Armies of the Greek-Turkish War

In Military History, Featured

In the aftermath of World War I the Ottoman Empire paid dearly for their disastrous decision to join the Central Powers to fight against the Allies. Vast swathes of land were lost through the ensuing armistice, leaving the once great Ottoman Empire a shell of its former self.

It was at this point that Greece decided to strike, with Greek forces occupying Smyrna on 15 May 1919. The Greek-Turkish war would continue for over three years, coming to an end when the Turkish Nationalist Army ousted the Greek occupiers from Smyrna in September 1922.

To give you an idea of the armies involved in the conflict here are a couple of illustrations from the recently published Men-at-Arms 501: Armies of the Greek-Turkish War 1919–22.

9781472806840PA_1Illustration from MAA 501: Armies of the Greek-Turkish War 1919–22

Greek Army, 1920–22

1: Private, Infantry, 7th Division, 1920

This soldier wears the standard winter woollen uniform of the Greek Army, with the M1917 sidecap bearing the yellow-crowned national cockade of the infantry. On his greenish-khaki tunic he displays the plain red collar tabs of the infantry branch, and on his left sleeve four inverted yellow chevrons on red infantry backing show that he is a World War I veteran who has served four six-month periods of service in the front line (these did not have to be consecutive). His woollen trousers, puttees and brown boots were all standard issue to the first Greek troops sent to Asia Minor. Equipment is also standard M1908 issue, with Y-straps supporting on the belt the three ammunition pouches carrying 6.5mm clips for his Mannlicher- Schönauer M1903 rifle. He holds a spare magazine for the 6.5mm version of the French CSRG ‘Chauchat’ that was the standard Greek light machine gun.

2: Corporal, 5/42nd Evzone Regiment; ‘Plastiras Detachment’, 1922

This corporal of the elite Evzones mountain light infantry carries a French-supplied ‘Chauchat’ LMG, and is armed for self-defence with a holstered Steyr M1905 semi-automatic pistol. The famous ‘Plastiras Detachment’, made up of this unit and a small artillery element, fought with some distinction to the very end of the war. The traditional Evzone uniform consists of a khaki fez or farizan (though the black tassel was usually removed in the field), and a doulama coat over a fustinella kilt and long, gartered woollen stockings. His rank of corporal is indicated by the yellow stripe on red backing on his coat sleeves. Although his pigskin tsarouchia mountain shoes with black pompons might look impractical, they were sturdy and comfortable to wear.

3: Staff sergeant, Artillery, summer 1921

From photographic evidence, this senior NCO’s mixed summer uniform of M1908-pattern items is typical. The woollen field cap is from his winter uniform but has a sun curtain attached to shade his neck. The collar of his light khaki cotton summer tunic bears the black branch-of-service tabs of the artillery, and his three rank stripes are displayed on both forearms. The trousers are in winter-weight woollen material, and are worn with woollen puttees. Some Greek weaponry and equipment in 1919–22 came from French sources; this man has an 8mm Mle 1892 artillery carbine and leather equipment from stores left behind in Salonika in 1918.

4: Lance-corporal, Cavalry Division, 1921

This senior soldier from the Cavalry Division wears the French Adrian M1915 steel helmet; like most of those supplied to the Greek Army in 1919–22 this is plain, with no applied frontal badge. The cavalry’s dark green branch colour is shown on the tunic collar tabs, and this was one of the branches of service distinguished by a white cap-badge crown and rank insignia. On his right upper sleeve a single black inverted chevron shows that he has been wounded once. The fact that he does not have any white chevrons on his left upper sleeve means that as yet he has not completed a full six months’ front-line service. His woollen breeches are worn with leather gaiters and ankle boots, although some Greek cavalry received riding boots. On his leather belt he has the ammunition pouches with central button-down flap straps that were particular to mounted troops. He is armed with a Mannlicher-Schönauer M1903/14 carbine, and a cavalry sabre.

 

9781472806840PG_1Illustration from MAA 501: Armies of the Greek-Turkish War 1919–22

Turkish Nationalist Army, 1921–22

1: Captain, Infantry, 1921

This yuzbasi wears the new-style ‘peakless képi’ which was adopted by some Nationalist officers after 1920 alongside the kalpak and the pre-1918 kabalak, and which steadily replaced them. Captain’s rank is shown by the three stars on the green triangular collar patches of his woollen tunic, but note the single green cord around the cap. As a member of Ismet Pasha’s staff this officer has complete Ottoman Army equipment, including binoculars and a mapcase. The Turkish-model Luger P08 semi-automatic pistol was a popular sidearm with Nationalist officers.

2: Major-General Ismet Pasha; first battle of Inonu, January 1921

Mirliva Ismet Pasha was one of the most prominent Turkish commanders of the war, and his decisive command of the Nationalist Army’s Western Front in the defensive battles at Inonu in January and March 1921 was vital to the survival of Turkish resistance. He wears a very plain Ottoman Army officers’ uniform with ‘Sam Browne’ belt, the only insignia being the major-general’s collar ranking according to the new system introduced in about 1920.

3: Cavalry lancer, 1922

During the latter stages of the fighting in Asia Minor a number of lancer units emerged ‘unofficially’ amongst the Nationalist cavalry. This trooper is wearing a greenish-khaki woollen tunic and breeches with high riding boots. His hat is a black oilskin version of the new peakless képi which may even be an ex-Navy item, and has a metal star-and-crescent badge. Other lancer units wore the new model of cylindrical cloth cap, or the older lambswool kalpak. The bamboo lance was an effective weapon in the open warfare of the summer 1922 campaign; he also has a slung Turkish Mauser M1903 rifle, and ex-Ottoman Army cavalry pouches on his pre-1918 belt.

4: Volunteer, Giresun Bodyguard, 1921

This man is a member of Mustafa Kemal’s tough bodyguard unit, which was made up of Topol Osman’s Black Sea volunteers who had previously fought in a ruthless counterinsurgency role. The traditional all-black dress of the Black Sea coastal region served as their distinctive uniform, comprising a headscarf, light jacket, shirt, trousers and soft leather boots. Many Turkish irregulars from all regions wore the ‘Circassian’ belt and dagger, which came in differing designs. The ex-British Army 0.303in Lee Enfield rifle was used by the bodyguard alongside the more usual Turkish Mausers.

 

If you would like to read more about this conflict be sure to pick up Men-at-Arms 501: Armies of the Greek-Turkish War 1919–22 by Philip Jowett, with illustrations by Stephen Walsh.

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