of all, he employed all tools in his arsenal to gain the support of local magnates and tribal chiefs. A majority of the local leaders were eager to cooperate with Cemal Pasha; on the other hand, active dissidents were punished or exiled. As in the example of Druzes of Hawran, his pragmatic approach provided muchneeded grain. Second, pan-Islamic propaganda and declaration of Jihad, though mostly failed outside the borders of the empire, did actually increase solidarity between various Muslim groups, especially the ones who had felt their vital interests were threaten by the Christians or Jews. The abolition of the Maronitedominated autonomy of Lebanon was greeted with joy by the local Muslims. Similarly, the exile and relocation of the Jews (largely non-citizens) from Jaffa and some other places served Cemal Pasha well in gaining Arab support and sympathy. Third, as an able organiser, Cemal Pasha mobilised civil bureaucracy, religious foundations, hospitals, schools and other local organisations to provide help to the poor. He even invited famous intellectuals from İstanbul to lead aid organisations. Fourth, Cemal Pasha initiated major road construction projects and other public works. He employed thousands. Although the work conditions were harsh, workers still received adequate food, and thereby were able to survive the famine.18 The defence and surveillance of long coastline was another nightmare for Cemal Pasha. He was more than sure that the British would certainly strike at some point. Cemal Pasha was not wrong. Many British officials in influential positions had been discussing “to meet the Turks somewhere on their lines of communication before they reach Beersheba”.19 Speculation was rife about where the best place would be for an amphibious operation. By far, Alexandretta (İskenderun) was seen as the best choice due to its secluded bay and its proximity to the key transportation junctions of Cilician Gates and the Amanos Mountains where the Berlin–Baghdad railway line passed. However, the bitter lessons of the Gallipoli landings and the French opposition to any British dominated operations in their

17 Nicholas Z. Ajay Jr., “Political Intrigue and Suppression in Lebanon during World War I”, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, April 1974, p. 158; Tilman Lüdke, “Loyalty, Indifference, Treason: The Ottoman-German Experience in Palestine during World War I”, in (eds.) Eran Dolev, Yigal Sheffy and Haim Goren, Palestine and World War I: Grand Strategy, Military Tactics and Culture in War, I.B. Tauris, London, 2014, p. 76. 18 Atay, Zeytindağı, pp. 41, 44–46, 64–65, 78; de Ballobar, Jerusalem in World War I, pp. 32, 37–38, 45, 67–68, 72, 93, 101–102, 125, 143, 146, 148; Erden, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Suriye Hatıraları, pp. 110–114; Çiçek, War and State Formation in Syria, pp. 46–56, 86–89, 191–196, 208, 239–242, 246–249; Lüdke, “Loyalty, Indifference, Treason”, pp. 75, 79–80, 84–85, 89–90, 95; Khairia Kasmieh, “The First World War as Represented in Autobiographies in Contemporary Damascus”, in (ed.) Olaf Farschid, Manfred Kropp and Stephan Dahme, The First World War as Remembered in the Countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, Orient-Institute, Beirut, 2006, pp. 282–284; Dotan Halevy, “The Rear Side of the Front: Gaza and Its People in World War I”, Journal of Levantine Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, Summer 2015, pp. 42–43. 19 Alexandretta, 5 January 1915, TNA, WO 157/689.

220  The year of glory and disappointment self-declared area of interest (Syrian and Lebanon) effectively blocked realisation of these ideas.20 While Cemal Pasha was dealing with a plethora of political, strategic and construction-related issues, von Kress was working hard to keep the British busy and inflict damage on the canal. Although the Sinai Desert Command was, in theory, a corps-level unit, it had no organic combat units. There were six rotating infantry battalions on loan, a tribal camel-mounted regiment (known as Akıncı [raiders]) from Hejaz, a constantly fluctuating number of Bedouin volunteers, light artillery batteries and some technical units. Due to lack of efficient military intelligence sources and gathering means, the British leadership remained unaware of how weak the Ottoman garrison in Sinai was.21 Despite this perilous situation, von Kress was eager to continue combat action, even at a low level. Between 18 and 23 March 1915, he launched dozens of raids, artillery ambushes and mining expeditions, personally commanding the largest raid, conducted by a reinforced battalion combat team. Although these raids caused anxiety and fear in both Cairo and London, most of them failed to achieve any meaningful results in military terms. The raiders had tremendous difficulty approaching the canal and most fired their weapons early, fleeing before the arrival of British rapid reaction forces which were more mobile and better armed. Attempts to mine the canal were similarly unsuccessful, with British patrols either quickly discovering the mines or the mines themselves simply failing to detonate. In the one and only successful mining operation, the Holt (Blue Funnel) liner Teiresias struck a mine in the Little Bitter Lake on 30 June and blocked the canal for half a day. The mine had been placed by a small Ottoman-Bedouin team under the command of Lieutenant Sırrı two days earlier.22 Interestingly, a number of adventurers travelled to Palestine from Berlin and Vienna during this period with highly imaginative ideas for sabotage, espionage and rebellion, some of which attracted government approval and support. There were also some zealous local Germans with their own fanciful projects who lobbied vigorously for men and money. Out of desperation and under pressure from Berlin, von Kress enlisted some of these adventurers and provided support for

20 Secret Report on Tripoli Syria, 12 December 1914; Alexandretta, 5 January 1915; The Lebanon, 8 January 1915; Notes on Alexandretta Supplied by Catoni & Kennedy, 20 January 1915, TNA, WO 157/689; from Gertrude Bell to Lord Cromer, 29 November 1915, TNA, WO 79/64; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 9–11; Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, pp. 112–113, 119. 21 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 265–267; Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, pp. 106–108. 22 Despatches from Lt.Gen. Sir J.G. Maxwell, 11 February-1 August 1915, TNA, WO 33/796; Intelligence Office, Cairo, Intelligence Summaries, April 1915, TNA, WO 157/690; Intelligence Office, Cairo, Intelligence Summaries, June 1915, TNA, WO 157/692; Intelligence Office, Cairo, Intelligence Summaries, July 1915, TNA, WO 157/693; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 263–264, 314–316; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 104–107, 110–114; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 61–64, 69, 71–72; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 11; Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, pp. 106–107; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 2, pp. 83–84.

The year of glory and disappointment  221 them to implement their fantastic schemes. Most never made it to the canal, and many abandoned their attempts at the first opportunity. Others were either captured or perished at the hands of the British.23 Only Hungarian reserve officer Georg Gondos achieved some success. Gondos was an employee of the British company which had operated the Jamsa oilfield close to the canal before the war. He enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army and managed to secure an assignment to Palestine, joining or leading a number of intelligence and sabotage missions in the Sinai. At the beginning of March, he and some of his operatives managed to cross the canal and destroy an oil well. He was also instrumental in capturing and sinking a dredger on the Bitter Lake.24 Ultimately, serious developments at Gallipoli and the constant reassignment of units from Syria spelt the end of the Desert Command. Most of the conventional units and artillery were pulled back, and only six weak companies with tribal detachments were left to cover the entire peninsula. On 10 June, von Kress was assigned as chief of staff of the Fourth Army. He spent the next year sourcing troops, weapons and money to initiate another expedition, even travelling to Berlin to argue his case. Surprisingly, Cemal Pasha continued to champion his plan to launch a major expedition until 11 August, when he officially abandoned plans for any serious undertaking in the Sinai until he received substantial numbers of troops.25 On 25 December 1915, von Kress was assigned as commander of the newly founded 1st Expeditionary Force and the concept of a second expedition to the canal was re-raised. While the planning parameters included a requirement for six divisions, he received only the 3rd Division, Pascha I, von Marno, some combat support units and the usual tribal contingents.26 The Ottoman General Staff clearly underestimated the importance of the Sinai-Palestine Front and the risk of a burgeoning British military presence. This front, like Mesopotamia, was regarded as little more than a sideshow, designed to divert the largest possible number of British troops from the European fronts. Von Kress quickly discovered that the situation in the Sinai had changed dramatically during his absence. With the end of the Gallipoli Campaign, most of the British and dominion troops had been transferred to Egypt and, by January 1916, there were 14 infantry divisions and six mounted brigades in Egypt. While most of these had already been earmarked

23 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 55–56, 66–67; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 168–169. 24 Jacob Rosenthal, “Georg Gondos An Unknown Jewish Combatant on the Middle Eastern Front”, (in Hebrew) Cathedra: For the History of Eretz Israel and Its Yishuv, vol. 117, 2005, pp. 127– 138; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  299–300, 306–307; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 111, 120; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 77–78. 25 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  293–296; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 113, 117–118, 121. 26 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  339–340; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 141, 162; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 15.

222  The year of glory and disappointment for the Western Front, it took another six months for these units to reorganise and complete their rest, recuperation and training. In the meantime, they reinforced the canal defences, completed further entrenching works and established a very strong reserve force. Not surprisingly, Berlin applied considerable pressure to von Kress to ensure that a sizeable percentage of these divisions remained in Egypt.27 Unaware of the serious limitations that had been forced on von Kress by the Ottoman General Staff, the British military leaders in London and Cairo were expecting an imminent attack on the canal which they assumed would be significantly larger than its predecessor. Especially after the summer they started anticipating the use of battle-hardened Gallipoli divisions with greater strength and increased firepower. There were rumours of 200,000 troops marching towards Palestine followed by a 100,000-strong second wave. Cemal Pasha’s enormous construction effort to build railways, roads and logistics infrastructure was clearly perceived as a strong indication that a major offensive was being planned. Socalled Near East experts and intelligence operatives like Gertrude Bell further incited fears by claiming: “From Constantinople to that point [Beersheba] they can bring down and maintain men at the rate of 100,000 a month”. There were even speculations of German troops in large numbers flooding Palestine after the final defeat of the Serbs. Not surprisingly, in November 1915 Maxwell, anticipating an Ottoman attack in February, asked for heavy artillery, 12 infantry divisions and a cavalry division to protect Egypt from the east and west. Although the British General Staff considered Maxwell’s requests somewhat overblown, their estimate of the troops required was also considerable: eight infantry and five cavalry divisions simply for the defence of the canal.28 Kitchener, as an old Egypt hand, was also convinced of the presence of a serious Ottoman threat and attempted to satisfy Maxwell’s troop requests, despite the opposition of General Haig and other senior commanders. On 29 December, as divisions began arriving from Gallipoli (the 31st Division was the only unit

27 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 143–147, 153–154; H.S. Gullett, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918: The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine 1914–1918, vol. 7, 12th edition, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1944, pp. 19–22, 41–42, 48, 54–44; C.H. Dudley Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, Western Mail Limited, Cardiff, 1927, pp. 53–57; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, p. 98. 28 From Gertrude Bell to Lord Cromer, 29 November 1915; Estimate of rate at which Turkish and German troops can be transferred, undated [probably September 1915], TNA, WO 79/64; GHQ Egypt, Intelligence Summaries, December 1915, TNA, WO 157/698; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 76, 83–84, 89; George Arthur, General Sir John Maxwell, John Murray, London, 1932, pp. 200–209. One of the reasons behind these exaggerated intelligence estimates of Ottoman combat strength was Cairo Intelligence’s important error in judgment about the Ottoman Army organizational table. According to their evaluation, the Ottomans mobilised reserve divisions (which they did not) with identical serial numbers of the conventional divisions as if they were paired. Cairo named this reserve divisions “bis”. Therefore with a stroke of a pen, they doubled the divisions that the Ottomans could field against Egypt, Handbook of the Turkish Army, February 1916, 8th Provisional Edition, Intelligence Section, Cairo, 1916, pp. 36–42; Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, pp. 104–105, 110–111, 114–116, 118, 172.

The year of glory and disappointment  223 to come directly from England, arriving on 22 December), Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Murray was assigned as the new commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) due to the ever-increasing concern for Egyptian security. The MEF was tasked with the defence of the canal, while Maxwell’s force in Egypt remained responsible for the western defence against the Libyans and for internal security. However, the existence of two separate command organisations (excluding the much smaller but equally independent Levant Base logistics formation) with overlapping responsibilities but completely different interests and perspectives was destined to sow confusion and mutually damaging rivalry. On 10 March, both commands merged to become the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and Maxwell was recalled to Britain.29 Prior to his departure, Murray received specific instructions from Lieutenant General Sir William Robertson, chief of the Imperial General Staff, in London. Robertson emphasised the general lack of intelligence on the Ottomans, commenting that it was consequently vital to move the line of defence from the canal to the east and “maintain as active defence as possible”. He concluded with the direction that, “as soon as the situation in the East is clearer, no more troops should be maintained there than are absolutely necessary”. This would be the first direction that Murray disregarded once he assumed his command on 9 January.30 Maxwell had already commenced the process of establishing a forward defence line 10 kilometres to the east of the canal and the lakes. Murray reinforced this main defence line with two additional lines between it and the canal. As a result, by the beginning of February, the Ottoman raiders were no longer able to approach the canal undetected. Murray identified the Katia oases as a critical stepping stone for any Ottoman expedition. Denying these water sources would surely reduce the number of divisions that the Ottomans could employ. The British mounted units quickly occupied the Katia region, and Murray ordered the extension of the railway line there. Katia represented the first step towards enlarging British control of the Sinai. Murray’s real aim was to capture al Arish, thereby destroying the Ottoman ability to launch a major offensive operation. However, he needed more divisions to do this and London was unwilling to allocate more troops. After much discussion, the War Cabinet found a solution to increasingly ambitious requirements of the EEF by transferring British battalions from Mesopotamia and Indian battalions from all theatres of operations, including cavalry divisions from the Western Front. It is important to note, however, that while Murray did not always

29 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 88, 94, 96–97; Arthur, General Sir John Maxwell, pp. 237–243. Robertson foresaw the problem of command arrangement as early as 26 January and advised Murray that “Lord K. [Kitchener] is about tired of Maxwell, and if there is any more bother there may be a change”, Egypt 1916–1917: Private Letters between General Sir William Robertson and General Sir Archibald Murray, (Privately printed by J.M. Dent &Sons, London, 1932), [hereafter Egypt 1916–1917] TNA, CAB 44/15, p. 3 also see Robertson’s letters dated 24 February and 16 March. pp. 36–37, 41–43. 30 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 95, 97, 99–100.

224  The year of glory and disappointment succeed in obtaining additional troops and logistics support, he was successful in slowly increasing the British commitment to the Sinai-Palestine.31 Against the expectations of Murray, the Ottoman units and their local allies remained largely passive. However, British intelligence was still unable to ascertain Ottoman intentions and combat strength. The British regularly received exaggerated troop numbers and false information on troop movements from the Bedouins and other agents operating behind enemy lines.32 Despite this, British confidence slowly rose and mounted units were increasingly sent deep into the peninsula on reconnaissance and raiding missions. On 15 April, an Australian Light Horse combat team raided Jifjafa and captured an Ottoman well-boring team. Ottoman forward defence posts and reconnaissance parties were frequently targeted in order to train newly reconstituted mounted corps. At the same time, with the onset of the hottest part of the year, Murray decided to reduce the number of troops in forward positions.33 Unknown to Murray,34 increasingly aggressive British penetration into the Sinai provided ideal targets for von Kress. For almost a month, Bedouins and Ottoman long-range patrols had delivered regular reports on British positions and activities in the Katia salient. The temporary forward defence positions manned by rotating British mounted units were lightly fortified and lacked organic artillery support. More importantly, they became increasingly complacent and lax in their security. Von Kress amassed two light raiding columns around the nucleus of two battalions from the 32nd Regiment and an irregular camel-mounted regiment.35 The 31 Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, pp. 5–6, 22; Plan for a Campaign in Syria, 27 February 1917, TNA, CAB 21/13; Estimate of rate at which Turkish and German troops can be transferred, undated [probably September 1915], TNA, WO 79/64; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 89–93, 157; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 48–51; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p.  349; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 158. 32 Sheffy, British Military Intelligence; Ajay Jr., “Political Intrigue and Suppression in Lebanon during World War I”, pp. 142–149. 33 EEF, Intelligence Summaries, February 1916, TNA, WO 157/701; EEF, Intelligence Summaries, March 1916, TNA, WO 157/702; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 157–160; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 71–73; A.J. Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1978, pp. 69–70; C.G. Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns: Official War History of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914–1919, Wilson & Horton, Auckland, 1921, pp. 102–105; C. Guy Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, Whitcombe and Tombs, Auckland, 1922, pp. 18–22. 34 Murray was confident that “the Turks would find it an extremely difficult nut to crack if they mean to operate against Egypt”. Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, p. 22. 35 The raiding force consisted of the 1/32nd and 2/32nd battalions, the Akıncı Camel-mounted Regiment, two companies from the 1st Regular Camel-mounted Regiment, two mountain artillery batteries, one machine-gun company and a light supply column (3700 combatants). Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 349–350; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 158–159; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 81–82, 88; Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi: 1916 Yılı Hareketleri, vol. 3, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1965, pp. 206–207; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 74–75; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 16.

The year of glory and disappointment  225

Figure 5.4 Ottoman infantry firing their obsolete Martini-Henry rifles in Katia Oasis. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

raiding columns commenced their advance on 19 April. The right column, under the personal command of von Kress, pushed towards Katia, while the left column (Akıncı Camel-mounted Regiment), under the command of Major Carl Mühlmann, targeted Bir ed-Dueidar. As the columns advanced, Bedouins informed von Kress that a large contingent of enemy cavalry (two squadrons of Worcester Yeomanry and a field company detachment) had moved from Katia to the small oasis of Oghratina. Von Kress left a company of infantry and the supply column in Bir al Abd and advanced rapidly against Oghratina. Early on the morning of 23 April, under the cover of dense fog, the Ottoman infantry entered the oasis. Initially, they could not find the British positions; however, Ottoman search parties established contact just as von Kress was planning to move out. After a short but bloody fight, the British surrendered.36

36 A large cache of British documents was captured by the Ottomans in Oghratina, some of which are within the holdings of Turkish General Staff Directorate of Military History and Strategy Archives (ATASE) in Ankara. For an example, see Telegram from Officer Commanding Worcester Yeomanry, ATASE, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Koleksiyonu (First World War Collection, hereafter BDH), Klasör 3650, Dosya 215, Fihrist 1–75; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 349–354; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 159–160; Gücüyener, Sina Çölünde, pp. 45–68; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp.  83–84; Güralp, Bir Askerin

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Without waiting, the right column began its advance against its original target of Katia. There, the small British garrison (one squadron of Gloucester Hussars, a machine-gun section and some support elements and soldiers from other units) had been alerted by messages and the sounds of fighting from Oghratina. Nevertheless, their open camp and basic trenches proved no match for the concentrated Ottoman artillery and infantry fire. The addition of two aircraft provided much-needed observation and spotting. Ottoman regular camel companies halted and repulsed two British relieving columns from Romani and Hamisah. After some bitter fighting, they were overwhelmed and surrendered. However, unlike the successes at Oghratina and Katia, Mühlmann’s irregular camel regiment failed completely against the entrenched British infantry (the 4th and 5th Royal Scots Fusiliers) at Bir ed-Dueidar, which received reinforcements during the attack. After taking casualties, Mühlmann decided to effect a difficult retreat. All in all, given their effective use of combat intelligence and exploitation of British complacency, the Ottomans managed to destroy or capture three and a half squadrons of Yeomanry and some combat and service support units from the 5th Mounted Brigade.37 Following this encouraging start, von Kress decided to launch a major assault on the British positions around Romani, hoping to push the enemy back to their original position on the canal, although – contrary to the views of many modern historians – he had no intention of crossing the canal. Whatever von Kress’s intentions and despite his eagerness, serious developments elsewhere stymied his plan. First, he needed more firepower, and thus was forced to wait for the arrival of the remaining elements of Pascha and von Marno. Second, by now, food and fodder supplies in the forward depots were almost exhausted. Cemal Pasha was unable to fulfil his promise to maintain supply as a plague of locusts had destroyed much of the harvest and the larger landowners and merchants had stopped supplying the markets in a bid to maximise their profits. While von Kress was battling to find more troops, weapons and food, the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in Hejaz on 3 June dramatically altered his priorities. Cemal Pasha immediately despatched the 130th and Akıncı Camel-mounted regiments to Medina. More troops and weapons followed the first reinforcements until the garrison in Medina reached the size of a division.38 Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 75–78; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, p. 207. 37 The Ottomans suffered 374 casualties (154 killed and 46 missing) while capturing 23 officers and 257 other ranks. Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, pp. 99–100; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 354–359; From the Ministry of War to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 May 1916, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 1, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2013, p. 316; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 161–163; Gücüyener, Sina Çölünde, pp. 69–97; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 161–163; R.R. Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, Maclehose, Jackson & Co., Glasgow, 1923, pp. 256–262; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 84–88; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 207–208; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, p. 70. 38 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 360–361; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 164, 168–176; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 209–210.

The year of glory and disappointment  227 While the Ottomans were plagued by serious problems, the British concentration and deployment to Sinai increased in pace. The 52nd Division was despatched to Romani to cover the new Romani railway station and advance base. The Romani salient (officially known as No. 3 Section Canal Defences under the command of Major General Herbert Lawrence) now extended from the coast (Mahamdiyah) to Bir ed-Dueidar. With the help of local labour battalions, the 52nd Division established a strong defensive line with 18 company-size fortified positions, which were interlinked with wiring, alternate firing positions and mobile reserves. The railway line, with its improved capacity, could now ensure the continuous supply of troops and ammunition. The Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) Mounted Division was tasked to cover the salient (particularly from the south) and launch aggressive patrols. In order to deny enemy forces, the opportunity to cross the peninsula other than from the north, British long-range patrols systematically destroyed wells and cisterns. British cruisers and aircraft bombarded al Arish airfield on 18 May and 18 June, respectively, destroying two aircraft. Given these comprehensive preparations and the start of the hot season, Murray concluded that the Ottomans would wait for winter before launching further attacks.39 However, the British commander had underestimated the importance of decisions made in Berlin and the zeal and stubbornness of von Kress. As an avid gambler, von Kress ignored most of his structural limitations, including food shortages. Based on his brief experience in Katia, he concluded that the British soldiers (particularly mounted troops) would be unable to withstand a determined infantry assault supported by effective artillery fire. Later in life, von Kress confessed that he had committed a serious error of judgement in underestimating British military effectiveness and morale, and relying solely on his personal observations during the Katia raid. Intelligence reports and estimates which told him that some 10,000 British soldiers (mostly mounted) were spread thinly covering a wide area also played an important role in the decision to proceed with the offensive.40 Meanwhile, the Ottoman General Staff, under pressure from Berlin, ordered the Fourth Army to immediately launch a major offensive – but failed to provide additional reinforcements. During a meeting with Enver Pasha in Aleppo on 30 May, Cemal Pasha dutifully agreed to this request and promised to launch the offensive in July. Von Kress received Cemal Pasha’s approval and a brief operational order

39 Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, pp. 113–115; GHQ Egypt, Intelligence Summaries, May 1916, TNA, WO 157/704; GHQ Egypt, Intelligence Summaries, June 1916, TNA, WO 157/705; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 265–269; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 175–178; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 94–104, 113, 123–124; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 71–74. 40 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  365–367; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 179–181; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 17.

228  The year of glory and disappointment on 28 June.41 The units began to assemble in al Arish on 4 July.42 Due to water shortages and the difficulty of transporting heavy artillery, von Kress reluctantly divided his expeditionary force into eight echelons. The slow rate of march and large troop concentrations around known water sources saw the Ottoman force spotted on 17 July and the alert defenders received additional reinforcements. Moving slowly in difficult country, the main force reached the Oghratina–Bir al Mageibra line on 24 July. The Ottoman mounted troops pushed the British outposts back on the night of 27/28 July. The hesitant Ottoman advance confused Murray so much that he issued orders to assume the offensive if the Ottomans did not attack before 13 August.43 Having examined the British defence line, von Kress appears to have suffered a crisis of confidence. He decided to invest in the er-Rabah–Katia–Hamisah line and wait for the British to attack. However, the water sources were rapidly diminishing, and soldiers and animals were losing strength and condition due to the hot weather and poor rations. On 30 July, von Kress released his operational order, selecting 4 August as D-day and dividing his force into four tactical groups. The 1st Group (the 31st Regiment [four battalions] under Lieutenant Colonel Refet [Bele]) was to attack and occupy Abu Hamra in order to establish secure firing positions for heavy artillery. It was also tasked to fix the British left wing. The 2nd Group (the 32nd Regiment [three battalions] under Colonel İbrahim) would attack towards Bir Etmaler. The 3rd Group (the 39th regiment [three battalions] under Major Kâmil) would remain in reserve behind the 2nd Group, while the 4th Group (the 4/32nd and 4/39th battalions under Major Mayer) would cover the south around Bir en Nuss.44 The Ottoman officers immediately expressed their opposition to this plan. Major Kadri, chief of staff of the expeditionary force, voiced the objections and criticisms of all by pointing to the strong enemy positions and the poor condition of the Ottoman soldiers and animals. He declared – correctly, as it would 41 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 360–363; Gücüyener, Sina Çölünde, pp. 167– 176; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 126–137. 42 The order of battle of the expeditionary force was: the 3rd Division (31st, 32nd and 39th regiments, 2/3rd Mountain Artillery Battalion [four batteries each with 4 guns]), 1st Camel-mounted Regiment, machine-gun battalion (four German and three Ottoman companies), von Marno Detachment (two batteries each with six howitzers), Pascha Artillery Group (one 10cm artillery battery, one 15cm howitzer battery and two trench mortar companies), the 300th Aviation Detachment, one engineer battalion, other combat and service support units and supply columns. 43 Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, pp.  123–124, 127–130, 136; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 364–365, 368–373; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 179–183; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 179–183; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 269–275; S.H. Kershaw, “The Battle of Romani, 4th of August 1916”, The Army Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 1, October 1938, pp. 84–85; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 211–212; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 90–98; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 74–75. 44 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  373–378; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 183–184; Kershaw, “The Battle of Romani”, pp. 85–88; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 213–214; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 75–76.

The year of glory and disappointment  229 transpire – that there was no chance of success and that the units would have difficulty breaking contact and retreating. Von Kress eventually managed to calm his subordinates with reassurances and promises of victory. On the night of 3/4 August, the tactical groups began their advance under their reluctant and pessimistic commanders. While Ottoman aircraft and artillery bombarded and machine-gunned British targets, the 1st Group easily pushed through the outposts of the 2nd Australian Light Horse and captured Bir Abu Hamra. The 2nd Group boldly launched flanking attacks against fortified defence positions but suffered enormous difficulties in the approach to Katib Gannit, the heavily fortified anchor point of the defence. Von Kress ordered Kâmil to reinforce the 2nd Group from the south. Mayer was assigned to establish a reserve behind the 3rd Group, thus opening a broad gap in the southern flank.45 At noon, the first line of defence in the south – which included Mount Royston and Wellington Ridge, but remarkably not Katib Gannit – was captured and a British counter-attack was repulsed. However, the 1st Group remained fixed, unable to attack its follow-on target of Romani. Von Kress pulled one battalion from Mayer to reinforce the 1st Group, but as the battalion began marching to its new position, disaster struck from the south. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the 5th Mounted Brigade launched coordinated counter-attacks from the north and south towards Mount Royston at 5.00 pm. Kâmil had committed all his soldiers to the front without retaining a reserve. The 3rd Group surrendered following an hour-long resistance.46 The Ottoman aircraft observed and reported the continuous arrival of British reinforcements and their attempts to flank the Ottomans from the south. Von Kress had no choice but to order a retreat to the Rabah–Katia line under cover of night. Most of the units managed to break contact and retreated in a more or less orderly fashion, but not all. Unaware of the order, an infantry company and the German 605th Machine-gun Company remained in position to the front of Katib Gannit and by morning were forced to surrender. While the remaining elements of the 39th Regiment reached Bir el Hamisah, they discovered to their dismay that the supply column had left the oasis early. When the 9th Australian Light Horse

45 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  382–384; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 184–186; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 183–184; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 140–151; Gücüyener, Sina Çölünde, pp. 177–181; Kershaw, “The Battle of Romani”, pp. 89–91; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp.  279–280; Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 29–31; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 99–103; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, p. 214. 46 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  384–386; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 186–187; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 184–190; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 152–160; Gücüyener, Sina Çölünde, pp. 182– 185; Kershaw, “The Battle of Romani”, pp. 91–92; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 77–80; Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 31–33; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 107–110; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 280–289; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 61–63.

230  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.5 The British parading Ottoman prisoners of war on the streets of Alexandria.

attacked their position at noon, the half-starved soldiers surrendered with little resistance. Only the members of the German 606th Machine-gun Company managed to escape, leaving their guns behind.47 The main group under the commands of von Kress and Refet successfully completed a fighting withdrawal, albeit with serious casualties, and the last serious action took place at Bir al Abd on 9 August. Major General Harry Chauvel, commander of the Anzac Mounted Division, attempted to envelop the Ottoman main group in the belief that Ottoman morale was low. However, this was not the case. The Ottoman infantry dug in and launched counter-attacks, and the heavy artillery inflicted serious casualties. Chauvel had to abandon his push and the Ottoman rearguard managed to return to al Arish on 14 August. Surprisingly, all the heavy artillery pieces were saved, although two regiments of the 3rd Division were destroyed. Total casualties numbered some 4000 (including 2000 prisoners but probably excluding Bedouin casualties). In contrast, the British suffered just 1130 casualties (most of them mounted troops). Thus, the second attempt, based largely on optimistic planning and poor intelligence, ended in complete failure. 47 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  386–388; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 188–189; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 190–193; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 290–292; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 164–173; Frederick P. Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, Country Life, London, 1920, pp. 73–74; Kershaw, “The Battle of Romani”, pp. 94–95; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 104–107; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, p. 80; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 111–115.

The year of glory and disappointment  231 Romani, which was essentially a self-inflicted defeat, destroyed the Ottomans’ offensive capacity, robbing them of the initiative in the Sinai.48 Murray’s 156,000-strong army was pitted against a weak Ottoman division which occupied flimsy defence positions scattered around the eastern part of the Sinai. Fortunately for the Ottomans, Murray paid little attention to Ottoman strategic weakness and operational disarray, focusing instead on the construction of a railway, water pipeline and other supply facilities to support a major campaign in the near future. The effort to get more troops and heavy weapons also caused much distraction to Murray, who spent more time to communicate with London than his subordinates at the front line. On the Ottoman side, the defeat caused further infighting between Ottoman and German officers. The 3rd Division commander, Lieutenant Colonel Refet, wrote a highly critical after-action report accusing German officers at various levels of mismanagement, discrimination and wasting Ottoman lives for no meaningful purpose. Major Kadri, chief of staff of the expeditionary force, tendered his resignation in protest. Von Kress reluctantly requested reassignments for both of them, and spent a lengthy period attempting to improve relations between the Ottomans and Germans. Cemal Pasha staunchly supported von Kress and ignored the protests and criticism of fellow Ottoman officers during this crisis. Consequently, while he managed to maintain harmony, he lost the trust and respect of most of his subordinates.49 While dealing with the infighting, von Kress also hastily prepared an evaluation report for Cemal Pasha and Berlin, writing that the 1st Expeditionary Force had completely lost its offensive capacity. Even large raids were now out of the question. He advised investing in a defence line between Gaza and Beersheba (Bir üs-Sebi) and pulling back all the indefensible forward positions, including al Arish but excluding Hafr al Auja and Rafah. In fact, von Kress suggested a general withdrawal to the Jaffa–Jerusalem line in case the British launched a serious amphibious operation on the Palestine coast. He concluded his evaluation with the usual requests for more troops and recruits.50 Cemal Pasha, with his customary administrative zeal, transferred 4000 recruits from depots in Jerusalem and Anteb to raise the 3rd Division to 80% of its war

48 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  387–393; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 190–191; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 194–201; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp.  174–190; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp.  292–294; Gücüyener, Sina Çölünde, pp.  186–201; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 215–216; Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 33–39; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 81–83; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 116–119; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 107–124; Gibbon, The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, pp. 74–78. 49 Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, pp. 146–149, 155–156, 158; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 192–195; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 242–244, 246–247; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 124–126, 132–133. 50 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  393–394; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 196, 203; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 299–304.

232  The year of glory and disappointment establishment. He also persuaded the General Staff to assign the 3rd Cavalry Division (two regiments) from the Caucasus. At the same time, he reinforced the coastal defence and observation units in the belief that the British would initiate a large amphibious operation against either the Syrian or south-east Anatolian coasts. XII Corps (23rd and 44th divisions) was tasked to defend the Mersin Adana coasts and to protect the Taurus passes, while VIII Corps (27th, 41st and 43rd divisions) was responsible for covering the Syrian coasts, specifically the Gulf of İskenderun. In order to create a strong defence position as a fall-back option during an amphibious attack or the loss of the Sinai, Cemal Pasha revitalised plans to fortify Jerusalem. But, while he had plenty of labour, he lacked entrenching tools and materials. As a result, while various earthen defensive structures were built around Jerusalem, the city remained far from a fortress. Cemal Pasha was also forced to allocate troops to secure the Hejaz railway line between Maan and Medina.51 However, he stopped short of evacuating all the forward positions in the Sinai, in the belief that keeping troops on Egyptian soil was crucial for national prestige and morale. Moreover, he could not bring himself to abandon his investment in railways, roads, logistics facilities and the towns of Hafr al Auja and Beersheba. It is also likely that failed British raids against al Mazar on 16 September and Bir al Magara on 13 October offered him some hope that the isolated Ottoman post could defend itself against mounted troops.52 The commander of the recently formed Desert Column, Lieutenant General Sir Philip Chetwode, was keen to destroy all the Ottoman units left in the Sinai. He devised an elaborate plan to capture al Arish, but the Ottoman garrison evacuated the town on 17 December, a few days prior to the attack. So, with frustration, Chetwode turned his attention to the Ottoman 80th Regiment (five infantry companies and a mountain artillery battery) in Magdhaba. The Anzac Mounted Division (less a brigade) and the Imperial Camel Brigade under Chauvel attacked Magdhaba from all directions on the morning of 23 December. The garrison mounted a stiff resistance based around five redoubts which were well constructed but hampered by a lack of signals wiring. When Chauvel decided to break off his attack, the main redoubt fell and the garrison surrendered.53 The second British target was obviously the 31st Regiment (five battalions and a mountain artillery battery) in Rafah. Cemal Pasha stubbornly refused calls for the immediate evacuation of this 51 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 394–400, 415–423; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 10, 19–20; de Ballobar, Jerusalem in World War I, p. 125. 52 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 414–415, 425–427; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 245–246; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 84–85. 53 The Ottomans suffered 1867 casualties (1473 prisoners) while British losses were 487. Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, pp. 171–173, 176–177; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 429–435; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 206–208; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 251–258; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 207–208, 214–228; Bill Woerlee, “Magdhaba and Kress”, Sabretache, vol. 49, no. 4, December 2008, pp. 5–21; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 20–21; Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 50–58; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 219–220; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 86–89.

The year of glory and disappointment  233 outpost, instead reinforcing the garrison with three machine-gun companies and a dismounted camel company. He also positioned the 160th Regiment in Shellal (Şelale) to relieve the outpost in case of an attack. On 8 January 1917, the Anzac Mounted Division (less a brigade), the 5th Mounted Brigade, the Imperial Camel Brigade and an armoured car patrol, this time under Chetwode’s personal command, began the advance. Early on the morning of 9 December, advanced elements overran an Ottoman camel patrol and enveloped Rafah. The ensuing fight bore some resemblance to the Magdhaba raid. The Ottoman soldiers defended their redoubts bravely and the main redoubt was only overrun as Chetwode was considering withdrawal. The 160th Regiment reacted slowly, reaching the site soon after the British withdrawal.54 Although some small outposts beyond the Ottoman border stubbornly maintained their resistance, the Magdhaba and Rafah raids effectively ended the Ottoman presence in the Sinai. Even before these blunders, on 4 December, Enver Pasha and Cemal Pasha had agreed to invest in the Gaza–Beersheba line and abandon the Sinai. It seems as if Cemal Pasha’s ego was instrumental in delaying the implementation of this decision. The 16th and 53rd divisions were then assigned to Syria and several other units, including the 7th Division, were promised should the need arise.55

The Arab Revolt and the Hejaz Front While the autonomous province of Hejaz was regarded as a backwater of the empire, the presence of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, and the frequent outbreaks of violence and rebellions that characterised the region, prompted the Ottoman administration to maintain a significant military presence in Hejaz.56 Under the 1913 reorganisation, the 22nd Independent Division (128th, 129th and 130th regiments) was activated and all military and paramilitary units in the region (including the Medina Guardian troops and the railway security battalions) were placed under its command. As the governor of Hejaz, the divisional commander supervised the pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca and Medina, arranged billeting and provided transport for the pilgrims and also guaranteed their safety from Bedouin attacks.57

54 The Ottomans suffered 1379 casualties (1282 prisoners) while British losses were 146. Egypt 1916–1917, TNA, CAB 44/15, pp.  177–179; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  447–448; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 211–217; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 262–271; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 230–242; Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, pp. 133–143; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, pp. 22–23; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 222–224; Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 64–79; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 90–94; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 129–135. 55 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 463–469. 56 Karl K. Barbir, Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708–1758, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1980, pp.  33–38, 44–45, 89–96; Abdul-Karim Rafeq, The Province of Damascus 1723–1783, Khayats, Beirut, 1966, pp. 65–72, 82–83, 98–101, 133–141, 165–175, 209–226. 57 Şükrü Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Hicaz, Asir, Yemen Cepheleri ve Libya Harekâtı, vol. 6, Genkur Basımevi, Ankara, 1978, pp. 83–85, organisational table 3; Saleh Muhammad Al

Map 5.1 Arabian Peninsula tribal zones of influence and the Hejaz railway line.

234 The year of glory and disappointment

The year of glory and disappointment 235 The Ottoman General Staff did not recognise the presence of any serious threat to Hejaz. As a consequence, the 22nd Division did not receive additional personnel or extra weapons following mobilisation, and was also frequently required to send reinforcements to other theatres of operation. During the Suez Canal Campaign, for example, an expeditionary force of two reinforced regiments was prepared and sent to Suez. The Hejaz Expeditionary Force had barely reached the theatre when it was reassigned to the southern wing of the second echelon. Fortunately, this assignment saw the division receive much-needed reinforcements.58 The semi-independent ruler of Hejaz, Sharif Hussein, was not happy with the presence of a strong Ottoman garrison and effectively halted the conscription of pilgrims to reinforce the local troops. He also evaded his responsibility to send his own tribal army to fight in the Suez Canal Campaign despite receiving a large amount of money to fund their despatch. Moreover, he conspired with the British authorities in Egypt and Arab nationalists to gain his independence.59 The divisional commander, Colonel Vehib [Kaçi], and Medina Guardian Hasan Basri [Nayan] Pasha were well aware of the rebellious and separatist agenda of Sharif Hussein. They proposed to arrest him, destroy his power base and evacuate the region until the end of the war. However, Cemal Pasha, the Fourth Army Commander and Governor of Syria and Arabia, rejected this proposal and decided instead to appease Sharif Hussein by replacing the hardline Vehib with the more lenient Galib [Pasiner] Pasha. However, Basri Pasha managed to retain his position and continued to warn the Ottoman government about the activities of Sharif Hussein.60 Amr, The Hijaz under Ottoman Rule 1869–1914: Ottoman Vali, the Sharif of Mecca, and the Growth of British Influence, Riyadh University Publications, Riyadh, 1978, pp. 60–110; Süleyman Kâni İrtem, Osmanlı Devleti’nin Mısır, Yemen, Hicaz Meselesi, (ed.) Osman S. Kocahanoğlu, Temel Yayınları, İstanbul, 1999, pp. 172–181; Joshua Teitelbaum, The Rise and Fall of the Hashimite Kingdom of Arabia, Hurst & Co., London, 2001, pp. 11–32. 58 Cemal Akbay, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Siyasi ve Askeri Hazırlıkları ve Harbe Girişi, c. 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1991, pp. 112, 116, 167, 179, 271; Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 134, 140–141, 143, 153–154. 59 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, pp. 212–217; T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph, Book Club Associates, London, 1979, pp. 21–28; Briton Cooper Busch, Britain, India and the Arabs 1914–1921, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1971, pp. 56–81, 89–99; Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, pp. 69–77; G.P. Gooch and Harold Temperley (ed.), British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898–1914, vol. 10, Part. 2, His Majesty’s Stationary Office, London, 1938, pp. 826–832; Ronald Storrs, Orientations, Ivor Nicholson & Watson Limited, London, 1937, pp. 142–143, 172–189; Joseph Kostiner, “The Hashemite Tribal Confederacy of the Arab Revolt, 1916–17”, (ed.) Edward Ingram, National and International Politics in the Middle East: Essays in Honour of Elie Kedourie, Frank Cass, London, 1986, pp. 126–128. 60 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 19, 140, 147, 153, 155–162; Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, pp. 62–63, 68–69; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 3, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1991, pp. 236–237, 240–241; Feridun Kandemir, Peygamberimizin Gölgesinde Son Türkler: Medine Müdafaası, Yağmur Yayınevi, İstanbul, 1974, pp. 15, 429–432; D.M. McKale, “German Intelligence Activity and the Turks in the Egyptian and Palestine Campaigns”, in (eds.) Yigal Sheffy and Shaul Shai, The First World War: Middle Eastern Perspective, Israel Society for Military History, Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 121–124.

236  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.6 Ottoman garrison of a fortress in Hejaz.

Despite continuous warnings from Basri Pasha and a broad variety of other informed sources, the timing of the rebellion (5 June 1916) caught the Ottoman administration off guard. Sharif Hussein had persuaded Galip Pasha to move to his summer residence in Taif, thereby effectively dividing the division into three (Medina, Jedda and Taif, each with two battalions). He planned to attack Medina first and then simultaneously eliminate all the other garrisons.61 Fortuitously, Cemal Pasha had sent his able deputy, Ömer Fahreddin [Türkkan] Pasha, to Medina equipped with extraordinary powers just a week before. Fahreddin Pasha not only managed to repulse attacks by the Sharifian troops, but also launched counter-attacks a few days later.62 Following this setback, the rebels launched

61 Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  193–194, 260–265, 270–271, 284–286; Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section  3, pp.  248–262, 265–267; Kandemir, Peygamberimizin Gölgesinde Son Türkler, pp. 19–22, 27–30; Suleiman Mousa, T.E. Lawrence: An Arab View, (trans.) Albert Butros, Oxford University Press, London, 1966, p. 15; Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, pp. 66, 80; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 220–221; Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, p. 34. 62 Cemal Hatıralar, pp. 198, 290–297; Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 171–178, 835–836; Naci Kaşif Kıcıman, Medine Müdafaası: Hicaz Bizden Nasıl Ayrıldı? Sebil Yayınevi, İstanbul, 1994, pp. 23, 32–37; Kandemir, Peygamberimizin Gölgesinde Son Türkler, pp. 31–38, 448–460; Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, p. 81; Teitelbaum, The Rise and Fall of the Hashimite Kingdom of Arabia, p. 78; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, p. 224.

The year of glory and disappointment  237 simultaneous attacks against Jedda, Mecca and Taif as planned. The Mecca garrison was caught in three enclaves, each surrendering separately between 11 June and 25 July. The Jedda garrison easily repulsed the tribal warriors, but was forced to surrender after a week-long naval bombardment which caused the locals to rebel against the defenders. Galib Pasha held out at Taif until the end of September, surrendering only after the arrival of Egyptian artillery batteries.63 Undeterred by the early Sharifian successes and increasing British build-up in Palestine, Fahreddin Pasha launched a two-pronged offensive in the direction of Mecca and Medina’s port town of Yanbu at the end of July. He initially targeted Amir Ali’s troops (8000 strong) in the south and Amir Abdullah’s force (4000 strong) in the east. Having beaten them in several small battles, he moved against Amir Faisal at Yanbu road. Faisal was defeated in detail and took refuge under British naval protection in Yanbu on 8 December. In the meantime, Fahreddin Pasha reorganised his local troops and reinforcements into an expeditionary force (Hicaz Kuvve-i Seferiyesi) and a composite division which was renamed the 58th Division. These victories helped him make deals with the dominant tribes.64 He and Cemal Pasha managed to enlist the support of some of these tribes (such as Rashid of Shammar) and pacified Abd al Aziz ibn Saud of Najd by exploiting traditional feuds and power struggles. Nevertheless, they were unable to compete with the British intelligence service, which had more funds to buy the services or loyalty of most of the tribes.65 Fahreddin’s unexpectedly successful offensive saw Sharif Hussein’s revolt threatened by a major crisis. His army deteriorated into a lawless horde without centralised command, control and coordination. He desperately needed weapons, ammunition, food, artillery and engineering experts, and, most of all, gold to buy the loyalty of his followers. The British and French rushed in warships, Algerian and Egyptian artillery batteries and machine-gun companies, military and communication experts, logistics support and more gold. The allied help tilted the balance in favour of Sharif Hussein and the crisis was resolved.66 Unable to reach

63 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 215–253; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 225–227. Bayur, Türk İnkılâbı Tarihi, vol. 3, Section 3, pp. 240–241, 265–273, 275–276; Kıcıman, Medine Müdafaası, p.  35; Kandemir, Peygamberimizin Gölgesinde Son Türkler, pp. 432–447, 462–465; Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I, pp. 81–82; Teitelbaum, The Rise and Fall of the Hashimite Kingdom of Arabia, pp. 78–81. 64 “Summary of the Hejaz Revolt”, 31 August 1918, TNA, WO 106/55, pp. 1–2; “From Parker to Arab Bureau”, 8 Nıvember 1916, TNA, FO 686/56; Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 189–214; Kıcıman, Medine Müdafaası, pp. 52–56, 69–76, 85–87, 110–113; Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, pp. 14, 43, 51, 69–70, 121–122; Kandemir, Peygamberimizin Gölgesinde Son Türkler, pp. 40, 462. 65 “Summary of the Hejaz Revolt”, 31 August 1918, TNA, WO 106/55, pp. 12–14; M. Talha Çiçek, “The Tribal Partners of Empire in Arabia: The Ottomans and the Rashidis of Najd, 1880–1918”, New Perspectives on Turkey, no. 56, 2017, pp. 124–127; Daniel Siverfarb, “The Anglo-Najd Treaty of December 1915”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 16, no. 3, October 1980, pp. 170–176. 66 “Policy in the Middle East: The Arab Question”, 13 June 1916, TNA, CAB 17/176; John Fisher, “The Rabegh Crisis, 1916–17: A Comparatively Trivial Question or A Self-Willed Disaster”,

238

The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.7 Fahreddin [Türkkan] Pasha and his staff in Medina.

his objectives, starved of resources and under pressure from the General Staff to cease his ambitious offensive actions, Fahreddin Pasha reluctantly withdrew to Medina.67 In Ottoman military history, the defence of Medina ranks with the legendary defence of Plevne. Fahreddin Pasha not only had to defend Medina but also the 1000-kilometre single-track narrow gauge Hejaz railway on which his entire logistics depended. He and Cemal Pasha reorganised the defence of the railway into two areas of responsibility shared between the Hejaz Expeditionary Force and the Fourth Army. A division-sized composite unit (consisting of token regular battalions from the Fourth Army divisions and tribal levies) was activated and named the 1st Provincial Force (Kuvve-i Mürettebe). Later, Fahreddin Pasha reorganised his railway security detachment into the 2nd Provincial Force.68 While sabotage of the railway tracks and attacks on the trains were generally attributed to the larger-than-life figure Captain T.E. Lawrence, in fact the Bedouin tribes had been targeting the Hejaz railway with similar measures, experimenting with various forms of attack since construction had commenced in the early 1900s. Regular Ottoman infantry and cavalry now had to secure the railway, while finding ways

Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 38, no. 3, July 2002, pp. 73–88; Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, pp. 35–36, 42–45, 53, 62–65, 82–83, 86, 92–94, 105–106; Pascal Le Pautremat, “La Mission du Lieutenantcolonel Brémond au Hedjaz 1916–1917”, Guerres mondials et conflicts contemporains, no. 221, January 2006, pp. 19–20, 24–27. 67 “Summary of the Hejaz Revolt”, 31 August 1918, TNA, WO 106/55, pp. 3–4; 22–23; Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 205–213, 255–257; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 221, 227–228, 232–234. 68 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 319, 341–342; Kıcıman, Medine Müdafaası, pp. 77–78, 83.

The year of glory and disappointment  239 to cope with the increasing professionalism of the tribesmen even prior to the Arab Revolt.69 Thanks to this decade-long experience and the novel tactics of Fahreddin Pasha, such as placing rapid reaction forces deep in the desert rather than along the tracks, and sending long-range desert patrols on harassment raids, the effects of interdiction were minimal until the summer of 1917. Surprisingly, Ottoman garrisons at small isolated train stations not only stoically withstood the continuous night attacks in their bunker-like buildings, but also secured the tracks against the increasing incidents of sabotage (around 130 major attacks in 1917 and hundreds in 1918, including the detonation of over 300 bombs in a single day on 30 April 1918).70

Yemen-Asir Front While Yemen and Asir were a long way from the nucleus of the empire, they gained strategic importance following a series of rebellions in 1906 and 1910. The Ottoman military suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of the rebels and, when a reinforced corps-size expeditionary force failed to achieve any meaningful military results, the government was forced to sign an agreement with the more moderate Imam Yahya of Yemen, allowing him extensive autonomy. The hardliner Sayid Muhammad Ibn Ali al Idrisi of Asir rejected all Ottoman offers, and his rebellion continued unabated with the support of the Italians during the Ottoman-Italian War of 1911–1912.71 The Ottoman governing elite regarded the developments in Yemen as the first steps in the disintegration of the empire’s Arab provinces. Nevertheless, the General Staff had limited means with which to establish strong garrisons with trained soldiers. Instead, efficient and reliable high-ranking commanding officers were assigned to reorganise the newly activated VII Corps (39th and 40th divisions) in Yemen and the 21st Independent Division (121st and 122nd regiments) in Asir in 1913.72 The new commander of the 21st Division, Colonel Muhiddin [Akyüz], was a very fortunate man, as Idrisi decided to use most of his force against the Yemen

69 Sheffy, British Military Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign, Frank Cass, London, 1998, pp.  25–26, 45; Mustafa Tevfik, Gelibolu Müfrezesi: Yüzbaşı Mustafa Tevfik’in Ölüm Kalım Mücadelesi, (ed.), Zafer Güler, Truva Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 33–98. 70 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 341–386; Captain Wiggin, “Interview with Captain Zia, Turkish Envoy”, 18 January 1919; Colonel Wilson, “Interview with Fakhrieddin Pasha”, 15 January 1919, TNA, FO 608/114; Kıcıman, age, s. 327–424; Kandemir, Peygamberimizin Gölgesinde Son Türkler, pp. 172–223; Elie Kedourie, “The Surrender of Medina, January 1919”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, January 1977, pp. 124–136. 71 Ahmet İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1992, pp.  87–106; Mahmud Nedim, Arabistan’da Bir Ömür, (ed.) Ali Birinci, İsis Yayımcılık, İstanbul, 2001, pp. 124–145; Baldry, “The Turkish-Italian War in the Yemen 1911–12”, pp. 54–63; Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 414–417; R.S. O’Fahey, Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad Ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1990, pp. 119–125. 72 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, organisational tables 4,10.

240  The year of glory and disappointment border region of Tihamah (Tehame), thus allowing the local garrison two valuable years to organise its defence.73 Muhiddin removed old and corrupt officers and other potential troublemakers. He had no means of securing reinforcements from İstanbul following the outbreak of hostilities, so he revitalised the tribal militia, gaining the confidence of the locals. He created composite units from soldiers and tribal warriors and began to enlarge the government-controlled area.74 Idrisi responded to the continuous Ottoman encroachments by launching an attack on the harbour city of Qunfidah (Konfide) with the help of British warships and Sharif Hussein’s troops on 6 July 1916. The company-size defending force surrendered without resistance, demonstrating the limitations of Muhiddin’s reorganisation. However, the joint Idrisi-Sharifian force failed to effectively follow up this easy victory and its feeble advance against Mahayil (Mihail) was halted by vigorous opposition.75 Muhiddin slowly but surely strengthened his forces, launching a sudden attack on 27 September. Without British help, the defence collapsed quickly and the Allies attempted to escape in what was the final major operation in Asir. Idrisi returned to the Tehame theatre of operations and Muhiddin confidently increased his power base until the end of war. He surrendered only after receiving assurances from the British on 19 January 1919.76 In Yemen, VII Corps commander Ahmed Tevfik [Alpsoy] Pasha was facing insurmountable problems. His first priority was to preserve a sound relationship with and retain the support of Imam Yahya, who was keen to exploit the ongoing conflict for his own benefit and in an effort to increase his power. Ahmed Tevfik Pasha’s 39th and 40th divisions were weak formations in terms of manpower, training and the quality of officers and weapons. Moreover, this had been a two-front war from the outset. In the north at Tihamah, the 40th Division had been conducting a combination of conventional and unconventional operations against the tribal army of Idrisi for over a year. In the south, Ahmed Tevfik Pasha faced the British colony of Aden and its local allies. The General Staff urged him to attack Aden as soon as possible. However, before he had time to plan a course of action, the British launched an unexpected amphibious operation against the Ottoman positions at Sheikh Said just a week after the declaration of war on 10 November 1914. The Sheikh Said positions faced the British-controlled Perim Island and presented a potential threat to naval traffic. The 29th Indian Brigade, which had been diverted to conduct this operation on its way to Egypt, easily captured the beachhead under cover of naval fire support and scattered the local volunteer force and company-size

73 John Baldry, The Idrisi Emirate of South East Arabia, The Isis Press, Istanbul, 2015, pp. 103–138. 74 Muhiddin effectively armed the tribal warriors and volunteers with French Gras M80 Model 1874 rifles, which were readily available at affordable prices. Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 103– 105, 396–402. 75 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 402–404. 76 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 404–412.

The year of glory and disappointment  241 Ottoman regulars. General Herbert Vaughan Cox destroyed the fortifications and re-embarked his troops the following day.77 This constituted a serious humiliation for Ahmed Tevfik Pasha. However, at the same time, it presented an excellent opportunity to rally the tribes against the British. He immediately rushed a composite regiment reinforced with volunteers to Sheikh Said and constructed improved coastal defences to meet future enemy operations. Afterwards, he decided to reorganise his corps by purging old and corrupt officers and poorly performing NCOs. He recruited locals and activated the so-called national (milli) battalions. He disbanded regular regiments and created seven composite regiments by combining regular battalions with local national battalions. He also renamed the 40th Division which became Tihamah Operational Command, while the 39th Division was renamed Taiz Operational Command. The weapons inventory was likewise problematic. The infantry had obsolete 9.5mm M 1887 Mauser rifles and the local recruits were armed with more obsolete Gras M80 Model 1874 rifles. The force had six Nordenfelt multibarrel guns and 20 artillery pieces (a mixture of 87mm M 1885 Krupp field guns, 75mm M98 Krupp mountain guns and archaic smooth-bore cannons). Ahmed Tevfik Pasha established weapons repair and ammunition production workshops to address the complete lack of logistics support.78 Idrisi signed an agreement with the Indian government in April 1915 and increased his attacks soon after, hiring and arming more tribes using British money and weapons. However, all of his small-scale incursions and attacks inside Yemen failed, repulsed during the summer of 1915. Tihamah Operational Command and Imam Yahya’s tribal warriors gained confidence following these early victories and took the initiative, launching raids deep into Asir and conducting counter-insurgency operations against İdrisi’s supporters. The British Navy occupied islands and bombarded coastal towns and villages in an attempt to divert Ottoman troops from Tihamah. Nevertheless, these bombardments proved more damaging than beneficial to Idrisi’s cause. Despite this, Idrisi continued to seek British help. Commencing with the Halnif attack on 12 June 1916, the British Navy assisted Idrisi’s troops in the conduct of amphibious landings against critical harbour towns. While the attackers captured their targets under naval fire support, they were repulsed immediately after the British warships had departed. In short, despite strong British support, Idrisi’s only achievement was to contain a weak Ottoman division and Imam Yahya’s tribal army for the duration of the campaign.79

77 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 421–428; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, p. 222; Harold F. Jacob, Kings of Arabia: The Rise and Set of the Turkish Sovereignty in the Arabian Peninsula, Mills & Boon Limited, London, 1923, p. 159. 78 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 416–420, 429–447, 449–451, organisational tables 4–9. 79 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 447–453, 459, 465–466, 492–494, 503–505, 523–545, 548– 590; Baldry, The Idrisi Emirate of South East Arabia, pp. 113–125, 135–147; Jacob, Kings of Arabia, p. 178.

242  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.8 Ottoman troops marching under the sun in Yemen.

Ahmed Tevfik Pasha reluctantly commenced his Aden expedition on 30 June  1915, following increasing pressure from İstanbul. He tasked Colonel Ali Said [Akbaytugan], commander of Taiz Operational Command, to conduct the expedition with seven battalions and some tribal warriors. The expeditionary force advanced slowly due to lack of provisions and very hot weather. However, the intense heat and slow advance was instrumental in fooling General D.L.B. Shaw, the British commander at Aden, into believing that news of an Ottoman advance was no more than rumour. Ali Said discovered that Lahej, capital city of the Abdali Sultanate which lay to the front of Aden, was defended by just a makeshift force of locals and Indian detachments. On 2 July, he easily pushed aside the forward defence elements and launched his attack from all directions, setting loose his tribal warriors the next day. At the last minute, Shaw recognised the seriousness of the situation and sent a British battalion to reinforce Lahej. The joint British-Lahej troops were defeated in detail. The disorganised British withdrawal turned into a rout during the night and many soldiers took refuge behind the fortifications at Aden, leaving the vital Sheikh Othman wells undefended. During the rout, the sultan was mortally wounded by friendly fire.80

80 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 466–475; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 222–223; Mark Connelly, “The British Campaign in Aden, 1914–1918”, Journal of the Centre for First World War Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, March 2005, pp. 74–77; Nedim, Arabistan’da Bir Ömür, pp. 208–219; Jacob, Kings of Arabia, pp. 165–168.

The year of glory and disappointment  243

Figure 5.9 Water tanks of Aden where vicious fighting took place.

Ali Said was well aware of the difficulties of launching a frontal attack against Aden without heavy artillery and well-trained infantry. He established his main line of resistance around Lahej and kept a weak screening force in Sheikh Othman. The 28th (Frontier Force) Brigade, under the command of General George John Younghusband, rushed to Aden to rectify the situation. Younghusband launched a limited attack to relieve Sheikh Othman on 21 July, which saw the weak Ottoman outposts easily overrun and the wells captured intact. However, despite Younghusband’s far superior combat power, he dared not attack the main Ottoman defence in Lahej. The 28th Brigade returned to Egypt and the Aden Brigade remained in defence, launching only small-scale raids throughout the war.81 Ali Said Pasha, who had been promoted to the rank of general, had no financial or logistical support to continue operations against Aden. However, instead of withdrawing, he devised an ingenious system of financing his operations by permitting the locals to continue trading with Aden and enforcing transit taxes. He also created a labour force to farm the land in order to feed his troops. It was the perfect live-and-let-live situation. Numerous small clashes not only kept the units fit and ready, but also kept his superiors happy. His action effectively diverted a large number of British troops for almost three years. Following the signing of the

81 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 481–484; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 223–224; Connelly, “The British Campaign in Aden, 1914–1918”, pp. 78–80; Jacob, Kings of Arabia, pp. 169, 190.

244  The year of glory and disappointment armistice, Ali Said Pasha surrendered on 9 December 1918. Ahmed Tevfik Pasha ignored British pressure and urgent orders from İstanbul until the end of January, surrendering only after giving most of his weapons to Imam Yahya.82

Mesopotamia Front The activation of the Sixth Army and the appointment of Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz as commander unleashed radical changes prompted by the German General Staff’s decision to organise a new expedition to Persia. Despite a series of military failures and disastrous setbacks, the German decision-makers remained convinced of the potential for large-scale Muslim rebellions against the Indian government. According to their calculations, the liberation of Persia from British and Russian rule would see Afghanistan and then India fall like dominos. Consequently, von der Goltz was tasked to pin down as many British units as he could and inflict serious casualties so as to free Ottoman divisions for the Persia Campaign and extend German influence. At this stage, there was no plan to recapture the lost provinces of Iraq.83 Von der Goltz initially left Nurettin to prosecute the siege at Kut and sought to gain a better understanding of the situation in and around Mesopotamia. Following the costly assault of 27 December, he halted further attacks on Kut. The German commander was fully aware that, without a modern siege train, taking Kut by force would be very difficult and extremely costly. He knew that he would not be reinforced, so he decided to marshal his troops to block the British attempt to relieve the Kut garrison and also for a prospective campaign in Persia.84 Von der Goltz reorganised his units into two corps (XIII and XVIII), the Iraq Independent Cavalry Brigade, two camel-mounted regiments, tribal cavalry under Mehmed Fazıl Pasha and several regiment-size independent detachments (Euphrates, Baghdad and Mosul).85 The serious shortage of manpower and weapons saw the 38th Division disbanded and its units merged with the 35th Division. He despatched Nurettin and XIII Corps along with the reorganised 35th Division to reinforce the cavalry brigade at Sheikh Saad. XVIII Corps, under the command

82 Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 409–412, 484–492, 495–503, 505–522; Connelly, “The British Campaign in Aden, 1914–1918”, pp. 81–89; Jacob, Kings of Arabia, pp. 169–173, 182. 83 Colmar von der Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, (eds.) Friedrich von der Goltz and Wolfgang Foerster, E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1929, pp. 420–424; Nezihi Fırat and Behzat Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, İran-Irak Cephesi, vol. 3, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1979, pp. 412–413, 427; Kazım Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 2011, pp. 449–450, 454, 480; İsmail Hakkı Okday, Yanya’dan Ankara’ya, Sebil Yayınevi, İstanbul, 1975, pp. 244, 255–260; Demirhan, Generalfeldmarschall Colmar, pp. 224–226. 84 Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, pp.  433–434; Hans von Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha in Mesopotamien und Persien, Dieterichische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Leipzig, 1922, pp. 91–94; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 429–432, 444–483. 85 XIII Corps consisted of the 35th and 2nd (still travelling to the theatre) divisions, while XVIII Corps consisted of the 45th, 51st and 52nd divisions.

The year of glory and disappointment  245 of Colonel Halil [Kut], was tasked to conduct the siege with strict orders not to risk unnecessary casualties.86 The terrain between Kut and Sheikh Saad assisted the Ottomans in checking and delaying any forces attempting to advance up the Tigris. A number of defensive positions had been prepared the previous year, and the Ottoman units used these to complete their concentration and defensive preparations before the British could gain the upper hand. Nurettin requested and received the 52nd Division and positioned his troops on both banks of the Tigris, concealed among the marshes. Under his defensive plan, the right bank was held lightly by the 105th Regiment (reinforced by the 2/112th Battalion), one camel-mounted regiment and tribal cavalry, while the 103rd and 104th regiments and the Iraq Cavalry Brigade dug in on the left bank. The 52nd Division and a composite regiment (two weak battalions) were kept as reserves in several positions on the left bank. Mehmed Fazıl Pasha’s tribal cavalry sent screening forces forward to reconnoitre.87 While the Ottoman troops in Mesopotamia were completing their radical transformation, the British expeditionary force was also changing its organisational structure. Nixon asked for more reinforcements in addition to the 3rd Lahore and 7th Meerut divisions which had been transferred from the Western Front. The Indian government despatched the 34th and 35th brigades, one cavalry regiment and various company-size combat support units. Nixon also started speculating for a joint operation with the Russians to lighten his burden. Urgent and pessimistic reports from Townshend and his calculations of the meagre supplies available to the garrison forced Nixon to plan the mounting of a relief operation with the utmost haste. Without the luxury of time, his only option was to despatch a force piecemeal. Major General Sir George Younghusband with his 28th Brigade arrived at a concentration point at Ali Gharbi on 9 December, while Lieutenant General Sir Fenton Aylmer was nominated to command the Tigris Corps of two divisions and other troops once the relieving force had been named.88 They would

86 Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, p. 436; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 95–97; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 483–493, 505; Okday, Yanya’dan Ankara’ya, pp. 290–291; Taşköprülü Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya Savaşın ve Esaretin Günlüğü, (eds.) Mesut Uyar and Ahmet Özcan, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 35–36. 87 G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence, Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Answers to the Questions Asked to the Chief of General Staff of the Constantinople Command, TNA, CAB 45/88; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 506–514. 88 Précis of Correspondence Regarding the Mesopotamia Expedition: Its Genesis and Development, TNA, WO 106/52, pp.  41–45; Report from Lt.Gen. Sir P.H.N. Lake on the Defence of Kut al Amara, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 5, 16, 26; F.J. Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, vol. 2, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1924, pp.  184–191; W.D. Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, Forster Groom  & Co., London, 1923, pp.  110–112, 116–119; K. Davis, Ends and Means: The British Mesopotamian Campaign and Commission, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Rutherford, 1994, pp. 147–150; Edmund Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, vol. 1, Cassell and Co., London, 1919, pp. 40–43, 83.

246  The year of glory and disappointment live to regret for creating “of a new and improvised staff at the last moment” which presumably “invited disaster”.89 Although Nixon was keen to start his advance sooner rather than later, a serious shortage of ocean and river transport delayed the arrival of his units. To make matters worse, the arriving units were hastily assembled with whatever combat support and service support units were available and ordered to proceed to the concentration point at once. By 30 December, despite the enormous risks, Aylmer had decided to attack the Ottoman positions at Sheikh Saad using all his available forces. The advance guard began marching on 4 January but failed to locate the Ottoman defences, which were well sited and skilfully concealed. Younghusband was reluctant to gamble his sparse forces, so he divided his troops equally along both banks of the Tigris River.90 Given the prevailing uncertainty, he decided to launch an envelopment from both flanks. On the morning of 6 January, the British units advanced to contact the Ottoman lines. After a long and stressful march, the attacking units came under heavy and accurate fire. The veterans of Loos and Givenchy described it “as equal to any rifle fire they had come under on the Western Front”.91 The Ottoman cavalry kept the enemy cavalry away from the flanks, while the infantry in trenches inflicted serious casualties without betraying their positions. Nurettin displayed more effective command this time by moving his troops according to the ebb and flow of the battle. He quickly realised that the 105th Regiment was bearing the brunt of the enemy attack and had consumed most of its ammunition, so he ordered the composite regiment and two battalions from the 40th Regiment to reinforce its right flank.92 Aylmer arrived with two more brigades and took over command at noon the next day. While the position of the Ottoman defensive entrenchments had not been definitively located, he chose the right bank under Younghusband as his main effort and reinforced it with the 19th and 21st brigades, keeping the 28th Brigade (reinforced with a battalion), under Major General George Kemball, on the left. The 9th Brigade was tasked as the reserve. This new arrangement saw the British troops achieve some results on both banks. The Ottoman 105th Regiment, which had been shaken seriously the previous day, exhausted its ammunition stocks and launched a bayonet attack with two battalions. They were literally annihilated and their position occupied by the enemy. Nurettin was now under 89 Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, p. 40. 90 The 16th Cavalry and 35th Brigades on the right, the 6th Cavalry and 28th Brigades on the left, with the 19th Brigade as reserve. G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence, Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 187–216; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 120–125, Critical Study of the Campaign in Mesopotamia up to April 1917, Government of India Press, Calcutta, 1925, pp. 94–100; Nikolas Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara: At War in Mesopotamia 1915–1916, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2014, pp. 94–97. 91 Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, p. 49. 92 Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 217–224; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 517–523; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 126–127; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 101–106; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 97–98; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 44–49; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 114–117.

The year of glory and disappointment  247

Figure 5.10 Ottoman soldiers eating their meal from a single large plate.

pressure: he had limited means to transport additional units to the right bank, and all his front-line units were sending urgent requests for more ammunition. Aylmer mistakenly identified his success on the left as decisive and began to reinforce his troops with the 9th Brigade. This effectively cost him the opportunity to capitalise on the significant Ottoman vulnerability on the right. Harangued by his regimental commanders, Nurettin ordered a retreat during the night of 8 January. The Ottoman units skilfully slipped to the rear and silently marched to their new positions at Hanna (Felahiye). The Ottoman General Staff were unhappy with this decision, and Nurettin was finally relieved of his command and replaced by Halil on 10 January.93

93 G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Answers to the Questions Asked to the Chief of General Staff of the Constantinople Command, TNA, CAB 45/88; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 524–541, 558; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 225–238; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 106–117; Halil Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı Halil Kut Paşa’nın Hatıraları, (ed.) Erhan Çiftci, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, p.  154; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, p.  436; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 97–98, 175; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 37–40; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 98–101; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 49–55; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 117–119.

248  The year of glory and disappointment Halil faced serious problems. There was a shortage of almost everything necessary to conduct even the most basic of military operations. He had limited river vessels, so getting supplies and reinforcements through and evacuating the sick and wounded were extremely difficult. Half of his units had fought against the British for almost two years and were completely exhausted, demoralised and in need of urgent rest and reorganisation. While the improvement in the operational situation and the consequent change in the Ottoman fortunes of war immediately increased the Arab tribes’ loyalty, Halil preferred not to rely on their somewhat fickle support. The General Staff, however, was following developments closely and expected Halil to halt the enemy advance as far away from Kut as possible. Under these circumstances, Halil decided to make a stand at Wadi (Vadi-i Kellal) instead of Hanna, which was closer and provided better conditions to mount a defence. He ignored the right bank, leaving only a company reinforced with two machine-guns, and positioned all his regular units on the left bank. The 35th Division and the 43rd Regiment occupied the front line close to the semi-dry Kelal stream (known to the British as the Wadi River). The cavalry brigade covered the left flank, while the 52nd Division remained as the reserve. Halil left his service support units and engineers at Hanna to continue preparing a defence line as a safeguard.94 Halil’s selection of the Wadi River for the placement of his units encouraged Aylmer. He now sought to attack the Ottomans as quickly as possible, convinced that their dispositions offered a high chance of a successful flanking assault. Aylmer’s intention was to pin the Ottoman front-line troops with a weak holding force (28th Brigade) and flank the Ottoman left with maximum force (7th Division). His aim was to force the Ottomans to divert troops to the right bank. To this end, the 28th Brigade launched an unsuccessful feint attack on the right bank on 12 January, Younghusband commencing his flanking attack at dawn. Ali Necib, acting commander of XIII Corps, reacted quickly, despatching the 52nd Division to bolster the left flank. Despite the weakness of the Ottoman cavalry (fewer than 300 sabres), Younghusband was unable to flank the Ottoman lines, given the difficult terrain and the relentless Ottoman fire. Halil pulled more troops from the 35th Division to counter each assault, recognising the increasingly feeble nature of the British attacks, particularly the 28th Indian Brigade which was simply too weak to pin the Ottoman troops in position. Undeterred by the 28th Brigade’s failure, Aylmer ordered it to revive its frontal attack to increase the pressure on the Ottoman lines. Major Rahmi [Apak], chief of staff of the 52nd Division at the time, wrote later that launching a frontal attack in such flat, featureless terrain in broad daylight without fire support was sheer madness. Unsurprisingly the British soldiers were mown down well short of the Ottoman trenches. Aylmer’s orders to continue the attacks during the night were simply impossible to carry

94 G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 541–554; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, p. 438; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 97–98; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 119–120.

The year of glory and disappointment  249 out. Halil was keen to continue his successful defence at Wadi, but his divisional commanders disagreed, wisely pointing to the extended lines and the natural disadvantages of the position. After getting approval from von der Goltz, Halil reluctantly ordered his men to fall back to Hanna in stages.95 The sudden and stealthy retreat of the Ottomans not only surprised Aylmer, but also put him in a very difficult situation. His troops had suffered heavy casualties, and he had limited transport to move his heavy weapons and equipment rapidly. To make matters worse, heavy rains had turned the ground into a quagmire and gale-force winds destroyed boat bridges over the Tigris, effectively halting all river traffic. Aylmer had no option but to wait for the weather to improve and use the time to reorganise his battered units. Interestingly, he became convinced that the Ottomans were in disarray and had lost the wherewithal to make a stand against the British, but reconnaissance and intelligence reports shattered this illusion, revealing that, against the odds, the Ottomans had already established a new defence line at Hanna. This time, the entrenchments were far stronger and much better constructed. While Aylmer continued his attempts to relieve the garrison at Kut, Nixon asked to be relieved due to illness and was replaced by Lieutenant General Percy H. Lake on 19 January.96 In a broader sense, Aylmer was correct: Halil was suffering tremendous difficulties and was under serious pressure from İstanbul. In order to be assigned as the commander of the Sixth Army, he had promised quick victories which he had then been unable to deliver. From a distance, the Ottoman General Staff began to see some similarity between the current battles and the pre-Ctesiphon disasters. Halil needed success – and he needed it now. To achieve this, he placed his best division, the 52nd Division, at the front. From south to north, the 43rd Regiment covered the Tigris while the 7th, 40th and 37th regiments manned the front. The 35th Division was sited at the rear ready to reinforce any portion of the line that appeared likely to break. Another defence line had been constructed as a fall-back option should the need arise. Both these lines arced backwards to the north to face any flanking move from the Suwaikiya Marsh. The engineers had covered the entire front with wire entanglements. Because the left bank was unoccupied, Halil was expecting the British to site artillery batteries there, ready to enfilade the entire Ottoman position, so he ordered his units to dig in as much as they could 95 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 554–566, 570–584; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 241–254; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 123–139; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, p. 439; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 98–100; Rahmi Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1988, pp. 140–145; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp.  133–134; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 154–155; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 40–46; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-alAmara, pp. 101–106; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 74–82; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 120–123. 96 G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 46; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 584– 585; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 187, 254, 256–265; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 134–140; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 106–108.

250  The year of glory and disappointment and construct earthen parapets all around the trenches. As in the previous battle, Halil kept only regular cavalry and sent the tribal cavalry back to Sannaiyat. In addition, he ordered labour battalions to rebuild and enlarge the defensive works at Es Sinn and Bait Isa-Dujaila.97 As Halil had correctly predicted, Aylmer did not try to outmanoeuvre the Ottomans by moving to the right bank, simply despatching the 9th Brigade to prepare enfilading artillery positions there while other units on the left bank began a slow approach to the Ottoman defence line on 19 January. Aylmer’s detailed plan (which clearly demonstrated that he had little faith in his subordinates) depended on two essentials: approaching the defences as closely as possible and intense artillery preparation (five bombardments on 20 January, each lasting 20 minutes) with close supporting fire (overall, 30 guns and some 12,000 shells). The principal attack was to be launched by the 35th Brigade along the Tigris from positions that would allow the 9th Brigade to provide fire support from the other bank. The 19th Brigade would attack on the right. The 21st Brigade was broken up, and its battalions reinforced the 19th and 35th brigades.98 The Ottoman defenders (particularly the 7th Regiment) were subjected to intense artillery fire throughout the day and into the night of 20 January. Having taken casualties, all units were pulled back, leaving observation posts at the front; contrary to Aylmer’s expectations, the artillery preparation did not destroy the defenders and their entrenchments. As a consequence, when the British units left their assault positions, they faced stiff resistance. Some elements of the 2nd Black Watch Battalion managed to capture a small part of the Ottoman front-line trenches, but the remainder of the British assault forces failed completely. The British battalions were either shot down or driven back by small counter-attacks and intense fire. Neither Aylmer nor Younghusband was aware of the dire reality of the situation, and orders were issued for the launch of another frontal attack at noon. It was an impossible mission and became more so when heavy rain began to fall. Halil, on the other hand, successfully moved his reserves and eliminated the single enemy pocket. With the breakdown of communications Aylmer only became aware of the situation at 3.30 pm. He had no choice but to order all his troops to withdraw once night fell. The next day, the British requested an armistice to retrieve casualties and bury their dead, to which Halil immediately agreed. This important victory improved Halil’s position and prestige in Istanbul.99

97 G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence, Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 586–597; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, p. 155. 98 Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 265–269; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 146–152; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 109–110. 99 G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence, Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 603–614; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 269–276; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 153–165; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 103–104; İlhan Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, Remzi Kitabevi, İstanbul, 1975, pp. 216–224; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 110–111; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 83–109; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 124–125.

The year of glory and disappointment  251 The British public was deeply affected by the ongoing tragedy at Kut, with the garrison’s relief deemed essential for the sake of British prestige in the east. Furthermore, most of Britain’s political and military leaders were unhappy with the way the Indian government was handling the Mesopotamia expedition. Sir William Robertson, chief of the Imperial General Staff, wrote a memorandum on 31 January 1916 in which he argued that control of the expedition should be transferred to the War Office. The War Committee approved, and the change was to be effected on 16 February.100 The relief of the beleaguered garrison exerted a powerful effect, particularly as the window of opportunity for relieving Kut had been closing each passing day as the melting of the snows in the highlands of Anatolia and Persia in March would make it impossible for the troops to advance. Already, rainstorms rendered movement over the plain very difficult and the river level was rising. Aylmer needed to act, and act now.101 Aylmer had three options. The first, to manoeuvre north of the Suwaikiya Marsh, was ruled out following reconnaissance. Likewise, repeating the frontal attack against Hanna or crossing behind the town were also deemed unfeasible due to the probability of high casualties and the lack of an efficient bridging train. The most logical option was to advance from the right bank and outflank the Ottoman positions at Es Sinn and Bait Isa-Dujaila (Sabis). After lengthy discussions with his commanders, Aylmer decided that the right bank manoeuvre held more possibilities. The Ottomans appeared unaware of the importance of the right bank and were manning the defence line with a weak covering force, keeping strong formations around Kut and at Hanna. However, speed was essential. If Aylmer managed to transport and concentrate his brigades at the Dujaila Depression undetected, the defence line could be flanked with a sudden attack.102 Although more secure than ever, Halil was also operationally in serious trouble. The hardships endured by his troops and their exposure to the elements, and the painful failure of the logistics arrangements, seriously affected morale. The 35th Division in particular was in a terrible state after a long and arduous campaign. Halil sent the 35th Division back for rest and refit, leaving the defence of Hanna solely in the hands of the 52nd Division. Developments away from the theatre were also causing much angst. In addition to von der Goltz’s constant pressure to launch an expedition into Persia, Russia had despatched an expeditionary force which advanced in several columns from Caucasus into Persia with the object of assisting the British to capture Baghdad and move beyond. Halil reluctantly kept two regiments from the incoming 2nd Division and several border guard

100 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 47–49, 51–53; Douglas Goold, “Lord Hardinge and the Mesopotamia Expedition and Inquiry, 1914–1917”, The Historical Journal, vol. 19, no. 4, December 1976, pp. 938–939; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 283–288. 101 G.H.Q. IEF D Intelligence, Summaries, January 1916, TNA, WO 157/783; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 297–299; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 174–180. 102 Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 310–313; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 180–182; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 180–185; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-alAmara, pp. 126–127.

252  The year of glory and disappointment battalions in Baghdad and northern Iraq. Fortunately, on 4 February, one of most promising rising stars of the army, Colonel Ali İhsan [Sabis], took command of XIII Corps.103 Following a brief tour and interviews with the divisional commanders, Ali İhsan reached the conclusion that the British would try to force the right bank. Halil, who had long suspected this, persuaded Ali İhsan to task XIII Corps with the defence of the Es Sinn–Dujaila line on 5 February. The hapless 35th Division was ordered to man and develop defensive positions. The area of responsibility was extensive, so Colonel Abdürrezzak split his regiments and attempted to cover the line with redoubts. Persistent British military activity and displays of force prompted Halil to despatch the 51st Division to cover the left bank of the river between the rear of the Hanna position and across Es Sinn. Mehmed Fazıl Pasha was assigned to cover the front and right flank with his tribal cavalry contingents. Halil also reinforced XIII Corps with the newly arrived 6th Regiment.104 Ali İhsan gave this regiment responsibility for the forward defensive positions at Bait Isa. Against Halil’s orders, Ali İhsan placed the smallest number of troops in the front line (particularly in the south) and kept the majority behind Es Sinn and the Abtar hills, close to the river to make them more comfortable and ease problems with water supply. Units practised running to their trenches in case of emergency.105 Aylmer left Younghusband and two weak brigades (19th and 21st) at Hanna as a holding force. He divided the main attack troops into three groups. Column C (7th, 8th and 37th brigades), under Major General Henry D’Urban Keary, would march further south and was tasked with flanking the Ottoman positions, while Column A (36th Brigade) and the Cavalry Brigade would provide left flank cover at the southern extreme. The critical job was given to Kemball with Column B (9th and 28th brigades), which would assault and capture the Dujaila redoubt as soon as possible. The main attack group began marching on the night of 7 March, with all brigades tasked to reach their assault positions under cover of darkness. Only some brigades managed this, as most suffered considerable delays and confusion in the trackless desert. Kemball wasted three hours in the Dujaila Depression coordinating his attack, despite the fact that reconnaissance teams had reported the presence of company-size defenders at the redoubt.106 103 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 559, 616–625; Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 3, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1991, pp. 79, 85; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 105–112; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 127–128. 104 The arrival of the 6th Regiment and later the other regiments from the 2nd Division caused dramatic changes. While half the 2nd Division soldiers were recently arrived conscripts, the division was a veteran of the Gallipoli Campaign and its soldiers had learnt the business of trench warfare the hard way. They disseminated new tactics and techniques, and soon, better designed and constructed defensive lines began to cover the battlefields. 105 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 625–644, 655–668; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 88–101, 103; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, p. 129. 106 Answers to the Questions Asked to the Chief of General Staff of the Constantinople Command, TNA, CAB 45/88; Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris

The year of glory and disappointment 253 The first reports of enemy movements early in the morning of 8 March shocked the Ottoman defenders. Most had grown tired of waiting for the enemy attack, which had been expected for close to a month. Following the initial confusion, soldiers who had been resting to the rear ran to their trenches, just as they had practised. Ali İhsan quickly pulled the 6th Regiment from Bait Isa and despatched reserves to the south, while Halil moved the 7th Regiment from the left bank. By the time Kemball launched his attack from north to south against the Dujaila redoubt at 9.45 am, the 3/104th and 3/105th battalions were manning the trenches and the 2/6th and 3/7th battalions were on the way. Fortunately for the defenders, British artillery fire was concentrated at the top of the redoubt while the Ottoman soldiers continued to fire unmolested from the foot of the slopes. In addition, the Ottoman infantry had concealed the defensive works so well that most of them were not discovered until too late. Not only were the British confused about the extent of the redoubt and its supporting positions, but since artillery batteries were not used in close support, they had limited means to overcome them. The British infantry suffered heavy casualties and had difficulty approaching the front-line trenches (particularly those units that traversed from south to north). Those British forces that managed to reach the front trenches were immediately confronted by the Ottoman defenders.107 Ali İhsan extended the defence line further south each time the British infantry (28th and 36th brigades) attempted to outflank the defence by sending whatever reserves he had or just pulling units from the relatively quiet north and centre. Likewise, the regular and tribal cavalry covered the right flank so effectively that the British cavalry was forced to hover harmlessly at a distance. Regrettably, the elderly but very capable Mehmed Fazıl Pasha was killed during these actions, a loss that would seriously affect future Ottoman cavalry actions. Aylmer diverted the 8th Brigade from the north at 4.00 pm – there were now four brigades attacking the redoubt. Finally, two battalions stormed into the redoubt but were badly mauled. It was a hopeless move, as there was no prospect of reinforcement or a renewal of the attack with darkness descending and confusion increasing. The British battalions were either destroyed or driven back by counter-attacks. With news of the final failure, Aylmer halted the assault and ordered a retreat towards the artillery positions. He reluctantly concluded that his units were in no position

Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 5–9, 48–55; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 314–320; Quetta, Critical Study of the Campaign, pp. 182–190; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 185–188, 201–226; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 127–132; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 140–149. 107 Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 9–10; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 671–681; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 320–334; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 119– 124; Abidin Ege, Çanakkale, Irak ve İran Cephelerinden Harp Günlükleri, (ed.) Celali Yılmaz, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2011, pp. 275–277; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 226–234; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 149–152; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 133–134; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 131–132.

254  The year of glory and disappointment to renew the attack the next day, so a second order was issued for a general withdrawal to Wadi.108 Both sides spent the remaining days of March resting, recuperating, reorganising and consolidating their positions. The defeat caused uproar in London and in India. Aylmer was recalled under the pretext of his deteriorating health and Gorringe, previously accused of lack of drive, took over the command. The 7th Division remained positioned on the left bank and the 3rd Division on the right, now supported by three non-divisional brigades. A new division, the 13th, was now also in the process of arriving in theatre. As a consequence, the British combat strength on the Tigris was expected to rise to 30,000 men. Halil, on the other hand, divided his two corps into four formations, with the 45th Division positioned at Kut; the 52nd Division defending Hanna; the 35th, 51st and 2nd divisions in the Bait Isa–Es Sinn–Dujaila line; while the regular and tribal cavalry covered the front and flanks.109 Gorringe had two alternatives. He could repeat the previous flanking assault, or he could force his way through the left bank and capture Hanna, Sannaiyat and the intermediate positions in between, one by one. He opted for the latter, despite the fact that simply taking these positions would be insufficient and he would then need to capture the northern extension of the Es Sinn line. He tasked the 13th Division (the first wholly British formation without Indian battalions, under Major General Stanley Maude) to capture Hanna. However, heavy rains and storms on 31 March and 1 April effectively halted British preparations for the attack. Unknown to the British, almost half of the Ottoman positions at Hanna were flooded and it was close to impossible to continue the defence of the line. Furthermore, Halil was aware of the arrival of the 13th Division and was expecting it to launch a new attack on the other side of the river. Consequently, Halil decided to evacuate Hanna and fall back to Sannaiyat before it was too late. When the 13th Division finally launched its attack on 5 April, it faced weak covering fire and was surprised to find empty trenches. Because this was wholly unexpected and there had been no preparation to mount a pursuit at this stage, the British troops lost valuable time reorganising and making new plans.110

108 Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp.  10–11; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 682–695; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 335–347; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 125–137; Bird, A Chapter of Misfortunes, pp. 235–252; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, pp. 451– 453; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 113–114; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 111–114, 153–161; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 134–137; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 132–135. 109 Précis of Correspondence, TNA, WO 106/52, pp. 49–50; Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 12–15; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 703–711; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 350–355; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 153–154, 157–165; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 142–143. 110 Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 15–19, 57–61; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 716–720;

The year of glory and disappointment 255 The new target was the intermediate defence positions (which the British called Fallahiya) just before Sannaiyat where Gorringe was expecting to encounter a stiff defence. In accordance with his plan, following the capture of the Ottoman defences, the 7th Division would pass through the 13th and immediately attack Sannaiyat. The 13th Division attacked under cover of intense artillery fire early on the night of 5 April. Once again, they were surprised to face a weak covering force (the 9th Regiment) and mostly empty trenches. Nevertheless, the 7th Division was not prepared to pass through the 13th into unknown territory in darkness. Moreover, they were not certain of the whereabouts of the positions at Sannaiyat, so they advanced in a disorderly manner, more or less blind. With the arrival of first light they came under intense fire which inflicted heavy casualties and destroyed all hope of rushing through the Ottoman defences. The second attempt to capture Sannaiyat on 9 April also failed with heavy losses. Some battalions from the 13th Division managed to capture sections of the Ottoman trenches, but lost heavily in doing so. The Ottoman 44th Regiment and 2/9th Battalion reacted forcefully and eliminated British gains with counter-attacks.111 On the right bank, the Ottomans opened bunds at Bait Isa and flooded the area, seeking to destroy the British force disposition and disrupt their preparations. Gorringe reluctantly turned his main effort to the right bank to counter this threat and capture the Es Sinn defence line. Fortunately, some progress had been made by sapping and pushing the advanced positions slowly ahead. This time, Gorringe chose to adopt a step-by-step approach rather than launching a major assault. The 3rd Division was tasked with the immediate capture of Bait Isa before follow-on forces (the 13th Division) attacked the main defence line. The assault proceeded as planned on 17 April. British troops, under cover of an artillery barrage, caught the Ottoman 104th and 105th regiments sheltering under the parapet waiting for the barrage to lift. The assault was successful and Bait Isa was captured with light casualties, while two Ottoman regiments were destroyed. Major General Henry D’Urban Keary, commander of the 3rd Division, boosted by his unexpected success, immediately began to plan his next operation and neglected to protect his southern flank. Consolidation of the defence line was also somewhat perfunctory. Ali İhsan, on the other hand, reacted quickly and collected every man and every gun. He risked all to organise a task force (built around the 2nd Division), despite Halil’s best efforts to prevent him. Ali İhsan launched a night counter-attack from the south and swept the 9th Brigade away.

Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 362–363, 365, 367, 370–380; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 171–174; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 144–148; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 135–136, 138. 111 Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 19–20, 62–63; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 721– 729; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 380–392; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, pp. 456–457; Kiesling, Mit Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 115–116; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 174–184; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 149–152; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 138–141.

256  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.11 Ottoman prisoners of war captured during Bait Isa and Es Sinn battles.

The Ottoman units poured through the lines of panicked British soldiers and regained most of Bait Isa. The 8th Brigade was hit particularly hard during the second phase of the counter-attack. While the Ottoman 2nd Division suffered heavily, Ali İhsan effectively put paid to British plans and halted any further efforts from the right bank to relieve the garrison at Kut.112 The failure at Bait Isa compelled Gorringe to try the left bank once again out of sheer desperation. Weather conditions interfered, and the attack was launched by the 19th and 21st brigades of the 7th Division against Sannaiyat after an intense artillery preparation on 22 April. During the previous night, Colonel Bekir Sami, commander of the 52nd Division, was forced to pull the 40th Regiment behind the line in order to avoid unnecessary casualties in the largely flooded and destroyed trenches. The 7th Regiment was manning the remaining part of the first line, with the 44th and 37th waiting in the second line. The assault began badly for the British. Following the initial advance, the 21st Brigade became stuck in mud and was unable to move. The 19th Brigade reached the first line which had been evacuated and continued its advance until Bekir Sami began his counter-attack. The British were driven back, leaving 1200 casualties. This proved to be the final effort to

112 Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 21–27; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 730–731, 736–762; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 393–420; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 171–172; Mehmed, Irak Cephesi’nden Burma’ya, pp. 51–58; Ege, Çanakkale, Irak, pp. 294– 297; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 186–198; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 156–158; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 141–145.

The year of glory and disappointment  257 relieve Kut. Gorringe requested an armistice to evacuate the wounded and bury the dead, and this was duly granted.113 Despite continued reversals, the British political and military leadership clung to the beliefs that “defeat is impossible” and “relief is a certainty”.114 Given these widely optimistic convictions, first Aylmer and then Gorringe launched a series of desperate and bloody assaults between 6 January and 22 April 1916, most of which failed miserably. Throughout these bloody reversals, the passivity of the Kut garrison was striking. Not only did Townshend fail to attempt a breakout or sortie, he made no serious attempt to divert Ottoman troops from their positions opposite the relieving force.115 Various political and undercover attempts were made to save the garrison as the military operations were proceeding, but to no avail.116 Aylmer gave the impossible mission of delivering food to Kut by air to the weak 30th Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service squadrons in April. The garrison needed bare minimum of 5000 lbs of food per day. The British planes barely managed to drop 16,800 lbs – a bit more than three days’ worth of food – between 11 and 29 April. Similarly, the suicidal attempt to send a paddle steamer loaded with rations through the Ottoman blockade to reach the starving Kut garrison failed disastrously. The capture of the Julnar (later renamed in Turkish Kendi Gelen) provided a morale boost for the Ottomans, although they were astounded and demoralised by the very good quality and wide variety of rations. In the end, Townshend had no choice other than unconditional surrender, which he duly submitted on 29 April. Von der Goltz did not live to see the victory, dying of typhus on 16 April. Halil Pasha became the new commander of the Sixth Army and Kazım replaced him as commander of XVIII Corps.117 The surrender

113 Despatch by Lt.Gen. Sir G.F. Gorringe on the Operations of the Tigris Column, 1916, TNA, WO 106/53, pp. 27–30, 64–67; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 763–774; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 421–433; Chandler, The Long Road to Baghdad, pp. 199–207; Gardner, The Siege of Kut-al-Amara, pp. 159–161; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 145–147. 114 Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 152–156, 182. 115 Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp.  239, 261–264, 313; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 620–624, 702–703; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 144–145. 116 One very interesting but failed attempt was the British offer to the Ottoman field commanders of a substantial sum for giving up the siege. T.E. Lawrence and Aubrey Herbert were part of this scheme to save the Kut defenders. T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1969, pp. 58–60; Aubrey Herbert, Mons, Anzac & Kut, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1919, pp. 245–258; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 161–162; Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, pp. 97–98; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 166–167. 117 From the Acting Chief of the Armed Forces, 22 April 1916; Imperial Decree, 27 April 1916; from Ministry of War to the Office of the Prime Minister, 29 and 30 April 1916; from Sixth Army to Ministry of Interior, 29 April 1915, Arşiv Belgelerine Göre Kut’ül Amare Zaferi, Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, İstanbul, 2016, pp.  120–121, 126–134; The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, TNA, AIR 1/674/21/6/87, Part 4, pp. 28–32; Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, vol. 2, pp. 454–459; Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, Thornton Butterworth, London, 1920, pp. 334–336; Goltz, Denkwürdigkeiten, pp. 457–458; Kiesling, Mit

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Figure 5.12 Enver Pasha delivering a speech during the funeral of Colmar von der Goltz in İstanbul.

of 15,096 British military personnel (including non-combatants)118 was a terrible blow to the prestige of Britain – more so as it followed in the wake of the Gallipoli disaster.119 With the fall of Kut, the situation stabilised, particularly following the Ottoman withdrawal from Bait Isa on 19 May against the wishes of Halil. Halil immediately planned an offensive against the British positions from the lightly protected sides of the river. However, his divisions were in poor condition following Feldmarschall von der Goltz Pascha, pp. 120–121, 184–186; Şükrü Kanatlı, Irak Muharebelerinde 3. Piyade Alayı Hatıraları, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1945, pp. 24–25; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 157, 173, 176; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 157–160, 162–164; Selçuk, Yüzbaşı Selahattin’in Romanı, vol. 1, pp. 237–245; Davis, Ends and Means, pp. 167– 169; Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Hatıraları, p. 146. 118 Overall, 481 officers (288 British) and 14,615 other ranks (2245 British), including camp followers, were surrendered. According to follow-on agreement, 1306 heavily wounded and sick soldiers were repatriated to the British side; in return, an equal number of Ottoman prisoners were returned. Kanatlı, Irak Muharebelerinde 3. Piyade Alayı, pp. 26–27. 119 It was the largest surrender of a British army between Yorktown in 1781 and Singapore in 1942. In addition to this loss of prestige, the British had to divert valuable assets away from the main theatre of operations and, moreover, suffered some 25,000 casualties during the almost five months of standoff. Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia, p. 99.

The year of glory and disappointment  259 the long siege and blockade operations and he had no alternative but to wait for reinforcements. In İstanbul, however, the General Staff was swept by a wave of adventurous offensive planning for operations against Iran and Azerbaijan with the encouragement of Berlin. The Ottoman General Staff decided to send XIII Corps to Persia, leaving the battered and weak XVIII Corps (35th, 45th, 51st and 52nd divisions) to defend the Tigris and Euphrates. Neglected by İstanbul and haunted by serious shortcomings, the Sixth Army became weaker with each passing month.120 On the British side, there was neither the will nor sufficient morale to continue the advance, in spite of the fact that the British had been superior in numbers in every battle. On 11 July, Lieutenant General Sir Stanley F. Maude assumed command of the Tigris Corps, becoming commander of the entire expeditionary force in Mesopotamia on 28 August. Affectionately known by his subordinates as ‘Systematic Joe’, Maude was a meticulous administrator and almost obsessive about paperwork. Throughout the summer and autumn, Maude, backed by the War Office, ignored the Ottomans and focused solely on the regeneration of his troops and the establishment of a sound administration and logistics base, particularly in the lines of communication. Only on 12 December, once he had finished his preparation, did Maude report to London and India that his concentration on the Tigris was complete.121 While the surrender of General Townshend in Kut al Amara had boosted Enver Pasha’s confidence and that of the Ottoman General Staff, thereby they decided to send XIII Corps (2nd and 6th divisions, an independent cavalry brigade and various local units) under the command of Colonel Ali İhsan to Persia. At the same time, a Russian corps under General Nikolai Baratoff had begun to move to Baghdad from Kermanshah-Persia. The order to Ali İhsan was open-ended: to safeguard the rear of the Sixth Army against the Russian advance, to clear foreign elements from Iran and to conquer as much territory as possible. The 4th Division, supplemented by a small German detachment, was tasked to advance towards Revanduz simultaneously.122 Likewise, the 37th Regiment was assigned to reinforce Ömer Naci’s Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa detachment, which had been ordered to push into Persia further south.123 120 Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, pp. 785–787; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 178–183; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 164–166; Davis, Ends and Means, p. 171; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 150–155. 121 F.J. Moberly, The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918, vol. 3, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1924, pp. 1–4, 7–70; C.E. Callwell, The Life of Sir Stanley Maude, Constable and Co., London, 1920, pp. 140–141. 122 This was the so-called Sondermission P under the leadership of Herzog Adolf Friedrich zu Mecklenburg. Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien, pp.  105–107; Deutsche Offiziere in der Türkei, Reichsarchiv, Berlin, 1940, p. 28. 123 From Ottoman Consul in Kermanshah to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 February 1916, Osmanlı Belgelerinde Birinci Dünya Savaşı, vol. 1, p.  263; Fırat and Balkış, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, İran-Irak Cephesi, vol. 3, Section 1, pp. 785–787; Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3,

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The forward elements crossed into Iran on 8 June 1916 with a series of battalion-level combat actions. Ali İhsan beat back the Russians in Hanekin on 3 June and in Karind on 28 June. Russian General Baratoff ordered retreat to avoid complete destruction. After this inspiring start, the Ottoman advance halted with the capture of Hamadan on 9 August. Despite Enver’s assurances, there was no local support for the Ottomans (except, from the Swedish-trained Iranian State Gendarmerie units) and no big popular rebellion at all. Desultory fighting with the Russians continued while Ottoman soldiers fell easy prey to epidemics (dysentery, cholera and spotted typhus) caused by malnutrition and lack of efficient medical support. Enduring poor conditions and without any meaningful aim, XIII Army Corps remained in Persia until the collapse of the Mesopotamia Front when they were recalled. The withdrawal commenced on 22 February 1917, which turned out to be the brightest action of the corps throughout its stay in Persia. Ali İhsan carefully planned the retreat well advance of receiving orders to do that. Thanks to him, the Ottoman troops advanced so quickly that the cavalry-rich Russian efforts to capture them failed miserably.124 While the Ottomans and Russians were playing cat-and-mouse game in Persia, the inter-allied conference in St. Petersburg decided on a combined BritishRussian operation in Persia and Mesopotamia for the first time in January 1917. The original aim was to help the British drive to Baghdad, with the Russian attacks from Persia towards the Ottoman rear specifically targeting Mosul. The Russian Caucasus Army had already reinforced its two corps (I Caucasus Cavalry and IV Caucasus Corps) in Persia with infantry and artillery. Their total combat strength was impressive: 28,000 rifles and 17,000 sabres supported with 78 guns. However, they were far away from the Ottoman border (VII Corps in Tabriz and I Corps in Kazvin) and around 300 kilometres separated them from each other. Consequently, the Russians failed to provide help to the Baghdad operation. Nonetheless, this failure did not deter the British quest for a combined operation, and they continued to press for a Russian offensive towards Mosul simultaneously with a British northern thrust even after the Russian Revolution.125

pp. 178–183; F.J. Moberly, Operations in Persia 1914–1919, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1929, pp. 174–174; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 165–166. 124 Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım, vol. 3, pp. 178–349; Ali İhsan Sabis, Harp Hatıralarım: Birinci Dünya Harbi, vol. 4, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1991, pp. 21–90; Kenan, Büyük Harpte İran Cephesi, vol. 2, pp. 219–308, 349–392; Necati Ökse and Özden Çalhan, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, İran-Irak Cephesi, vol. 3, Section 2, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 2002, pp. 52–57, 183–241, 357–370; Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı, pp. 164–167; Moberly, Operations in Persia, pp. 56–59, 70–71, 180, 194–197, 199–201, 204, 213, 227–228; W.E.D. Allen and Paul Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields: A History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1953, pp. 430–435, 444–447; Stephanie Cronin, “Iranian Nationalism and the Government Gendarmerie”, in (ed.) Touraj Atabaki, Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers, I.B. Tauris, London, 2006, pp. 48–66. 125 Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 442–446, 451–452, 455; Moberly, Operations in Persia, p. 228.

The year of glory and disappointment  261

Caucasus Front Given the roller-coaster events of the previous year and the Third Army’s depleted military effectiveness, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha concluded that since he had no hope of receiving reinforcements until spring, the best he could do was to remain in defence and limit his offensive actions. He recognised that the Ottoman troops would not be fit for battle for some time to come. Both sides spent the rest of the campaign season of 1915 resting, refitting and reorganising. Nevertheless, battalion-size combat actions continued to represent a serious drain on Ottoman manpower. At the same time, Yudenich was not spared, losing a reinforced cavalry-rich corps (General Nikolai Baratoff’s expeditionary force) for operations in Persia, although he was able to raise sufficient recruits to fill his cadres.126 Mahmud Kâmil Pasha tried desperately to cover his 300-kilometre-long front with his limited men and firepower. On paper, he had 135 infantry battalions and 63 cavalry squadrons, but these numbers were quite deceptive. Instead of having 150,000 men on his war establishment, he had just 50,500 combatants against the 220,000-strong Russian Caucasus Army. To cover the main approaches to Erzurum, he concentrated all three corps (nine divisions with a combat strength of 35,000 men) between Lake Tortum and the Aras River, where high mountains and other features on both sides effectively eliminated any chance of flanking attacks.127 The limited manpower and wide spaces of Eastern Anatolia meant that there were simply not enough units to maintain a continuous front. Consequently, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha allowed substantial gaps to develop in the north and south, covered by six independent detachments (Lazistan, Milo, Asbesan, North Murat, South Murat and South Van) – or, in some cases, not at all. He clung to the hope that he would receive reinforcements from the Gallipoli Front following the end of that campaign, preparing plans for the launch of a major spring offensive to eliminate the Russian threat altogether once he had been reinforced. However, the General Staff was looking beyond the simple defence of Eastern Anatolia. Although Falkenhayn had largely frustrated the Ottoman General Staff’s plans to transfer nine or more divisions under the command of the Second Army to the Eastern Front or other European fronts (surprisingly, they even considered sending them to the Italian Front), Enver Pasha was still keen to send large corps-size expeditionary forces to European theatres of war so as to secure a better position at the bargaining table at the end of the conflict. Angry and frustrated, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha went to İstanbul to present his case personally and to secure more

126 E.V. Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi Eserinin Tenkidi, (trans.) Nazmi, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1935, pp. 256–261; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 320–324; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 1–2, 5. 127 From north to south, X (Yusuf İzzet [Met] Pasha), XI (Abdülkerim [Öpelimi] Pasha) and IX (Colonel Nurettin [Sakallı]) corps were at the front line, and there was no army reserve. Hakkı Altınbilek and Naci Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Kafkas Cephesi 3ncü Ordu Harekâtı, vol. 2, Section 2, Book 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1993, pp. 1–4, 6; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 302–303.

262  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.13 Russian encampment somewhere in Eastern Anatolia.

soldiers and weapons as soon as possible. But his timing could not have been worse – while he was in İstanbul pleading his case, the Russians launched their offensive.128 Yudenich was intimidated by the prospect of a large Ottoman offensive. Given the perilous situation on the Eastern Front – known as ‘the Great Retreat’ – he knew that he would not receive any meaningful support unless disaster overtook the Ottoman forces.129 He decided therefore to launch a pre-emptive strike well before the anticipated Ottoman spring offensive in the hope of destroying the Ottoman offensive capacity once and for all. His main planning objective was to surprise the Ottoman defenders by attacking in the middle of winter. He selected the time period between Orthodox Christmas and the New Year to maximise his chances of surprise. With no possibility of outflanking the Ottoman defences, Yudenich focused on identifying lightly held and poorly entrenched sectors. The extended length of the front provided plenty of options for the massing of a 128 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 2–3; Fevzi Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi Hareketleri: Şark Vilayetlerimizde, Kafkasyada ve İranda, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1936, pp.  121–123; Karabekir, Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anıları, pp. 441–442; Reichsarchiv, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918: Die Operationen des Jahres 1915, vol. 9, Verlegt bei E.S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin, 1933, pp. 194–195; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 325–326; N.G. Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, Voennoe Izdatelstvo Ministerstva, Moscow, 1946, p. 51; Hans Guhr, Anadolu’dan Filistin’e Türklerle Omuz Omuza, (trans.) Eşref B. Özbilen, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2007, pp. 125–126; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, p. 176; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, p. 5. 129 David R. Stone, The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914–1917, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 2015, pp. 157–177.

The year of glory and disappointment  263 superior force. The Russians had sound intelligence on the Ottoman main defence line and were aware of its serious shortcomings, thanks to information gained from several officer defectors and their own continuous observation. Ultimately, Cilligöz Mountain, which was both the dominating ground and also the vulnerable junction point between the Ottoman 34th and 33rd divisions, was selected as the ideal point to launch an attack.130 Working on a strategy designed to bleed dry the Ottoman reserves, the Russian northern wing (II Turkistan Corps under Przevalski) planned to commence its attacks two days before the breakthrough force would launch its assault, targeting Cilligöz Mountain and then Köprüköy. The southern wing (I Caucasus Corps under Kalitin) planned its assault for one day prior to the attack by the breakthrough force. Yudenich selected the 4th Caucasus Rifle Division (under Vorobyev) as the main assault formation, with the Siberian Cossack Brigade as the exploitation force. To ensure success, Yudenich tasked the 66th Division as the operational reserve behind the 4th Division. He was unaware that the Ottomans had no theatre-level reserves at all, and he also overestimated Ottoman combat strength which he assessed at around 80,000 men. Yudenich was determined not to replicate mistakes made by the Ottoman forces during the Sarıkamış Campaign. He made extensive preparations, massing his troops and weapons in the Aras Valley and also creating an effective logistics base for each corps and distributing additional winter equipment to his soldiers. A detailed and successful deception and counter-intelligence campaign was also conducted during the preparation phase. Secrecy was paramount. Movement was restricted to the hours of darkness, and incoming units were concealed and dispersed. His forward elements deployed with extreme caution, concealing their forces and disguising their movements while infiltrating to occupy positions as close as possible to the Ottoman lines. Yudenich was so secretive that even his corps commanders only learnt the details of his plan a week before the offensive.131 Grand Duke Nikolai, the new viceroy and commander-in-chief in the Caucasus, considered Yudenich’s plan overly ambitious and highly risky. However, under pressure from Yudenich and Petrograd (General Mikhail Alekseyev, chief of staff of the High Command, had threatened to transfer half of the Caucasus Army to the Eastern Front if no major action was launched soon), he abandoned his reservations and approved the plan. With the launch of II Turkistan Corps’ offensive

130 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  284–288; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp.  325–328, 332–334; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 49–51; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp.  119–120, 125; Hüsamettin Tuğaç, Bir Neslin Dramı, Çağdaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 1975, p. 174. 131 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  288–296; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 327, 334–335, 342–343; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 6–8. In their basics, Yudenich’s plans and preparations were very similar to the template of the better-known Brusilov Offensive in June  1916. See Aleksei Brusilov, A Soldier’s Note-Book 1914–1918, Greenwood Press, Westport, 1971, pp. 219–223, 229–234; also see Stone, The Russian Army, pp. 237–241.

264  The year of glory and disappointment in the north on 10 January 1916, the six-day battle of Second Azap (known as the Battle of Köprüköy in Russian sources) commenced. It was followed one day later by the scheduled push from the south by I Caucasus Corps. While these attacks did not reach their objectives due to stiff Ottoman resistance, they fixed eight Ottoman divisions and forced Abdülkerim Pasha, acting commander of the Third Army, to transfer troops from quiet sectors and resort to the use of labour battalions as infantry. This left the unfortunate 33rd Division alone on Cilligöz Mountain on 12 January to face three Russian divisions. Despite this, the 33rd Division and neighbouring units (the 34th Division in the north and 18th Division in the south) managed to inflict serious casualties and to delay the Russian advance by three days, albeit losing most of their combat power. The 98th Regiment, for example, was reduced to 98 men by the end of the second day. Russian weight of numbers easily repelled Ottoman counter-attacks. The temperatures dropped well below −20° Celsius during the night and whole companies and battalions froze while defending or attacking. Abdülkerim Pasha finally identified this attack as the enemy’s main effort and hastily began sending forces, large or small, to block the way to Köprüköy, ordering Ahmed Fevzi [Big] Pasha, commander of the Erzurum Fortified Place, to prepare for a siege.132 At noon on 14 January, the forward defence positions of the 18th Division were captured. As a consequence, the 33rd Division was now exposed to Russian attacks from three sides and finally broke and withdrew to the second line of defence. A domino effect ensued, causing the withdrawal of the remaining units of XI Corps and then IX Corps. However, the second line of defence was rudimentary and the retreating troops were tired and depleted. The Russian assault formations concentrated on the 34th Division at Kozican, which disintegrated on the afternoon of 15 January. The Ottoman defence line tore open. But it was not wide enough for the Russian infantry to penetrate quickly in large numbers. The Ottoman position would have been even more disastrous but for the failure of the Siberian Cossack Brigade to fully exploit the breach in the Ottoman lines. A sudden turn in the weather saw heavy snow effectively halt the Cossacks for the rest of the day. On 16 January, Abdülkerim Pasha ordered a general withdrawal to the Hasankale-Tortum line. IX and X corps withdrew in an orderly manner, but XI Corps had suffered badly and was routed. Against orders, the Russians advanced cautiously. They did not want to suffer unnecessary casualties and had yet to discover the exact nature of the Ottoman defensive measures. While the Third Army was in a dire state, it remained intact (with around 22,750 effectives), and was

132 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 9–19; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 123–126; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 297–300, 304–312; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp.  328–329, 335–337, 343; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 51–52; Felix Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Cephesindeki Muharebeler, (trans.) Hakkı, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1931, pp.  78–79; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 7–11.

The year of glory and disappointment  265 capable of resisting the Russian advance. While Yudenich had destroyed the Ottoman defence line, he had failed to annihilate the Third Army.133 At the time Mahmud Kâmil Pasha returned and assumed command late on the evening of 29 January, the Third Army was attempting to establish another defence line anchored on Erzurum fortress. Although the city was famously referred to as a ‘fortress city’ in contemporary sources (and still is in modern literature), it was officially and technically known as a ‘fortified place’ due to the fact that its forts and redoubts covered only the eastern and southern approaches. The fortifications did not cover the western approaches and barely reached the northern approaches.134 Plans prepared by British engineers in the 1880s and amended by the Germans in the 1890s to construct two concentric rings of fortification were never fully implemented, due to the cost of the work and frequent changes in priorities.135 As a result, there were just six inner136 and nine outer forts.137 in August 1914, the Inspector-General of Field Artillery, Major General Posseldt, was assigned as the Erzurum Fortified Place commander and tasked with improving the state of the fortifications.138 However, he never received the material, personnel and financial support to allow him to complete his task. For its part, the Ottoman General Staff did not see the wisdom of investing its limited resources in Erzurum. When the Dardanelles was threatened by the BritishFrench armada, the General Staff was quick to reinforce the Straits forts with relatively modern fortress guns stripped from Erzurum. To make matters worse, the Third Army had a habit of regarding the Erzurum garrison as a form of depot regiment and used its personnel to fill the ranks of depleted front-line regiments following each battlefield disaster. Because most of the capable young fortress artillery officers had already been assigned to field artillery regiments, Erzurum was left with ‘dug-outs’ (retired officers) and rankers (most of whom had been purged from the army but reinstated with the outbreak of war) to command weak and partially trained gun crews. All the fortress guns were ancient (pre-1890 Krupp models), worn and with limited stocks of ammunition.139 The outer and 133 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 19–43; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 126–128; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 313–319; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 338–343; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 79, 93; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, p. 52; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 11–12, 223–226; Abdülhalim Akkılıç, Askerin Romanı: E.Sv.Alb. Abdülhalim Akkılıç’ın Savaş ve Barış Anıları, (ed.) Yılmaz Akkılıç, Körfez Ofset, Gemlik, 1994, pp. 161–166. 134 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  324–325; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, p. 350. 135 Vehbi Kocagüney, Erzurum Kalesi ve Savaşları, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1942, pp. 94–108. 136 These were Koburga, Höyük, İlave Höyükler, Uzun Ahmed, Uzun Ahmed Karakol and Dolangez. 137 These were Gez, Topalak, Ağzıaçık, Sivişli, Çobandede, Tafta, Karagöbek and Palandöken Nos. 1 and 2. 138 The units under Posseldt’s command were the 6th Heavy Artillery Brigade (12th and 13th heavy artillery regiments), three mobile artillery battalions and one fortress engineer battalion. 139 The armament inventory of the fortified place was: 4×15cm long, 20×15cm short and 18×12cm fortress guns; 102×87mm, 34×80mm and 39×90mm field guns and 18×75mm mountain guns.

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inner forts and redoubts were not connected to supporting defence positions and had limited mutual support and difficulty coordinating their fire. The shortage of wire prevented the engineers making the defences impregnable. Out of frustration, Posseldt asked to be reassigned and was replaced by Ahmed Fevzi Pasha in 1915.140 While he later changed his mind, Enver Pasha initially permitted Mahmud Kâmil Pasha to declare Erzurum an open city and retire to Sivas, conducting a mobile defence along the way. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha had no intention of abandoning the city, mistakenly believing that the Russians would not dare to attack before March. He was also persuaded by Governor Hasan Tahsin [Uzer], who begged him to defend the city and its civilian population. Hasan Tahsin had already raised a volunteer division (three regiments each 600 strong) and mobilised civilians for labour and transportation. Mahmud Kâmil Pasha ignored the facts that his meagre force was demoralised and he had limited firepower to withstand the might of the Russian Army. At this critical moment, Enver Pasha and the General Staff had regained their confidence and, should the Russians dare attack, they hoped to see a repetition of the glories of the defence of the city during the Balkan Wars. This sudden change of mood saw the General Staff reassign the 10th Division to the Third Army, and the division commenced its deployment from İstanbul on 3 February, scheduled to arrive at Erzurum in mid-March. Eight machine-gun companies (32 machine-guns) were also despatched aboard the cruiser Yavuz (Göben) on 13 February, bound for Trabzon. However, these last-minute reinforcements proved too little and were ultimately too late to make any difference to the outcome.141 Meanwhile, Yudenich was unhappy with the performance of his subordinates who had permitted the Ottoman Third Army to retreat into Erzurum, believing that one last push would have destroyed the Ottomans. Ever cautious, he conducted detailed reconnaissance of the Ottoman defence lines and fortifications. He quickly realised that, not only were the defenders demoralised, but they did not hold all the critical points, particularly the Kargapazar block which dominated the north-east. With the help of General Alekseyev, he persuaded Duke Nikolai to sanction an offensive operation against Erzurum on 23 January. New conscripts and even militia were used to bring the depleted divisions to their authorised strengths. The Decauville railway line was extended to Karaurgan, and the arrival of new aircraft increased the air

Overall there were 235 artillery pieces. The fortress guns had 1242 shells while the field guns had 2243. 140 Kocagüney, Erzurum Kalesi ve Savaşları, pp. 105, 108–135; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 54–57, 78; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 13, 15–16; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 18–19; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 350–353. 141 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 46, 57–65, 81–84, 104; Fevzi Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, (ed.) Nilüfer Hatemi, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 2002, vol. 1, p. 372; Faik Tonguç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Bir Yedek Subayın Anıları, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 1999, pp. 114–115.

The year of glory and disappointment  267 detachment to 20 aircraft. Yudenich also brought 34 heavy guns and howitzers from Kars.142 Yudenich believed that there was no need to mount a costly attack on the city and its inner forts, instead designing his plan around the capture of the northernmost forts of Karagöbek and Tafta with protection provided by Kargapazar. His forces would then rapidly advance towards the plain via Gürcü Boğazı (the Georgian defile). Given the lack of fortifications on the eastern side, the defenders would have no alternative but to abandon their defence positions and attempt to escape. However, it would be crucial to disguise the force’s forward movements prior to the capture of the critical terrain. In accordance with the general plan, elements of the 4th Caucasus Rifle Division slowly infiltrated through mountain tracks and defiles and occupied the highest peak of the Kargapazar block on 25 January, reaching it before the Ottoman 29th Division which had been repeatedly ordered to occupy the block over the previous five days. While surprisingly easy, his success relieved the immense pressure on Yudenich. At the same time, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha, unaware of the Russian plans, attempted to improve his defences and train new conscripts and volunteers.143 Despite the severe winter conditions, Russian troops steadily and methodically cleared the Ottomans from potentially dangerous places, albeit while suffering heavy casualties. The hapless 7th Caucasus Rifle Regiment fell foul of the weather – caught in a blizzard, most of its soldiers froze to death. To protect the left flank, IV Caucasus Corps advanced to Hınıs, pushing the weak cavalry screen of the 3rd Reserve Tribal Cavalry Division before it. The 106th Regiment mounted a stiff defence but gave ground under intense pressure, and the Russians entered Hınıs on 26 January. Tribal cavalry and other militia detachments suffered defeat after defeat and the small but militarily crucial town of Kop fell to the Russians on 7 February. This last development was simply too much for Mahmud Kâmil Pasha, who disbanded the 3rd Reserve Tribal Cavalry Division and merged its remaining squadrons with the 2nd Cavalry Division on 10 February.144 The final Russian assault against Erzurum was launched amid a heavy artillery bombardment in the early hours of 11 February. The Russian 39th Division, which was tasked to fix XI and IX corps, did more than expected given its secondary role 142 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  326–329, 331–333; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 343–345; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 129–130; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 51, 53; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 13, 17. 143 Kocagüney, Erzurum Kalesi ve Savaşları, pp.  145–147; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 62, 68–70; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 329–331; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 347–349, 354–355; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, p. 53; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 14, 18. 144 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 70–77; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 139–142; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 371–372; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 345–347; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 17–18, 24–27.

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Figure 5.14 Russian soldiers proudly showing captured Ottoman colours most probably belonging to fortress artillery regiments.

by launching a daring attack and capturing Dolangez fort the next day. Similarly, the main assault formation, II Turkistan Corps, surprised the Ottoman X Corps by concentrating three divisions against two forts (Karagöbek and Tafta). Thanks to Yusuf İzzet Pasha’s poor defence arrangement (he kept one division forward and the others in reserve), Karagöbek had to be evacuated on 12 February, while Tafta managed to hold out for another two days. The 29th Division disintegrated and the other X Corps divisions commenced an unauthorised retreat. Once more, a gaping hole had been torn in the Ottoman line. Throughout the crisis, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha proved unable to read the enemy’s intentions and react accordingly. The counter-attacks achieved very little against a much stronger enemy engaged in an all-out offensive. Too late, he decided to pull some regiments from the relatively secure south. On the night of 14 February, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha assigned Abdülkerim Pasha as commander of the rearguard and ordered a general withdrawal to the Tosik–Ilıca–Karakaya line – an almost impossible task.145 Once again, rumours of Cossack and Armenian atrocities drove civilians from their homes and they flooded the roads, weighed down with whatever belongings they could carry, while the vanguard struggled to keep the roads open for the

145 Kocagüney, Erzurum Kalesi ve Savaşları, pp. 147–163; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 93–109; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp.  133–136; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 339–356; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, p. 80; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp.  356–363; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 53–54; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 18–21; Tonguç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Bir Yedek Subayın Anıları, pp. 115–124.

The year of glory and disappointment  269 retreating troops. The Russian victory might have been more complete, but for Yudenich’s customary caution. He was reluctant to extend his troops without a clear picture of Ottoman intentions and cautiously waited for the results of aerial and cavalry reconnaissance reports before ordering a pursuit. Cossacks tentatively entered Erzurum on 16 February, and the pursuit began late in the evening. In the meantime, Abdülkerim Pasha established several defence positions which successfully delayed the Russians. It took half a day for the Russians to capture just the town of Ilıca. However, by the afternoon of the next day, some of the divisions had lost their discipline and cohesion and fled in disarray. The ever-present spectre of desertion now assumed dangerous proportions as hundreds of soldiers (mostly new conscripts and volunteers from the Erzurum region) deserted their units at the first opportunity, desperate to save their families. The roads were littered with abandoned guns, wagons, animals and all sorts of stragglers. Although Abdülkerim Pasha continued to keep the Russian main group at bay, Cossack squadrons preyed on isolated and careless units. A night raid caught the 34th Division Headquarters by surprise in Karaz village on 17 February and all the staff were captured, leaving the demoralised regiments leaderless.146 Mahmud Kâmil Pasha worked hard to salvage the situation. He realised that he had to move his troops beyond enemy reach in order to save the Third Army from complete destruction. He ordered Abdülkerim Pasha to hold Aşkale for at least two days and tasked his engineers to prepare defence positions along the Bayburt– Cibice–Kiğı line (a much shorter and naturally stronger line), while at the same time, a collection of mismatched gendarmerie, volunteers and conscripts formed an improvised blocking force. Abdülkerim Pasha performed his task by defending Aşkale until 24 February, although the rearguard was more or less destroyed. On 21 February, bodies of troops – most without any semblance of a coherent formation – began to fill new defence positions in places where labour battalions had already commenced the construction of basic defensive works. Once again, the Third Army had suffered defeat but managed to avoid disaster. In a sense, the Ottoman ability to withstand a series of punishing blows and conduct a more or less effective withdrawal over 90 kilometres was an extraordinary achievement. Although Mahmud Kâmil Pasha managed to gain time and space for his army, he had insufficient time to reconstitute his force. Given his continuous problems with the General Staff and having been made a scapegoat for the disaster, Mahmud Kâmil Pasha was forced to resign on 23 February and was replaced by Vehib [Kaçi] Pasha.147

146 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 110–121; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 136–137; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 357–359, 364–365; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp.  362–364; Tonguç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Bir Yedek Subayın Anıları, pp. 125–132. 147 Between 10 January and 24 February, the Ottoman Third Army suffered 45,000 casualties (excluding volunteers and some tribal detachments) in which at least 10,000 men were killed in action or froze to death, 6500 were captured, around 15,000 were wounded or fell ill and 14,000 deserted. Interestingly, the Russians also suffered similar number of casualties (40,000), due to

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While the Ottomans were suffering a crisis of command, Yudenich made another terrible mistake by halting the advance against the remnants of the main group of the Third Army. Instead, he decided to mop up weak Ottoman detachments along the Black Sea coast and those to the west of Van Lake. It is possible that pressure from his superiors, extended supply and logistic lines and the heavy casualties suffered throughout the operation forced him to moderate his aims. While Yudenich’s massive assault was running out of steam, the Ottoman General Staff responded to the crisis initially by releasing the 13th Division. Orders were issued to newly assigned units not to mix with the Third Army’s routed units in an effort to preserve their discipline and combat effectiveness. V Corps Headquarters under Fevzi [Çakmak] Pasha was also assigned to command the 10th (along the way) and 13th divisions in order to minimise the spread of demoralisation.148 As realisation of the full extent of the disaster dawned, Enver Pasha and his advisers decided to deploy the Second Army (12 divisions strong), which had been re-raised mostly from the Gallipoli divisions to reinforce the Caucasus Front. This field army, under the command of Ahmed İzzet [Furgaç] Pasha, was originally reorganised, refurbished (with the help of Austro-Hungarians and Germans) and reinforced with the best recruits available to support Austria-Hungary against Russia on the Eastern Front. Nevertheless, this sudden change represented a half-hearted decision by the General Staff which was keen to maintain an Ottoman presence on the European fronts. As a result, the Second Army’s best divisions were stripped of talented junior officers and experienced soldiers so that they could proceed with the original task of helping Austria-Hungary. To make matters worse, one division was rerouted to Iraq and another to Syria. The General Staff also made a crucial mistake by not assigning a theatre-level commander to command and coordinate the operations of the two field armies. Instead of designing a command chain or writing a detailed order, the General Staff issued a communiqué and placed the Third Army under the operational control of Ahmed İzzet Pasha.149

the conduct of relentless offensive operations in very cold weather and through rugged and hostile terrain. Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 51–52, 123–137, 141–142; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, p. 144; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 363–365; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 22–24; Tonguç, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Bir Yedek Subayın Anıları, pp. 134–142. 148 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 119, 134, 141–143; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 137–139; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 56–57; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, p. 373; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, p. 29. 149 Ahmet İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1992, pp. 245–249; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 149–152; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 149–151; Fikri Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Kafkas Cephesi 2nci Ordu Harekâtı, vol. 2, Section 2, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1978, pp. 31–32; Erich Ludendorff, My War Memories 1914–1918, vol. 1, 2nd edition, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1923, pp. 254–255; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 74–75.

The year of glory and disappointment  271 Thus, Yudenich’s action to pre-empt the expected Ottoman deployments by attacking in early January and securing swift victories essentially forced the Ottoman General Staff to assign a field army to the Caucasus Front. With hindsight, if the Russians had simply waited until March to commence offensive operations, the Second Army would have been on its way to the European fronts and the other Gallipoli divisions would have been in Palestine, thereby giving them a better chance of crushing the Third Army without suffering such catastrophic losses.150 The Second Army units now began their long journey to the southern flank (Diyarbakır-Elazığ) of the Caucasus Front, traversing a region with no railways and few good roads, and taking until the end of June to reach their respective concentration points. The 7th Division lost 1120 men (desertion, sickness and exhaustion) and 604 animals (585 of them were taken by deserters) during its long travel from İstanbul to Malatya.151 Prior to the arrival of the Second Army, the 5th Division was transferred to Bitlis and the 17th Regiment (6th Division) to the south of Muş so as to cover the Diyarbakır region against a sudden Russian advance which would have the potential to threaten both Syria and Mesopotamia from the north. XVI Corps Headquarters, under command of Colonel Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk], was hastily sent to assume responsibility for the southern wing.152 Vehib Pasha, a fascinating figure in his own right, assumed command of the Third Army on 6 March. He was a strict disciplinarian, organiser and skilled military trainer. He had been superintendent of the Imperial Military Academy (Mekteb-i Harbiye) between 1909 and 1911 and had initiated comprehensive educational reforms. He had forged his reputation during the Balkan Wars in the defence of Yanya (Janina) with his elder brother, Esad [Bülkat] Pasha, fought successfully against the Greeks. He took part in the Suez Canal Campaign as the Hejaz Expeditionary Force commander and commanded the Second Army at Gallipoli. In addition to his impressive military credentials, as an important CUP 150 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 148–149; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 366–369; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 29–30. 151 After so many changes, the units that finally arrived on the Caucasus Front were: II Corps (1st, 14th and 53rd divisions), III Corps (7th, 11th and 12th divisions), IV Corps (47th and 48th divisions) and XVI Corps (5th and 8th divisions). The 3rd Cavalry Division, which was responsible for covering the southern flank, was also placed under command of the Second Army. 152 The 7th Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; İzzet, Feryadım, pp. 249– 251; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 86–87; Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 22–24, 37–45, 55–56, 67, 93; Salahattin Selışık, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Harekât Mıntikasında 2. Ordunun 1332 (1916) Yaz ve Sonbahar Muharebeleri, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1944, pp.  3–5; Hüseyin Atıf Beşe, Dedem Hüseyin Atıf Beşe: Bir Cemiyet-i Osmaniye Askerinin Savaş Hatıratı, (ed.) Güliz Beşe Erginsoy, Varlık Yayınları, İstanbul, 2004, pp. 164–169; İzzettin Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, (ed.) İsmet Görgülü, İzzeddin Çalışlar, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul, 1997, pp. 148, 153–160. Under ideal conditions, it would take more than 50 days for a single division from İstanbul to reach the Caucasus. The 5th Division arrived at Bitlis on 20 March, while XVI Corps Headquarters reached the city on 27 March 1916. Second Army Headquarters became operational during May. The bulk of the divisions arrived during June and the last formation, the 48th Division, arrived at the end of August. Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 150–151; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 30, 34, 72–73.

272  The year of glory and disappointment

Figure 5.15 The new commanding general of the Third Army, Vehib [Kaçi] Pasha, with his staff.

leader, Vehib Pasha had a strong political power base and enormous influence. In direct opposition to Enver Pasha, Vehib Pasha was very suspicious of the German aims and activities. Although he did not show active hostility, he did make life hard for his German subordinates. Famously overconfident, Vehib Pasha did not come to the Caucasus to save the situation, but to win a decisive victory.153 In the meantime, IV Caucasus Corps continued its advance in the south by easily crushing the ramshackle Ottoman southern defence positions despite immense difficulties caused by the lack of supplies and forage in a region depopulated by the previous year’s see-sawing operations. Crucial cities on the plains, Muş (16 February), Tatvan (20 February) and Bitlis (3 March), fell one after another. However, the situation on the Black Sea coast was completely different, at least at the outset. The Ottoman Lazistan and Surrounding Area Command, under Ahmed Avni Pasha, took advantage of harsh and heavily vegetated terrain and used numerous rivers flowing south to north as successive defence lines. At first, General Lyakov tried in vain to conduct a regular campaign by investing much time and energy

153 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 149, 160–161; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, p.  84; Yüksel Nizamoğlu, Komutanlıktan Sürgüne Vehip Paşa, Yitik Hazine Yayınları, İzmir, 2013, pp. 12, 19–38, 94–99, 104–155; Guhr, Anadolu’dan Filistin’e, pp. 25–26, 38–39.

The year of glory and disappointment  273 in the construction of roads and bridges, almost always under fire from irregular detachments. Every time he came close to fixing the Ottoman defenders, they simply slipped from his grasp and prepared a new defence line at the next river. Out of frustration, Lyakov experimented with small amphibious operations using local boats to land companies behind the Ottoman lines. This appeared to present the solution, although he recognised the need for strong naval fire support to protect his amphibious flotilla and suppress defensive fires. Admiral Andrei Eberhardt, commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet, reluctantly assigned the battleship Rostislav, some gunboats and other small vessels to the task and the joint task force began its advance on 5 February. The combination of naval fire and ‘riverhopping’ amphibious operations behind the Ottoman lines worked well. Without long-range heavy artillery to counter the naval fires, the Ottomans were forced to retreat to escape encirclement. Slowly but surely, the eastern Black Sea coastal towns were captured. With the capture of Rize on 8 March, the Russians came within striking distance of Trabzon, a key transport junction.154 Lyakhov’s successful improvisation encouraged Yudenich to select the main port city of Trabzon as his next target so as to establish a staging area to hit the Ottomans from the side. The capture of Trabzon with its road network connecting key cities including Erzurum would also ease his burgeoning supply and logistics problems. Yudenich persuaded the Russian High Command to release the 1st and 2nd Kuban Plastun brigades (12 infantry battalions and 18 field guns), and Admiral Eberhardt promised to transport them from Novorossiysk to Rize, this operation duly completed on 6 April (the 2nd Brigade re-embarked and was transported to Sürmene at the last minute at Yudenich’s request). Eberhardt was very concerned about the possibility of submarine attacks (the German submarine U33 had recently sunk the Russian hospital ship Portugal near Rize) and insisted on providing temporary support with two battleships and four destroyers deploying in accordance with a strict timetable.155 While the Russians were concentrating their 34 infantry battalions, the Lazistan and Surrounding Area Command were in complete disarray. Most of the local volunteers had deserted their units to take care of their families who were in the path of the advancing Russians. Until the arrival of German Major Hunger’s 28th Regiment (two battalions and four mountain guns) on 16 March, Ahmed Avni Pasha had a single conventional battalion (3/8th Infantry) and constantly changing numbers of volunteers and Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa gangs. In an effort to rejuvenate this loose formation, Vehib Pasha replaced Ahmed Avni Pasha with Lieutenant

154 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 86–87, 113, 115, 121, 127–128, 191–192; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 137–139, 156; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  373–379, 383–388; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 367–372; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 26–28. 155 Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  389–395; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 375–382; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, pp. 379, 381; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, p. 57; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 192.

274  The year of glory and disappointment Colonel Hacı Hamdi [Pirselimoğlu] on 24 March. Despite urgent calls for help, the General Staff sent small company-size detachments transported on the Midilli (Breslau) and other battleships. Midilli even made a brief appearance to bomb Russian units near Sürmene on 10 April, which did little damage but was sufficient to frighten the Russian Navy.156 On 14 April, Lyakhov began his offensive with the close fire support of two battleships (Rostislav and Panteleimon). The irregulars were completely routed and only the 28th Regiment resisted the Russian attacks, holding out for half a day. Although the Russian battleships left for Sevastopol on 16 April, Hacı Hamdi failed to organise his irregulars to man the defence positions around Trabzon and abandoned the city the following day. Enthusiastic crowds of local Christians greeted Yudenich when he arrived on a destroyer on 18 April.157 Amid a series of victories, the Russians also suffered some serious setbacks, most importantly in the Çoruh River sector which lay between the coastal region and the central front at Erzurum. The city of Bayburt not only blocked the road between Trabzon and Erzurum, but was also key to the integrity of the Ottoman defence. The sector was covered with high mountain ranges and deep valleys. While the Ottoman Çoruh Detachment under Major Deli Halid was a weak brigade-size formation (a motley mixture of irregulars [including two Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa regiments], gendarmerie and border guards), the defenders had the luxury of strong support from the populace. Unable to find an alternative, II Turkistan Corps launched a series of frontal attacks, but the warlike locals did not flee as others had, mounting a stiff resistance with an effective guerrilla campaign which inflicted serious losses. On 23 March, Fevzi Pasha assumed responsibility for the coast and Çoruh regions and began investing his regular troops (the 10th and 13th divisions) as they arrived.158 Having divided his defence line into three sectors, Vehib Pasha decided to act immediately to exploit Russian shortcomings in the defence of his newly extended front.159 He was also very unhappy with the assignment of Ahmed İzzet

156 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 174–177, 180–181, 193–194; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 162–163; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, pp. 378, 380; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, p.  396; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 57–58. 157 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 195–199; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 164–165, 188–193; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, pp. 382–384; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  397–401; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 382–383; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp.  58–59; Sinan Onuş, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa’dan Kurtuluş Savaşı’na Kızılca Kıyamet: Alb. Ali Rıza Bey ve Yzb. Fuat Bey’in Günlükleri, Kırmızı Kedi Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 50–54. 158 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 136, 138, 144, 157–158, 165–168; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, pp. 377–379; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 401–402; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 34–40. 159 From south to north, the First Sector (south of Karir-Bingöl mountains) under Mustafa Kemal Pasha (XVI Corps), the Second Sector (between Karir-Bingöl and Karasu-Aşkale) under Yusuf İzzet Pasha (IX and X corps) and the Third sector (north of Karasu-Aşkale) under Fevzi Pasha (V and later XI corps).

The year of glory and disappointment  275 Pasha and the Second Army Headquarters to the south. Vehib Pasha appeared to be attempting to gain his own victory so as to reinforce his position and gain the ascendancy over Ahmed İzzet Pasha.160 IX Corps, the 36th and 32th divisions and the 2nd Cavalry Division launched a surprise attack on the Russian salient at Mamahatun (west of Erzurum) on 31 May 1916. The Russian 39th Division was caught completely by surprise. The salient was successfully eliminated after six days of bloody encounters, and the defence line was shortened, allowing Vehib Pasha to raise a theatre-level reserve for further operations. His next move was against the Russian defence line around Trabzon, which was establishing another large salient.161 Vehib Pasha erroneously estimated that the Russians had transported at least two divisions to the Eastern Front. In reality, the Russian High Command had allocated the newly activated 123rd and 127th divisions to the Caucasus Army, and they had been ferried to Trabzon between 16 and 30 May. Yudenich had just activated the V Caucasus Corps from these two divisions and two Kuban Plastun brigades. Therefore, instead of an estimated single weak corps, the Ottoman 3rd Sector (30,000 strong) was facing two corps (V Caucasus and II Turkistan) with an effective strength of 80,000 combatants. Given the limited Russian troops Vehib believed he faced, deployment of the newly arrived 9th Division and 2nd Cavalry Division did not appear risky. Furthermore, the 300-kilometre defence line had been deliberately weakened to allow him to conduct this highly ambitious operation. However, Yudenich was aware of the Ottoman intentions, with reports of massing forces arriving from various sources, notably deserters and local Christians. Despite this, Fevzi Pasha, who was in charge of the offensive, achieved tactical surprise by meticulously evaluating reconnaissance and intelligence reports and selecting a weakly held junction between II Turkistan and V Caucasus corps. According to his plan, the reinforced XI Corps would attack towards the Of-Sürmene coastline and then move against Trabzon alongside the

160 Vehib Pasha defended his decision by pointing out the need to support the Second Army’s summer offensive and to pre-empt Russian spoiling attacks. If that was the real reason, the best way to do it would be a flanking attack from the south, where the Russians were weakest, so as to prepare the ground for a follow-on Second Army offensive. From the very beginning, Ahmed İzzet Pasha opposed the Third Army’s plan for a separate offensive before the end of the Second Army’s concentration. He advised patience and the launching of simultaneous and coordinated offensives. Although Vehib Pasha’s operational reasoning and enemy estimates were wrong, Vehib Pasha managed to secure Enver Pasha’s support and the General Staff’s approval for his highly risky undertaking. Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 262–263, 270–271; Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, p. 83; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 91–92; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 74–75; Nizamoğlu, Komutanlıktan Sürgüne Vehip Paşa, pp. 169, 176–177. Allen places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Enver Pasha and presents Vehib Pasha as a loyal subordinate. Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 396–397. 161 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 199–200, 234–248; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 206–207; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  444–450; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, p.  88; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 393–396; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 42–46.

276  The year of glory and disappointment other units. The assault was conducted perfectly to plan on 21 June as the 9th and 33rd divisions broke through the Russian lines, almost reaching the coastline, while the cavalry regiments began to move against Trabzon. Unfortunately for Vehib Pasha, this was a tactical success that offered no prospect of operational victory.162 On 2 July, at this crucial moment, Yudenich launched a counter-attack against Bayburt. For almost two months, he had been preparing to launch a massive offensive against the Third Army to capture Bayburt and destroy the Third Army’s offensive capacity in order to foil the anticipated Ottoman summer offensive from the south. Vehib Pasha’s decision to invest against Trabzon provided Yudenich a golden opportunity to use this as a ‘revolving door’ to push his troops towards Bayburt. In order to isolate the Ottoman defence positions covering Bayburt, Yudenich tasked V and IV Caucasus Corps to fix the Ottoman left and right flanks, while II Turkistan Corps, with the support of I Caucasus Corps, comprised the main assault formation. The main blow fell primarily on the Ottoman X Corps, which was still exhausted from previous disasters and continual front-line clashes, and possessed limited means to resist. The corps slowly buckled under intense pressure, folding on 5 July. Breakthroughs in one division rapidly spread up and down the Ottoman line. Each neighbouring unit had to withdraw in turn or risk being outflanked and forced to surrender. It was no surprise when XI Corps gave ground three days later. Once forced from their trenches, the Ottoman troops lacked any obvious place to make an effective defensive stand and were forced to fight under even worse conditions. Lacking significant reserves, Vehib Pasha had no capacity to block Russian penetration or to provide cover for his retreating troops. For ten days, the Third Army units tenaciously attempted to defend successive positions by launching continuous counter-attacks. Finally, under immense Russian pressure, Vehib Pasha was forced to order a retreat to the west of Bayburt. The city that had withstood repeated Russian attacks for five months was finally captured on 15 July.163 Outnumbered, outgunned and demoralised Ottoman units managed to hold the new line for just a matter of days. Having achieved yet another impressive success, Yudenich revised his aim and decided to capture the key transport junction and logistics base of Erzincan. His units cautiously continued their offensive, and Erzincan fell on 25 July. The front was stabilised at the Tirebolu–Kemah

162 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 249–261; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 211–220; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, pp. 403–405; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 410–417, 453–455; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 88–89, 94–96; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 393–396; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 46–51. 163 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 273–318; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, pp. 407–413; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  455–468; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, p.  89; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp.  401–404; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 66–67; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 52–53, 56–63.

The year of glory and disappointment  277

Figure 5.16 The soldiers of Second Army marching on mountain paths of Eastern Anatolia.

line at the end of August, not because of stiff defence, but due to the completion of the Second Army’s build-up to the south. The Third Army was shattered. Along the front as a whole, the divisions averaged 2500 men instead of the usual 10,000–12,000. Desertion once again reached dangerous proportions. However, most importantly, the inferiority complex these continuous defeats engendered had more far-reaching results than the defeats themselves. The Third Army had ceased to believe that it could match the Russians, let alone beat them.164 During these catastrophic two months, Ahmed İzzet Pasha did little to help the Third Army – despite the fact that some of his divisions had already arrived in the theatre – on the grounds that he needed to conserve their strength. By doing so, he wasted the opportunity to strike close to the boundary between the Second and Third armies where the Russians were weakest and were completely

164 Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 319–367; Çakmak, Mareşal Fevzi Çakmak ve Günlükleri, pp. 414–420; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  468–474; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp.  89–90; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 405–410; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 68–69; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 63–69; Vasfi Şensözen, I. Dünya Davaşı Yılları ve Kafkas Cephesi Anıları, (ed.) Saro Dadyan, Okuyanus, İstanbul, 2013, pp.  65–74; Abdülhadi Altan, Musullu Abdülhadi’nin İzinde Bozgundan Zafere, (ed.) Esat Arslan, Phoenix Yayınevi, Ankara, 2005, pp. 111–115; Akkılıç, Askerin Romanı, pp. 175–178.

278  The year of glory and disappointment preoccupied with fighting the Third Army. At that critical moment, Ahmed İzzet Pasha had a better chance of inflicting a serious blow on the Russians with his eight divisions than launching the offensive one month later with 11 divisions against well-consolidated Russian positions. The personal animosity and discord between Vehib Pasha and Ahmed İzzet Pasha had blurred their perception and marred the decision-making process. By the end of July, the Third Army was in a terrible condition, almost entirely devoid of any offensive capacity and fit only for defending its new lines.165 The long-awaited summer offensive by the Second Army commenced earlier than had been anticipated following a limited Russian assault. In order to strengthen his position, Yudenich planned a series of attacks to capture the dominating grounds around a number of key places by massing troops, conducting a shock attack and then moving his troops to the next target area. The first attack against the Ottoman 8th Division to the east of Muş between 12 and 14 July showed signs of success. Encouraged by this, Yudenich moved the 66th Division from the south and attacked Oğnut (Göynük) on 29 July. The 12th Division, an elite veteran unit, mounted a stiff resistance and inflicted serious losses. Although the Russians managed to capture Oğnut on 1 August, they had to send reinforcements, which threatened to further weaken their southern wing. Ahmed İzzet Pasha recognised the opportunity and ordered Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s XVI Corps to immediately attack Bitlis and Muş. Despite the risks, Mustafa Kemal Pasha divided his corps into two tactical groups and launched coordinated attacks on 2 August. Initially, the Russians staunchly defended their positions but were horrified to see Ottoman irregulars (infiltrated by Mustafa Kemal Pasha in anticipation of a stiff defence) roaming behind the lines. General Nazarbekov hurriedly evacuated Bitlis on 5 August and escaped towards the north of Van Lake. Muş fell the next day.166 Ahmed İzzet Pasha commenced his main offensive on 5 August while the Russian southern wing was in disarray. However, the Second Army lacked all three essential prerequisites for success: surprise, overwhelming superiority and crushing firepower. Furthermore, instead of concentrating the majority of his divisions

165 Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  64–65, 102–112; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp.  166–168; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp.  92, 94; Selışık, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Harekât Mıntikasında, pp. 5–6, 10–11; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 428–429; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, p. 70. Ahmed İzzet Pasha went on to settle scores with Vehib Pasha after the war by publishing his memoir in German. Ahmed Izzet Pascha, Denkwürdigkeiten des Marschalls Izzet Pascha: ein kritischer Beitrag zur Kriegsschuldfrage, K.F. Koehler, Leipzig, 1927. The Turkish edition includes extensive criticism. İzzet, Feryadım, pp. 155, 160, 172, 229, 253–255. 166 Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  99–102, 126–130, 138–139, 146–155; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp.  169–171; Selışık, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Harekât Mıntikasında, pp.  12–15; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp.  488–490; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 421–423; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 71–72; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 76–81; Beşe, Dedem Hüseyin Atıf Beşe, pp. 178–181; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp. 173–180.

The year of glory and disappointment  279 against Oğnut, Ahmet İzzet Pasha, never a daring leader, opted for a more secure option by dividing them into three tactical groups: Kiğı (II Corps [11th and 12th divisions] under Çolak Faik Pasha), Oğnut (III Corps [7th, 14th and 53rd divisions] under Ali Rıza [Sedes] Pasha) and Bitlis-Muş (XVI Corps [5th and 8th divisions] under Mustafa Kemal Pasha). It was a disorganised three-pronged assault covering a front 120 kilometres wide in demanding and harsh mountainous terrain. The vast distances involved and the general lack of adequate internal communications destroyed any chance of a coordinated offensive and mutual assistance. The Russian IV Caucasus Corps, which was still suffering from shock, withdrew without mounting significant resistance. However, Ahmed İzzet Pasha harboured serious concerns about the ability of his army and was afraid of failure. He decided to halt after an advance of 30–35 kilometres, using the extended logistical lines and heavily fatigued men and animals as an excuse. Ahmed İzzet Pasha may also have wanted to wait for IV Corps (47th and 48th divisions under Pertev [Demirhan] Pasha) in order to secure his gains. It was a fateful decision. Yudenich recognised the disastrous consequences of an Ottoman success and immediately began to move troops from the centre and concentrate them north of Oğnut, preparing for a major counter-attack.167 With the arrival of the 4th and 5th Caucasus Rifle divisions, 2nd Plastun and Siberian Cossack brigades, Yudenich concentrated 38 battalions, 12 squadrons and 64 guns under General Vorobyev in Oğnut against the Ottoman II Corps (27 battalions and 32 guns). The Russian counter-blow commenced on 18 August. The Ottoman divisions successfully conducted a mobile defence without surrendering critical locations apart from the evacuation of Kiğı. Ahmed İzzet Pasha quickly pulled XVI Corps Headquarters and the 8th Division to reinforce the southern wing of III Corps. Mustafa Kemal Pasha took command of the 7th Division and relieved the hard-pressed Ali Rıza Pasha from secondary threats. Similarly, Ahmed İzzet Pasha assigned the 3rd Cavalry Division to cover the north. The only army reserve – the 1st Division – was also despatched to reinforce II Corps. Thanks to these measures, the Russian offensive was slowed and, to a certain extent, contained. To make matters worse for the Russians, the immense bloc that was the Bingöl Mountains diverted Vorobyev’s group away from the 66th Division, creating an increasing gap between the two. Ahmed İzzet Pasha spotted a chance to spoil the Russian offensive and hastily reorganised and tasked Çolak Faik Pasha’s II Corps (1st and the newly arrived 47th divisions) to attack in the direction of Karir-Çatak, while III Corps (14th and 53rd divisions) and XVI Corps (7th and 8th divisions) launched diversionary attacks from the south. Çolak Faik Pasha’s unexpected counter-blow caught Vorobyev’s group in the open and pushed them back 25 kilometres. The relentless Russian pressure on the Ottomans

167 Selışık, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Harekât Mıntikasında, pp. 16–19, 26–27; Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 148–181; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 171–172; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 490–491; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 423–426; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 82–85.

280

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all along the line eased considerably and provided them vital time to reorganise their defence efforts. However, on 30 August, Çolak Faik Pasha was killed while leading his corps in the front line. Three days later, Vorobyev, who had now received reinforcements, hit II Corps hard. The Ottoman troops withdrew to their old positions in good order, and the front line stabilised on 15 September.168 While Yudenich had managed to push the Second Army units back to their former positions, it had taken him two weeks to achieve this. Despite his success in inflicting serious losses on the Ottomans, Yudenich had also incurred heavy casualties (a total of 30,000 men). Nor had his brilliance in tactics ever translated into operational or strategic victory. The early arrival of winter effectively halted operations, and Ahmed İzzet Pasha pulled his units back to relatively good winter positions.169 The Second Army paid a terrible price for its independent, ill-planned and poorly conducted offensive. Ahmed İzzet Pasha’s decision to concentrate all his units in and around Diyarbakır turned out to have been very wrong. He dreamt of glory, but hesitated to take risks and tried in vain to cover all exposed positions. By playing safe, Ahmed İzzet Pasha actually destroyed any chance of victory from the beginning. Unlike the Third Army offensive, however, it was not a disaster. But 20,000 well-trained and combat-hardened Gallipoli veterans were lost, and with them the chance of a viable defence and perhaps even of the conduct of successful offensive operations. This hopeless situation was instrumental in the collapse of morale and in increasing the already high level of desertion. Thousands of deserters who were unable to return to their homes joined the gangs of deserters from the previous campaigns and began to roam behind the lines.170 Vehib Pasha used the lull in operations in September 1916 to drastically reorganise the Third Army. Under his scheme, the new force (known as the Caucasus formation) would comprise two newly activated corps, while the old four corps were demoted to divisions. Similarly, divisions (apart from the 36th and 49th) became regiments and regiments became battalions. In order to avoid confusion with the other numbered army formations, the word ‘Caucasus’ was added before their respective numbers.171 However, this period of inactivity provided the General Staff an opportunity to assign more units from the Second Army to other

168 Selışık, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Harekât Mıntikasında, pp. 19–25; Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 182–229; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 173–179; İ. Hakkı Sunata, Gelibolu’dan Kafkaslara Birinci Dünya Savaşı Anılarım, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2003, pp. 266–287; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, pp. 491–493; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 426–429; Korsun, Pervaya Mirovaya Voyna na Kavkazskom Fronte, pp. 72–74; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 85–97; Beşe, Dedem Hüseyin Atıf Beşe, pp. 182–193; Çalışlar, On Yıllık Savaşın Günlüğü, pp. 180–188. 169 Selışık, Büyük Harpte Kafkas Harekât Mıntıkasında, pp. 28–31; Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 231–240; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 428, 439–440. 170 Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 251, 259, 329; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 102–105; Şensözen, I. Dünya Davaşı Yılları, pp. 80, 90, 103. 171 This Caucasus reorganisation saw the creation of I Caucasus Corps – the 9th (17th, 28th and 29th Caucasus regiments), 10th (30th, 31st and 32nd Caucasus regiments) and 36th (106th, 107th and 108th Caucasus regiments) Caucasus divisions – and II Caucasus Corps – the 5th (9th, 10th

The year of glory and disappointment 281 theatres. Starting with the 3rd Cavalry Division on October 1916, one by one, the divisions (7th, 14th and 53rd) and III Corps Headquarters were sent to PalestineSyria and Iraq.172 One of the most neglected aspects of the history of the Caucasus Front is the constantly changing character of Kurdish loyalty and the associated rebellions. As described in previous chapters, most of the Kurdish tribes initially rallied to the Ottoman cause. However, a series of Russian successes and the Russian occupation of large areas of Eastern Anatolia were instrumental in altering the alliance of some Kurdish tribes. While some joined the Russian irregulars, others such as the Dersim (Tunceli) tribes revolted. In addition, given the deteriorating internal security situation, gangs of deserters, Kurds, Greeks and Armenians began attacking military and refugee convoys and small isolated units. Greek bands generally operated in the east Black Sea region and, from time to time, received Russian naval support while Armenians operated between Erzurum and the Bingöl mountains. Initially, detachments of irregulars supported by conventional units (particularly machine-gun companies and mountain artillery batteries) were employed to tackle these roaming bands. Later, entire divisions had to be diverted to suppress the revolt in Dersim. Fortunately for the Ottomans, the Russian–Kurdish alliance was built on very fragile foundations. The Armenian militia and Cossacks, however, continued to attack all villages and civilians without exception. In September, a Cossack raid on a village in Dersim caused a massive defection of Dersim tribes to the Ottoman side. This change in allegiance sparked a chain reaction which saw most of the Kurdish tribes return to the Ottoman flag by December 1916.173

and 13th Caucasus regiments), 11th (18th, 33rd and 34th Caucasus regiments) and 49th (153rd, 154th and 155th regiments) Caucasus divisions. The 2nd Cavalry Division became the 2nd Caucasus Cavalry Brigade. A month later, the composite coast detachment was renamed the 37th (109th, 110th and 111th Caucasus regiments) Caucasus Division. In short, the Third Army was reduced from 134 infantry battalions and 37 cavalry squadrons to 64 infantry battalions and 19 cavalry squadrons. Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 134, 391–393; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 100–101; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, pp. 98–99; Altan, Musullu Abdülhadi’nin İzinde, p. 119. 172 M. Celal Gürsel, The 9th Caucasus Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 233–234, 239, 251; Guhr, Anadolu’dan Filistin’e, p. 51; Şensözen, I. Dünya Davaşı Yılları, p. 82; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, p. 98. 173 Burhan Özkök, Osmanlılar Devrinde Dersim İsyanları, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1937, pp. 35–69; Güleç, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 48, 68, 133, 135, 161, 238; Altınbilek and Kır, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 214–215, 365, 398–399; Çakmak, Büyük Harpte Şark Cephesi, pp. 165–166; Guse, Büyük Harpte Kafkas, p. 98; Michael A. Reynolds, Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1908–1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 155–160; Allen and Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, pp. 415–416, 426, 437–438; Guhr, Anadolu’dan Filistin’e, pp. 57–59; Maslovskii, General Maslofski’nin Umumi Harpte Kafkas Cephesi, p. 475; Şensözen, I. Dünya Davaşı Yılları, p. 66; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 3, pp. 99–100.

6 The dreams and realities 1917

The contributions to European fronts and a series of disasters at the Caucasus captured all attention and energy of the Ottoman General Staff. Therefore, the Ottoman leaders and staff planners underestimated the importance of the Palestine Front and the risk of a constantly growing British military presence, which was forming into a strong expeditionary force while the last strategic reserve was expended irresponsibly. Most probably, in addition to its inborn myopia preventing it from seeing the strategic picture, the early Ottoman victories at very low cost in the Sinai and the slow British build-up deceived the General Staff. The Palestine Front was seen nothing more than a sideshow to draw away the largest possible number of British troops from the Western Front. Similarly, the successful end of the Kut al Amara siege dazzled the General Staff and a spirit of adventurous offensive thinking against Iran and Azerbaijan XIII Army Corps was redeployed from Mesopotamia to advance into Iran. The order was open-ended, to safeguard the rear of the Sixth Army against possible Russian advance, to clear foreign elements from Iran and conquer as much territory as possible. Enver Pasha and his advisers were convinced that the Iranians would immediately rebel against the Russians and support the Ottoman advance. The new British commander of the Mesopotamia Front, General Stanley Maude, received additional divisions. Although he cautiously waited and nurtured the troop build-up and construction of supply facilities when he initiated an offensive against the Ottoman Sixth Army, which had lost half of its combat strength to the Iranian Campaign and epidemics, desertion and various interior security duties suffered huge difficulties to stop it. At the Caucasus, the Russian Revolution saved the Ottoman Third and Second armies from certain disaster. Though the real effects of the revolution on the Russian Caucasus Army showed later than European front, it was an inevitable process which initially kept the troops inert and then disintegrated them. The Ottoman troops were so weak, and their commanders were so scared, that no serious attempt was carried out to make use of Russian weaknesses.

Palestine Front Prior to the Rafah raid and the surrender of its garrison on 9 January 1917, Cemal Pasha and von Kress had briefly entertained the concept of launching another

The dreams and realities  283 surprise attack on the British forward positions. However, the Rafah incident had imposed a reality check, forcing them to confront their strategic weakness and the need to entrench a defensive line. The problem at this stage was where precisely to establish the line. Cemal Pasha was keen to defend Hafir al Auja and Beersheba in particular, as he had made a considerable material and emotional investment in these towns. Von Kress, on the other hand, was conscious of the risks inherent in committing his depleted troops to these isolated and distant positions. Instead, he preferred to concentrate his troops in a central position and react to enemy action as the need arose.1 After much discussion, Cemal Pasha agreed to withdraw most of the troops from Hafir al Auja, leaving just a battalion, and dismantling the recently completed railway line between Hafir al Auja and Beersheba.2 However, he insisted on retaining a strong garrison of at least a regiment in Beersheba. Von Kress grudgingly accepted Cemal Pasha’s orders and began concentrating most of his troops in Shellal to cover both Gaza and Beersheba where he left regimental-size garrisons. In addition to Hafir al Auja, von Kress also retained forward defence posts in Bir-i Hasane and al Nakhl (both manned by tribal detachments under Ottoman officers). He then reorganised his expeditionary force by disbanding the 80th and 160th regiments (27th Division) and reinforcing the 3rd Division with personnel and weapons. Under the new organisation, the 3rd Division comprised the 31st, 32nd and 138th infantry regiments (each with four battalions and six-gun machine-gun companies) and the 5th Field Artillery Regiment (three field battalions and one mountain artillery battalion, each with two four-gun batteries). The remaining regiment of the 27th Division, the 79th, became an independent formation. The artillery group was also reorganised and now consisted of the German 60th Foot Artillery Battalion (one 10cm gun battery of two guns, one 15cm howitzer battery of four guns), the Austro-Hungarian Mountain Howitzer Battalion (two 10cm short howitzer batteries of 12 guns each), flak gun platoons and infantry mortar companies.3 With the looming threat of a British attack on Gaza and Palestine, the Fourth Army was forced to allocate troops to two fronts (Palestine and Hejaz), internal security (particularly Hawran and Lebanon) and the protection of the 1150-kilometre coastline. Not surprisingly, the new operational situation and loss of initiative to the enemy increased Cemal Pasha’s paranoia over the threat of an amphibious assault. Up to this point, he had retained XII Corps, manned with weak divisions, and other formations to cover the coastline between Silifke and Latakia

1 Yahya Okçu and Hilmi Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, Sina Filistin Cephesi, vol. 4, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1979, pp. 447–449, 465, 476; Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, Vorhut-Verlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin, 1938, pp. 211–214. 2 The rails and sleepers were then used to construct a new railway branch to Huj (Huc) east of Gaza. 3 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  464–469; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 214–215, 220–221; Ali Fuat Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu Mücmel Tarihçesi, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1948, p. 23.

284  The dreams and realities

Figure 6.1  Ottoman machine-gunners posing with their 7.65mm Maxim MG09 machine-gun.

(with special emphasis on the Alexandretta region).4 Now he also became concerned that an amphibious operation could be launched behind the lines at locations such as Jaffa (Yafa). British military intelligence successfully exploited this fear with frequent fabricated or misleading wireless messages (always ensuring that Ottoman listening posts could intercept them) and rumours circulated throughout Egypt and the Sinai. Occasional British and French naval displays further exacerbated these fears. Ignoring the protests of his subordinates (chiefly von Kress), Cemal Pasha stubbornly insisted on keeping a regiment or two at Jaffa, Remle or Mejdel as a form of rapid reaction force. The rumours peaked in 4 These divisions (23rd, 41st, 43rd and 44th) had limited conventional military value and were only capable of coastal observation and limited defence and internal security roles. Because they were mostly manned by local constabularies, elderly reservists and youths, these divisions were firmly attached to their hometowns. They were completely useless in other regions.

The dreams and realities  285 March, and Cemal Pasha subsequently allocated the incoming 53rd Division to the protection of the coast and the city of Jerusalem.5 On the British side, the new Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, an ardent ‘Easterner’, was determined to force his generals to conduct major offensive operations against the Ottomans.6 In Mesopotamia, General Maude had launched an offensive against Baghdad on 13 December  1915. On 11 January, Murray received a general order from London to plan a major operation, albeit with the caveat that he would receive no reinforcements until autumn. However, the messages from London were conflicting. While the new Lloyd George cabinet sought prompt action, General Robertson advised caution. A report prepared at the end of February clearly shows the uncertainty and dilemma of requirements of the Western Front and desperate hope for a great victory at the east: It should be recognized that the desirability of undertaking a campaign in Syria must be depended upon the results of Allied offensives in the main theatres and until this result is known, no definite decision on the question can be reached. Although the report advised Murray “to regard his mission as primarily of a defensive nature”, it also very problematically gave him freedom of action by ordering him “to be as aggressive as circumstances will allow, in order to keep as many Turks on his front as possible”. Despite this, given a recent spate of minor victories and a series of optimistic intelligence estimates, Murray now felt sufficiently confident to use the coastal road as a main avenue of approach to capture Gaza and its garrison. He planned to use mounted troops in flanking defence positions and push the British infantry to overrun the garrison in a frontal assault before relief could arrive. Essentially, he was planning a repeat of the successful battles of Magdhaba (23 December) and Rafah (8 January), but on a larger scale. Murray was convinced that the Ottomans would quickly evacuate Gaza and was eager to launch the attack to bag another large group of prisoners. But for the British staff, supply was a far bigger issue than the military effectiveness of their enemy. Before any major operations could be launched, the railway and water pipeline would have to be extended to Rafah and forward depots and water facilities constructed. All this meant that, despite the need for urgency, the earliest practical date for an attack would be the end of March.7

5 Hüseyin Hüsnü Erkilet, Yıldırım, 2nd edition, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 2002, pp.  6–7, 40; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  470, 485, 488–489, 498, 503; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 213–216; Ali Fuat Cebesoy, Birüssebi – Gazze Meydan Muharebesi ve Yirminci Kolordu, Askeri Matbaa, İstanbul, 1938, pp. 38–39. 6 David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, vol. 3, Ivor Nicholson & Watson, London, 1934, pp. 1085– 1086, 1392–1393. 7 Plan for a Campaign in Syria, 27 February 1917, TNA, CAB 21/13; George Macmunn and Cyril Falls, Military Operations: Egypt and Palestine, vol. 1, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London,

286

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Cemal Pasha tried his best to convince Enver Pasha and the General Staff of the dire situation of the 1st Expeditionary Force in Palestine. In addition to the 16th Division, Cemal Pasha also asked for the 53rd Division, then in Aleppo, and the 7th Division, earlier sent to İstanbul for reorganisation and refit. The General Staff released the 53rd Division (although the 162nd Regiment was despatched to Hejaz) and promised to send the 7th Division once it reached combat establishment. The 8th Cavalry Regiment (an organic unit of the 3rd Cavalry Division that had been left behind in the Caucasus) was also ordered to proceed to Palestine. Other than releasing these units, the General Staff had no intention of sending more troops. Instead, they decided to replace all the old field guns in the Fourth Army inventory with new quick-fire Krupp and Schneider guns acquired from Germany and Austria following the opening of a direct railway link. Similarly, the war establishment of machine-guns in infantry regiments was increased from four to 12 (a six-gun regimental machine-gun company and three two-gun battalion machine-gun platoons). Unsurprisingly, given the obvious transport problems, none of these recent reinforcements reached Palestine in time to participate in the battle.8 Another important sore point was the fate of the Hejaz Expeditionary Force. The Ottoman General Staff and the Fourth Army were not happy with the loss of 20,000 troops for the defence of Medina, despite the fact that this created serious problems for the Allies by diverting two Sharifian armies in different directions. Following months of long and bitter discussion, Enver Pasha finally ordered the evacuation of Hejaz on 4 March 1917. Families, all non-crucial personnel and formations were gradually withdrawn. However, Fahreddin Pasha, who was opposed to the evacuation, used religion and his personal fame to prevail over Cemal Pasha and the General Staff, halting the evacuation. The capture of the ports of Vejh (26 January 1917) and Akaba (6 July 1917) seriously undermined the defensive effort and provided secure bases from which more attacks could be launched against the railway line. Hunger, harsh conditions, continuous skirmishes and the outbreak of Spanish influenza all took their toll. However, against the odds, Fahreddin Pasha’s forceful character and effective leadership kept the ever-weakening defence intact until the very end. His soldiers were so loyal to him that he ignored orders and even pleas to surrender from İstanbul following the armistice of 30 October. Finally, a group of officers launched a coup d’état and forced him to surrender on 12 January 1919.9

1928, pp. 272–273, 279–281; David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, vol. 4, Ivor Nicholson & Watson, London, 1934, pp. 1802–1810, 1819–1828; Clive Garsia, A Key to Victory: A Study in War Planning, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1940, pp. 57–59. 8 The 7th Division and the 16th Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 466–467, 472, 475, 483, 485; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 214–216. 9 Şükrü Erkal, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi: Hicaz, Asir, Yemen Cepheleri ve Libya Harekâtı, vol. 6, Genkur Basımevi, Ankara, 1978, pp. 327–341, 343–356, 388–392; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 236–240.

The dreams and realities  287

Figure 6.2 Kress von Kressenstein inspecting an Ottoman infantry regiment. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

By now, von Kress had completed the concentration of his forces in Shellal. His 300th Squadron, while small in number, proved highly effective, providing regular updates on British logistics preparation and concentration. Von Kress was well aware that the British would use the coastal route, but had no idea where to invest his troops to counter the impending British onslaught. A few weeks in Shellal was sufficient to acquaint him with the major problems presented by this position. Since the likely base for the British offensive – Rafah – was close to Shellal, this meant that they could easily launch a major attack directly from Rafah without bothering to establish forward divisional assault positions. If this occurred, it would be difficult to retreat due to the presence of the Wadi Ghazze (Gazze Vadisi), a formidable natural obstacle. The British raids on Bir-i Hasane and al Nakhl, and the capture of the weak garrison forces on 20 February, placed further pressure on von Kress.10 Cemal Pasha resolved this dilemma in dramatic fashion by ordering the evacuation of Hafir al Auja and Shellal, and the shifting of the main concentration further east to Tel al Sheria (a central point between Gaza and Beersheba). In planning for 10 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  469, 480, 486, 490; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 212–216; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, p. 277; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 24.

288  The dreams and realities this move, Cemal and his staff were forced to confront the possibility of a military disaster (either a major British breakthrough or a successful amphibious operation). For this reason, Cemal Pasha issued a number of orders for the strengthening of defensive preparations at Jerusalem, although none was implemented given a dire lack of resources, particularly labour. The Ottoman General Staff’s failure to regard Jerusalem as sufficiently important to warrant a large garrison, well manned with troops, supplied with the requisite quantities of weapons and other resources, was instrumental in discouraging substantial preparations. Cemal Pasha and von Kress also considered the evacuation of Gaza, but the timely arrival of the 16th Division on 3 March and Enver Pasha’s refusal to countenance a withdrawal effectively set the location of the defensive line between Gaza and Beersheba.11 By a fortunate coincidence, a British raid against a reinforced company outpost in Khan Yunis (Han Yunus) on 3 March, in which the company had successfully defended its position and extricated itself afterwards, further supported the wisdom of making a stand at Gaza. As a result, all the civilians in Gaza and nearby settlements were quickly evacuated to northern Palestine. Von Kress divided his expeditionary force into four groups: Gaza (reinforced 79th and 125th regiments and artillery group under Major Tiller),12 Jemmameh (Cemame, 3rd Division less one regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Edib [Tör]), Tel al Sheria (16th Division less one regiment under Colonel Mehmed Rüşdü [Sakarya]) and Beersheba (3rd Cavalry Division and 138th Regiment under Colonel Esad [Furgaç]).13 However, the Ottoman defenders lost a month of precious preparation time due to bickering and the implementation of flawed defensive concepts.14 Fortunately, Tiller had already commenced the task of entrenching Gaza and suffered only minimally from the effects of this indecision. By mobilising the civilian population and using labour battalions, the new defensive line was quickly completed. The Ottoman entrenchments and defensive works had little depth but were modern in design. However, the shortage of barbed wire and entrenching tools saw priority given to the Gaza fortifications, and the large

11 Throughout the year, Enver Pasha sent conflicting orders concerning the location of his defences. 12 The artillery group, under command of Captain Wladislaus von Truszkowski, consisted of the Austro-Hungarian Mountain Howitzer Battalion (12 guns), a German 10cm Heavy Artillery Battery (two guns) and the 1st Field Artillery Battery (four 75mm Krupp guns from the 1/6th Battalion). 13 The total combat strength of the 1st Expeditionary Force was 35,695 rifles, 65 machine-guns and 74 artillery pieces; 4000 rifles, 42 machine-guns and 22 artillery pieces were entrenched in Gaza. 14 The 16th Division History, ATASE, Unit Histories Collection, Army; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  491–492, 495–499, 502–504, 516–517; Cemal Paşha, Hatıralar: İttihad ve Terakki, I. Dünya Savaşı Anıları, (ed.) Alpay Kabacalı, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2001, pp. 201–204; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 216–218; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 276–278; Fahri Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde Türk Harbi: 1917 Yılı Hareketleri, vol. 4, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1966, pp. 102–104; Dotan Halevy, “The Rear Side of the Front: Gaza and Its People in World War I”, Journal of Levantine Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, Summer 2015, pp.  36, 39–40, 43; Şerif Güralp, Bir Askerin Günlüğünden Çanakkale Cephesinden Filistin’e, Güncel Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2003, pp. 146–150.

The dreams and realities  289

Figure 6.3 An Austro-Hungarian howitzer firing within cactus hedges in Gaza. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

expanse between Gaza and Beersheba was superficially prepared with dangerous gaps between defensive positions. But the Gaza defenders enjoyed two major advantages. The tall, thick cactus hedges that surrounded the gardens in the south not only created thorny mazes but also turned out to be more effective against assaulting troops than barbed wire. Second, a belt of sand dunes provided excellent protection from the west and south-west. Tiller initiated construction of preliminary defensive works in the north but did not have time to develop them further. He paid special attention to Ali Muntar hill (which dominated Gaza town) by investing the 1/79th Battalion, 2nd Austro-Hungarian Howitzer Battery, a 75mm field artillery battery and two machine-gun companies there. He positioned the 10cm heavy artillery and the 1st Austro-Hungarian Howitzer Battery to the south-west. Four infantry battalions were evenly placed between the coast and the eastern perimeter, leaving the north undefended. The 3/125th Battalion was kept in reserve.15

15 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 503–504, 506, 511–517; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 220–225; C.H. Dudley Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, Western Mail Limited, Cardiff, 1927, pp. 70–72.

290  The dreams and realities Surprisingly, Enver Pasha showed a great deal of interest in the defence of Gaza and carefully examined all the defensive works. While he considered the defensive system sound, he found fault with the assignment of a junior officer, Major Tiller, to command two reinforced regiments in a critical location, arguing that this was a poor decision and contravened established seniority rules. Enver Pasha ordered the commanding officer of the 53rd Division, Colonel Musa Kazım [Ersanlı], to take over the command on 24 March. Musa Kazım, a distinguished veteran of the Suez Canal Campaign, received the order late and, in racing to reach his new command quickly, failed to adequately safeguard his personal security. On the way to Gaza, Musa Kazım and his small staff were captured by Australian mounted troops near Beit Hanum on 26 March. Von Kress, who had tried in vain to cancel this assignment, quietly rejoiced in the capture of Musa Kazım.16 General Murray, finally satisfied with the level of logistics preparation and force build-up, initiated his long-awaited offensive against Gaza on 20 March. He delegated command of the attack to Lieutenant General Charles Macpherson Dobell. Murray’s plan would see the Desert Column under Lieutenant General Philip Walhouse Chetwode conduct a flanking manoeuvre with mounted troops prior to the launch of the main infantry attack by the 53rd Division (under Major General A.G. Dallas) on Ali Muntar hill. The other two divisions (52nd and 54th), positioned to support the 53rd Division, remained under Dobell’s control. Likewise, a regimental special detachment (under Lieutenant Colonel N. Money), tasked to cover the region between the main attack and the coast, was also under Dobell’s direct control. As events would clearly demonstrate, it was an impossible mission for Chetwode to control two completely different missions – a mounted flanking action and an infantry frontal assault – while being unable to use other infantry formations without clearance from Dobell. These problematic arrangements effectively empowered Dallas, who became de facto commander of the infantry on the ground.17 Under intense pressure from Murray, Dobell focused not on how to overcome the defence – as if this required minimal effort – but on the capture of the garrison as a whole. He presumed that, unless they were surprised, Ottoman troops would once again attempt to escape without making a stand. For this reason, Dobell sought to move his troops to assembly points in secret and tried hard to disguise his offensive preparations. He was also seriously concerned about his supply

16 Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 220–221, 225–226; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 496, 511, 517, 526; Rahmi Apak, Yetmişlik Bir Subayın Anıları, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1988, pp. 157–160; H.S. Gullett, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918: The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine 1914–1918, vol. 7, 12th edition, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1944, pp. 268–269; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, p. 104. 17 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 279–289; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 62–67; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 196, 262–266, 271; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 73–75; R.R. Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, Maclehose, Jackson & Co., Glasgow, 1923, pp. 308–309.

The dreams and realities  291 situation and limited his offensive to just one, day-long battle. Yet, for all Dobell’s secrecy, the attack was no surprise. It took six days to move the divisions, and von Kress learnt about the final enemy preparations from aerial reconnaissance reports as early as the second day, 21 March. Instead of reinforcing Gaza, von Kress, always offensively minded, issued a warning order to the Jemmame and Sheria groups to be ready to launch counter-attacks from the side. His plan was to use Gaza as bait and strike punishing blows from the east. The British divisions assembled at their jumping-off position on 25 March. According to Dobell, there was no indication that the Ottomans were aware of the attack. Murray and Dobell were confident that the Ottomans would be defeated in detail.18 On the morning of 26 March, the assault formations were greeted by a dense fog that had rolled in from the sea. The mounted troops (11,000 men and 40 guns) were not affected by the fog and advanced rapidly from the east and south-east of Gaza following the dry valleys of Wadi Sheria and Wadi Sirhan. Ottoman observers in Gaza spotted the flanking manoeuvre at around 9.00 am, and Tiller immediately despatched his reserve to occupy positions in the north. By around 10.00 am, British mounted troops had reached their eastern and northern screening positions, having met almost no resistance, and positioned themselves to stem the flow of reinforcements and cut off lines of retreat. However, Dallas and his staff had been paralysed by the fog and lost at least two hours attempting to reconnoitre the target, assign specific routes of assault to the brigades and complete last-minute coordination with other divisional commanders. Consequently, his attack order was not issued until 11.00 am. As the British infantry advanced across the sand (the 158th and 160th brigades at the front and the 159th Brigade following behind in reserve) with every expectation of an easy victory, they encountered the firmly entrenched Ottoman defenders. Interlocking machine-gun fire and an effective artillery concentration wreaked havoc. Dallas moved his reserve to the gap between the attacking brigades, while Tiller pulled the 3/79th Battalion from the south-west and sent it to reinforce Ali Muntar. Chetwode ordered the Anzac Mounted Division to attack Gaza from the north to relieve the pressure on Dallas.19

18 According to Ottoman documents, on 23 March, a British aircraft crash-landed behind the Ottoman lines and its pilot was captured unhurt. During his interrogation, the British pilot confirmed aerial reports and disclosed the main elements of the operational plan. However, there was no report of a missing aircraft on 23 March in British documentation. The pilot was probably Australian Lieutenant L.W. Heathcote, whose aircraft crashed in the hills of Lebanon on 9 March. Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 507–510, 518; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 281, 284, 286–288; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 220, 223–224; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 264–265. 19 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 521, 527–528; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 289–298; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 68–73; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 266–277; A.J. Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1978, pp. 101–103; C. Guy Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, Whitcombe and Tombs, Auckland, 1922, pp. 88–93; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 76–85; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division

Map 6.1 The Ottoman Gaza–Beersheba defence line.

292 The dreams and realities

The dreams and realities 293 Von Kress was relieved to find that the British did not allocate a force to fix Ottoman positions other than those at Gaza. He alerted his troops and ordered Rüşdü (16th Division) to march towards the west and attack the enemy mounted troops. At around 11.00 am, aircraft reported that while Gaza was completely surrounded, other than the cavalry screen, there was no enemy activity. This was the news von Kress had been waiting for. He ordered Edip (3rd Division) and Rüşdü to march to Gaza and attack any enemy they encountered along the way. Esad was to advance to Shellal and attack from the south-east. Fortunately for the defenders, the 163rd Regiment (53rd Division) also began marching from Mejdel. While these manoeuvres looked simple on paper, it was ambitious to expect troops to march such long distances (the nearest unit, the 3rd Division, had to march 20 kilometres, while the 3rd Cavalry had to cover 50 kilometres) while being harassed by enemy cavalry along the way and then relieve the besieged garrison.20 The 53rd Division took some time to overcome the Ottoman forward defensive positions, particularly Green Hill, which stood defiant until 5.30 pm. Slowly but surely, the British infantry approached and then took Ali Muntar. Tiller despatched the 1/125th Battalion to help relieve Ali Muntar, but to his dismay, this battalion also became bogged down along the way, and ultimately, none of the reinforcements reached the beleaguered hill. Dobell released the 161st Brigade (54th Division) at 4.00 pm and sent it to reinforce the 158th from the east. The Ottoman defence of Ali Muntar finally collapsed at 6.00 pm and the British captured some prisoners and a number of artillery pieces, including six AustroHungarian howitzers.21 Artillery group commander von Truszkowski was killed while defending his guns. However, despite the expectations of the British, the defenders had not been easily broken and had continued to resolutely defend their positions to the end. The mounted troops now began to buckle under pressure from the Ottoman 3rd Division. At the same time, Dobell was anxious that his horses had been without water for too long (he was incorrect) and the restrictions imposed by his limited supplies began to loom large in his calculations. He realised that he would have to withdraw his mounted troops, but was concerned that his infantry was incapable of holding the position overnight with the Ottoman pincers now closing.22

1914–1918, pp. 310–311; C.G. Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns: Official War History of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914–1919, Wilson & Horton, Auckland, 1921, p. 138. 20 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 522–525; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 223–224; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, p. 106. 21 In addition to around 300 soldiers from the 79th Regiment, half of the members of the 2nd AustroHungarian battery, Ottoman 75mm field battery and the 38th Mobile Field Hospital were taken prisoner. 22 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 299–303; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 278–282; Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 528–530; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 226–227; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 86–93; Joseph Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü: 1914–1918 1. Dünya Savaşı, (trans.) Kemal Turan, Kayıhan Yayınları, İstanbul, 2003,

294

The dreams and realities

As Wavell wrote later, there was a widely shared belief in command circles that “the victory so hardly struggled for was won, but an hour too late”.23 Ultimately, high hopes gave way to angry disappointment. After vastly underestimating the Ottomans, the British then overestimated the strength of the opposing forces. The problematic command and communication arrangements broke down and the commanders in the field reacted to developments in isolation. Dobell pulled the 54th Division back to provide security to the right wing just as Dallas evacuated Ali Muntar and retreated to his starting position. No-one bothered to inform Chetwode, who remained unaware of developments until the following morning. Interestingly, Tiller was also ignorant of developments at Ali Muntar and prepared for a major counter-offensive the next morning, only to find that a number of his companies, positioned close by, had occupied parts of Ali Muntar during the night. To their amazement, the Austro-Hungarian gunners found their five howitzers intact and used them with deadly effect the next day. Early in the morning, the 160th and 161st brigades pushed out the weak Ottoman detachments and reoccupied some parts of Ali Muntar, but faced with Tiller’s counter-attack and heavy artillery fire at around 8.00 am, they could not hold on. When their lastminute attempts proved futile and their existing positions became untenable in the face of an Ottoman envelopment manoeuvre, they had little choice but to withdraw.24 In similar fashion to the post-Gallipoli laments of ‘opportunities lost’, questions asked over ‘what might have been’ and ‘what if’, the British military leadership (and many modern scholars) concluded that the Ottomans had lost heart and victory had been within their grasp.25 They even speculated that “von Kress burnt his papers” and “bid farewell to his friends”.26 However, the reality was vastly different, particularly from the perspective of the Ottoman defenders. Though badly battered, the Ottoman Gaza group remained intact, with no intention of either evacuating or surrendering, and fully aware that relief forces were on the way. Conversely, von Kress regarded the whole affair as a wonderful opportunity lost due to excessive caution and the slow pace at which his tactical groups performed manoeuvres and launched counter-attacks. Had they marched quickly and pressed

23 24

25 26

p. 306; Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 93–96; Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse, pp. 103–105. A.P. Wavell, The Palestine Campaign, 2nd edition, Constable and Co., London, 1929, p. 77. The Ottomans suffered 2390 casualties (294 killed, 1076 wounded and 1020 missing), while the total number of British casualties was 3967 (523 killed, 2932 wounded and 512 missing). Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 540–541, 555; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 305–315, 322; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 74–79; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 283–294; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 94–97; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, p. 108. Wavell, The Palestine Campaign, pp. 80–82; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 85–86; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 294–295 Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 96–97. Wavell, The Palestine Campaign, p. 82.

The dreams and realities 295 their attacks vigorously, he believed, they could have inflicted tremendous casualties on the British.27 The victory was warmly received throughout the Ottoman Empire, particularly as it came in the wake of the fall of Baghdad on 11 March. Von Kress was promoted to major general (mirliva), while the heroic 79th Regiment was awarded a special standard for extraordinary valour.28 On 26 March, the 1st Expeditionary Force became a numbered corps, XXII Corps (3rd, 16th and 53rd divisions and 3rd Cavalry Division). As the commander of the new corps, von Kress sent the General Staff a list of urgent requirements, essential for his preparations to meet the inevitable second British offensive. He asked for more units (particularly for the defence of Beersheba), conscripts, a labour force and an improved food supply. Given current plans to reconquer Baghdad, the General Staff had no intention of sending more reinforcements other than replacement soldiers (3000 conscripts were despatched from XII Corps depot regiments). However, XX Corps Headquarters, under Abdülkerim [Öpelimi] Pasha, was pulled from Western Thrace (Bulgaria) and sent to Palestine to command the 7th and 54th divisions as had been promised earlier. XX Corps Headquarters arrived promptly in theatre as ordered but, of the promised units, only the 165th Regiment took part in any action.29 Although XXII Corps desperately needed at least a full infantry division and, without this, had limited offensive capacity, this did not deter von Kress from proposing a major spoiling attack on 28 March. Neither Cemal Pasha nor the General Staff took the proposal seriously, rejecting it out of hand. Interestingly, von Kress’s own staff officers played an important role in this refusal by providing a damaging feasibility report which clearly showed the general uneasiness and opposition within XXII Corps staff to von Kress’s apparent obsession with offensive action. However, they failed to convince Cemal Pasha that the amphibious threat was minimal, and he insisted on retaining two regiments (80th and 164th) and the headquarters of the incoming 54th Division in the Remle-Mejdel region to respond to a possible landing. He was so convinced of the gravity of the amphibious threat that he pulled XX Corps Headquarters from Beersheba to take over command of this strike force during the heat of the battle on 18 March. The only benefit from Cemal’s amphibious operation obsession was the initiation of construction of an alternative defence line between Mejdel and Arak al Menshiye.

27 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 542–546; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 227–232; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 311, 315–317; Stuart Hadaway, From Gaza to Jerusalem: The Campaign for Southern Palestine 1917, The History Press, Stroud, 2015, pp. 54–55. Lloyd George even speculated that “had Maude been in Egypt, he would have broken the Turkish lines and captured Jerusalem by Easter, 1917”. Lloyd George, War Memoirs, vol. 4, p. 1828. 28 The majority of the soldiers from the 79th Regiment were Arabs. The excellent combat performance of this regiment clearly showed that properly trained, equipped and led Ottoman soldiers generally fought well, regardless of their ethnicity. 29 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 565, 570–571; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 233–234.

296  The dreams and realities Once again, following heated discussions, von Kress entrenched his units as four tactical groups: Gaza (the 3rd Division [31st, 32nd and 138th regiments] and the artillery group under Mustafa Edib), Khirbet Sihan (53rd Division [163rd and 165th regiments] under Refet), Tel al Sheria (16th Division [47th, 48th and 125th regiments] under Rüşdü) and Beersheba (79th Regiment and 2/81st Battalion under Tiller). Under these new command arrangements, XXII Corps Headquarters would assume command of the Gaza and Khirbet Sihan groups, while XX Corps would command the Tel al Sheria and Beersheba groups. In similar vein to the previous defence concept, instead of manning the entire line, the groups were tasked to construct redoubts on critical terrain features and retain mobile reserves ready to hit the attacking enemy columns from the flanks. Von Kress paid special attention to covering the gap between Jemmame and Gaza. This time he had no intention of allowing the British mounted troops unhindered access to the rear of the Ottoman lines. In addition, he constructed well-fortified company-size forward defence positions to force the enemy to launch its attack early and punish the attackers in the open with machine-gun and artillery fire.30 Whereas the Ottoman side was making preparations for real and imagined threats, Murray was experiencing serious problems with his superiors in London. His after-action report from the Gaza battle had been completely misleading. Murray had presented his planned offensive as an opportunistic engagement and had described it as a success, with the Ottomans hit hard. The British War Cabinet, particularly Lloyd George, greeted Murray’s reports enthusiastically. The government was under serious pressure from the public following the failed offensives on the Western Front and the consequent horrific casualty numbers. In the words of General Robertson: “Everyone is now feeling the strain of the war”. To make matters worse, the Russian Revolution had dramatically altered the dynamics on the Eastern Front. The cabinet desperately needed some success and Maude in Mesopotamia had provided the requisite victory with the capture of Baghdad on 11 March, essentially fuelling expectations of the imminent collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Robertson did not neglect to mention the spiritual importance of the campaign: “Success in Palestine will have a very inspiring effect in Christendom”.31 The obvious outcome of this mixture of political needs and raised expectations was communicated to Murray in an order “to exploit the successes already achieved to the utmost possible extent and to capture Jerusalem”. The strategic mistake in decision-making was more than apparent.32 As Ludendorff

30 The total strength of XXII Corps was 48,885 men (34,101 rifles), 86 machine-guns and 101 cannons. However just 18,185 soldiers were manning the front line. Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 567–573, 576–582, 585–587, 589–592, 600; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 235–238; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 206–207; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, pp. 109–110. 31 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, p. 325. 32 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 317–325; George, War Memoirs, vol. 4, p. 1829; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 133–134; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, p. 312.

The dreams and realities  297 rightfully pointed out, the British military effort was “not directed to the destruction of the Turkish Army, but aimed at territorial acquisitions”.33 While Murray complained of his difficulties and his force’s requirement for five full divisions, he was not prepared to request them directly, having painted such an encouraging picture. Once again he delegated responsibility for the offensive to Dobell. Unable to secure sizeable reinforcements or alter the main route of the offensive (due to lack of transport and water, the southern approaches were not considered), Dobell had no alternative but to attack the Ottoman defensive line at Gaza head-on. The plan called for a frontal infantry attack on a position close to Gaza while mounted troops attempted to fix the Ottoman southern line to prevent the withdrawal of reinforcements from there to Gaza and, at the same time, be ready to exploit any breakthrough. Instead of allocating his main group to the assault on Ali Muntar, Dobell decided to hit Khirbet al Bir first and then wheel towards Ali Muntar from the east. Murray hoped to make full use of two entirely new weapons – tanks (he had eight early versions of the Mark tanks, three males with two cannons and three machine-guns, and five females with five machineguns) and gas (he had 4000 4.5-inch gas shells) – to compensate for his apparent weakness in manpower. The plan was divided into two stages. The first would see the infantry secure and consolidate a line within easy striking distance of the Ottoman main defensive positions, while heavy artillery occupied forward fire positions. The second stage would open with the frontal assaults of the 52nd Division on Ali Muntar and the 54th Division (with the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade) on Khirbet al Bir and Khirbet Sihan (both divisions grouped as the Eastern Attack Force), while the 53rd Division, following the coast, was to advance on the Ottoman south-west defences. The 53rd would be assisted from the sea by the French cruiser Requin, two British monitors and some gunboats. The Desert Column (two mounted divisions) was to launch containing attacks to the south and provide protection against possible Ottoman flanking counter-attacks. The 74th Division remained in reserve.34 On 17 April, the first stage of the offensive commenced with the advance of the Eastern Force and 53rd Division following a brief artillery preparation. Ottoman soldiers caught their first glimpse of tanks, but despite high British expectations, the mechanical beasts did not cause panic or strike terror. Instead, they appeared to have the opposite effect. One was soon knocked out by artillery fire to the loud delight of the troops in the Ottoman trenches. However, the sudden halt of the British advance and the commencement of an entrenchment phase caused some confusion and increased expectations of an amphibious landing nearby. The 125th Regiment (16th Division) was hurriedly despatched to Mejdel, and Tiller was 33 Erich Ludendorff, My War Memories 1914–1918, vol. 1, 2nd edition, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1923, p. 209. 34 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 326–331; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 135, 137–139; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 299–302; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 314–315; C.H. Dudley Ward, The 74th (Yeomanry) Division in Syria and France, John Murray, London, 1922, pp. 39–40.

298  The dreams and realities

Figure 6.4 Troopers of the Ottoman 3rd Cavalry Division resting after a combat action somewhere near Gaza.

ordered to send two battalions to take over its defensive positions. The 54th Division was also concentrated close to Mejdel. On 18 April, having observed enemy preparations for a final assault, von Kress anticipated the British main objective and quickly reinforced the 53rd Division with the 125th and 161st regiments. He also tasked the 3rd and 16th divisions to be ready to support the 53rd in case this should become necessary.35 The second stage of the British offensive opened with intense artillery preparation at 5.30 am on 19 April. The British 53rd Division began its final advance at 7.20 am, the Eastern Force 10 minutes later. From the very start, the British offensive showed signs of failure. Tanks were either destroyed by artillery fire or broke down, and the infantry became bogged down in front of the Ottoman

35 Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 601–610; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 331–335; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 302– 305; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 239–240; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 101–102; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 315–317; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, p. 111.

The dreams and realities  299 forward defence positions. British field and naval artillery fire inflicted serious casualties, but failed to destroy the defence positions or silence Ottoman artillery and machine-guns. The gas shells had no apparent effect – in fact, von Kress and other Ottoman commanders only became aware of the gas attack afterwards. The mounted troops also failed to fix the Ottoman south. Von Kress moved his units with ease and the 3rd Cavalry Division confidently began sending cavalry detachments to harass the enemy from the east. By midday, only the 162nd British Brigade had been able to overcome the forward defences and attack the main defensive line. In almost all cases, the defenders had quickly concentrated artillery and machine-gun fire to support threatened defensive positions while determined counter-strokes dealt with the remainder. The only exception was the 10th London Battalion, which managed to penetrate the main line close to Wadi al Mukaddeme. Early in the afternoon, it became apparent to the British that they had no prospect of success. While the 74th Division remained in reserve, the Eastern Force lost heavily. Murray ordered Dobell to hold his ground and make a fresh start the next day. Dobell postponed the attack once again, faced with heavy casualties (around 6500) and dwindling ammunition supplies. Thus, the second battle for Gaza ended in failure. Nonetheless, for the next few days, Murray continued to send messages to London promising to quickly renew the attacks. The British failures boosted von Kress’s confidence so much that he planned a major counter-attack with the 54th Division, although once again he failed to persuade Cemal Pasha and his staff to lend their support.36 The second defeat drastically altered the British approach to the campaign. To the horror of decision-makers in London, British units now began to dig a long defensive line parallel to the Ottoman positions. In contrast to dreams of a lightning mobile campaign, the dreaded trench warfare suddenly became the reality. Murray sacked Dobell, who quickly became the scapegoat, and assigned Chetwode as the new operational commander. But two months later, Murray also lost his position37 and was replaced by General Sir Edmund Allenby,38 who assumed

36 The Ottomans suffered 2013 casualties (402 killed, 1364 wounded and 247 missing), while the total number of British casualties was 6444 (509 killed, 4359 wounded and 1576 missing). Okçu and Üstünsoy, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 611–637; Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 335–350; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 240–244; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 139–144; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 305–344; Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 98–105; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 102–110; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 317–333; Ward, The 74th (Yeomanry) Division, pp. 40–44; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, pp. 111–112; Basil H. Liddell Hart, The Tanks, vol. 1, Cassell, London, 1959, p. 126; Nicol, The Story of Two Campaigns, pp. 142–144. 37 Macmunn and Falls, Military Operations, vol. 1, pp. 351, 355–357, 368–372; Matthew Hughes, Allenby and British Strategy in the Middle East 1917–1919, Frank Cass, London, 1999, pp. 18, 20–21; Ward, History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914–1918, pp. 113–116; Thompson, The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division 1914–1918, pp. 334–353; Ward, The 74th (Yeomanry) Division, pp. 44–51. 38 Allenby was not the first choice. Lloyd George initially offered this position to South African politician and general Jan Christiaan Smuts. Smuts was aware of the struggle between the cabinet

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command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) on 28 June. Allenby received conflicting directives from cabinet and the General Staff. Lloyd George believed that the British public urgently needed a military success – only then would they be willing to endure more of the hardships of what had been a long war. ‘Jerusalem before Christmas’ seemed the magic solution to him. Robertson and other high-ranking officers, on the other hand, regarded the whole affair as a useless distraction and diversion of limited resources from the Western Front. They were happy to transfer troops and equipment from other ‘sideshows’ such as Salonika or Italy, but no more. All that was apparent was that both sides were expecting a quick victory. Once again, Jerusalem was the main target and Allenby was instructed to report on the feasibility and conduct of an offensive operation to take the city.39 As a man of action, Allenby personally conducted a quick but detailed reconnaissance of the front line, showed himself to the troops and spoke to key figures. He was relieved to find that Chetwode had already prepared a draft plan. Following his two bitter experiences and taking into account the morale of his troops, Chetwode was adamant that Gaza should be avoided and instead less fortified and more promising positions such as Hareira and Tel al Sheria should be targeted. However, the problem was that, in order to capture these positions and conduct follow-on operations, he needed first to capture Beersheba so as to secure the necessary base and water sources. Therefore, despite commonly held contemporary and modern beliefs, the capture of Beersheba was just the first step in a comprehensive operational plan. After the fall of Beersheba, the British infantry would attack Hareira and Tel al Sheria from the flank and then roll up the Ottoman defence all the way to Gaza while secondary frontal attacks fixed the defenders. The mounted troops, on the other hand, would penetrate deep into Palestine, destroying the enemy’s lines of communication and bagging entire divisions. Even Gaza was not the final target but merely another step. The real aim of the plan was to destroy the Ottoman Eighth Army to ensure a swift and smooth advance into Palestine.40 The major disadvantage of the plan was the need for extensive construction and logistical preparations. In the southern region facing Beersheba, water was scarce and the terrain was harsh. To sustain the four or five divisions necessary for the attack, the railway had to be extended – indeed, its length would need to be

and military, and declined the offer, believing that he would not receive the support and military resources needed. 39 From Robertson to Allenby, 10 August 1917, TNA, WO 158/661; Hughes, Allenby, pp. 23–27; Wavell, The Palestine Campaign, pp. 100–102; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 245–247. 40 Lt. Gen. Philip W. Chetwode, Notes on the Palestine Operations, 21 June 1917, TNA, WO 158/611; Lloyd George, War Memoirs, vol. 4, pp. 1830–1836; Cyril Falls, Military Operations Egypt and Palestine, vol. 2, Part 1, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1930, pp. 7–12; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 346–351, 354–357; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 153–158, 303–312; Hughes, Allenby, pp. 43–45.

The dreams and realities  301 doubled. Metalled roads and water pipelines had to be constructed, supply dumps established, mechanical transport sourced, and so on. The transportation of massive amounts of materiel, food and forage required new logistical bases, quays, depots, stations and workshops. In order to complete these preparations and concentrate his troops, Allenby had to postpone the offensive until September at the earliest. Even if all these preparations were completed in time, he would still have to strip XXI Corps’ divisional trains and reassign them to XX Corps and the Desert Mounted Corps to ensure that they could be self-sufficient for a longer period.41 Despite the extensive preparations required, Allenby appeared to have found the magic combination of mobile warfare (dashing cavalry flanking attacks) and a major breakthrough by exploiting his strengths against the enemy’s presumed weaknesses. Surprisingly, military intelligence, with its substantially increased capability, provided a completely deceptive picture of the Ottomans. While successfully identifying the divisions and their support arms invested in Palestine in minute detail and aware of most of the problems that beset them, the intelligence evaluation process appeared to ignore the combined effects of these and instead exaggerated Ottoman combat strength and military effectiveness. Moreover, the collapse of Russia alarmed the British, who now anxiously awaited the arrival of dozens of Ottoman and maybe two German divisions despite being aware that the Ottomans simply did not have the capacity to transfer such a large body of troops in a short time. Similarly, according to British intelligence, Gaza was a ‘modern fortress’ and the chain of redoubts linking the town to Beersheba was also shown as formidable. For Allenby and his staff, this description recalled haunting images and the horrendous results of the recent Somme and Arras battles. Moreover, it was apparent that London would not support another main assault on Gaza, and the effect on the morale of the troops was likewise unthinkable. This early decision inevitably became self-justifying with the investment of time and energy in extensive preparations.42 Under tremendous pressure, Allenby acted quickly and decisively. He moved his headquarters from Cairo to Rafah, removing the need for an additional operational level of command. The Eastern Force was duly abolished and three new corps (XX [Chetwode], XXI [Edward S. Bulfin] and the Desert Mounted Corps [Chauvel]) were formed.43 On 12 July, Allenby briefly explained his intentions 41 Falls, Military Operations, vol. 2, Part 1, pp. 8, 13, 17–24; 158, 160–164, 312–313; Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, pp. 362–366; Wavell, The Palestine Campaign, pp. 102–104. 42 From Allenby to Robertson, 9 September 1917, TNA, WO 158/661; General Policy of Campaign in Palestine, October 1917, TNA, WO 106/726; Intelligence Monthly Diary, August 1917, TNA, WO 157/718; Yigal Sheffy, British Military Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign 1914–1918, Frank Cass, London, 1998, pp. 266–269, 274, 277–282, 286; Hughes, Allenby, pp.  36–38, 43, 46–48, 52–53, 58–59; Falls, Military Operations, vol. 2, Part 1, pp. 12–13; Wavell, The Palestine Campaign, pp. 96–97; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, p. 258. 43 Allenby selected his subordinate commanders according to their combat performance and reliability. But other factors were also important. For example, the Australian government’s desire for an Australian corps commander was instrumental in the promotion and assignment of Chauvel as the

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Figure 6.5 Ottoman soldiers and Arab tribal warriors at a train station in Palestine.

and sent his list of minimum requirements to London. Basically, he argued that the Ottoman defence was strong and asked for two complete divisions, heavy and field artillery batteries, air squadrons and additional signal, engineering and medical units. Egypt was also required to provide more labour units, draft animals and all sorts of materiel (sometimes dismantling infrastructure to meet such requests). Allenby did not intent to take the offensive before the arrival of his reinforcements. Therefore, the end of September seemed to be the earliest available time to initiate the offensive unless the political situation demanded action before that date. France, with its own territorial ambitions, demanded an active military role, offering to contribute at least a division. Following intense diplomatic manoeuvres and negotiation, London accepted a symbolic French contribution alongside another provided by Italy.44

commander of the Desert Mounted Corps despite concerns over his ability to lead a cavalry corps. Letter, Anderson to Birdwood, 15 May 1917, British Library: Asian and African Studies, Mss Eur D686/77; Jeffrey Grey, The War with the Ottoman Empire, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2015, pp. 87–91, 134–135. 44 From Allenby to Robertson, 12 July 1917, TNA, WO 158/611; Minutes of Commander-in-Chief’s Conference, 20 and 27 August 1917, TNA, WO 158/612; Falls, Military Operations, vol. 2, Part 1, pp. 13–17; Garsia, A Key to Victory, pp. 158–160, 314–319; Hughes, Allenby, pp. 31–32, 43, 45; Wavell, The Palestine Campaign, pp. 103–104. Allenby’s decision to make better use of Egypt’s potential caused much tension and unrest due to the fact that the Ottomans were expelled from the Sinai (so no longer a threat to Egypt) and Maxwell’s promises that the Egyptians would not

The dreams and realities 303 The Ottoman leadership, however, was captivated by this second victory and the encouraging news coming from the east following the Russian Revolution. Enver Pasha and his German advisers described the Palestine Campaign as serving the interests of the empire and alliance far better than expected. The British had displayed their inherent incompetence, and thus there was now little cause for concern on the Palestine Front. The Ottoman troops there were excellently doing their duty of diverting and fixing British troops away from the Western Front. As Ludendorff emphasises in his memoir; “the stiffer the Turkish defence in Palestine and Mesopotamia and the larger the force absorbed in the English effort to achieve their object, the more our burden in the West would be lightened”.45 Enver Pasha was eager to launch a major surprise attack, but Cemal Pasha refused to consider this, observing that it would be better to leave the British to invest more troops in launching another offensive. Major German successes against the Russians and the apparent failure of the Allied army in Salonika now provided unexpected opportunities to bring some Ottoman expeditionary forces home. Enver Pasha was keen to retain some troops in Romania (the 26th Division was called back in February, while the 15th and 25th divisions remained), Thrace (XX Corps Headquarters had already been moved to Palestine and the 50th Division was on the way, while the 46th Division would eventually end up in Mesopotamia) and Macedonia as a lever for the future peace talks.46 However, there was no longer any need for the Ottoman XV Corps (19th and 20th divisions) in Galicia, and it was duly recalled. While these elite divisions were on the way to İstanbul, the Ottoman General Staff refused additional requests by the Fourth Army for more divisions (other than the 7th and 54th divisions, which had been promised and were on the way), replacements and supplies. According to Cemal Pasha’s assessment, the Palestine Front required five divisions (each 7000 strong) solely for defence purposes and at least seven strong divisions for limited offensive operations.47 Continuous disagreements, heated arguments and widely circulated rumours (most of which related to Cemal Pasha’s ambition to dethrone Enver Pasha or become official sultan of the Arabian provinces) effectively poisoned relations between Enver Pasha and Cemal Pasha. By losing the confidence and support of Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha not only forfeited his privileged position in İstanbul but also eventually his power in Syria. For this reason, his repeated requests for 10,000 replacements

be required to support the war effort. P.G. Elgood, Egypt and the Army, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1924, pp. 306–329. 45 Ludendorff, My War Memories, vol. 1, p. 255. 46 Enver Pasha was very suspicious of Bulgarian aims and expected problems once the war had been won. He was eager to take Western Thrace from Bulgaria as a reward for the Ottoman contribution, while the Bulgarians could be compensated for this loss with a large chunk of land from Romania. For obvious reasons, the Bulgarians were not happy with this plan and frequently showed their disapproval. According to Enver Pasha, the Ottoman divisions on the Bulgarian fronts significantly increased his bargaining power. Cebesoy, Birüssebi, p. 6. 47 At that time, combat strengths of the Fourth Army divisions fluctuated between 2500 and 3500 rifles. So, in actual terms, these were regimental combat teams rather than divisions.

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were denied. By contrast, von Kress’s declaration that the expeditionary force was losing 4000 personnel (almost a division) each month primarily due to illness and malnutrition was used against the Fourth Army. What von Kress did not reveal was equally damaging. Plagued by administrative incompetence, ever-decreasing supplies and continuous manning of the front line without leave, soldiers’ morale plummeted and the rate of desertion skyrocketed. Based on its own calculation of high numbers of personnel wastage, the General Staff concluded that, had it invested these divisions in Palestine, the divisions would have lost their élan and military effectiveness in less than a year. On the other hand, if properly used in an offensive capacity, they could make a significant difference. The real issue was that Cemal Pasha was completely opposed to major offensive operations, persuading Enver Pasha to look elsewhere.48 Discouraged by Enver Pasha and the General Staff’s continuous refusal of their requests, Cemal Pasha and von Kress attempted to find a viable solution to their operational problems. Von Kress identified the evacuation of Beersheba as a possibility. On 1 June, he ordered the demolition of all facilities, particularly wells and water reservoirs, and the evacuation of all military personnel and civilians. Esad (3rd Cavalry Division) and a number of others voiced their opposition, pointing to the importance of Beersheba as a transport and logistics hub, the presence of workshops and depots, the need to harvest the fields (which meant waiting another two months) and the importance of the town to morale. Furthermore, according to the engineers, even if the wells and other water facilities were destroyed, two or three weeks of hard work would be sufficient for the British to construct fully functioning water facilities. In the end, Cemal Pasha cancelled von Kress’s order and instead simply replaced the infantry with the 3rd Cavalry Division – but he did order the necessary arrangements for demolition in case Beersheba had to be evacuated quickly.49 At this point, the German General Staff unveiled a surprising initiative, activating a German-led Army Group (the so-called Heeres Gruppen Kommando F) in the Middle East.50 The lightning successes of major operations led by Ger-

48 Kamil Onalp, Hilmi Üstünsoy and Kamuran Dengiz, Birinci Dünya Harbinde Türk Harbi, Sina Filistin Cephesi, vol. 4, Section 1, Genelkurmay Basımevi, Ankara, 1986, pp. 48–55, 113–114; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 209, 211; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 246–247, 250– 252, 259–260; Cebesoy, Birüssebi, pp. 23, 25, 41; Erkilet, Yıldırım, pp. 44–48, 54–55, 64, 80; Sedad Doğruer, Yıldırım Ordularının Bozgunu: Filistin’e Veda, (ed.) Kemal Gurulkan, Yeditepe Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2009, pp. 64–67; Erden, 1. Cihan Harbinde 4. Ordu, p. 34. 49 The idea of evacuation continued to be discussed up until mid-September. Onalp, Üstünsoy and Dengiz, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 60–63, 65, 102–104; Erkilet, Yıldırım, pp. 66–67; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 276–277. 50 Actually, the idea of sending whole German headquarters and combat units had been discussed several times – chief among them in November 1915. Additionally. German military attaché General Otto von Lossow and others presented several proposals and enthusiastically lobbied for them. None of them, however, was accepted until major military successes in the Balkans. Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 173–174, 272–273; Jehuda L. Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe: Die preußisch-deutschen Militärmissionen in der Türkei 1835–1919,

The dreams and realities 305 man generals and headquarters in Serbia and Romania not only increased the confidence of High Command in Berlin, but also encouraged the trial of these operations in the Middle East.51 Moreover, the fall of Baghdad, increasing British concentration in the Sinai, and the eruption of the Arab Revolt were all regarded as signs of the impending Ottoman collapse. Interestingly, the German decisionmakers, just like the British, believed that one more defeat might see the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The Germans believed that the Ottoman leaders handled Arab nationalist sentiments poorly, the Arab Revolt clearly demonstrating the extent of ethnic fractures within the fabric of the empire. Germany, as a neutral player, could easily bridge the fractures and mobilise both sides for the common cause of defeating the Entente. According to the German General Staff, Ottoman soldiers (particularly the ethnic Turks) were of superior quality but required better equipment and leadership. Moreover, the Germans believed the Ottoman officer corps and military system as a whole was poorly trained and ill-equipped to command and shape this superior human material. Germany had more than enough trained officers and technical branches to command and control any given Ottoman unit. For these reasons, the German General Staff offered to provide an Army Group headquarters (comprising 65 German staff officers with the last-minute addition of nine Ottoman officers) to command two or more Ottoman field armies. They also promised to despatch a full infantry division, combat support and service support elements to the front to bolster Ottoman units. The initial operational aim of this project was to recapture Baghdad using the template of Serbian and Romanian operations. Despite the views of contemporary British analysts and authors, Baghdad did not figure prominently in the calculations of Enver Pasha and his German advisers, who basically sought to inflict a serious blow on the British anywhere they could. Cemal Pasha’s opposition now forced them to turn their attention to Baghdad via the Euphrates River.52 While almost all the Ottoman officers welcomed the German combat support and service support elements, they rightly regarded the entire initiative as an insult to them and to the Ottoman military. After 1915, a new generation of successful and powerful battlefield commanders had emerged from the cauldron of

Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf, 1976, pp. 208–209. Ludendorff tries to present the whole affair as an Ottoman initiative, to which the Germans agreed reluctantly. Ludendorff, My War Memories, vol. 2, pp. 412–413. 51 Richard L. DiNardo, Invasion: The Conquest of Serbia 1915, Praeger/ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 2015, pp. 32–35, 38–39, 132–138; Glenn E. Torrey, The Romanian Battlefront in World War I, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 2011, pp. 32–38, 61–62, 329–330. 52 Cebesoy, Birüssebi, pp. 24–25, 41; Erkilet, Yıldırım, p. 14; Doğruer, Yıldırım Ordularının, p. 77; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, pp. 113, 115; Werner Steuber, Jildirim: Deutsche Streiter auf heiligem Boden, Verlag Gerhard Stalling, Oldenburg, 1922, pp. 67–68; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 173, 272–273; Otto Liman von Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, (trans.) Carl Reichmann, The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore, 1928, pp. 173–175; Hans Rohde, Der Kampf um Asien: Erster Band Der Kampf um Orient und Islam, Deutsche Verlags, Stuttgart, 1924, pp. 112–113; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 209–210; Falls, Military Operations, vol. 2, Part 1, pp. 3–5.

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Figure 6.6 Ottoman field bakery at Tel al Sheria. Source: Courtesy of the National Defence University, Turkey

war, and Enver Pasha and the General Staff could no longer ignore them. Consequently, Enver Pasha invited all the field army commanders in the east and south and their chiefs of staff to a grand meeting in Aleppo on 24 June 1917.53 Enver Pasha presented the Army Group F project, christened in Turkish the Yıldırım (Thunderbolt) Army Group, and asked for the cooperation of all army commanders in the provision of troops, weapons and logistical support. The participants listened carefully to the presentation without openly voicing their concerns and criticisms – apart from Cemal Pasha. Viewing the whole project as a personal assault, Cemal Pasha repeated his well-known counter-arguments. He made it clear that, while he required additional divisions, he did not want Germans. Enver Pasha departed Aleppo half-satisfied. What he did not know was that the generals, most of whom had arrived early and consulted one another, were all gritting their teeth. Mustafa Kemal Pasha tried to persuade the others (particularly Ahmed İzzet Pasha) that the current leaders had failed in directing the war effort and they

53 The military dignitaries who attended this meeting were: Enver Pasha, Bronsart von Schellendorf (chief of the General Staff), Ahmed İzzet Pasha (commander of the Caucasus Army Group), Cemal Pasha (commander of the Fourth Army), Mustafa Kemal Pasha (commander of the Second Army), Halil Pasha (commander of the Sixth Army), Lieutenant Colonel Felix Guse (chief of staff of the Third Army, representing Fevzi Pasha) and Colonel Ali Fuad (chief of staff of the Fourth Army).

The dreams and realities  307 should be replaced. He appears also to have expressed his opposition to the privileged position of the Germans. Most of his counterparts agreed with him. However, they were not about to rebel, instead opting to watch the Yıldırım project and judge it on its initial results.54 Amid intense criticism and ill feelings, the Yıldırım Army Group staff started work under its commanding general, Field Marshal Erich von Falkenhayn. Von Falkenhayn was one of the highest-ranking German generals, a former Prussian Minister of War and a former chief of the General Staff. More importantly, however, he was one of the architects of victory in Romania, and thus the ideal leader to apply the successful recipe. Due to his previous service in China, he was viewed as ideally equipped to form a good relationship with ‘Orientals’. Von Falkenhayn arrived in İstanbul in May, well before his staff. He visited Enver Pasha and won his support. But his enthusiasm disappeared shortly after his brief visit to Syria. Originally, the Yıldırım Army Group was tasked to reconquer Baghdad and, if possible, Iran by taking the Sixth Army and newly activated Seventh Army under its command.55 However, the situation had altered dramatically once the enemy had strengthened its concentration against Gaza and Beersheba. To make matters worse, field commanders, Ottomans and Germans alike, insisted on petitioning him to resolve structural problems and widespread shortages of everything from manpower to food. Almost unanimously, they requested the cancellation of the Baghdad offensive and the reassignment of most of these troops to Palestine. Von Falkenhayn initially refused to change his plans but, following his visits and the accumulation of such overwhelming evidence, he changed his mind. He found it very difficult to persuade Enver Pasha and Berlin, and lost valuable time in doing so. In the end (after wasting five months), the Yıldırım Army Group was rerouted to the Palestine Front before finishing its deployment to Aleppo in September 1917 (just before the launch of Allenby’s assault on Gaza).56 54 Mustafa Kemal Pasha voiced his concerns privately to most of the participants of the Aleppo meeting beforehand. Regrettably, we do not know much about these private conversations and discussions. Ahmed İzzet Pasha implied a connection between Yakub Cemil’s palace coup d’état attempt and Mustafa Kemal Pasha. Ahmet İzzet, Feryadım, vol. 1, Nehir Yayınları, İstanbul, 1992, pp. 262–264, 273–274; Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Atatürk Hayatı ve Eseri: Doğumundan Samsun’a Çıkışına Kadar, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi, Ankara, 1997, p.  114; Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  212– 216; Onalp, Üstünsoy and Dengiz, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  69–72; Fahrettin Altay, 10 Yıl Savaş ve Sonrası (1912–1922), İnsel Yayınları, İstanbul, 1970, pp.  126–127; Erkilet, Yıldırım, p. 9; Doğruer, Yıldırım Ordularının, p. 78; Halil Kut, Kutül-Amare Kahramanı Halil Kut Paşa’nın Hatıraları, (ed.) Erhan Çiftci, Timaş Yayınları, İstanbul, 2015, pp. 168–169; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, pp. 114–115; Nevzat Artuç, Cemal Paşa: Askeri ve Siyasi Hayatı, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 2008, pp. 249–251; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, p. 211. 55 Under the plan, the Seventh Army was initially formed with XV Corps (19th and 20th divisions coming from Galicia) and III Corps (24th, 50th and 59th divisions from the Fifth and Third armies). 56 Cemal, Hatıralar, pp.  212, 217–221; Steuber, Jildirim, pp.  30–35; Onalp, Üstünsoy and Dengiz, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp.  58–59, 82–99; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 251–257, 260–262; Cebesoy, Birüssebi, pp. 48–49; Erkilet, Yıldırım, pp. 4–5, 48–58;

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As part of this reorientation, the Eighth Army was activated to command those Ottoman troops currently at the Palestine Front (XX and XXII corps, and until the arrival of the Seventh Army, III Corps as well), and von Kress was naturally assigned as its commanding general.57 But activating a new field army and placing it under the command of the Yıldırım Army Group significantly altered the command arrangements, not only in Palestine, but also in Syria. Previously, the Fourth Army and its commander, Cemal Pasha, were in control of all military, political and administrative affairs in Syria, Palestine and Hejaz. By removing most of the Fourth Army’s divisions, leaving just a weak coastal defence and internal security units, it was transformed into a supply and logistics command (Suriye ve Batı Arabistan Umum Kumandanlığı – Syria and Western Arabia General Command). Cemal Pasha, as the allpowerful generalissimo and governor-general of the region, was completely opposed to this new command system. He fought it bitterly and obstructed its application as far as possible. As the controller of supply, logistics, lines of communication and civilian administration, Cemal Pasha had tremendous power – and the Yıldırım Army Group suffered accordingly. Moreover, during his three-year period as governor-general, Cemal Pasha had created such a complex web of alliances and loyalties with local powerbrokers that his removal had the potential to create a massive power vacuum. Enver Pasha initially sent Cemal Pasha on an official visit to Germany and Austria-Hungary, and then attempted a temporary solution, giving Cemal Pasha the extravagant title of Governor-General of Syria and the Arabian Peninsula, and abolishing the Fourth Army. Enver Pasha even attempted to separate the Jerusalem and Palestine supply system from Syria in order to empower the Yıldırım by giving it full control of railways and other major lines of communication elements. These arrangements did not work well. Anarchy, confusion and backstabbing continued until the final departure of Cemal Pasha for İstanbul on 12 December.58

Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 270–279; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, pp. 117–119; Ludendorff, My War Memories, vol.2, pp. 503–504. 57 Von Falkenhayn found von Kress unreliable and far too independently minded from the outset. Von Kress’s good relations with Cemal Pasha and his ‘oriental’ ways of bypassing the orders of the Yıldırım were instrumental in increasing von Falkenhayn’s ire. However, it was not possible to remove von Kress and replace him with a more trusty and loyal general at this critical stage, given his prestige and experience. Because he had limited confidence in von Kress, von Falkenhayn preferred to rely on the Seventh Army and, consequently, new divisions were almost always allocated to the Seventh Army. Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 254–255, 275–277; Doğruer, Yıldırım Ordularının, p. 86. 58 Cemal, Hatıralar, pp. 212, 221–229, 231–233; Erkilet, Yıldırım, pp. 50–51, 55–56, 71, 82, 291, 298–300; Steuber, Jildirim, pp. 32–34, 52, 89–91, 109; Onalp, Üstünsoy and Dengiz, Birinci Dünya Harbinde, pp. 105, 113–115; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 262–265; Cebesoy, Birüssebi, pp. 49–50; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 180–181; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 279–281; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 212– 214; Belen, Birinci Cihan Harbinde, vol. 4, pp. 121–123; Falih Rıfkı Atay, Zeytindağı, Bateş Yayınları, İstanbul, 1981, pp. 90–91; Artuç, Cemal Paşa, pp. 252–260.

The dreams and realities  309

Figure 6.7 Erich von Falkenhayn and Yıldırım Army Group staff officers.

During the crisis, von Falkenhayn emerged as a difficult and inflexible commander. He refused to acknowledge structural differences between the German and Ottoman armies and the socio-cultural traditions that set the Ottomans apart from the Germans. Not surprisingly, von Falkenhayn saw Sanders Military Mission members as ‘Turkified’ and threated them with contempt. According to him, successive German governments had sent worst of their officers to the Ottoman Empire. Likewise, he paid no attention to the peculiarities of war in the Middle East. In his general order to German staff officers on 30 July, von Falkenhayn advised “tact”, “etiquette” and “comradeship”. Although he specifically mentioned that “our aim will not be advanced by sharp criticism or far reaching pretensions”, he himself ignored this throughout his stay. Von Falkenhayn and his staff also failed to grasp the serious weakness of the Ottomans and the overwhelming superiority of the EEF. The general attitude and personal manners of the Yıldırım staff officers served only to increase the agitation and alienation of the Ottoman officers. Unlike the members of the Sanders Military Mission, none of the Yıldırım officers wore Ottoman uniforms, instead performing their duties proudly wearing German uniforms. They shied away from mixing socially with Ottoman officers and enforced German manners in every aspect of life. Given also their lack of language and cultural skills, it is not surprising that they were poorly received. However, von Falkenhayn had made up his mind and, following a series of brief visits, he devised a plan, stubbornly sticking to it until his final departure in February 1918.59 59 Army Group F General Order no. 1521 [English translation of the captured German original], 30 July 1917, Imperial War Museum Archives [hereafter IWM], Private Papers of Field Marshal Lord Chetwode, 10414; Erkilet, Yıldırım, pp. 12, 15, 31, 294–295; Steuber, Jildirim, pp. 33–34,

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In addition to the drastic changes in aim and strategic orientation, and the other major problems it faced, the Yıldırım project’s organisational table also changed dramatically. The key elements of success in Serbia and Romania were not only German leadership and staff work, but more importantly, the bolstering of the Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian armies with German divisions and firepower. A good quality transport network was also essential to move shock troops and weapons quickly from one theatre of operations to another.60 Supporters of the Yıldırım project appeared to be ignorant of even the most basic understanding of the Ottoman Army and its Middle Eastern fronts. The Ottoman Army was facing enormous difficulties supporting three major fronts (Caucasus, Palestine and Mesopotamia), as well as a number of miscellaneous formations, using a single-track railway with insufficient rolling stock and no coal. Transporting a full German division would take more than two months under ideal conditions and sustaining even this single division would be a nightmare. Once the division was committed to the Middle East, there was no chance of securing its transfer back to the European fronts. Berlin further complicated matters by quietly amending its promise and despatching only a light infantry brigade reinforced with combat support and service elements under the name of Pascha II.61 As a consequence of this decision, the loading and unloading of trains created a significant bottleneck. There were insufficient heavy vehicles of adequate capacity, a dearth of equipment to assist in unloading and a general shortage of labour to effect this by hand. Goods continued to accumulate at stations, particularly the İstanbul-Haydarpaşa train station, which was transformed into a giant depot.62 On

51, 53; Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, pp. 175–177; Kressenstein, Mit den Türken zum Suezkanal, pp. 265–266; Pomiankowski, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Çöküşü, pp. 272, 277; Wallach, Anatomie einer Militärhilfe, pp. 210–212, 213–216. 60 DiNardo, Invasion, pp. 38, 49–54, 131. 61 Pascha II was created around the core of the 201st Infantry Brigade (701st, 702nd and 703rd battalions, each 400 strong) with the attachment of a mountain artillery battalion, two mortar companies, the 205th Pioneer Company, four machine-gun companies (Nos. 201, 203, 207 and 208), four air squadrons (Nos. 301–304), two field hospitals (Nos. 220 and 221), signal detachments, flak guns, transport units, railway control detachments and some other service support elements. It was renamed the Asien-Korps after joining other German units (Pascha I) in theatre. Colonel Werner von Frankenberg (forme