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The Turkish War Medal – The Gallipoli Star

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    Posted 12 years ago

    (310 items)

    During WWI, British and Commonwealth Forces called this “The Gallipoli Star.” The Germans and Austrians called it the “Der Eisner Halbmond” (The Iron Crescent). When the Sultan Mehmed V created this decoration in March 1915, he named it simply the “Harp Madalysi” (War Medal).

    It’s likely that this decoration was inspired by the Iron Cross, awarded by the Ottoman Empire’s German Allies. Like the Iron Cross First Class, It was worn on the breast pocket. Unlike the Iron Cross, it had only one class. By the Sultan’s decree, it was “bestowed upon those persons who show gallantry and sacrifice, without differentiating any rank and position/title. These persons can be either nationals of the Sublime Ottoman State or allied forces and navies and voluntary nursing units and public servants and employees within the armies and navies.” At the center is the Sultan’s Tughra – a sort of royal cypher – and below it the Islamic year 1333 (1915).

    In April of 1915 The Allies launched an invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. By the time it was over in January 1916, both sides had suffered heavily; Over 141,000 Allied casualties and 251,000 Turks. It was during this period that the decoration became associated with Gallipoli. Actually, it could be awarded for actions occurring from the start of the war, and continued to be awarded until the end of the war.

    My example (picture 1 & 2) has had the red enamel paint scratched off. There are scratch marks and bits of red enamel still clinging to it. I’ve added picture 3 to show how it originally looked. I know the back of the star looks like it could be a fake. As soon as I got the star, I sent off for the most definitive reference I could find, “Harp Madalyasi/The Turkish War Medal” by M. Demir Erman. It arrived from Turkey today, and I spent the last hour or so reading through it. I’ve used a lot of Mr. Erman’s information in this post.

    Based on his information, this particular medal is original, and made in the Ottoman Empire during the war. Higher quality examples were made in Germany and Austria after the war for veterans of those countries that wanted a nicer looking decoration.

    I ran across my star recently as part of an eBay lot that was only described as British and Commonwealth badges and pins. Photo 4 shows what was for sale, and the seller wanted way too much as a starting price for some typical WWI & WWII British Army cap badges, an enamel WWII war relief pin and a WWI Canadian shoulder title. I was the only bidder. Did nobody else notice the WWI Turkish War Medal in the eBay lot? Did some see it but decide without the red enamel it wasn’t worth it? Did I pay too much? (If the war medal had its enamel paint, it would have gone for two or three times what I paid for the whole group). All I know is that I’m satisfied with the purchase.

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    1. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 12 years ago
      Very interesting medal, and a most interesting account. Can you tell us please how large this medal is, and whether those awarded it wore it during battle? I shouldn't care to be wearing a large, red and shiny silver medal over my chest if I were going into battle! Please forgive the foolish question. I just remember that the German Iron Cross, and couldn't help noticing that this Turkish medal might be dangerous to wear in battle. Also, what do the raised figures on the Turkish medal represent, please?

      I remember when I first heard an account of the Battle of the Nek (Aug. 1915). I was stunned both by the valor of the Allied Forces and by their relentless slaughter, which seemed quite senseless to me. I couldn't believe that the Allied forces' command officers kept ordering the troops to run into a wave of bullets fired by a securely entrenched line. They didn't stand a chance of taking their foes. Chrisnp, can you please tell us more about the Gallipoli campaign? Of its strategic significance, and how it unfolded? Of the supreme sacrifices made by ANZAC warriors? Thanks so much!
    2. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 12 years ago
      Hello miKKoChristmas, thank you for your interest and your always kind words.

      My example is about 57mm or 2 ¼ inches at its widest point. The raised figure in the center is called a Tughra, which is the monogram of the Sultan, Mehmed Han Bin Abdulmecid El-Muzaffer Daima. The smaller round monogram in the upper left is the Sultan’s pseudonym, “El Gazi.” The rectangle below the monogram contains the Arab numerals for the Islamic year 1333, which is 1915 in our calendar.

      Fortunately, Mr. Erman in the book that I referenced above also gives us the regulation for wear: “War Medal can be worn on any kind of dress. When the medal is not worn, a two centimeter wide red ribbon is attached; by the military personnel in the second buttonhole from the top of the tunic and by the civilians in the collar pinhole.” I have no proof, but I imagine the more time one spent in the trenches, the more likely to just wear the ribbon in the button hole. Yet, there are reports of this medal being worn by prisoners taken by the ANZACs.

      In 1915 the Western Front was a stalemate. The Allies wanted to open a second front, and by attacking up the Dardanelles Strait, they could divide Turkey in two, attack the capitol at Istanbul, and create a supply route through the Black Sea to their Russian allies. The allies were gambling for a faster end to the war. For the Turks, their homeland was under attack and their nation was in peril.

      After the Allies failed to force open the straight with their navy, a landing was made on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Australians and New Zealanders fought their first major battle under their own commands there, and what they did there has become legendary. The British and French landed in their own sectors, and fought a terrible battle as well. Casualties among the British were horrific.

      I do not take anything away from the Aussies, New Zealanders and Brits when I say it was bloody on both sides. Although the Turks had the advantage of defense, they were throwing poorly trained and equipped men into the lines to try to halt their enemy. One Young commander, Mustafa Kemal ordered “I do not expect you to attack, I order you to die. In the time which passes while we die, other troops and commanders can come forward and take out places.” Eventually the allies evacuated the Peninsula.

      That young Commander became Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey. Speaking of the allied losses, he said “Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
    3. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 12 years ago
      I see I got long winded. Thanks for the love blunderbuss, pw-collector, Kevin, petey and BELLIN68.
    4. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 12 years ago
      Thank you very much, Chrisnp, for this wonderful account!! No, not too long at all. You gave us generous but not superfluous details, and you subordinated them to the strategic significance of the campaign. A most satisfying account to read!
    5. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 12 years ago
      thanks again MiKKo,and thanks for the love, Kerry
    6. Militarist Militarist, 10 years ago
      Nice original. I had one long ago when I was just starting and thought it was a fake too. It had more of a red paint than a hard enamel the remnants of which came off when I tried to clean it. I then got hold of some reddish flat looking fingernail polish which made it look good and consigned it to an auction where it brought a good price. The good old days I guess.
    7. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 10 years ago
      Thanks Militarist. There is a huge temptation to paint this item. I think if I could get my hands on another to absolutely match the color, I might give into that temptation. As it is I'm thankful go have something that I would never have paid the going price for.
    8. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 10 years ago
      Thanks for the love aghcollect
    9. snoopyis, 9 years ago
      Hi Chrisnp
      I have an original Turkish Gallipoli star same has your second example, it was taken from a Turkish soldier in 1916 by my grandfather who was an Anzac in the 9th Light horse from 1914 to 1919. he was on Gallipoli from May to December 1915
      I have his journal but I don't remember reading anything of the taking of this star

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