Turkish fortifications



In 1912 the modern fortification of the Ottoman Empire could be divided into the following groups:

A]     The coast defences of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus, which protected the approaches to the Marmora Sea and Istanbul from the Mediterranean and Black Sea respectively, and the land defences in connexion therewith. In 1911 a commission considered various proposals for remodelling and strengthening the whole of the defences of the capital, including the question of the laying out of effective mine fields. The continuous wars that Turkey had to sustain from 1911 to 1914 prevent the achievement of this plan. In 1912 the Istanbul fortifications comprised:

a)     the Bosphorus defences, placed on both sides of the straits at their northern end. The works consisted mainly of earthen batteries with old pattern Krupp guns firing through embrasure, with a little number of modern gun mounted after the beginning of the World War.

b)     the Instanbul lines, consisting of an outer and an inner girdle of small earthen redoubts, at that time out of repair and unarmed, which covered the capital, extending in an arc from Makri Keui on the Marmora Sea to Buyukdere on the Bosphorus.

c)     the Chataldzha line extended across the Istanbul peninsula along a ridge about 40 Km west of the city. The front was partly covered by a lake and a lagoon, leaving only 26 km to defend. It consisted of earthen redoubt and batteries.

d)     the Dardanelles permanent defences, divided into three groups: 1) at the southern entrance; 2) at the narrow passage near Chanak; 3) inside the narrows, commanding the bay and bend near Nagara Point. The works mainly consisted of earthen batteries with old pattern Krupp guns firing through embrasures. Starting from the outbreak of the war against Italy in 1911 they were strengthened over and over. In 1912 the Chanak Fortified Area had 78 heavy coastal guns, ranging from 203mm to 356mm, 14 heavy mortars, and a great number of light guns, plus torpedo and underwater mines for the defence of the straits.

e)     the Bulair line across the Gallipoli peninsula at its narrowest point as a defence from a possible attack from the north. It consisted of an old parapet with some redoubts along a ridge near Bulair and was armed with some field guns.

B]     The Thracian frontier defences, composed by :

a)     the Edirne (Odrin) strongpoint, with 26 forts and a large number of field and semi-permanent works and emplacements for movable batteries. Even if in 1911 it had lost some guns used to reinforce the Dardanelles and Bosporus defences against any raids of the Italian fleet, at the beginning of the Balkan War it was armed with more than 500 field and fortress guns, ranging from 75mm to 210mm.

b)     the fortress of Kirk Kilisse (Lozengrad), protected by 3 old forts, strengthened only in 1915.

C]     The defence of Macedonia and Albania, composed by :

a)     the defences of the port of Salonika (Solun), with an enceinte 6-10 m height, with flanking towers and a battery at east and a citadel on an overlooking point by land; By sea it had two coast batteries built in 1897 at Kaburun and Mikrapoint, and armed with 240mm Krupp guns.

b)     in Epirus, the little place of Preveza, defended by 7 coastal (ranging from 120mm to 210mm) and 5 field guns (1 80mm and 4 37mm), and fortress of Janina with 11 forts of varying sizes designed to contain 86 guns, but reinforced up to 102 guns at the eve of the Greek attak (82 87mm and 4 90mm guns, 4 120mm and 12 150mm howitzers, with 30 multibarrel Nordenfeldt heavy machine guns). The fortifications had concrete gun emplacements with bunkers, searchlights, trenches and barbed wire entanglements. The main works were the Bizane fort, south of the town, armed with 22 guns and 19 machine guns, and fort Kastirsa, southeast of the town. A little fort, armed with 2 guns, was built on the island of Nisi, on the Janina lake.

c)     in north Albania, the fortress of Scutari, built in a strong natural position. Its defences were based on three hills: Tarabosh (316 m) in the west, Brda (155 m) in the south, and Bardanjolt (661 m) in the east, while the north was an open, flat area, known as Stoj. All these positions were fortified with barbed wire entanglements, trenches, machine guns and artillery emplacements. At the beginning of the Balkan War the fortress was armed with 90 fortress and field guns, from 75mm to 150mm. There were also four 90cm searchlights.

D]     The coast defence at Smyrna, with one fort with wide embrasures and conspicuously placed, that was strongly fortified after the outbreak of World War I.

E]     The fortress of Erzurum and the minor places along the Caucasus border, the citadel of Van and the stone fort of Bayezid. The defences of Erzurum, 95 km from the Russian border, consisted of a central group of 16 forts and two flanking groups of 2 forts each. The bulk of the forts were arranged in three lines blocking the access of the valley from Hasankale to the northeast. The two flanking group laid 12 km north and 5 km south of the town.