Military Review

Sultan air guards. The combat experience of the First World War and the end of the Ottoman military aviation

28 July 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. So began the First World War. In the ruling circles of the Ottoman Empire, there was no single point of view as to whose side to take in the conflict and whether to enter the war at all. The opinions of the “triumvirate of pasha”, who actually managed the empire and determined its policy, were divided. Jemal Pasha supported cooperation with the Entente, but Enver Pasha and Talaat Pasha were supporters of an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary. In addition, the Ottoman Empire already had sufficiently developed military-political and economic ties with Germany, so the pro-German position eventually won.

2 August 1914 was signed a treaty of alliance with Germany, the country's mobilization of the male population was announced. The Ottoman Empire was preparing to enter the war. However, a significant part of the representatives of the ruling elite still opposed the start of hostilities. The Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha (1863-1921, in the photo) was not a supporter of entry into the war, although it was he who signed the treaty of alliance with Germany as the head of the Ottoman government. Nevertheless, the Minister of War Enver-Pasha and the lower generals decided to join the Ottoman army in the war, without waiting for the approval of the political elite. 29-30 October 1914 The Ottoman fleet shelled the Russian Black Sea ports - Sevastopol, Odessa, Novorossiysk and Theodosia. 2 in November 1914. The Russian Empire declared war on the Ottoman Empire, and on 5 and 6 in November, Great Britain and France entered the war against the Ottoman Empire.

By the time the First World War began, its key participants already had at their disposal not only ground forces and navies, but also military Aviation - A rapidly developing and improving new type of armed forces. The Ottoman Empire also had its own aviation. True, of all the warring powers, the Ottoman Empire had the weakest aviation, which was due to both the lack of scientific and technical potential, financial problems, and the relatively late start of creating its own air forces - the Ottoman government seriously approached the question of creating its own aviation only in 1911 -1912, two to three years before the outbreak of World War I. Immediately before the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, French military instructors were removed from Turkish military aircraft. They were replaced by German officers. Germany also became the main supplier of aircraft and aviation equipment for the needs of the Ottoman army, and German lieutenant Erich Cerno (pictured), promoted to captain, headed the Aviation School in Yoshilköy, the forge of Ottoman military aviation personnel.

Military aviation was subordinated to the 13 Division of the Ottoman Army General Staff and included the Aviation School, the Aeronautical Unit (equipped with balloons and airships), the Meteorological Division and nine aviation companies stationed in the most important areas and subordinate to the command of field armies. It was planned to use aircraft on the Dardanelles, on the Caucasian front and in the Middle East.

From the very beginning of hostilities, the Caucasus Front has become one of the most important areas. On the very first day of the declaration of war, the Russian army crossed the border of the Ottoman Empire. On the border with the Transcaucasian territories of the Russian Empire, the 3rd Ottoman army was then deployed as part of three corps. An attempt to provide the 3rd army with aviation failed due to the actions of the Russian fleet. Initially, the command planned to send two Bleriot aircraft for aerial reconnaissance to the location of the third army. They were loaded onto cargo ships bound for Trabzon.

Together with the aircraft were pilots and captains Salim and Fez. However, on the night of 6 on 7 on November 1914, the Russian ships attacked and sank the Ottoman convoy. The pilots were picked up by Russian sailors and sent to Siberia - to a prisoner of war camp. After this stories The Ottoman Empire did not use aviation on the Caucasian front for 1914. Nor did the Russian troops resort to aviation assistance in the Caucasus. 4 March 1915. The Russian side first used the aircraft against the cavalry division of the Ottoman army on the Caucasian front, but the Ottomans and the entire 1915 year did not use aircraft in this direction. Although the command of the 3 Army requested the General Staff to send aircraft and pilots, staff officers responded that a new aviation company could be formed and deployed to the Caucasian front only after the arrival of new aircraft ordered in Germany.

Sultan air guards. The combat experience of the First World War and the end of the Ottoman military aviation

Much more active in 1914-1915. Ottoman aviation operated on the Dardanelles front. This direction was strategic for the Ottoman command, since the capital, Istanbul, was located in the immediate vicinity. 25 August 1914, before the outbreak of war, the plane of Senior Lieutenant Fazyl arrived at the airfield of Nara, who began reconnaissance flights over the nearby islands, above all Lemnos. The Ottomans conducted aerial reconnaissance throughout September 1914 of the year, studying the movements of the British fleet in the areas of the islands of Lemnos, Bozcaada and Gokcead. Also in the area arrived double seaplane "Nyupor" under the control of Captain Savmi. The actual leadership of aviation in the Dardanelles area was carried out by the captain Serno, a German officer who arrived in анanakkale, who served as aviation adviser to the Ottoman General Staff and the head of the Aviation School. Together with the observer, another German officer, Captain Schneider, Captain Serno also personally participated in reconnaissance flights. Thanks to the conduct of aerial reconnaissance, the Ottomans were able to quickly respond to the movement of the enemy fleet. So, 18 March 1915 managed to repel the attack of enemy ships.

There were three aircraft in anakkale, German pilots - instructors and three Turkish pilots, as well as German technicians. Of these, the 1-I aviation company was formed under the command of German Lieutenant Preusner. Operatively, the company was subordinate to the command of the fortified area of ​​the Dardanelles. In March, 1915 was deployed to the Dardanelles, British and French aircraft. In total, there were 20 English and French aircraft with experienced pilots, but three Turkish aircraft continued reconnaissance flights over the islands near the strait. 18 April 1915 was the first air battle - the Entente planes attacked the Ottoman aircraft, trying to break through to the airfield on the island of Bozcaada.

The Allies planned a landing in the Gallipoli area, so the Ottoman command regularly set for the pilots the task of conducting reconnaissance flights over the coastal areas of the sea surface. During one of the reconnaissance flights, the Ottoman aircraft dropped several bombs on two French cruisers. Of particular concern to the Ottoman command caused a balloon that was on one of the British ships. With him, the enemy carried out the adjustment of the fire. Therefore, the Ottoman aircraft attacked the ship with a balloon, but dropped bombs did not cause serious damage to either the ship or the balloon.

22 June 1915 was another air battle between two Ottoman aircraft and an enemy aircraft. As a result of the battle, one of the Ottoman aircraft was damaged and was forced to make an emergency landing. Ottoman aviation also began spreading propaganda leaflets in English from the airplanes to the enemy soldiers. July 18 Ottoman aircraft attacked the launch of the commander of the forces of the Entente Yen Hamilton. However, the boat commander was not injured.

Due to the small number, the Ottoman aviation could not seriously compete with the Entente aircraft on the Dardanelles direction, but many reconnaissance missions of the Ottoman pilots were quite successful. Therefore, Entente forces made repeated attempts to destroy the military airfield in анanakkale, where Ottoman aircraft were based and from where combat missions took place. In order to mislead the Entente pilots, the Ottoman command set up “false targets” at the airfield - unsuitable for flying airplanes, while combat-ready aircraft were carefully disguised.

The newest aircraft purchased in Germany, armed with machine guns and capable of acting as fighters - bombers, were sent to help the 1 th aviation company. The German command sent Albatros-C and 5 Gotha seaplanes to the Dardanelles 5 direction. The aircraft were transferred to the 1 th aviation company, and three seaplanes - the command of the fortified area. Two more seaplanes left in Istanbul. The first aviation company continued to carry out tasks in conducting aerial reconnaissance, aerial photography of enemy artillery positions, bombardment of artillery positions and ammunition depots. So, 18 September 1915, the Ottoman seaplanes attacked the English ship with a balloon and dropped bombs on it. As a result of the bombardment, the enemy's cruiser caught fire, but the ship with the balloon was not hurt again. At the end of September several more sorties were made, followed by bombardment of enemy ships and boats. As a result of the operation carried out on 19-22 in December 1915 of the year and 8-9 in January of 1916, the Ottoman forces were able to regain control of the Dardanelles and the surrounding area. Thus, it was precisely on the Dardanelles direction that Ottoman aviation received real baptism of fire, including air battles with enemy aircraft and conducting effective bombardment of enemy positions.

The participation of Ottoman aviation in the fighting intensified in 1916 year. By this time, thanks to the help of Germany, 90 aircraft were in service with the Ottoman army and navy. Aviamashin was even more than the pilots - the last were 81 people. In 1916, the Caucasian Front decided to transfer the 7 Aviation Company under the command of Captain Ali Riza-Bey (pictured), but due to bad weather conditions, sending by land from Trabzon to Erzurum direction was postponed. Then the pilots tried to overtake the aircraft in Erzincan by air. But when landing, the first plane fell apart, and the second plane was damaged and also lost its functionality. However, then other planes were delivered to the area.

The whole 1916 year, Ottoman aviation operated on the Caucasian front quite actively, making reconnaissance flights and bombardment of Russian positions. At the end of 1916, the 2 Army with its headquarters in Diyarbakir formed the 10-I Air Company under the command of the German officer-instructor Ober-Lieutenant Westf. In Istanbul, the 8-I aviation company was preparing to ship. In 1917, the situation at the front began to change, which was associated with the February Revolution in Russia and the turbulent political events that followed. 18 December 1917 was a truce with Soviet Russia.

Another area where aviation was used was the Iran-Iraq front. Here operated 2-I aviation company and 12-I aviation company, and in the latter there were no aircraft. Ottoman aviation in the Middle East was opposed by a much more powerful British aviation group, however, the entire 1917 year, the Ottoman aviators made reconnaissance flights, engaged in air battles with enemy aircraft.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the Ottoman military aviation also ceased to exist. However, many military pilots who participated in the First World War subsequently made a huge contribution to the development of the air force of post-Ottoman Turkey. One of them was Wedjhi Hurkush (1896-1969) - one of the most famous Turkish military pilots. After graduating from the famous Aviation School, he took part in the hostilities and became the first Ottoman pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Then, on the Caucasian front, Hurkush was captured by Russian troops. The pilot was able to escape from the island of Nargin and swim to the shore by swimming. Returning to the location of the Ottoman troops, he continued to serve in the 9 th aviation company and in the 1918 year began to design his first fighter aircraft, but this task was not completed by him due to the end of the First World War. Already in the postwar years, in Kemalist Turkey, Hurkyush engaged in aircraft design and all designed several own models of aircraft.

Thus, the First World War became the most serious test for Ottoman military aircraft. She revealed all the flaws in the training of pilots and the logistics of the air force. Ottoman aviation did not succeed, at least approximately, in terms of the air force of the European powers. Only after the collapse of the empire and the creation of Turkey did a new era begin in the development of national armed forces, in which the country's military aviation reached a serious level, becoming one of the most powerful in the region and in the NATO bloc as a whole.

The article was written using materials from Turkish sites and the site
Photos used:,,

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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 28 November 2016 07: 43
    The dawn of aviation in Turkey somehow didn’t really set itself ... romanticism was not enough .. Thank you, Ilya ..
  2. V.ic
    V.ic 28 November 2016 08: 17
    Interesting article. Conclusion: without our own aircraft building, the value of our own aviation tends to "zero".
  3. Reptiloid
    Reptiloid 28 November 2016 10: 41
    An interesting topic that I have not thought about before. Thank you, Ilya.