Medals of Turkey

Page © 1998 Micheal Shackelford.
Text by Tim Tezer, edited by M.S.
Images from Tim Tezer collection.

The Turkish War Medal of 1915. This medal is referred to by a number of informal names. Commonwealth nations often call it the "Gallipoli Star" even though it was not a campaign medal specifically for that battle. Another informal name is the "Iron Crescent," as it functioned similarly to Prussia's Iron Cross. The medal was given from 1915 until the end of the war, for acts of bravery or merit in action. Recipients of the Imtiaz and Liyakat medal were automatically eligible for this medal. The medal is a star-shaped pin back badge of white metal (not iron), with a raised crescent around the bottom center, and the "Toughra" or monogram of the Sultan in the center. The flat surfaces of the badge were finished in a thin opaque red enamel. The War Medal was worn pinned to the tunic in a manner similar to the Iron Cross, and not suspended from a ribbon. There was a ribbon (red with white side stripes) which was worn in the second button hole (like the Iron Cross 2nd Class) when the star itself was not worn.
Because the medal was frequently awarded to German and Austrian personnel who served with the Turkish forces during WW1, many unofficial variants were made in Germany and elsewhere, of varying quality, but usually of higher quality than the originals. This difference in quality had led some early authors to speculate that there were two classes of the War Medal -- poor quality copies for enlisted men, nicer copies for officers. In fact there was only one class.
War Medal images from Hendrik Meersscheart collection)

The Imtiaz Medal was the higher ranking of two medals for meritorious military service awarded by the Ottoman Turkish Government. It was 37mm in diameter, in silver and gold, with a trophy of arms on the obverse and an elaborate arabic inscription on the reverse. The ribbon was half red, half green, with the red on the right. Awards for combat action in WW1 bore a device on the ribbon in the form of crossed sabers, with a bar indicating the Hegira calendar date of 1333 (1914/1915), made from the same material as the medal itself.

The Liyakat Medal was the junior ranking medal in the Turkish system of honors. It resembles a smaller version of the Imtiaz medal, 25mm in diameter. It was also awarded in silver and gold classes, both suspended from a red ribbon with narrow green stripes at the borders. Like the Imtiaz medals of the WW1 period, it used the crossed sabers device for combat awards, and in this form was frequently awarded to German military personnel.

The Osmanie Order, Order of the Ottoman Empire, was founded in 1861. Although not the highest ranking Ottoman order, it was the highest one that most officers of the Great War were likely to see. This Order was also bestowed on British officers (before the Ottoman diplomatic shift towards Germany) for service to the Ottoman empire in Egypt and the Sudan. It consisted of a seven-pointed star in silver with green enamel, and silver rays between the points. The center medallion was red enameled gilt or gold, with a raised crescent around the bottom, and an ornate calligraphic inscription. The badge was suspended by a device in the form of a crescent and star, and used a ribbon of bright green with red border stripes. Military awards of this order bore a pair of crossed sabers superimposed over the star shaped portion of the badge. The Order came in four classes.

The Order of Medjid, founded in 1852, was the lowest ranking Ottoman order, but nonetheless was considered prestigious. It was frequently awarded to German officers who served in Turkey during WW1. The Order was also bestowed on British subjects well prior to the war for service in Egypt and in the Crimean War. The badge consisted of a silver seven-pointed star, with small crescents and stars between the rays. In the center was a gold (or gilt) medallion with the Sultan's "Toughra," surrounded by a red-enameled gold ring with the words "Zeal, Devotion, Loyalty" in arabic script. The badge is suspended by a red-enameled crescent and star device, on a red ribbon with green borders. The Order came in five classes.

The Turkish Army Pilot's badge was fashioned after German and Austrian qualification badges of the period. Established in 1914 by a French Officer, the Turkish Air Force came under the command of a German officer, Erich Sarno, after the outbreak of hostilities, and grew steadily during the war years thanks to an influx of German planes and pilots, as well as concerted efforts to train Ottoman pilots and observers. There was also a Navy Pilot and Observer's badge, of a slightly different design.