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Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era: Part 2

Figure 1: Infantry Office from a drawing entitled 'Infantry of the Army of the Danube Arriving in the Lines, 13 April'.

 

Figure 1: Infantry Office from a drawing entitled 'Infantry of the Army of the Danube Arriving in the Lines, 13 April'.This drawing has no colour notes, but a series of notes and detail sketches titled 'Turkish infantry guarding the street of the intendance' gives good colour details of almost identical uniforms: 'Tunic and trousers Prussian Blue, generally 9 gilt buttons down the front, red tape edging the front opening, bottom of collar, (rear) pocket flaps, cuffs and trousers, straight-bladed swords for subaltern officers'.

 

This figure differs only in carrying a scimitar instead of a straight-bladed sword and having no piping on the trouser seams. Collar and cuffs would be dark blue, shoulder 'passants' gold, boots black, the fez red with a dark blue (less commonly, black) tassel. The waistbelt depicted appears so commonly in Vanson's sketches of officers it might almost be considered a 'standard' model; he described it as of gold lace with a red centre line and red Morrocco lining.

The uniform depicted here would appear to be the most common variant of the 'standardized' officers uniform, judging from the frequency of its appearance in Vanson's drawings and notes. The only unusual element is the description of the officers' uniforms as 'Prussian blue'. I noted only one other occasion where Vanson used this term, also in reference to an officer's uniform. The term 'Prussian blue' is generally taken to refer to a very dark shade with a bit of black added to the dye to retard fading and discolouration, a practice which had become normal in most western armies by this period. By contrast, most sources would seem to suggest that the Turkish army continued to use a plain unmixed indigo dye for their uniforms till quite late in the century (the contemporary Spanish army, which followed the same practice, referred to the shade as 'Turkish blue').

 

Some additional support for this notion is provided by the fact that Vanson described a number of figures as wearing 'light' or 'lightish blue' tunics, with 'darker blue' trousers. I take this to mean the tunics were simply faded, which would be much more likely with a plain indigo dye than with the mixed shade. I think in using the term 'Prussian blue' Vanson was trying to indicate the use by a few officers of the darker mixed shade, either for practical reasons or simpiy to be stylish.

 

As a note of interest, the officer in the drawing is depicted leading troops wearing the 'old' uniform, while the description quotes the other ranks as wearing the 'new' uniform in 'plain blue', with 7 brass buttons down the front of the tunic, flapped cuffs, no rear pocket flaps, no trim on the trouser seams, and white crossbelts (the latter apparently rather unusual with the 'new' uniform). The officer's uniforms in both cases being virtually identical, despite what their men might be wearing.

 

Figure 2: Infantryman from a drawing titled 'August 1854, Bivouac at Balaclava'.

 

Figure 2: Infantryman from a drawing titled 'August 1854, Bivouac at Balaclava'.This illustrates a more-or-less standard 'old' uniform. No colour notes are given, but I think it would be safe to assume a dark blue jacket and trousers, the bottom of the collar, shoulderstraps and top of the cuffs edged with red tape; the cuffs are dearly open up the rear seam. While this would seem to have been the most common pattern, variations in trim occurred, most notably on the collar, which might be edged on all sides with red tape, or on the top and front only, sometimes with variations in the width of the tape. What appears to be a cap pouch is worn on the right front of the waistbelt, flanked by a second pouch of unknown function. A small 'squiggley' line is depicted on the right breast; conceivably a touch-hole needle on a chain or cord? The lower legs are covered by stockings with native shoes; unfortunately, Vanson rarely noted stocking colours, though in one set of notes he quotes them as 'brown'.

 

Figure 3: Turkish Infantryman of the 1st Division Debarking at Kamiesch, 7 April 1855'

 

 

Except for the headgear, this seems a more-or-less standard representation of the 'new' uniform. Again, no colour notes, but the tunic and trousers would Figure 3: Turkish Infantryman of the 1st Division Debarking at Kamiesch, 7 April 1855'be dark blue, the bottom of the collar, shoulderstraps, top of the cuffs and cuff flaps edged with red tape, brass buttons, black belts with brass plate. The boots are unshaded but appear to be of 'Western' type, presumably black. A unit number is occasionally depicted on the shoulderstraps, as here (in red?). Infantry other ranks trousers were generally worn loose over the boots, seldom with any trim on the outer seam. The same variations of trim might occur on the tunic collar as worn on the 'old' uniform, though cuffs tend to be more standardized. The rear of the other ranks tunic was generally plain, with 2 buttons at the back of the waist, a slit up the centre seam of the skirts to the waist, rarely with pocket flaps or coloured trim.

 

Unfortunately, General Vanson gives no details of either colour or purpose for this curious 'stocking cap', which appears in a number of his drawings. It might be some sort of cold-weather headgear, or, conceivably some indication of the troops' national origin (personally, I tend to the former explanation). In this particular drawing the band is detailed in such a way as to seem to indicate a 'nappy' material, possibly fur or some sort of plush? More commonly it is depicted as flat and plain, but shaded darker than the body of the cap.

 

Figure 4: NCO from a drawing entitled 'Chasseurs of the Army of the Danube, 12 April, 1855'

 

Figure 4: NCO from a drawing entitled 'Chasseurs of the Army of the Danube, 12 April, 1855'There has been some question raised among different sources as to the status and function of Chasseur battalions in the Turkish army during this period, and even whether they existed at all. Vanson definitely depicted some figures he designated as 'Chasseurs', though he sheds no further light on the matter. The point these 'Chasseurs' seem to have in common is that they almost invariably wear the 'new' uniform with late-model French waistbelt equipment, and are armed with what appear to be French rifled 'carabines' with sabre bayonets. Unfortunately, in no case does he give any colour description for them, though the uniforms depicted appear to be of the normal 'new' model. The very fact that no unusual features or anomalies are noted would tend to suggest to me that they were, in fact, the normal infantry uniform. Possibly these 'Chasseur' battalions were simply ordinary infantry battalions armed with rifled firearms and perhaps given some rudimentary training in light infantry tactics, rather than a separate corps?

The figure depicted here does show some unique features: the piping or tape down the front opening of his tunic appears to end at the waist, he wears what appear to be 'Western' -style gaiters under his trousers, and the curious scalloped edging to his collar (which might conceivably constitute part of his rank insignia, in addition to the chevron on his collar). The shading of this figure would seem to indicate the tunic was somewhat lighter than the trousers, possibly faded?

 

An officer appearing in the same drawing also shows some unusual features: his tunic is of the normal officer's cut but without front piping and with unshaded collar and round cuffs (possibly indicating entirely red, since the tunic itself is shaded). The trousers are worn loose, over the boots, with the suggestion of a stripe or piping down the outer seam. Over all he wears a sort of knee-length cape shaded dark with an unshaded sawtooth edging all around, a hint of some sort of decoration around the shoulder area, fastened at the throat with a clasp.

 

Figure 5: Infantryman from a drawing titled 'Turkish Infantry Embarking for the Expedition, Varna, 30 August'.

 

This figure appears to wear a normal 'old' model uniform with the distinctive Turkish gaiters, gartered at the knee. These were simply a sort of long tube of woollen material, Figure 5: Infantryman from a drawing titled 'Turkish Infantry Embarking for the Expedition, Varna, 30 August'.drawn on over the foot, reaching above the knee, usually without straps under the instep. On a number of occasions Vanson described them as being made 'of the same coarse grey woollen material as the greatcoats'; on other occasions they were described as black or various shades of brown.

 

The shaded item depicted just below the waist is a detached hood similar to the Russian 'bashlyk', an item appearing in a number of Vanson sketches, though more commonly tied around the neck 'boyscout' fashion (on one occasion such a hood is described as black).

 

The black cartridge pouch has a circular brass plate embossed with a 5-point star; Vanson indicates this as by far the most common form of pouch device, though a cut-out star sometimes appears, or occasionally a more elaborate type of 6-point star on a disc.

 

His pack or haversac is a simply-made flapped sack of canvas, one of a variety of types in use, with a blanket tied around it. A large iron waterbottle of Russian type is slung at the rear of the pack (the most common model in use, according to Vanson). The brass button attaching the fez tassel is dearly visible in this view.

 

Figure 6: Infantry NCO from a drawing entitled Turkish Contingent, Balaclava Bivouac, August 1854'.

 

Figure 6: Infantry NCO from a drawing entitled Turkish Contingent, Balaclava Bivouac, August 1854'.I would assume the upper garment depicted is some sort of short greatcoat, one of a variety of types in use. Since it is unshaded (unlike the trousers, which are presumably dark blue) I would assume it to be of a different colour, possibly some shade of grey, and trimmed with red tape on collar, cuffs and shoulderstraps.

Native shoes are strapped over the 'foot' part of the gaiters, which are ungartered. simply drawn up loosely above the knee. Belts appear to be white, and a roll of some sort (probably a blanket) is slung across the back. His rank insignia comprises a chevron on either side of the collar (worn diag- onally, rather than the more common straight up-and-down placement) and a short sabre on a bandolier. While there was a system of NCO rank insignia, worn on the collar, Vanson indicates that NCOs were frequently to be distinguished only by the fact they carried some type of short sword (generally of a variety of Western or pseudo-Western models), and often had more modern firearms than their men.

Unfortunately, Vanson gives no indication whatever of the colour or material of NCOs' rank insignia: I suspect it may have been of the same red tape used to trim the tunic, but gold lace or even embroidery are equally possible.

 

 

Reproduced from 'Soldiers of the Queen', issue 85

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