Saturday, 6 March 2010

In Praise of the 'Mehmetcik'

When our friends at Osprey first mentioned that a new Warrior title devoted to the Ottoman Infantryman of 1914 to 1918 I was highly delighted. The title has now been released and the redoubtable Mr.Fox acquired a copy for me at the recent Tonbridge show - Cavalier - on 28th February. Written by the prolific Middle Eastern military historian David Nicolle and illustrated by Christa Hook this book is quite superb. It has the usual Osprey format; lots of black and white photographs and the obligatory colour plates - together with a useful glossary of Turkish military terminology.

I have yet to read this fully but at first glance it reinforces the fact that the Turkish soldier, when properly equipped, supplied and led was a match for any of the empire's enemies and that the main failings existed in the middle command echelon and the appalling logistical handicap they operated under. The army as a whole was not in any sense prepared for a long war - the infrastructure and economy, not to mention the industrial base, was never up to the task of fighting a long and modern war. Having said that, the army, and by extension the empire, outlasted both the Romanovs and the Hapsburgs - by a few years at least which was not bad for the so called 'sick man of Europe'. The raw material of the army was excellent but was poorly served by both faulty leadership and logistics. You could apply the 'Lions led by Donkeys' analogy very easily to the Turkish Army.

I realise I may be biased in favour of anything Turkish related but this book is a welcome reminder of the reasons why the allies held the 'Mehmetcik', the ordinary Asker, in such grudging respect.
I have not checked the Osprey website but I hoping that a Men at Arms title will appear covering the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1912 for obvious reasons - well, they are sitting on my paint tray as I write!

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