PILOT FAZIL BEY AN AVIATION HERO
is full of heroes, airmen who are credited with 5, 100 or even 200 air
victories, pilots who have killed themselves in the final act of destroying an
Others, spend years committed to their duties,
forwarding aviation and protecting their nations as well as possible.
Turkish aviator Fazil is one of those last mentioned spending his young life in
constant war for 10 years only to be killed in a training accident after the
war was over.
Fazil was born in 1889 in the
Provincial garrison town of Scutari (Işkodra in Turkish) in the northern
part of Albania. His father Abdurrahman was an
officer in the local Turkish Army garrison his mother had the name Saadet. When
Fazil was a teenager he easily passed the very stringent tests for entry to the
famous French Lycee school in Istanbul and after graduating he was in 1907
accepted at the Armys War School. In 1910 he finished and was
promoted to the rank of Mülâzim-I Evvel
(First Lieutenant) of the Infantry.
Bleriot in his monoplane during his flight
in Istanbul 11.December 1909. Shortly after this photograph was taken the aircraft
At this time, after among others
Bleriot, had demonstrated his aircraft in Istanbul in 1909, the Turkish army was
keenly trying to form an aviation unit and had instructed their Military
Attachés in various European countries to watch developments in this field.
During May 1911 the Commanders of the three Ottoman Armies circulated
application forms asking officers to volunteer for pilot training. An initial 8
officers were selected and they were sent on training in France.
Meanwhile matters had taken a sudden
urgency when the Tripoli War against Italy broke out and Turkish Forces there
were attacked by Italian warplanes. Two Turkish officers, the
Commanding officer of the Aviation Forces Lt.Col. Surreyya Bey and
Engineer Major Mehmet Ali were sent to Europe to procure aircraft and arrange for pilot
training. Among other places the two officers visited England and here two Bristol Bomber
aircraft and two vehicles for aircraft transportation were bought. Also while
in England arrangement were made to employ two pilots and two mechanics
and a training course was secured for 5 Turkish pilots and 2 engine-mechanics.
The two staff officers returned to Turkey in early July 1912 and meanwhile
two batches of pilots had been selected 8 for France and 7 for England.
The trainees for England comprised 5 pilot trainees (Lts
Saffet, Mehmed Ali, Abdullah, Fazil and Sabri) and 2 mechanics (1.Lt. Fethi and
Lt. Aziz) and they arrived at Bristols at Brooklands in late July. 1.Lt.Fethi showed such an aptitude for flying that he was
allowed to take a pilots license in addition to the mechanics course.
Ottoman officers at Brooklands, Lt. Fazil far left and 1.Lt. Fethi far right.
Things, however, did not go as
planned as the 1.Balkan War broke out in the Autumn
and the officers on training in Europe were recalled. They returned to Turkey in November and December 1912, too
late to participate in the first battles.
Lt. Fazil had shown exceptional aptitude for flying and thanks to his
fluency in French had progressed well before his recall. Upon arriving at Yeşilköy near Istanbul, the Centre of Army flying in Turkey, he was assigned one of the two
Bristol Prier-Dickson 2-seater monoplanes for flying.
Army aircraft at Yesilkoy in early 1913. A Bristol Prier-Dickson monoplane is seen
The Bristols had by then been parked
outside for some months and were not in a flyable condition. Furthermore they
had an undercarriage consisting of bi-cycle like wheels which made them
completely unsuitable for landing in the terrain.
Having missed the
1st Balkan War which came to an end on December 3. 1919 Lt. Fazil went to work on his
aircraft so to make it flyable.
The peace talks which had started in
December broke down in January and on February 3rd
hostilities were resumed. The Ottoman Army was soon compelled to retreat to a
defensive line just outside Istanbul, but much progress was made in
using aircraft in the war operations and several long reconnaissance flights
were made and even bombs were dropped. Still the Bristols were not flyable and Fazil
could only use his skills in training personnel at Yeşilköy. In March an armistice was once
more initiated and on May 30 1913 a peace treaty was signed.
The winners of the war Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, however, could not agree on how to
divide the spoils of war and on June 30th they started fighting each
other. On July 13th the Ottoman Government saw its chance and made a
swift attack forwards against the Bulgarian lines, here the only three
operational aircraft made significant contributions in making reconnaissance
ahead of the Ottoman
Lt. Fazil in front of his Bristol in August 1913
Such was the wear and tear that by
August 10 all aircraft except one had been grounded. The pilots Fazil and Salim meanwhile had
managed to make one of the Bristols flyable and they flew the aircraft to
Kirkkilise on August the 13th. The next day they made their first
reconnaissance flight, Fazil piloting and Salim observing. On the next flights
they kept alternating seats. They now arranged for a portable tent hangar to be
brought forward so they could follow the armys progress north. Such was the
success that a request was made for two observers to be made available and the
Captains Mehmed Ali and Tahsin were rushed there. Missions were flown several
times a day until misfortune struck. In the night 24th/25th
August a heavy rainstorm made the roof of the tent hangar collapse and the
aircraft was wrecked. On the 29th the Bulgars agreed to an armistice
and the part of Trakya (Trace) which today belongs to
Turkey had been won back.
Fazil in the pilot seat of the
Deperdussin Osmanli after the formation flight Yeşilköy Edirne Yeşilköy.
With the war over and highly
motivated after the late successes several exploration flights were now
performed by the Ottoman Army pilots. With newly repaired aircraft the Sea of Marmara was crossed and on November
23rd 1913 a formation flight consisting of three aircraft was performed Yeşilköy Edirne
Yeşilköy. Lt. Fazil had the honour of being
given the pilot seat of the Deperdussin Osmanli.
The exploration flights continued
and it was decided to make a long flight from Istanbul to Cairo in Egypt, partly for political reasons. The
first two attempts ended in disaster and the three most experienced pilots of
the service lost their life.
Suddenly Lt. Fazil was one of the
most experienced in the force and as such he joined a committee sent to Europe in the Spring
of 1914 in order to buy new equipment. The young Lieutenants natural gift for
piloting came to its most and he had the opportunity to fly the most advanced
French and German aircraft of the day.
Fazil after his aerobatic flight in the Osmanli
Already before this however, he had
made headlines in Turkey when he on the 5th of March had performed
the first aircraft acrobatics in the country when he took the Deperdussin
Osmanli into a series of rolls. Coming back from Europe Lt. Fazil served in
his favourite occupation that of training young pilots when he was an
instructor participating in the training of 5 army and 8 navy student pilots.
At that time the supervision of training had been taken over by a delegation of
French officers and his fluency in French came into good use. In May the
service was donated a French Ponnier Aerobatic aircraft and the French
instructors gave the three Lts Fazil, Midhat and Salim instruction in the
latest aerobatic techniques. Soon after on the 5th of August the
French personnel was recalled with the outbreak of the
1st World War.
Lt. Fazil 2nd from
the right while an instructor at the Yeşilköy Flying School in 1914. The
aviators are Fazil
in the summer of 1914
wearing a new dress uniform
in dark blue with red trimmings introduced in the Summer of 1914.
FLIGHTS AT THE DARDANELLES
Even though the Ottoman empire was not a war participant until
later in the year its forces were put on war footing. Soon British warships
were patrolling the entry to the Dardanelles Strait and even threatened Ottoman
shipping. It was decided to send an aircraft to the area so to reconnoitre the
situation. On August 17 Lt. Fazil arrived at Çanakkale, the Army Headquarters for the
area with a 1-seater Nieuport Landplane that had been used by the Navy for
training. On September 5th he made his first reconnaissance flight
lasting 1 hour 10 minutes. On September 10th he ventured 40 km
outside the mouth of the Straits to spot for British warships. On September 25th
the British started blockading the Straits (even if a war was not declared until
3 weeks later) and on flights on the 2nd and 10th of
October he was fired upon. When on a flight on the 19th of October
his engine started running rough and he barely made it back to shore. The
aircraft had to be shipped back to Yeşilköy for repairs.
The Nieuport 1-seat trainer flown by Fazil at the Dardanelles.
On the 5th of November
the aircraft was back and Fazil took it on a flight. When over the sea the
engine quitted again and the aircraft had to be ditched into the sea,
fortunately Fazil was rescued unharmed by nearby ships.
At this time the army was
desperately looking for aircraft and a company in Italy offered two Farman planes for sale.
The aircraft were bought and in order to fetch the aircraft and fly them to
friendly Austria the two Lts Fazil and Avni were
issued false passports and dispatched to Italy. There, however the deal had been
discovered by the authorities and both were arrested on arrival. Soon they were
released and could travel to Germany where a new deal was appearing. Germany had offered to sell Turkey 36 aircraft, but on the condition
that the pilots for them should be trained in Germany. So Fazil and Avni were in the
right place and were the first to train in Germany. Shortly after on
November 11 the situation changed again when Turkey joined Germany in the war. Now aircraft became more easily
available. Lt. Fazil used his stay in Germany to good effect and further learned
the technical details of German aircraft (and learned to speak German) both
things later came to good use in his career.
In Turkey things were developing fast and in
order to capture the Suez Canal the 4th Palestinian Army was formed on December
7th 1914. The army was planned to have an aircraft company, but little equipment
was available. The most suitable and with a long range was the Rumpler
Doppeldecker which had been taken over from the German Dr. Elias was shipped
there but crashed on its first flight at Aleppo on December 29th
1914. During the first attack on the Suez Canal on February 2nd
army was without aircraft. The only other aircraft available the Ponnier
trainer was now sent together with the Lts Fazil and Midhat and it arrived at Damascus on March 17. After a few flights,
however, it crashed in an emergency landing on April 9th when being
flown to Bir-sheba.
The Ponnier Aerobatic
trainer sent to Palestine in early 1915
Personnel of the first aviation unit
stationed in Palestine in 1915. Stationed in Damascus it had as its only aircraft the aerobatic trainer of
Ponnier design. To the right sitting, Capt. Fazil.
THE IRAQI FRONT
From the very
start of a new British advance in Mesopotamia/Iraq in the spring of 1915 they
employed aircraft. These machines soon proved invaluable in providing
reconnaissance for harassing gunboats and the column advancing along the banks
of the Tigris, where all the battles were fought.
The Ottoman Army
at this stage was unable to exploit the use of aircraft as none could be spared
from the Gallipoli theatre of war. This state of affairs changed when on the 16th of September 1915, a British
Caudron G.3 force landed behind Turkish lines and was captured intact.
Immediately Iraqi Headquarters sent a request to the 4th Army in Palestine
for a pilot. They at this time were without aircraft but still had at their
disposal a few pilots and observers. On the 25th of September Lt. Fazil, who
also had some training as a mechanic left Damascus
for Iraq. Some
weeks later the observer Capt. Fettah also left for Iraq.
Before the airmen arrived a Farman MF.7 had been captured on the 14th of
October. Immediately upon his arrival in late October, Lt. Fazil started to
work to make the Farman flyable. After some weeks work the aircraft was made
ready in mid December and by the end of the year 4 flights had been made
together with Capt. Fettah. One of these flights was a test flight towards
Aziziye the others reconnaissance in the vicinity of Kut.
The captured Farman MF.7 which was the first Ottoman
operated aircraft in Iraq.
At this time
it had been decided in Istanbul to
form an aircraft unit for the Iraqi front. Consequently in mid December 2nci
Tayyare Bölügü was established with the German Capt. von Aulock in command.
The unit with Pfalz
A.II parasol aircraft newly arrived from Germany,
4 pilots and 4 observers started the long journey. Meanwhile at the beginning
of the new year (1916) Fazil and Fettah embarked on a
series of new flights. Using the Farman and the now air worthy Caudron they
operated from a field cleared at Shamrund Bend only 8 km from the surrounded
city of Kut.
Captured British Caudron G.3 used by 2nci TyBl. for a few flights
On the 2nd of
January the Turkish crew took the Farman on a 2 hour 10 minutes flight during
which, from a height of 2600 m, the positions of the British re‑enforcement's
along Tigris were plotted. Other flights were made both on the 8th and 12th
again giving the Turkish commander important information on the whereabouts of
the British regiments. Altogether 7 flights were made which were instrumental
in repelling the British attempt to relieve Kut. In the closing days of January
Capt. Fazil became seriously ill and later in March had to be sent back to Istanbul
for recovery. Fortunately the arrival of the 2nci Tayyare Bölügü coincided
with this so the flights could be continued.
3NCÜ TAYYARE BÖLÜGÜ (THE
3RD AIRCRAFT COMPANY)
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 Bölügü
(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 NCOs, 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.
Lt. Orhan in front of a
Pfalz A.II five of which were the first Ottoman aircraft deployed to Medina
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 September 16th when 1st
Lt. Fazil, who was recovering from serious illness (probably Typhoid) in Istanbul 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 by the personnel of the company. Immediately
operations were initiated against the British assisted uprising tribes. During
the first month 1.Lt. Fazil and alternatively 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 airworthy 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.
(unfortunately of poor quality) picture of an Albatros C.III at Medina airfield in 1917
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.
These Albatros aircraft were actually the first armed aircraft that Fazil had
been flying. 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, the German unit in Palestine.
Two Rumpler C.I's of 3ncü Tayyare Bölük at Maan on March 28, 1918. (left to right: Pilot
Emin Nihat, C/O Capt. Izzettin, Observer Cevdet)
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 Tayyare Bölügü was
moved to Maan under the command of now Captain Fazil 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 reconnaissance 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, this coincided with
Capt. Fazil being recalled to Istanbul. Capt. Izzettin took
over officially on December 27. Between September and the end of December 1917
altogether 61 sorties were flown by the unit.
DEFENCE OF ISTANBUL
At this time in late 1917 and early
1918 the Capital of the Ottoman Empire was under considerable pressure from
British air attacks on the city, its outskirts and the railway line connecting
to Bulgaria (and thus Germany) After recovery from the strenuous service in
Palestine Captain Fazil was posted at Yeşilköy as chief of air operations
for this airfield.(UÇUS ŞUBESI MUDUR).
After British air attacks on Istanbul in 1916 an air defense system for Istanbul was implemented in 1917, an order called
for it to be ready on September 15 that year.
On this date an "Air Command for
aircraft and anti‑aircraft guns of Istanbul" was established with headquarters in a hotel situated close to the
Beyoglu railway tunnel and with telephone wires laid to the nearby telephone‑
and telegraph station. This command had all army aircraft and anti-aircraft
units around Istanbul under its command and was headed by a major under whom
served 3 captains, one each in command of aircraft, anti‑aircraft
batteries and communication. The officers were supported by 18 other personnel.
At Yeşilköy aerodrome, the 9ncu Tayyare Bölük was formed as a
fighter unit under command of the German Capt. Keiper. Initially, only two
Albatros C.III's were available for the unit, but soon, the equipment was
increased to 5 Albatros C.III's, one Fokker E.III and 4 Fokker D.I's.
By late November 1917 a total of seven
companies (2 recce‑, 2 fighter‑ and 3 seaplane)
were available for the defense of Istanbul. The units had a total 42 pilots (Army: 16
German - seconded to or having taken a commission in the Ottoman Army, 9
Turkish (Navy 14
German and 3 Turkish). The equipment
consisted of 9 land based recce‑ and 8 fighter aircraft and sea based 20
float plane recce and 2 fighters.
The system was composed of three main
elements: Reporting of approaching aircraft, a first line defense of fighter
aircraft and near defense with anti‑aircraft guns. The reporting system
(map 1) was to be based on three independent lines of communication:
1) the civil postal
telegraph‑ and telephone line system.
2) the Police and
Gendarme telegraph reporting system.
3) the Army and
Navy wireless telegraph system.
The areas of responsibility were divided into
a Western and Eastern zone each with several reporting lines. The Western zone
was divided into 4 lines over which aircraft should be reported by observing
posts. The first and second lines were under the control of the 5th Army at
Çanakkale and the reported enemy aircraft were to be intercepted by fighters of
the 6nci Tayyare Bölük from this field. The third reporting line was to cover
the approaches to Trakya (European province of Turkey) under the control of the 1st Army who were
to send up fighters from Uzunköprü. Reports from these lines together with
reports from the fourth line were to be sent to the main post office at
Kemerburgaz and from there to the Ministry of Defense. For the inner defense of
the capital itself one fighter squadron was formed at Yeşilköy and 16 anti‑aircraft
batteries and 7 search‑light units were established and placed near key
objects such as the arms factory at Bakirköy, the submarine base at Hasköy, the
Ministry of Defense and several other places. Each battery comprised of an anti‑aircraft
gun and two machine-guns. In addition to this the numerous guns of the ships in
the harbor were able to be fired under the direction of the Navy.
DEFENCE SYSTEM IN ISTANBUL
Albatros C.III of 9ncu TyBl. at Yeşilköy in 1917
Action in the
beginning of 1918 was fierce. During
January and February 1918 the resources of both belligerents were largely
spent during the daring and devastating attack made by the two Turkish
cruisers "Yavuz" and "Midilli". On the 20th of January they
steamed out of the Straits and plastered the base of Imbros, sinking two monitors
and a freighter and wrecking the base. In the subsequent battle air power
played the main part. Both cruisers were attacked by aircraft carrying
torpedoes and in avoiding these were hit by mines. Whereas Midilli sank and
was lost, Yavuz was saved from destruction by aircraft drawn from all available
sources protecting her from more than 250 enemy sorties during which 180 bombs
were dropped. In addition to the ship's own twelve 8.3 cm anti‑aircraft
guns a 7.5 cm battery and numerous machine-guns were rushed up to help from the
shore. Two British aircraft were downed on the 20th and on the 23rd a Sopwith
Camel was shot down in an air duel. A Short 184 was taken almost intact on the
A Halberstadt D.V fighter in
There was a lull in operations over the
Gallipoli area until April 1918, when on the 21st three British aircraft
attacked in what amounted to a new air offensive. The only
two fighter pilots of the 6nci Tay. Bölük, with newly acquired Albatros D.III's
and the still flyable Halberstadt D.V's, tried to stem the tide. Almost daily
battles were fought and even when ample warning was given it was seen that the
1916 vintage fighters were too slow to cope with the attackers. In May 1918 29
fighter sorties were flown, in June 34 and in July 35 sorties were flown, 6
interceptions made and 8 enemy aircraft claimed damaged.
Bomb damage sustained on civil quarters of Istanbul on 18th of Oct.1918 British aircraft shot down over Istanbul in 1918 put on display in
THE BLITZ OF ISTANBUL
The attacks on Istanbul itself started with an attack on the 1st of July. It was made in daylight by five aircraft
flying at 3000 feet. The air defense forces of the city had received a 30
minutes warning through the reporting system, but the fighters failed to find
the aircraft. Despite this an attempt by the raiders to bomb the Ministry of
Defense was repulsed with heavy fire from anti‑aircraft guns and
machine-guns. The bombs were dropped from an altitude of more than 1500 feet
and fell harmlessly. After this new attack a report was made stating that the
reporting system was working as planned, whereas the fighters and guns were
not effective enough. Accordingly the C/O of the Ottoman Army Flying
Organization, Major Serno, send on the 7th of July a request to Germany asking
for fighters of the newest type and