3NCÜ TAYYARE BÖLÜK (THE 3RD AIRCRAFT COMPANY) of the Ottoman Army


          By spring 1916 increasing unrest among the Arab tribes on the
Arabian peninsula forced the Turkish Hedjas Command to ask for reinforcements to protect the holy areas. As British aircraft had been reported seen in the area an aircraft company was expressly requested. Due to the special religious consequences none of the German personnel already in Palestine could be used. Instead 3ncü Tayyare Bölük (the 3rd aircraft company) which had been formed to be sent to the south Caucasus front was hurriedly issued with 5 Pfalz A.II parasols (no. P.6,7,8,9,10). The advance party of the unit left Istanbul on the 23rd of June 1916, bringing 3 of the aircraft, 2 portable hangars, 50 bombs and 20,000 rounds of ammunition under command of the C/O, Capt. Camil. With a further personnel of 1 officer, 2 NCO's, 2 mechanics and 97 other personnel it arrived in Damascus already on the 1st of July. The rest of the company arrived two weeks later. Soon the aircraft were readied one by one by the Damascus workshop, only to have to force land on their first flights with faulty engines.**
** As in the equally hot Iraq the rotary engines of the Pfalz proved totally unsuitable for the hot climatic conditions. Specialists from FA300 were called to
Damascus, but it was not until later when Capt. Fazil, a skilled veteran Turkish flyer trained by Bristol and of exceptional piloting and technical aptitude, was brought in as C/O that the Pfalz aircraft became reliable enough to fly. After this unfortunate interlude 3ncü Tay. Böl. arrived on the 3rd of October 1916 in Medina. Here a relatively large airfield close to the railway station had been prepared (se Chapter 7). Immediately operations were initiated against the British assisted uprising tribes. During the first month Capt. Fazil and Lt. Sakir with Lt. Kamil as observer flew 14 sorties dropping bombs and darts on Arab camps. This pace was kept up in November also with 14 sorties being flown. On the 7th of the month, sheikh Feysal's headquarters was spotted and the camp attacked. This was continued the following day with a two aircraft attack (Fazil in P.7 and Sakir in P.10), dropping four 15 kg bombs and three 5 kg. In November, on the 26th, a long awaited Albatros C.III (AK.28) arrived. Tragically this aircraft was lost the next day when it disintegrated in the air due to very rough turbulence. The pilot, Lt. Saim was killed. Nevertheless the operations were kept in a high key during December; 3 air worthy aircraft and 4 crews being available. By the end of the year the flight log of 3ncü Tay. Böl. showed that 78 hours had been flown in the fragile parasols under the most difficult conditions. Fortunately at this time three new Albatros C.III's were received from Damascus (AK.30, 40,72) and they soon flew alongside the remaining parasols. The last Pfalz A.II flight was made by Fazil in P.7 on the 7th of March 1917. During their stay in the desert of Arabia the five Pfalz's logged 150 flying hours. Meanwhile two additional Albatrosses, (AK.4 a C.I) and AK.31 a C.III) had been received and in March 8 sorties were flown by these machines. Soon, however, it was seen that also this type of aircraft did not perform well in the dry and hot climate. As replacements Rumpler C.I's with double coolers were promised, as some had been made available from FA300. During the summer of 1917 the Arab "hit and run" attacks on the Hedjas railway line became increasingly felt in Medina as vitally needed supplies for the aircraft unit could not get through. As a consequence the headquarters and main force of 3ncü Tay. Böl. was moved to Maan on the 1st of August. This move placed the unit under the command of the 4th Army, covering the area east of the Jordan river. The main duty of the aircraft company now became aerial protection of the railway line, although a detachment of a single Albatros was kept at Medina. Meanwhile the first two Rumplers (R.1847 and 2627) were ready at Maan and the first operational flight was performed on the 2nd of August. The next months saw daily recce flights performed over and in the vicinity of the railway. This proved a very successful means of keeping the Arab bands away. In this period occasional flights towards and attacks on Aqaba were made. In November another 4 Rumplers were received and the Bölük was split into 4 detachments: Medina 3 Albatros C.III's (AK.30,40,72) and 1 Rumpler C.I (R2627), Maan 1 Albatros (AK.31) and 3 Rumplers (R.1150,1837,1847), Dera 1 Albatros (AK. 4) and 1 Rumpler (R.2626) and Damascus 1 Albatros (AK.59) and 2 Rumplers (R.2628, 2636). Between September and the end of December 1917 altogether 61 sorties were flown by the 7 pilots (Lt's Cevdet, Sakir, Orhan and Sgt. Hasan Fehmi at Medina, Lt. Emin Nihat and Sgt. Zeki at Maan and Lt. Hüseyin Hüsnü at Dera) and 4 observers (Capt. Izzettin and Lt's Cemal, Osman and Lütfi) of the detachments.

          Since the beginning of 1918 the 3ncü
Tay. Böl. had a very busy period in its effort to control the Hedjas railway line between Dera and Medina now with 4 Rumplers at Maan (R1150, 1837, 1847, 2626) and detachments of Albatros C.III's at Medina (AK.30) and Dera (AK. 4). In addition to this task the unit was also ordered to harass and bomb Aqaba several times as well as performing recce as far away as Suez. In January, 23 sorties were flown and in February, 21. The operations took its toll however, and Rumpler R1837 was lost and its crew taken prisoners on the 4th of February. A Turkish force crossed the Jordan river under the protective screen of three Rumplers on the 2nd of March and later on the same day the same aircraft made bombing attacks on British counterattacking formations. In the end of the same month British forces also tried to cross the river and formations of up to five aircraft from FA305 and 3, 4 and 14ncü Tay. Böl. bombed and strafed the advancing cavalry units. This had the effect that the British had to retire to the west bank of the river again. During April large Arab forces had concentrated around Maan and 25 sorties were flown against them. This was however, to no avail and 3ncü Tayyare Bölük was forced to withdraw with its main force of three aircraft to Amman. Only Rumpler R.1150 was left at Maan, but this aircraft was wrecked on the 8th of May. In late April, under cover from the Arab attack, British forces again tried to attack the 4th Army with an advance towards Es Salt. This called for a major effort and 4 AEG's from FA305 and 3 from 14ncü Tay.
3.Böl. made almost continious attacks on the advancing troops. Fifty bombs were dropped in the vicinity of the village Ezrak alone. These operations, though successful, took a heavy toll on the units and in the beginning of May 3ncü
Tay. Böl. was left with only Rumpler R.2626.
On June 24 the British made a heavy air attack
Amman and most of the equipment belonging to 3ncü and 4ncü Tay. Böl. was burnt when a hangar was hit.
In a desperate move, the commanding officers of 3, 4 and 14ncü
Tay. Böl. together travelled to Istanbul to plea for new aircraft. This was to no avail and 3. Tay. Böl. Was left idle.
The final British attack came on September 19 and most of the personnel of the Turkish units, 3ncü and 4ncü
Tay. Böl. were killed or captured when their evacuation train from Amman was attacked at Mafraq on the 21st. Still more personnel of both 14ncü Tay. Böl. and the German units were captured in a train outside Damascus on the 30th.
On the 12th of October a small force of Turkish mechanics had been ordered to the depot at Konya Aircraft Station in the middle of
Anatolia to prepare aircraft for the front. Only 2 Albatros C.III's and 4 AEG C.IV's were found and prepared for flight but no pilots were at the station.
When the German Asian Corps under Command of General Liman von Sanders surrendered on the 2nd of November at Adana only 600 aviation personnel including 20 officers were present out of an original force of 190 pilots and observers and 1400 other personnel which had been sent to Palestine since September 1917. Of the 155 aircraft delivered 3 were handed over to the 7 surviving Turkish pilots and observers and 8 mechanics the day before. They managed to escape to
Konya and later formed the nucleus of the new air force of the independence forces in 1919.