Ottoman Army manpower 1915-1918

Discussions on the final era of the Ottoman Empire, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
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Ottoman Army manpower 1915-1918

Post by territoriale » 15 Apr 2007 17:20

I am interested in learning more about the manpower reserves available to the Ottoman Army between 1915 and 1918.

Larcher in ' La guerre Turque dans la guerre mondiale' mentions that the 1915 class was called up in 1915 but that the 1916-1918 classes were called up in 1916, the 1919 class in early 1917 and the 1920 class in late 1917.

This increasingly early call-up suggests that the Ottoman Army was running out of manpower by 1917/1918 - is this the case? Did the non-Turkish populations of the Ottoman Empire not get conscripted later on?


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Post by Tosun Saral » 15 Apr 2007 19:07

Fieldmarchal Mustafa Fevzi Çakmak mentions in his book "Birinci Dünya Savaşında Doğu Cephesi" ( East Front During WW1), Ankara 2005, p.315 the number of men at 3rd Army in October 1914 : 190 000 of which 120 000 around Erzurum.

On the other hand Asst Prof. Dr. Staff Col. Ismet Gorgulu gives the number of men in hisbook "On Yıllık Harbin Kadrosu" ( Personal of Ten Years Long War 1912-22) p. 101
189.562 men and 60.877 animals. 3rd Army lost 60.000 men at Sarikamis battles. 200 officers and 7000 men were taken POW by the Russians.

At the end of 1915 Russians had 700.000 men but Turks had 64.000. Turks should defend a front 300 km long.

At the beginning of 1918 the Army Group "Yıldırım" had only 28.000 men. They should defend an area 100 kms.

Feldmarschall Çakmak writes at page "314
"On Jun 25 1917 3rd Army had 90.000 men but 40 614 fighters.
On July 15th 19172nd Army had 90.000 men but 18.614 fighters. The logistic supports units had 36 000 men and 23 000 animals. 9154 civilian Kurds were enlisted to reinforce the fighting men.

After the defear at Sarikamis the 3rd Army decreased to 2254 officers, 66 720 men and 28 000 animals.

On Oct. 25th 1915 3rd Army had 202.427 men. (p.305)

p.13 " August 28 1914 the 3rd Army had: 161.762 men, 168 canonen, 92 094 fighting men,

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Post by Mait » 15 Apr 2007 19:49

The article in Wikipedia about Ottoman casualties in WW1 contains quite interesting data that perhaps helps to analyze the possible reserves of Ottoman manpower pool by 1918.

Another aspect of Ottoman manpower reserves is the number of POW-s in Russia and how many of those did or were returned to Ottoman Empire after the collapse of Russia but before the end of WW1.

Has any forum member got any data about that topic?

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Post by stevebecker » 16 Apr 2007 06:54


Its often said that the cream of the Ottoman Army perished at Gallipoli, but with these figures its seems that the Eastern front instead of Gallipoli was the place.

These two battle area seem the give some horific figures.


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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 16 Apr 2007 08:03

Turkish prisoners of the Russians:

It appears not many had returned by the Armistice.

As I have previously posted elsewhere things did not get better after 1918--It appears that many were POWs returning from Russia through the Mediterranean were interned by the Greek navy even before they landed on Turkish soil.From Russian captivity they went straight into Greek captivity.

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Post by Peter H » 16 Apr 2007 08:26

As indicated here disease was the biggest killer.

The Ottoman Empire,being an agricultural society,was in a bind.The more men and draft animals you conscripted into the army,the worse the food situation became,nutrition fell,and disease further spread.It appears disease mortality was also at its lowiest % in 1914.Food was then still adequate and prewar stocks of vaccinations were available.

Erickson's figures on deaths from disease are as follows:

1st Year 77,667
2nd Year 155,757
3rd Year 137,889
4th Year 95,446

Total 466,759

These deaths from disease are comparable to those of the US Civil War.Its said that 414,000 deaths from disease,from both sides,resulted between 1861-65.A population of around 25 million whites lived in America in 1861.The Ottoman Empire's population was said to be 22 million in 1914.

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Post by Peter H » 16 Apr 2007 08:42

Comparable German call up figures.Note as with the Ottomans,each class was normally 20 years old at call up.i.e the 1918 Class was born in 1898:

The 1914 class of recruits were called up in October 1914

The1915 Class were called up early by 6 months,in April 1915

The 1916 class was called up in August 1915

The 1917 Class was called up in May 1916

The 1918 Class was called up from September 1916

The 1919 Class was called up in early 1917

The 1920 Class was called up in the autumn of 1918

The British,French and Italians also called up 18 year olds in 1918,but you had to be 18 &1/2 to serve in combat.Officially with the Australians you could not serve if you were younger than 20 if you didn't have parental permission.Of course this rule was bypassed by many.

The British volunteer "Boy Soldiers' of 1914-1916,before conscription,should also be mentioned.

I think all major combatants by 1918(excluding the USA) were reaching their manpower limits.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 17 Apr 2007 13:07

A good article here: ... 50_012.pdf

...the bürden of military service in the regulär units in the front line fell overwhelmingly on the Turkish peasant population of Anatolia, which constituted about 40% of the total population, or nine to ten millions.

After deduction of those who could pay the exemption tax instead,about 100,000 men were called up for military service each year and of these only about three quarters actually joined the army, most of the others being rejected for reasons of health. This meant that the peacelime strength of the army was about 150,000 (two classes). There is a lot of uncertainty about the mobilised strength of the army, but probably the rnaximum number of men actually under arms at any one time was slightly under 800,000. Mobilisation, however, was extremely slow and took at least six months to be fully effective. This meant that even after füll mobilisaüon, only about 4% of the population was under arms and on active duty (compared with, for instance, 10% in France, which also had a population nearly twice as big. In the course of the mobilisation males between the ages of 19 and 45 were called up. By 1916, however, the age limits had been extended to 15 and 55 respecüvely and, according to British reports by mid-1917, 12% of the total were between the ages of 16 and 19....

This dwinhing of the numenc strength of the army was due mainly to two causes: disease and desertion. Malaria, typhus, typhoid, syphihs,cholera and dysentena were rampant Especially in wmter the ubiquitous
lice carned in clothing and upholstery caused typhus to spiead all along the routes to the front, killing soldiers, Armenien deportees and Muslim refugees alike. Among the Ottoman troops casualties were very high. Without treatment, the disease killed about 50% ol those affected Even among the Germans, who were very well catered for by then own medical service, mortalty was 10% The delousing ovens built by the Germans were excellent, but they remamed inoperative a lot of the tirne due to lack of firewood, which also hampered the heating of washing water. Summer saw the spread of malaria, which was especially bad along the Black Sea coast and the Bosphorus, in some places in Anatolia (such as Ankara and Konya) and, most of all, around Adana and
Iskenderun—an area through which all of the troops destined for the Mesopotamian and Synan fronts had to pass In late summer and autumn, cholera, caused mainly by contaminated drinking water, was the great killer In the dry months the soldiers drank from the remaining stagnant pools and besides, they preferred defecating close to open water because lt was customary to wash afterwards.

In terms of loss of available manpower, however, desertion was an even bigger problem ior the army than was disease Over the year lt became a problem of unmanageable proportions By December 1917 over 300,000 men had deserted. By the end of the war the number slood at nearly hall a milhon Most of these deserters as a rule did not go °over to the enemy, although especially in the second half of the war the number of Armenians and Arab who deserted to the British increased sharply. Most recruits fled while en route to the front, or from the army
on the march, especially when they passed close to their home town or village. They roamed the countryside, living off the land and turning irtlo robber bands. Further troops had to be detached in ever greater numbers to deal with the insecurity these bands created behind the frontlines. The population often sympathised with the deserters and hid them in their homes. When deserters were caught, they generally were punished only lightly and returned to their units as soon as possible in order not to deplete the strength of the army any further. As early as May 1916 we find a report by the Durch embassy that the army has replaced prison sentences with corporal punishment in the field in order not to deplete the strength of the army further'. Only rarely do we find
reports of deserters being executed, but the army did try to make it difficult to desert. Troops, especially those consisting of Arab recruits, were mistrusted so much that they were sometimes brought to the front unarmed, and under armed escort of Turkish guards. In Palestine and Syria, Beduins were offered a reward of five Ottoman pounds for every deserter they captured and returned.

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