By John Sheehan
Inonu Turkey, March 30, 1921: “Fix bayonets!” Ahmed unsheathed his Model 1903 “quill-backed” bayonet, aligned it properly with the muzzle and bayonet lug, pulling downward to snap the bayonet in place. The tempo of the artillery barrage was beginning to slow. “Load!” His hands were shaking as he placed a 5-round charger within the guide slot of the Mauser, stripping the rounds into the magazine with his left thumb. He chambered a 7.65x53mm cartridge, engaging the safety immediately afterward.
A squadron of Turkish cavalry poses for a unit photograph.
“Steady men!” said the NCO as he walked along the trench, his very presence having a calming effect on the soldiers huddled on the floor of the trench. “Positions!” Ahmed climbed onto the fire-step, peering over the parapet, past the barbed wire entanglement toward the Greek trench. Artillery shells were raining down all across the Greek position in an indescribable crescendo of mayhem. He flipped the flag safety of his rifle to “safe” as he gripped the wrung of the assault ladder and tried to bury his fears deep inside. The chorus of explosions pounding the Greek lines began to fade. He tried to screw up his courage as his hand trembled on the ladder.
The NCO raised the whistle to his mouth, blowing a mournful, piercing note, a single voice crying out, “Allahu Akbar!” Choruses of “Allahu Akbar!” rang out in response along the entire length of the trench, as the Turkish infantry rose as one and scrambled up the ladders and over the parapet. Smoke and dust from the artillery barrage drifted slowly across the Front, obscuring the Greek position as the Turks ran towards the lanes the engineers had cleared in the wire.
The machine gun to Ahmed’s right opened up, firing over the advancing infantry, spraying the top of the Greek parapet in short bursts. The experienced gunner slapped the side of the receiver after each depression of the trigger, traversing the gun incrementally across the enemy position in an attempt to keep the Greeks pinned down. Sporadic fire erupted along the Greek trench as Ahmed sprinted into the inferno, praying to Allah he would see another sunrise.
These three successive Turkish Mausers Infantry Rifles, (top to bottom) the M1890,
M1893 and M1903, were each adopted in turn based on the substitution clause in
the original 1887 contract with Mauser.
Obsolete Turkish-issue rifles still in use by rear-echelon troops: included (from top to bottom)
the M1866 rolling-block rifle, M1874 Peabody-Martini converted to 7.65x53mm and the M1874
Peabody-Martini chambered in the original .45 Turkish black-powder cartridge.
The Small Arms
The Turkish Nationalist Army was equipped with many of the same weapons the Ottoman army went to war with in 1914. To this surviving inventory were added a dizzying array of additional weapons acquired during the Great War from their allies. Turkey had been a member of the Central Powers throughout the entire war, unlike Greece, which became a belligerent during the final campaigns. The vast majority of the weapons available to the Turks were a variety of Turkish and German Mausers.
Beginning in 1887, the Ottoman Empire had turned to Germany for their rifles and carbines, placing an order for 600,000 Model 1887 black-powder rifles and carbines with the Mauser brothers. This order saved the Mauser Company from potential insolvency, and put the firm on the map of world-class arms manufacturers. The contract was very interesting in that, while the number of rifles and carbines to be purchased was spelled out in detail, a particular clause in the contract resulted in the eventual delivery of a wide variety of different designs.
The initial designs built for the Turkish order were the Model 1887 rifles and carbines. This was the last of the Mauser black-powder cartridge rifle designs, which featured a Kropatchek tubular magazine in the forearm of the stock. However, the French army had just recently introduced the Mle 1886 Lebel, the first smallbore, smokeless-powder rifle introduced by any army in the world. Sensing small arms were about to go through a revolutionary phase of development, the Turks had included a clause in the original contract allowing them to switch models in the event Mauser developed newer, more effective designs. This novel contract resulted in the adoption of three different models within the time span of the original Mauser contract. Supplemental orders for additional weapons were placed right before WWI in order to replace losses incurred during the First Balkan War.
Turkish troops man the fire-step of a trench line. Note the Model 1893 Mauser carried
by the soldier in the center. A long M1903 bayonet scabbard can be seen carried by the
soldier in the right foreground.
Mustapha Kemal, (left) the great Turkish general and leader of Turkish forces during
WWI and the Turkish War of Independence, known in the West as the Greco-Turkish War.
This photo was taken during WWI in the Turkish trenches at Gallipoli.
The Turkish M1890
Following the introduction of the first smokeless-powder Mauser, the Belgian Model 1889, the Turks evoked the clause in their contract and shifted production from the Model 1887 to what became known as the Model 1890 Turkish Mauser. The Model 1890 was nearly identical to the Model 1889 Belgian Mauser, with most of the parts being interchangeable. The Model 1890 is a bolt-action repeating rifle, with an extended magazine holding five rounds of 7.65x53mm ammunition, stacked vertically. The rifle is loaded via the ingenious charger loading system developed and patented by Paul Mauser.
The major difference between the Turkish and Belgian rifles is the absence of a full-length barrel jacket on the Turkish Model. With the elimination of the barrel jacket, a wooden handguard was added just ahead of the rear sight. After the adoption of the Model 1889 by the Belgian army, but prior to the sealing of the Turkish Model 1890 pattern, the Mauser firm had solved one of the primary problems the barrel jacket had sought to overcome.
The Model 1890 was the first Mauser rifle to introduce a stepped-barrel design to help resolve the shifting of the point of impact of the bullet away from the point of aim as the barrel became hot during prolonged firing. A small space was relieved ahead of each step in the barrel when the stock inletting was cut. This allowed the barrel to expand forward in a linear direction during continual firing without putting undue pressure on the stock, which would otherwise have adversely affected the barrel harmonics, negatively affecting accuracy. This feature was so successful, it was incorporated in every subsequent Mauser design. The stock of the Model 1890 was made of European walnut. The rifle was issued with the long Model 1890 sword bayonet with recurved quillion.
A fierce-looking collection of Turkish soldiers sporting mustaches pose for the camera.
This photo is an interesting study in the logistical nightmare facing the Turks with such
a dizzying array of different caliber small arms.
The Model 1893
In 1893, the Turks changed models yet again with the introduction of the new Model 93 Mauser design, which incorporated a unique and patented staggered box magazine. This eliminated the extended magazine of the Model 1890 while retaining the same 5-round capacity of 7.65x53mm ammunition. The floorplate of the new magazine was flush with the bottom line of the stock, a feature appearing on all subsequent Mauser designs to the present day.
Another addition to the Model 1893 was the magazine cut-off, a dubious apparatus still in vogue prior to the widespread adoption of the machine gun, which replaced the rifle for the purpose of providing long-range plunging area fire. With the magazine cut-off engaged, the top round in the magazine was depressed low enough when cycling, the bolt did not engage the rim of the top cartridge in the magazine. Single rounds of ammunition could be dropped into the open bolt way, chambered and fired while retaining the five cartridges in the magazine in reserve.
This practice was in part a throw back to ordnance officers’ concerns over the necessity of supplying an endless stream of ammunition to troops capable of expending all of their rounds in the first few minutes of an engagement. The Turkish Model 1893 was the only smokeless powder Mauser rifle ever developed with a magazine cut-off. The cut-off was mounted within a metal housing incorporated in the walnut stock just below the open bolt way.
This rare photo of Mustapha Kemal was taken while test firing a Model 1903
Turkish Mauser. Kemal was a great military leader who went on to become the
father of modern Turkey.
The Model 1903
The M1903 Turkish Mauser was the first of the large-ring receiver models sold to Turkey, and the last of the rifles produced under the original contract. The Model 1903 was a modified version of the famous Gew 98 Mauser — the grandfather of the Kar 98 of WWII fame. While the design of the bolt and action are the same as the Gew 98, the actual dimensions of the bolt and receiver are in fact longer than the German model. This is rather unusual, in that the M1903 was chambered for the same cartridge as the M1890 and 1893 small-ring actions, the 7.65x53mm. Since this cartridge is slightly shorter in overall length compared to the German 8x57mm Mauser cartridge, it is not entirely clear why the Turkish M1903 was produced with a longer action than its famous cousin.
The bolt design incorporates a third locking lug for additional safety, two gas escape channels drilled into the bolt body and a gas deflection shield mounted on the forward face of the bolt shroud. Like the Model 1893, the Model 1903 has a staggered, inline 5-round magazine. All three of these models were equipped with the standard Mauser flag safety.
The German Gew 88/05 with Turkish Markings and Model 1887 Turkish bayonet (top)
and German Gew 98 with Turkish Markings and an all-metal German M1916 ersatz bayonet,
were supplied to Turkey in large numbers during WWI after they were withdrawn from German service.
The Model 1905 Carbine
Prior to the introduction of the M1905 Turkish carbine, which was purchased from Mauser, the Turkish cavalry had been armed with a combination of outdated arms including the black-powder M1887 Mauser carbine, along with smokeless-powder conversions of the M1874 Peabody-Martini single-shot rifle. They were in desperate need of modern carbines and received them in the form of the compact, quick-handling M1905 Mauser.
Like the M1903 rifle, this excellent little carbine was patterned on the 1898 Mauser action. The carbine had a full-length stock with a nose cap flush with the muzzle. There was no provision for a bayonet, as the Turkish cavalrymen at the time were still carrying sabers and lances in the same vein as their European counterparts. The M1905 had a 5-round staggered box magazine and was also loaded via the patented Mauser charger system. There are slight variations to be found among surviving examples of these rare carbines. The M1905 was issued primarily to the cavalry, but also to engineers and other specialty troops.
Large quantities of the British No.1 Mk III Short Magazine Lee Enfield were
captured by the Turks from British and Australian troops during the disastrous
Gallipoli campaign, as well as during the fighting in Mesopotamia.
The entire family of Turkish bayonets include (from left to right and top to bottom)
M1903 short-bladed variation, M1916 all-metal ersatz bayonet manufactured during WWI,
M1903 “pipe backed” bayonet, M1890 sword bayonet, M1887 sword bayonet, M1874 bayonet
(shortened for issue with the 7.65x53mm conversions) and the M1874 sword bayonet for
As early as late 1916, the Germans supplied the Turks with arms and munitions in support of the Turkish war effort from Gallipoli to Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt and the Caucasus, in order to tie up substantial numbers of Allied troops which otherwise would be employed on the Western Front.
The earliest weapons sent to Turkey by her German and Austro-Hungarian Allies were captured Russian M1891 3-Line Rifles, better know to today’s collectors as the Mosin-Nagant. These Russian weapons supplemented rifles captured by the Turks directly from the Russians during the various campaigns fought in the Caucasus, a mountainous region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea that separated southern Russia from the northern-most reaches of the Ottoman Empire.
Next on the list of foreign-supplied rifles, were Gew 88s that had first been sent by Germany to Austria-Hungary at the outbreak of the war, who in turn had issued them to their own troops as the M13. These rifles were in the original, unaltered Mannlicher configuration, and had not been converted to the Mauser charger loading system. They still required the en-bloc Mannlicher clip, which was loaded frame-and-all into the magazine. (These Austrian-issue rifles can be differentiated from their German counterparts by the addition of an oversized sling-swivel loop, which replaced the standard German detachable swivel on the underside of the butt. The enlarged swivel was designed to allow the retention buckle on the Austro-Hungarian Model 1893 sling to be mounted on the rifle.) As production of Model 1895 Mannlichers increased, Austria-Hungary withdrew the Gew 88 rifles from service and shipped them to their Turkish allies.
As German small-arms production of the Gew 98 and Kar 98a increased during the war, a large percentage of the Gew 88S and the updated Gew 88/05 rifles in German service were sent to Turkey, beginning in late 1916. While the Gew 88S was still dependent on the use of Mannlicher en-bloc clips, the Gew 88/05 had been converted to the charger loading system. By late 1917, German small-arms production had increased to the extent that they were able to ship large numbers of standard Gew 98 Infantry Rifles to Turkey, along with lesser numbers of the then-popular Kar 98a. All German-issued rifles supplied to the Ottomans during WWI were chambered for the 8x57mm Mauser cartridge.
The Turks had captured quantities of French weapons both at Gallipoli and during the fighting in Palestine. Turkish inventories at the end of the WWI listed reasonable quantities of both the Mle 1886/93 Lebel and the Mle 1907/15 Berthier. These rifles saw service with second-line Turkish units during the Greco-Turkish War. Similar numbers of No. 1 Mk III Lee-Enfield were captured from British sources, however, what became of them remains a mystery, as they do not show up on any of the Turkish inventories after WWI. Among the obsolete weapons still in service with rear-echelon troops, were remnant quantities of the black-powder era Model 1887 Mauser rifles and carbines and the Model 1874 Peabody-Martini. Some of the surviving Peabody-Martinis had been converted to the 7.65x53mm cartridge both before and during the First Balkan War in 1912.
Turkish soldiers stand for a group photo with a Maxim machine gun crew.
Mainstay arms of the new Turkish army, held over from before WWI, included
(from top to bottom over the Turkish National Flag) the Model 1905 Cavalry Carbine,
M1903 Infantry Rifle, M1893 Infantry Rifle and the M1890 Infantry Rifle.
Receiver markings of a Model 1903 Turkish Mauser start with
the symbol at the top: the Toughra, the mark of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II,
who held the Ottoman throne from 1876 until 1909, the period during
which the majority of the Mauser contract rifles were produced.
All of the standard M98 features of the Model 1903 are apparent in this
detailed close up. This beautiful M1903 Turkish Mauser is 100-percent
matching and still chambered for the original 7.65x53mm cartridge.
The Toughra of Sultan Abdulaziz appears here on the side of the receiver
of a Model 1874 Peabody-Martini, converted to 7.65x53mm smokeless
cartridge prior to the First Balkan War (top). These reworked single-shot rifles
were issued to the cavalry prior to the introduction of the Model 1905 Carbine.
On the opposite side of the receiver is the identification of the Peabody Tool
Company of Providence, R.I.
Patterned after the M1889 Belgian Infantry Rifle, the Turkish Model
1890 Mauser (above) was also chambered for the Belgian 7.65x53mm
round. Standard practice of the day saw most cavalry carbines produced
with turned-down bolt handles. The Turkish Model 1905 (below)
Carbine was no exception.
The M1905 Carbine came with slightly different nose caps, one with
protective sight wings and an almost flush clearing rod, mounted in
a slot incorporated below the muzzle (left). The other featured sight
wings, but lacked the clearing rod. Which variation was issued to
the cavalry vs. the engineers or artillery is not fully understood.
SMALL ARMS IN TURKISH SERVICE
|Mauser M1890, M1893 & M1903||Rifles||7.65x53mm|
|Mauser M 1905||Carbines||7.65x53mm|
|German Commission Gew 88||Rifles||8x57mmJ|
|German Commission Gew 88/05||Rifles||8x57mmS|
|Mauser Gew 98||Rifles||8x57mmS|
|Mauser Kar 98a||Short Rifles||8x57mmS|
|Russian M1891 3-Line (Mosin-Nagant)||Rifles||7.62x54mmR|
|French Mle 1886 Lebel||Rifles||8x51mmR|
|French Mle 1907-15 Berthier||Rifles||8x51mmR|
|Turkish Mauser M1887||Rifles & Carbines||9.5x60mmR|
|Peabody-Martinis M1874||Rifles||7.65x53mm & .45 Turkish|
|Short Magazine Lee Enfield No 1 Mk III||Rifles||.303|
Quantities of arms unknown
AUTHOR’S NOTE: A s the above inventory shows, the logistical nightmare presented by ammunition supply was not solely the problem of the Greek forces during the Greco-Turkish War. There is no surviving inventory that I am aware of in English that provides a detailed numerical breakdown of each of the above models in Turkish armories in 1919 or during the course of the war.
By John Sheehan
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