Ottoman Victory at Sarikamish

Discussions on the final era of the Ottoman Empire, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
Abdul Hadi Pasha
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Ottoman Victory at Sarikamish

Post by Abdul Hadi Pasha » 10 May 2004 22:01

Catchy thread title, no?

Anyway, a friend of mine is composing an alternative history wherin the Russians must bleed some manpower off the Caucasus front, which begs the question, what would have happened at Sarikamish? This was a very close campaign as it was - my feeling is that if Russian strength at the front remains as it was historically, the Ottoman envelopment would still fail disastrously, but fewer forces in the Russian reserve would probably allow more of the Ottoman army to escape destruction. However, even a few battalions less at the front would not allow the Russians to send forces from the front line to defend Sarikamish, which would lead to the Ottomans successfully enveloping the Russian army and destroying it.

Not having access to any Turkish sources for this battle, and only one (Erikkson's) with a balanced view of the Ottoman performance, I was hoping Kaan and the rest of our Turks might have a perspective on this.

monk2002uk
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Post by monk2002uk » 11 May 2004 20:20

The Turkish forces that attacked Sarakamish were fortunate to get off as lightly as they did. Of course, it is possible to hypothesize what might have happened had the Russians fewer troops. But there were not many Russian forces actually holding Sarakamish. The reality is that the attack was ill-conceived.

'The officer commanding IX Corps, Ahmet Fevzi Pasha, had served for many years in the Erzurum army corps district, and he knew the region over which the operations were intended better than any man in the Turkish army. He gave it as his opinion that the operation might be possible only after the most careful preparation. Proper winter kit for the soldiers and the organisation of advance bases were the prerequisites for success. The outflanking movement, traced on a map, seemed most promising; but the success of this movement must depend on the rapid advance of the outflanking force, and Ahmet Favzi expressed the view that no troops could undertake this march in winter without special training and equipment. He considered further that if two corps were necessary to undertake the outflanking movement, the one remaining corps would not be sufficient to engage the Russians frontally on the Pasin positions.'

Enver overruled this advice. And so the IX and X Turkish Army Corps made their way across the top yol, loosing large numbers of men to frostbite and desertion. The survivors were too weak to press the attack on the minimal Russian forces holding Sarakamish. As the Russian reinforcements arrived, so the Turkish positions became more precarious. The Turkish forces were almost impossible to resupply, whereas the Russians had their interior lines of communication and resupply. A major problem faced by the Russians was the incompetence of Bergmann. Yudenich was able to stabilise the situation and hold Sarakamish.

Robert

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Post by Abdul Hadi Pasha » 13 May 2004 15:59

The outflanking force DID manage to move rapidly to achieve its objective, and although suffering some casualties, did not suffer from desertions, and would have easily overwhelmed the defenses at Sarakamish. The plan failed because as you mentioned, the single corps was not strong enough to engage the Russians on the Pasin front and pin them in place - this allowed the Russians to rush some of their forces there to defend Sarakamish, to where they arrived just in time.

If the Russians had had marginally fewer troops available, or the Ottomans just one more division, the campaign would have succeeded.

Although I certainly would not have tried this with the forces available, I do not think the plan was as insane or foolish as it is generally presented; Ottoman assumptions were based upon evaluation of Russian command performance at Tannenberg - a reckless assumption, granted, but the Ottomans were cursed to have been facing one of the best Russian generals.

I do not understand what you mean by the Ottomans were lucky to get off as lightly as they did - the only surprising thing is that most of the artillery made it back.

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Post by monk2002uk » 13 May 2004 20:06

I think it is significant that an Ottoman general, who was well familiar with the terrain and conditions, thought that the plan of attack was unwise. He was proven right. '(The) miscalculation had been exposed before the operation began by the experienced commander of IX Corps, and the vice-generalissimo had exacted his resignation.'

As to the casualties:

'Enver's unfortunate 29th Division was making a bad start. Despite the fires which the askers tried to keep alight from the brushwood on Turangel, hundreds of poor fellows lay frozen to death in the morning light and hundreds more had deserted to seek refuge in the few miserable hamlets scattered over the neighbouring mountain sides. The 29th which had started the march on 22 December 8000 strong could now put scarcely 4000 rifles in the firing line. But they had managed to bring with them eight mountain guns.

Enver, still exuberant, was quite confident that the Russians had no artillery in Sarakamish. He therefore began the action of the 26th by deploying four of his own guns in an exposed position on the outskirts of the woods overlooking the town. Mushelov's two guns in the square near the church replied with such effect that three out of four Turkish guns were soon silenced.

The men of (the 28th Division) began to arrive towards the evening, but one regiment had lost so many stragglers that it could only muster 300 men. The three divisions of IX Corps - their strength reduced perhaps to not more than 7000 men - passed the night of the 25th in the deep snow of the lower slopes of Turangel and Yagmurlu.

With a little objectivity Enver Pasha might have understood, even on the evening of the 26th, that his bold plan had little chance of success. IX Corps stood before Sarakamish; but, out of a strength of 25,000 rifles with powerful mountain artillery which had set out a week ago, only 10,000 men with twenty guns now lay between Bardiz and Sarakamish; and these men were exhausted, hungry and demoralized by snow, frost and desertion. But Enver still counted on the arrival of X Corps....

..the unfortunate men of the 30th and 31st Divisions lost one-third of their effectives (Hafiz Hakki lost 7000 out of 20,000 men) during nineteen hours of terrible marching before they reached their objectives.

On the morning of the 29th (December) there were scarcely more than 6000 fit men out of all its three divisions.

During the critical days of 1-2 January, Enver Pasha had lost his overbearing self-confidence which had proved so fatal to the Turkish Third Army. On the 31st, the chief of staff of IX Corps had reported that the remnants of this corps in the Turangel woods were about 2,500 strong with only 1000 men and fourteen machine guns in the line and fourteen guns fit for action.'

The above information is taken from 'Caucasian Battlefields 1828-1921'. Further on in the book is the description of the surrounding of IX Corps and the capture of Ihsan Pasha and three divisional staff, such that 'IX Army Corps of the Third Army had ceased to exist'. The Russians did not manage to destroy X Corps.

By the end of January, 'the Turks could scarcely muster, with hasty complements from depots, 30,000 men for the defence of the Erzurum region.'

This was a complete disaster. If the weather had deteriorated further or the Russians had managed to surround X Corps, the outcome could have been even worse.

Robert

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Post by monk2002uk » 13 May 2004 20:14

Here is a battle map for Sarakamish, which has been created for a Great War Spearhead wargame (hence my interest in this and other battles of the Caucasus campaign)
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monk2002uk
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Post by monk2002uk » 13 May 2004 21:11

And here is map of the Caucasus area

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Post by monk2002uk » 13 May 2004 21:12

Sorry, it did not attach properly
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Abdul Hadi Pasha
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Post by Abdul Hadi Pasha » 17 May 2004 20:18

You have posted the opinion of one writer, but Ottoman records, which were extremely comprehensive and are extant, do not support that view. While deaths due to exposure occurred, desertion did not in any significant number - your author is making assumptions, likely based on the desertion rates of Arab levies in Mesopotamia.

While Ottoman losses were disastrous, the campaign came very close to succeeding - you have not responded at all to my point that if the pinning force had been slightly stronger, the Russians would not have been able to detatch forces to rush to the defense of Sarakamish. The description of the tactical situation in Sarakamish itself by your author is highly unlikely to be based on personal experience or by Ottoman perspectives, as there has been not a single English-language work using Ottoman sources except for Erikkson, and in any case is a descroption of the effect that Russian forces diverted from the front had on the battle.

In any case, I did not post this thread to debate the merits of the Sarakamish campaign, I wanted to ask for opinions on the effects upon the war if Enver had waited a bit so that a stronger force had been mobilized.

But if for nothing else, thanks for cool color maps!

monk2002uk
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Post by monk2002uk » 19 May 2004 18:16

The source book that I have quoted from contains an extensive bibliography that includes Russian and Turkish sources. The Turkish sources include official histories, personal accounts and commentaries. There is no evidence that the comments about desertions are based on the Mesopotamian campaign. The description of the 'desertions' in the text does not fit with this either. It is the concept that some soldiers sought refuge because of the severe cold. 'Stragglers' might be a better term.

I am happy to continue the discussion along the lines that you proscribe. My starting point was to understand what actually happened first - many non-Turkish people will not be familiar with this battle. I have information about the Russian troop movements to reinforce Sarakamish. I will check these against the area that was attacked by XI Corps.

A later campaign would potential collide with the Gallipoli landings. In your thinking about 'what if', did you have any thoughts about how this would have affected the strategy in the Caucasus?

Robert

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Commanders and Units

Post by Tosun Saral » 18 Jun 2006 14:09

3rd Army Commander : Major Gen.Enver Pasha (He left the Army to the order of Hafiz
Hakki Pasha on Jan. 10,1915 and returned to Istanbul)
3rd Army Commander : Hafiz Hakki Pasha (On Jan 10th 1915 he was promoted to
Brigadier. On Feb.13 1915 he died of epidemie. He was buried in
the military cemetery in Erzurum.Commander of 11th Army Corps
Galip Pasha took incharge of the Army for a short time. OnFeb.
28 1915 he was made governor and commander of Hicaz in
Arabia.)
- Chief of Staff : German General Bronzart Pasha
- vize “ “ “ : German Lt.Col. Guze ( He was dismissed by Hafiz Hakki Pasha
and Kara Vasif Bey was made vize)
- Operations Officer : German Lt.Col. Feldman
- Vize “ “ : Lt.Col. Ahmet Nuri (Col. Oztekin) (He was taken prisoner by
Russians and forwarded to Sibiria. He was released on August
20 1920.
- Staff Officers : Major Celal, Major Aziz Samih (Col. Ilter), Major Tahir, Capt.
Ismail Hakki ( Gen. of the Army Akoguz) Army Nr:1321 P-94 Brigadier: 1937,
Major General:1938, Lt.general: 1942, General of the Army:1947. Retired: July 6th, 1950
- aide of Commander :Major Kazim ( Gen. of the Army Orbay, Chief of Staff of the
Turkish Army)
- Inspector : German Poselt Pasha
- Chief Medical Officer : Col. Dr. Ibrahim Tali (Ongoren)

9th Army Corps Commander: Brigadier Ihsan Pasha (Sokmen) ( He was taken prisoner by
Russians. After his relisement he worked as the president of
Turkish secret service in Istanbul during the war of
independence)
- 1st office : Lt.Col.Omer Lutfi
- 2nd Office : Major Cavit (Major Gen. Erdelhun. Elder brother of General
of the Army Mustafa Rustu Erdelhun, the Chief of General
Staff of Turkish Army)
- staff officers : Maj. Hurrem, Capt. Ziya, Capt. Mehmet Adil

28th Inf. Div. Commander : Col. Etem (Sehsadebasi) ( On Dec. 28th he was taken POW
by the Russians. Died in POW camp.)
- Staff officer : Capt. Rifat (Lt. Gen. Mataraci) (He was taken POW on Dec.
28th. He escaped from Russian POW camp and went to
Afganistan and served in Afgan Army for a short time. Later
he returned to Turkey. He is the 7th Commander of Turkish Gendarm Forces)
82th Inf. Regiment : Maj. Riza
83th : Major Ziya (General Yergök) (He was wounded and taken
POW bu Russians. He was transported to Siberia.After his
relisement he joined the National Forses of Mustaf Kemal. He
wrote his memories.)
84th : Major Abdullah
28th Artillary Regiment : Lt. Col. Sakir
29th Division Commander : Col Arif (Baytin) (Taken POW)
- staff officer : Capt. Hayrettin
- 85th Regiment : Major Sabit ( killed in action on Dec. 27th)
- 86th : Major Ali Agah (killed in action on 26th December)
- 86th : Major Mehmet Ali
- 87th : Major Lutfullah ( killed in action on Dec. 30th)
- 1st Battalion,17th Artillary Regiment: Major Hamdi
- 17th Division : Col. Abdullah. Later Lt. Col Tahir (He took the Division on Dec.
28th. Taken POW and died in prison)
- staff officer : Capt. Yusuf Ziya
- 49th Regiment : Lt. Col Abdulvahit
- 50th : Lt. Col Tahir (On Dec. 28th he was made commander of the division)
- 51st : Gani
- vize commander : Major Osman
- 17th Artillary Regiment : ?

to be continued
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Tosun Saral
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Hafiz Hakki Pasha

Post by Tosun Saral » 18 Jun 2006 14:21

Hafiz Hakki Pasha, Commander of 3rd Turkish Army exercising a gun with Tahsin Bey Governor of Erzurum.
source: Harp Mecmuasi (War magazine) Nr. 1 p.11

Major Hafiz Hakki took part in the Balkan Wars. He was the staff officer of the 1st Army Corps of the East Army. East Army fought Kirklareli-Suloglu-Pinarhisar-Luleburgaz battles in October 18th-November 16th 1912. Commander of the East Army was Lt.Gen. Abdullah Pasha (Kolemen). Commander of the 1stArmy Corps was Major Gen. Omer Yaver Pasha.
Major Hafiz Hakki as staff officer of the 1st Army Corps fought the famous in the first Catalca Battle on Nov.17-20th 1912 at the order of Catalca Army.
After the defeat of Balkan War Turkish Army was reorganized. Colonel Hafiz Hakki was made first deputy of the Turkish General Staff. President of the Turkish General staff was German Brigadier Bronzar von Schlefendorf.

source: Staf Col. Ass.Prof. Ismet Gorgulu "On Yillik Harbin Kadrosu" (Personel of the 10 Years long Wars)
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Major Ali Agah Bey

Post by Tosun Saral » 18 Jun 2006 14:28

Major Ali Agah Bey commander of 86th Infantry Regiment
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Post by Tosun Saral » 18 Jun 2006 15:13

Staff Officer of the 28th Division Captain Rifat (Lt. Gen. Mataraci)
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Post by Tosun Saral » 18 Jun 2006 15:22

Major Kazim (General of the Army Orbay) aide of the 3rd Army Commander became 2nd Chief of staff of the Turkish Army in 1944 after the retirement of Great Field Marchall Mustafa Fevzi Cakmak. He commanded Turkish Gendarm Forces in 1930.
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Post by Tosun Saral » 18 Jun 2006 15:41

Major Ziya (Brigadier Yergok Pasha) commander of 83th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Division.
Army registration Nr: P.1315(1899)-30
Brigadier: 1929
Retired September 30th 1930
He wrote his memories "Sarikamistan Esarete" (From Sarikamis to POW Camp"
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