Defeat in Detail: The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912-1913

Defeat in detail the Ottoman Army in the Balkans 1912-13
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Counting these men, there were 26, officers, , men, 1, civilian officials, and 6, military students on active duty with the Ottoman Army in The army had grown considerably and was composed of seven numbered field armies Table 1. Unusual for a major power, the Ottoman Army did not have corps-level headquarters established in Infantry divisions and artillery divisions were assigned directly under the operational control of the field armies.

This was an organizational holdover from the previous century and probably reflected a shortage of mid-grade, trained general staff officers. The organizational stationing of the Ottoman Army in the early ninteenth century was based on the idea of locating the army headquarters in the major cities of the empire.

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The largest cities, Constantinople, Adrianople, and Salonika, all had army-level headquarters assigned within their boundaries. Unfortunately, geography placed these cities in close geographical proximity, and by , the resulting stationing plan for the Ottoman Army was unbal-anced and strategically unsound.

Map 1. Each army also performed inspectorate functions for the Redif divisions located within its respective area. Often, however, the infantry formations of the Redif divisions were not located in close proximity to their supporting artillery, cavalry, engineer, and transportation units. Altogether, in , there were , men organized in thirty-three Redif infantry divisions Table 1.

Each Redif division was numbered sequentially and also used its main garrison city in its title. Unlike the regular Nizamiye structure, the regiments of the Redif were not numbered sequentially on a national basis, but were rather numbered according to their divisional and brigade unit of assignment. The First Army had three infantry battalions and four artillery batteries deployed to Medina in Arabia. The infantry battalions of the Third Army were scattered around the area of operations on internal security missions.

In Caucasia, many of the troops of the Fourth Army were scattered along the frontier to keep an eye on the Russians. The Fifth Army in Syria was proportionally in the worst shape and had deployed two thirds of the 9th Infantry Division, half of the 5th Cavalry Division, and the entire 5th Artillery Division to reinforce the Third Army in Macedonia. The Sixth Army in Mesopotamia was stable but undersupplied and weak. There were other sources of military power to be found within the empire in , as well.

The Hamidiye Light Cavalry of sixty-one regiments was organized into seven cavalry brigades and three cavalry regiments. However, the Turks were unhappy with the poor discipline and low levels of military proficiency within several of the formations and formally dissolved twelve Hamidiye regiments on December 6, There was also a large and well-equipped gendarmarie Jandarma , which performed internal security and paramilitary functions within the empire. In , there were thirty Jandarma regiments and five independent Jandarma battalions.

Altogether, there were 2, officers and 39, men assigned to mobile field Jandarma formations. Finally, there were 5, officers, 7, sailors, and 1, students assigned to the rolls of the Ottoman Navy. The incoherent stationing plan of the First, Second, and Third Armies, based on populated metropolitan cities, violated the strategic integrity of western provinces of the empire and was a recipe for military disaster. Furthermore the complete absence of corps-level headquarters meant that, in wartime, major command and control problems would arise when army headquarters would have to exercise a span of control over as many as sixteen active and reserve infantry divisions.

In July , the revolution of the Young Turks finally brought to power men who were determined to modernize the Ottoman Empire, and the army was one of the first government agencies to feel the change. Planning for the reorganization of the Ottoman Army consumed all of , as the Ottoman General Staff worked to pattern the army on contemporary European models. Despite the personal interest of the sultan, there were many obstacles to modernization. Quantities of light and heavy infantry weapons were inadequate, and stockages of materials in the depots were both low and unevenly distributed.

Training in the use of the available weapons was inadequate as well. Moreover, the navy was in an even worse condition. In terms of its human element, the army had serious difficulties in maintaining its strength. Although universal military conscription had been in effect for two generations, numbers of Albanians and Arabs refused to serve in the Ottoman military.

This condition was exaggerated by the fact that the ongoing revolts in those areas further impeded the retention of local soldiers, who were reluctant to serve against their neighbors. In effect, this situation created an unfair burden on the more reliable Anatolian Turks especially from the capital region, whose population tended to be more educated and cosmopolitan , who were forced to shoulder much of the antiterrorist, antibrigand, and antirebel-lion operations conducted by the army.

Many men and animals were frequently reported sick and in the hospital. Rations were poorly balanced, and bread, the staple of the Ottoman kitchen, was sometimes in short supply. These problems made training marches physically difficult, and training was commensurately poor in many regiments.

Training plans were especially weak at the lower levels, and the regimental officers were unskilled in the preparation of orders. Practical exercises and useful field training experiences were practically nonexistent. Rela-tionships between high-ranking officers and the rank and file were poor, and the army suffered from an overall lack of coordination between the various levels of the organization.

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As usual, troop diversions continued to plague the army as the military was forced to respond to everincreasing levels of brigandage and minor rebellion. The Fifth Army, in particular, was gutted by these diversions. There were problems associated with this policy. For example, the Fifth Army formations contained large numbers of Arabs, who did not find the mission in Europe especially meaningful. One particular problem that the Ottoman Army faced was in the proficiency of its artillery. In peacetime, the independent artillery divisions controlled only active formations Nizamiye of regimental strength.

Unfortunately without sustained and routine training, the Ihtiyat men tended to rapidly lose the technical proficiency necessary to operate the cannon effectively. In the small-scale Greek war of , this was a minor problem, but in the event of a large-scale conflict, this was foreseen to be a serious deficiency.

Nothing illustrates this more than the events from through the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic in However, within the armed forces themselves, there were internal military politics at work on a continual basis, which had important consequences for the rising professionalism of the Ottoman officer corps. Although the state technically had a Ministry of War and a General Staff, neither was fully empowered to fulfill its duties in the European manner. Furthermore, the older regimental officers, who had not attended the war academy, tended to seek assignments in the antique headquarters of the commander in chief Babi Seraskeri.

This system, which had been in place for eighty-two years, was deemed by the government to be coun-terproductive to modernization. Therefore, the cabinet decided to em-power fully the Ministry of War Harbiye Nezareti to supervise the organizational, planning, acquisition, and logistical functions of the armed forces and, at the same time, eliminated the Babi Seraskeri. This took effect on July 22, , and functionally meant a greatly enhanced role for the incumbent minister of war. Furthermore, the minister of war chaired a newly created Supreme Military Council, a deliberative body designed to establish military and naval policy.

The Ottoman ministers of war during the period — are shown in Table 1. One might ask why eleven different men served as minister of war in an eight-year period. The short answer is politics. The minister of war portfolio was given as a political appointment, and the incumbent rose and fell with the prevailing winds of political fortune. Ottoman politics, as will be seen in the following chapters, was an unending struggle for control of the state.

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The Ministry of War, therefore, reflected the number of governments that rose and fell in this period. The position itself was very important during this time as the military represented and supported stability and modernization in the empire. The rapid turnover of ministers must have had an effect on the Ottoman armed forces; however, this point is not well examined in the modern Turkish histories.

Obviously, the lack of continuity must have had a more negative, rather than positive, effect on the services as a whole. The backgrounds of the ministers themselves were widely different.

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The lack of continuity seemed to have manifested itself mostly in the procurement of weapons systems. Every succeeding minister of war retained him as chief of staff. This position was the actual locus of power within the Ottoman Army. His vision and iron determination to create an efficient army in the European tradition irrevocably changed the Ottoman Army. This was especially true of his view of the primacy of the General Staff concept itself and the key role of the corps of trained General Staff officers. As the Ottoman Army evolved a multiechelon system of army schools that turned officers from military cadets to fully trained General Staff officers, many regimental officers were left behind.

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Info Print Cite. Erickson, Edward J. Glossary Some terminology that may be used in this description includes: New A new book is a book previously not circulated to a buyer. London: Macmillan, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs. Let us wish you a happy birthday! The league was able to field a combined force of , men.

This was particularly true of the men who had entered the army prior to the s and who did not benefit from the ever-grow-ing army schools system. In the Ottoman Army they were called regimentals alayli , and in their careers they tended to remain company grade officers. Many of these officers were illiterate, and most had no formal military education. By , increasing numbers of them were quite elderly and most were opposed to modernization and change. The school system advanced men of promise by offering them the prospect of rapid promotion, and thus, the mektepli tended to be younger and advocates of change all of the Young Turks, for example, were mektepli.

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The alayli represented an obstacle to changing the thinking and operations of the army. On April 13, , there was a mutinous demonstration by unhappy soldiers in the capital, which was actively supported by many active and retired alayli officers. The mutineers demanded literally the deconstruction of the ongoing modernization effort, and in particular, the purging of the mektepli officers.

Defeat in Detail : The Ottoman Army in the Balkan Wars, 1912-1913 [Hardcover]

Chaos reigned briefly, the prime minister resigned, the cabinet collapsed, and mektepli officers were hunted and killed on the streets. Finally, the Action Army led and staffed by mektepli officers arrived in the capital and restored order, on April 24, This was the provocation that the Supreme Military Council needed to complete the purge of the alayli officers. It is highly likely that he provided the impetus for the anti-alayli, legal provisions that followed.

The Supreme Military Council wrote and engineered the passing of two laws that targeted the regimental officers. The first, passed on June 26, , was the Law for Age Limitation. This law established maximum age limits for the officer grades in the Ottoman Army. There were, for example, sixty-year-old alayli lieutenants serving in the army. Since many of the alayli were older than their mektepli counterparts, this law quickly retired many of the older alayli who were holding down commands and slowing the assignments of younger, more capable men.