Turkish Uniforms of the Crimean Era: Part 4

Figure 13: Form a partially-coloured drawing titled '3rd May, 1854, Cavalry Squadron Arriving at Gallipoli'.

Figure 13: Form a partially-coloured drawing titled '3rd May, 1854, Cavalry Squadron Arriving at Gallipoli'Red fez with dark blue tassel held by a brass button, narrow black chinstrap. Red jacket or dolman with plain darkblue collar and round cuffs, yellow (or gold) braiding and buttons, black belts. The trousers are simply shaded in with lead pencil, and have a double yellow (or gold) stripe with a red light between. The shabrack is also shaded with pencil, edged with red tape. The end of the portemanteau is of alternating rings of red and black. An additional note below states: 'for full dress-officers all in gold, menin black with only 1 stripe on the trousers'. This might suggest the shaded trousers and shabrack were intended as black. Also, the mention of a single trouser stripe for the men might suggest this figure was intended as an officer?

Figure 14: Cavalryman, from an uncoloured group drawing titled Turkish Squadron Attached to the 1st Division at Mankolia de Baldchik, l7August, 1854'.Figure 14: Cavalryman, from an uncoloured group drawing titled Turkish Squadron Attached to the 1st Division at Mankolia de Baldchik, l7August, 1854'

The jackets or dolmans are pencil-shaded to indicate a dark colour (possibly dark blue?) with unshaded collar and cuffs and dark braiding on the breast. The trousers are un-shaded, possibly indicating white. In most cases the boots are shaded black, and most figures have unshaded (white?) pouchbelts and carry carbines. Shabracks are of much the same form as that of the last figure, shaded with pencil with a broad unshaded edge lace.
A single officer depicted in rear view in the foreground wears what appears to be a dark officer's tunic of the 'standard' form (as worn by infantry officers), but apparently without any facings or trim except for gold 'passants' on the shoulders, and 6 buttons placed in two sets of 3 on the rear seams of the skirts in imitation of pocket flaps. Unshaded trousers tucked into black kneeboots; a black pouchbelt with rectangular pouch, the flap with a broad edging all round and unclear oval central device. He is armed with what appears to be a scimitar in a steel scabbard, slung from a belt worn under the coat.

Figure 15: Cavalryman from an untitled black and white sketch.

Figure 15: Cavalryman from an untitled black and white sketch.I would assume this to depict the 'new' uniform for cavalry, one of its very rare depictions in Vanson's notebooks. The tunic and trousers would presumably be dark blue; the sketch unshaded and no colour notes are given, so it is impossible to say whether the collar, cuffs and braiding were of a different colour or net. He wears the curious 'stocking cap' mentioned earlier with a leather chinstrap. In this case the bottom band is shaded a darker colour, but there is no patterning which might indicate fur or plush (possibly plain wool of a contrasting colour?).

Figure 16, a-dVanson sketched 4 collars with variations of NCOs rank devices on them

Vanson sketched 4 collars with variations of NCOs rank devices on them. Unfortunately, he was unable to define exactly what ranks they represented, though he thought the chevron (16a) might equate roughly to sergeant; the horizontal bar (16b) appears to have indicated a somewhat lower rank, possibly equating to corporal? 16c and 16d are a total mystery; they might indicate staff appointments or special functions.

Foreign Auxiliary Contingents

A few brief notes on the Turkish foreign auxiliary contingents sent to the war zone. There were two: an Egyptian expeditionary force of some 15,000 men of all arms, raised by Sa'id Pasha in 1854, and a Tunisian force eventually numbering some 10,000 men raised by the Bey Ahmad (supposedly from the proceeds of selling his wife's jewellery) which were sent to the war zone piecemeal during 1854-55. Details of their service records are scanty but both appear to have initially served in the Balkans, after which at least some elements of both corps are supposed to have served in the Crimea. Elements of the Egyptian contingent are said to have aided in the defence of Eupatoria in 1855, and the Tunisians are often held responsible for the loss of the guns at Balaclava which led to the charge of the Light Brigade.
Vanson did a few sketches and notes on men of both contingents, enough to give at least a few hints as to their uniforms.

The Eyptian Contingent

Other ranks wore a uniform very similar to the 'old' uniform of the Turks: dark blue waist-length jackets trimmed with red tape on collar, cuffs and shoulderstraps (sometimes a bit more elaborately than the Turks), which seem to have been generally worn with long Western-style trousers of dark blue wool or white cotton. Infantry seem to have generally used white crossbelt equipment. Vanson noted that 'the distinctions of the Egyptians are Chechias (a type of fez) of a more rounded form than the Turks, worn over a white skullcap. Their vestes are pointed, longer than those of the Turks, and always fastened with hooks and eyes'. The sketches generally depict the lower-ranking Egyptians as very dark skinned, often with rather negroid features (it is unclear to what extent the force included Sudanese negroes).

Figure 17: Egyptian Infantry NCO, from a sketch simply entitled 'E. no. 6', but which clearly depicts an Figure 17: Egyptian Infantry NCO, from a sketch simply entitled 'E. no. 6', but which clearly depicts an Egyptian inf antryman, judging from other sketchesEgyptian inf antryman, judging from other sketches.

The headgear depicted is the low rounded red 'chechia' with dark blue tassel, normally worn over a white cotton skullcap which appears as a narrow edging at the bottom. Dark bluejacket worn partially unhooked at the bottom (this would normally be fully fastened, cut to a rather pronounced point at the bottom); the collar, cuffs and shoulderstraps are trimmed with red tape. The long trousers are shaded a somewhat lighter shade than the jacket, probably simply a faded darkblue and without trim. Native slippers (brown?) and white crossbelts. The presence of the sabre would seem to suggest an NCO, though no other rank insignia is visible (it is not clear if the Egyptians used the Turkish form of rank insignia or not). The function of the narrow belt circling the hips is unknown.
Going on to other branches of service, Vanson depicted 2 Egyptian foot artillerymen, both dressed very similarly to the infantry, one with long dark blue trousers with a red piping down the outer seam, the other with plain unshaded (possibly white) trousers. Both carry a large 'Roman-type' short sword in an elaborately cut and tooled frog on a white bandolier over the right shoulder (no belt over the left). The figure with unshaded trousers has a single wide tape edging the bottom of the collar and 2 wide tapes circling the top of the cuff (might the number of tapes indicate rank?). The other figure's collar is identical to that of Figure 17, his cuffs have a wide tape circling the top with a narrow piping edging the bottom and rear opening.
A sketch and description of horse artillerymen give a uniform virtually identical to the foot artillery with a Western-type light cavalry sabre slung from a narrow white waistbelt with S-hook (the description quotes a French light cavalry sabre with white leather knot, also of French form). The depiction shows a plain white bandolier over the left shoulder and what appear to be Western-type boots with attached spurs; his jacket trim is identical to Figure 17.
Finally an infantry filer sketched at Varna wears a dark waist-length jacket with wide unshaded tape edging the bottom of the collar and top of the cuffs, and 5 horizontal lines of tape down the breast, with tassels at both ends. He wears loose white kneelength pantaloons, bare lower legs, black slippers, a rather wide black waistbelt and a fife case on a wide black bandolier over the right shoulder.
Unfortunately, Vanson gives no indication of the dress of the Egyptian cavalry, and did not depict or describe a single Egyptian officer, so it's unclear if the latter wore a Western-style uniform like the Turks or dressed more like their men.

The Tunisian Contingent

Other ranks seem to have generally worn a dark blue jacket cut similarly to that of the Egyptians but with red collar and pointed cuffs, loose 'peg-top' trousers tightening toward the ankle, native slippers or short boots, and the tall stiffened 'Tunisian Tarbash' as headgear. Vanson noted, in relation to a 'Tunisian Post at the Court of Teras Quier...':' uniforms as depicted opposite, the whole badly-fitting and rumpled, white cravats for all. Old white belts with large pouches. Sabres on white belts for NCOs, the sabre a 'briquet' without knot or ornament'.

Figure 18: Tunisian infantry officer from a black and white sketch titled Tunisian Officer, Constantinople, Figure 18: Tunisian infantry officer from a black and white sketch titled Tunisian Officer, Constantinople, 1854'.1854'.

This figure wears a somewhat more elaborate form of the men's dress, showing distinct French influence. His jacket is buttoned rather than hooked, with 3-point collar patches and round cuffs with 3-point flaps, probably all in red (were the cuff flaps really without buttons, or is the sketch simply unfinished?), gold lace 'passants' on the shoulders, and lace circling the cuff (conceivably indicating rank?). His red trousers appear to be of a more Western cut than the men's, but still loose and baggy. The Tunisian cravat, in all these depictions, appears to be a length of soft white material simply wound around the throat, rather than a stiff stock. The tall Tarbash was stiffened inside with cardboard, and could become quite unsightly after a good rain or two.

Figure 19: Tunisian Infantryman, from a sketch titled Tunisian, 20 September 1854, Teras Kierat'

Figure 18: Tunisian infantry officer from a black and white sketch titled Tunisian Officer, Constantinople, 1854'.Red 'tarbash' with dark blue tassel; there appear to be 2 lines of stitching around the base, possibly attaching the cardboard lining. Dark blue hooked jacket with red collar and pointed cuffs, and what appears to be a shoulderstrap on the left (not mentioned in the text). Loose red trousers, white cravat and bandolier over the left shoulder. I hypothesise the pouch belt was of the old French Napoleonic model, with bayonet scabbard attached just in front of the pouch; the musket might be of the same provenance, as it appears to be a flintlock. Another sketch of a rather negroid-appearing infantryman, depicted facing left and without belts, shows a rather large rectangular yellow patch or loop across the left shoulder; this might be an attachment for a detachable shoulderstrap, or, alternately, might it be some form of rank insignia?
Vanson left no further sketches of Tunisian troops, though he did give a description of a Tunisian Artilleryman ... 'blue hooked veste without piping, scarlet collar and pointed cuffs, nothing on the shoulders. Blue trousers, white cravat. Pouch and belt of an officer of artillery, except that the lion's head is replaced by a brass disc with 2 cannon in relief. Old waistbelt of an artillery officer, almost invisible under the veste, with black straps but no sabre'... (I suspect these belts were all black, leading Vanson to compare them to French artillery officer's models?). This individual is further described as wearing 'a Tarbash like the other, but without plate'... it is unclear what 'other' Vanson is referring to; I searched in vain for any further description or sketch of a Tunisian artilleryman with cap plate (though some of Vanson's notes are virtually indecipherable, so it's possible I simply couldn't read it). Clearly some artillerymen wore such a cap badge, as Roubicek quotes an 1849 source describing an artilleryman wearing a 'tarboosh' with chinstrap and a large brass flaming grenade badge on the front (might this same device have still been in use?).


General Vanson: Album 'Crimée', vol. 2. Bibliotheque de la Musée de l'Armèe, Paris.
Roubicek, Marcel: Modern Ottoman Troops 1797-1915.
Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1978.
Roubicek, Marcel: Early Modern Arab Armies. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1977

Reproduced from 'Soldiers of the Queen', issue 85

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