The Chataldzha position



The entrenched line of Chataldzha (Çatalca), about 35 km west of Istambul, stretched from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, covering the approach to the Turkish capital. It took its name from a small village, which lay a little in front of the main line of defence. The fortified line itself ran along a ridge of high ground which extended between two lakes, Terkos Gölö on the north and Buyuk Çekmece Gölö on the south.

Beginning in the north, the lake of Terkos Gölö formed an 8 km long water obstacle. Then, traveling south, a high ridge centered on the village of Hadimköy laterally blocked the east-west approaches to Istambul and, in military terms, represented the dominant terrain on the peninsula. The ridgeline was largely open grassland and offered excellent observation post to the west. Overlooking the Terkos Gölö, the ridge rose to a height of 162 m above sea level. At Hadimköy, the ridgeline was 180 m above sea level, and overlooking the coastal town of Büyük Çekmece on the Sea of Marmara, the ridge peaked at 198 m. On the west side of the ridge, nearly at sea level, there were the small tributaries of the Karasu Dere and the Sazli Dere, which empty into the northern end of the Buyuk Çekmece Gölö (an arm of the Sea of Marmara). This natural lake extended 8 km inland and created a natural water obstacle mirroring the Terkos Gölö in the north. Because of these coastal lakes, the actual defensible terrain requirement at the Chataldzha position was a front of only 26 km in length.


The Chataldzha position was invested by the Russian Army in February 1878, but it was not attacked since the  armistice had been already signed. The fortifications were planned and constructed by Blum Pasha, the same German engineer who had built those at Odrin, and the tracés and profiles were of the same character. In 1878, along the ridgeline there were 21 redoubts out of the planned 37, disposed irregularly in three lines and connected by trenches. Some works were incompleted, and the garrison, composed by only 30,000 men, was insufficient, but the position as a whole was a powerful obstacle on the way towards Istanbul.

Between 1878 and 1912, the Turks considerably strengthened and fortified the position. At first they added 8 new redoubts. All the works built until then had a high profile, a typical feature of the forts at that time. Then they decided to convert the existing provisional forts into modern permanent forts. The Belgian general Brialmont suggested a plan for the fortification of the Chataldzha lines, which included seven strong permanent forts, but only three were actually built, and almost all the rest of the works existing in 1912 dated from 1878. With advice from the German staff officers, the Turks rebuilt or constructed a line of 10 forts running north to south at the western base of the Chataldzha ridgeline. These were mostly concrete revetments with earthworks facing the enemy, and permanent artillery was installed in some of them. At that time the position as a whole was armed with nearly 180 fortress and field guns and howitzers.

Centrally located ammunition depots in covered ground on the ridge itself and an underground telephone and telegraph system linking the forts completed the defensive arrangements. The position was strengthened also by the existence of a railroad and paved roads linking it to the capital. Finally, the proximity of Istambul itself, with its hospitals, small arms and munfactories, docks, and railyards, was an immense source of logistical support for the Ottoman Army at Chataldzha. The position was designated as the Chataldzha Fortified Area and at the beginning of the Balkan War it was commanded by the brigadier general Ali Riza Pasha, with colonel Cevat Bey as chief of staff.


In 1908, after the coup d’état of the Young Turks, the strategy of the Turkish Army in the Balkan radically changed and the defence of Istanbul was moved forward along the Odrin – Lozengrad line. Therefore the Chataldzha position was dismantled and the works disarmed: the heavy guns were sent to Odrin, while the field artillery was employed elsewhere.

In late October 1912, the Ottoman General Staff directed that the Chataldzha defensive system be refurbished and made ready for war. Earlier that month it had been stripped of cannons and troops, which had been sent to Odrin. But, after the defeats suffered at Lozengrad and Lule BurgasBunar Hissar, the Chataldzha position assumed again a dominant role in the planning of the defense of the capital. The Istambul and the Bosphorus fortifications were stripped of guns, and the army service schools sent its demonstration guns from Anatolia. In addition 52 Serbian 75mm QF field guns seized at Salonika at the beginning of the war were dispatched to the defending troops. The position received also 18 – 150mm guns in coastal mounting, but they were not employed, since the platforms were missing. On 17 November 1912 the Chataldzha Fortified Area had 316 guns.

In the Northern Sector of the position the defensive line was put forward, 6-7 km before the forts, while in the southern sector a supporting defensive line was built in order to raise a dead space in front of the forts. Since the old works stood out too much, the artillery was placed out of them. The batteries were dug in the ridge, around 2000 m behind the forts and were poorly masked in order to open direct fire againt the enemy. Some of them, however, were dug in the front slope of the ridge, in order to offer a better support to the infantry.

The commander of the Chataldzha Fortified Area was placed in overall command of the whole artillery. Tactically the guns were assigned initially to artillery groups of three to seven batteries each, but the groups would later swell to as many as twenty batteries. The groups were assigned to three artillery area comands in order to provide direct supporting fire to the army corps in contact. Altogether, these artillery area command controlled eighty-one batteries. To these forces must be added the Ottoman Fleet, that thanks to its superiority in the Sea of Marmara and in Black Sea, could carry out shore bombardaments in support to the Chataldzha Army.




Artillery of the Chataldzha Army on 17 November 1912

Artillery Area Command



Supported units

Right Wing Artillery Area

         1st Group

         2nd Group

Lt.Col. Sadik Sabri


13 batteries

20 batteries


8th, 9th Inf. Div.

7th Inf. Div.

Center Wing Artillery Area

         1st Group

         2nd Group

Maj. Ali Seydi


17 batteries

12 batteries


4th Inf. Div.

5th Inf. Div.

Left Wing artillery Area

Maj. Ali Ihsan

19 batteries

1st, 2nd Inf. Div.