Italo-Turkish War

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Italo-Turkish War
Italian battery near Tripoli.jpg
Battery of Italian 149/23 cannons near Tripoli
Date29 September 1911 – 18 October 1912
(1 year, 2 weeks and 5 days)

Italian victory

Italy gains Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Fezzan, and the Dodecanese islands (Italian Libya established)
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Kingdom of Italy
Flag of the Idrisid Emirate of Asir (1909-1927).svg Emirate of Asir [1]
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg  Ottoman Empire
Flag of Cyrenaica.svg Senussi Order
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Victor Emmanuel III
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Carlo Caneva
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Augusto Aubry
Flag of the Idrisid Emirate of Asir (1909-1927).svg Muhammad ibn Ali al-Idrisi
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg Mehmed V
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg Enver Pasha
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg Mahmud Shevket Pasha
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg Mustafa Kemal Bey
Flag of Cyrenaica.svg Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi
Expeditionary force: [2]
34,000 troops
6,300 horses & mules
1,050 waggons
48 field guns
24 mountain guns
Reinforcements: [3]
85,000 troops
Initial: [3]
~8,000 regular Turkish troops
~20,000 local irregular troops
Final: [3]
~40,000 Turks and Arabs
Casualties and losses
1,432 killed in combat [4]
4,250 wounded [5]
1,948 died of disease [4] [5]
~14,000 casualties [6]
10,000 killed in reprisals & executions [7]

The Italo-Turkish or Turco-Italian War (Turkish : Trablusgarp Savaşı, "Tripolitanian War"; also known in Italy as Guerra di Libia, "Libyan War") was fought between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ottoman Empire from September 29, 1911, to October 18, 1912. As a result of this conflict, Italy captured the Ottoman Tripolitania Vilayet (province), of which the main sub-provinces (sanjaks) were Fezzan, Cyrenaica, and Tripoli itself. These territories together formed what became known as Italian Libya.

Turkish language Turkic language mainly spoken and used in Turkey

Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish, and sometimes known as Turkey Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.

Ottoman Tripolitania Ottoman province

The coastal region of what is today Libya was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1551 to 1864, as the Eyalet of Tripolitania or Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary from 1864 to 1912 and as the Vilayet of Tripolitania from 1864 to 1912. It was also known as the Kingdom of Tripoli, even though it was not technically a kingdom, but an Ottoman province ruled by pashas (governors). The Karamanli dynasty ruled the province as de facto hereditary monarchs from 1711 to 1835, despite remaining under nominal Ottoman rule and suzerainty from Constantinople.

Libya Country in north Africa

Libya, officially the State of Libya, is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. The sovereign state is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The second-largest city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.


During the conflict, Italian forces also occupied the Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea. Italy had agreed to return the Dodecanese to the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of Ouchy [8] in 1912. However, the vagueness of the text allowed a provisional Italian administration of the islands, and Turkey eventually renounced all claims on these islands in Article 15 of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. [9]

Dodecanese Former prefecture in South Aegean, Greece

The Dodecanese are a group of 15 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea, off the coast of Asia Minor (Turkey), of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the wider Southern Sporades island group.

Aegean Sea Part of the Mediterranean Sea between the Greek and Anatolian peninsulas

The Aegean Sea is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the Greek and Anatolian peninsulas. The sea has an area of some 215,000 square kilometres. In the north, the Aegean is connected to the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea by the straits of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus. The Aegean Islands are located within the sea and some bound it on its southern periphery, including Crete and Rhodes. The sea reaches a maximum depth of 3,544 meters, to the east of Crete.

Treaty of Lausanne peace treaty between the Republic of Turkey and the Allied Powers at the end of World War 1, replacing the Treaty of Sèvres

The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty negotiated during the Lausanne Conference of 1922–23 and signed in the Palais de Rumine, Lausanne, Switzerland, on 24 July 1923. It officially settled the conflict that had originally existed between the Ottoman Empire and the Allied French Republic, British Empire, Kingdom of Italy, Empire of Japan, Kingdom of Greece, and the Kingdom of Romania since the onset of World War I. The original text of the treaty is in French. It was the result of a second attempt at peace after the failed Treaty of Sèvres, which was signed by all previous parties, except the Kingdom of Greece, but later rejected by the Turkish national movement who fought against the previous terms and significant loss of territory. The Treaty of Lausanne ended the conflict and defined the borders of the modern Turkish Republic. In the treaty, Turkey gave up all claims to the remainder of the Ottoman Empire and in return the Allies recognized Turkish sovereignty within its new borders.

Although minor, the war was a significant precursor of the First World War as it sparked nationalism in the Balkan states. Seeing how easily the Italians had defeated the weakened Ottomans, the members of the Balkan League attacked the Ottoman Empire starting the First Balkan War before the war with Italy had ended.

Nationalism is an ideology and movement characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation,, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations, with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history—and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements, and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism or socialism for example.

Balkan League military alliance

The Balkan League was a quadruple alliance formed by a series of bilateral treaties concluded in 1912 between the Eastern Orthodox kingdoms of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, and directed against the Ottoman Empire, which at the time still controlled much of the Southeastern Europe.

First Balkan War 1910s war between the Balkan League and the Ottoman Empire

The First Balkan War, lasted from October 1912 to May 1913 and comprised actions of the Balkan League against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success.

The Italo-Turkish War saw numerous technological changes, notably the airplane. On October 23, 1911, an Italian pilot, Captain Carlo Piazza, flew over Turkish lines on the world's first aerial reconnaissance mission, [10] and on November 1, the first ever aerial bomb was dropped by Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti, on Turkish troops in Libya, from an early model of Etrich Taube aircraft. [11] The Turks, lacking anti-aircraft weapons, were the first to shoot down an aeroplane by rifle fire. [12] Another use of new technology was a network of wireless telegraphy stations established soon after the initial landings. [13] Guglielmo Marconi himself came to Libya to conduct experiments with the Italian Corps of Engineers.

Airplane A powered, flying vehicle

An airplane or aeroplane is a powered, fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, propeller or rocket engine. Airplanes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and wing configurations. The broad spectrum of uses for airplanes includes recreation, transportation of goods and people, military, and research. Worldwide, commercial aviation transports more than four billion passengers annually on airliners and transports more than 200 billion tonne-kilometres of cargo annually, which is less than 1% of the world's cargo movement. Most airplanes are flown by a pilot on board the aircraft, but some are designed to be remotely or computer-controlled such as drones.

Reconnaissance Military scouting of enemy deployment

In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.

Airstrike Attack on a specific objective by military aircraft during an offensive mission

An airstrike, air strike or air raid is an offensive operation carried out by aircraft. Air strikes are delivered from aircraft such as blimps, balloons, fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, attack helicopters and drones. The official definition includes all sorts of targets, including enemy air targets, but in popular usage the term is usually narrowed to a tactical (small-scale) attack on a ground or naval objective as opposed to a larger, more general attack such as carpet bombing. Weapons used in an airstrike can range from aircraft cannon and machine gun bullets or shells, air-launched rockets, missiles, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles to various types of bombs, glide bombs and even directed-energy weapons such as lasers.


The claims of Italy over Libya dated back to Turkey's defeat by Russia in the war of 1877–1878 and subsequent discussions after the Congress of Berlin in 1878, in which France and Great Britain had agreed to the occupation of Tunisia and Cyprus respectively, both parts of the declining Ottoman Empire. When Italian diplomats hinted about possible opposition by their government, the French replied that Tripoli would have been a counterpart for Italy. Italy made a secret agreement with Great Britain in February 1887 by an exchange of notes. [14] It provided that Italy would support Great Britain and its role in Egypt while the Italians would receive British support in Libya. [15] In 1902, Italy and France had signed a secret treaty which accorded freedom of intervention in Tripolitania and Morocco. [16] The agreement negotiated by Italian foreign minister Giulio Prinetti and French ambassador Camille Barrère was an endpoint in the historical rivalry between the two nations for control of northern Africa. Also in 1902, Great Britain promised that "any alteration in the status of Libya would be in conformity with Italian interests." These measures were intended to loosen Italian commitment to the Triple Alliance and thereby weaken Germany, which France and Britain viewed as their main rival on the continent. Following the Anglo-Russian Convention and the establishment of the Triple Entente, Tsar Nicholas II and King Victor Emmanuel III made the 1909 Racconigi Bargain in which Russia acknowledged Italy's interest in Tripoli and Cyrenaica in return for Italian support for Russian control of the Bosphorus. [17] However, the Italian government did little to realize the opportunity and knowledge of Libyan territory and resources remained scarce in the following years.[ citation needed ]

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) conflict of 1877–78

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 was a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox coalition led by the Russian Empire and composed of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro. Fought in the Balkans and in the Caucasus, it originated in emerging 19th-century Balkan nationalism. Additional factors combined Russian goals of recovering territorial losses endured during the Crimean War of 1853–56, re-establishing itself in the Black Sea and supporting the political movement attempting to free Balkan nations from the Ottoman Empire.

Congress of Berlin meeting of representatives of the major European powers in 1878

The Congress of Berlin was a meeting of the representatives of six great powers of the time, the Ottoman Empire and four Balkan states. It aimed at determining the territories of the states in the Balkan peninsula following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 and came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Berlin, which replaced the preliminary Treaty of San Stefano, signed three months earlier between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

The removal of diplomatic obstacles coincided with increasing colonial fervor. In 1908, the Italian Colonial Office was upgraded to a Central Directorate of Colonial Affairs. Nationalist Enrico Corradini led the public call for action in Libya, and joined by the nationalist newspaper L'Idea Nazionale in 1911, demanded an invasion. [18] The Italian press began a large-scale lobbying campaign in favour of an invasion of Libya at the end of March 1911. It was fancifully depicted as rich in minerals, well-watered, and defended by only 4,000 Ottoman troops. Also, the population was described as hostile to the Ottoman Empire and friendly to the Italians: the future invasion was going to be little more than a "military walk", according to them. [19]

Enrico Corradini Italian novelist, essayist, journalist and nationalist political figure

Enrico Corradini was an Italian novelist, essayist, journalist and nationalist political figure.

L'Idea Nazionale was an Italian political newspaper associated with the Italian Nationalist Association (ANI), which merged with the National Fascist Party in 1923. The paper was published between 1911 and 1926.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was thoroughly Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti, 1905 Giovanni Giolitti 1905.jpg
Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti, 1905

Italy's government remained committed into 1911 to the maintenance of the Ottoman Empire, which was a close friend of their German ally. Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti rejected nationalist calls for conflict over Ottoman Albania, which was seen as a possible colonial project, as late as the summer of 1911. However, the Agadir Crisis, in which French military action in Morocco in April 1911 would lead to the establishment of a French protectorate, changed the political calculations. At this point, the Italian leadership decided that it could safely accede to public demands for a colonial project. The Triple Entente powers were highly supportive. British foreign secretary Edward Grey stated to the Italian ambassador on 28 July that they would support Italy and would not support the Turks; on 19 September, Grey instructed Permanent Under-secretary of State Sir Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock that England and France should not interfere with Italy's designs on Libya. Meanwhile, the Russian government urged Italy to act in a "prompt and resolute manner." [20] In contrast to their engagement with the Entente powers, Italy largely ignored its military allies in the Triple Alliance. Giolitti and foreign minister Antonino Paternò Castello agreed on 14 September to launch a military campaign "before the Austrian and German governments [were aware] of it." At the time, Germany was actively attempting to mediate between Rome and Constantinople, while Austrian foreign minister Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal repeatedly warned Italy that military action in Libya would threaten the integrity of the Ottoman Empire and create a crisis in the Eastern Question, thereby destabilizing the Balkan peninsula and the continent's balance of power. Italy also foresaw this result: Paternò Castello, in a July report to the king and Giolitti, laid out the pros and cons of a military action in Libya and raised the concern that the Balkan revolt that would likely follow an Italian attack against Libya might force Austria to take military action in Balkan areas claimed by Italy. [21]

The Socialist Party had strong influence over public opinion. However, it was in opposition and also divided on the issue. It acted ineffectively against a military intervention. The future fascist leader Benito Mussolini – at this time still a left-wing Socialist – took a prominent anti-war position. A similar opposition was expressed in Parliament by Gaetano Salvemini and Leone Caetani.[ citation needed ]

An ultimatum was presented to the Ottoman government led by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) party on the night of 26–27 September. Through Austrian intermediation, the Ottomans replied with the proposal of transferring control of Libya without war, maintaining a formal Ottoman suzerainty. This suggestion was comparable to the situation in Egypt, which was under formal Ottoman suzerainty but was actually controlled by the United Kingdom. Giolitti refused, and war was declared on September 29, 1911.

Military campaign

Opening maneuver

Italian dirigibles bomb Turkish positions on Libyan territory. The Italo-Turkish War was the first in history to feature aerial bombardment by airplanes and airships. Zeplin orta.jpg
Italian dirigibles bomb Turkish positions on Libyan territory. The Italo-Turkish War was the first in history to feature aerial bombardment by airplanes and airships.

Despite the time it had had to prepare the invasion, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) was largely unprepared when the war broke out. [ citation needed ] The Italian fleet appeared off Tripoli in the evening of September 28, but only began bombarding the port on October 3.[ citation needed ] The city was conquered by 1,500 sailors, much to the enthusiasm of the interventionist minority in Italy. Another proposal for a diplomatic settlement was rejected by the Italians, and the Turks determined, therefore, to defend the province. [23]

The Turks did not have a full army in Tripolitania. Many of the Ottoman officers had to travel there by their own means, often secretly, through Egypt, since the British would not allow Turkish troops to be transported en masse through Egypt. The Ottoman navy was too weak to transport troops by sea. The Turks organized local Arabs and Bedouins for the defence against the Italian invasion. [24]

Between 1911 and 1912, over 1,000 Somalis from Mogadishu, the then capital of Italian Somaliland, served as combat units along with Eritrean and Italian soldiers in the Italo-Turkish War. [25] Most of the Somalian troops stationed would only return home in 1935, when they were transferred back to Italian Somaliland in preparation for the invasion of Ethiopia. [26]

Italian landing in Libya

The first disembarkation of Italian troops occurred on October 10. The city of Tripoli and surroundings -after a destructive bombing of the Turkish fortifications- were quickly conquered by 1,500 Italian sailors, welcomed by the population (mainly the local Jews) who started to collaborate with the Italian authorities [27] .

The Italian contingent of 20,000 troops was deemed sufficient to accomplish the conquest at the time. Tobruk, Derna and Khoms were easily conquered, but the same was not true for Benghazi. The first true setback for the Italian troops happened on October 23 at Shar al-Shatt, when poor placement of the troops near Tripoli led them to be almost completely encircled by more mobile Arab cavalry, backed by some Turkish regular units. The attack was portrayed as a simple revolt by the Italian press, but it nearly annihilated much of the small Italian expeditionary corps.[ citation needed ]

The corps was consequently enlarged to 100,000 men who had to face 20,000 Arabs and 8,000 Turks. The war turned into one of position. Even some of the earliest examples of utilisation in modern warfare of armoured cars [28] and air power by the Italian forces had little effect on the initial outcome. [29] However, the war was notable for the first military use of heavier-than-air craft. Capitano Carlo Piazza flew the first military reconnaissance flight on 23 October 1911. A week later, Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti dropped four grenades on Taguira and Ain Zara in history's first aerial bombing. [30]

Trench phase

16 May 1912: surrender of the Turkish garrison in Rhodes to the Italian general Ameglio near Psithos.
(From Italian weekly La Domenica del Corriere, 26 May - 2 June 1912). DC-1912-21-d-ResaDeiTurchiARodi.jpg
16 May 1912: surrender of the Turkish garrison in Rhodes to the Italian general Ameglio near Psithos.
(From Italian weekly La Domenica del Corriere , 26 May – 2 June 1912).

The Arabs and Turks, estimated at 15,000, made frequent attacks by day and night on the strongly entrenched Italian garrison in the southern suburbs of Benghazi. The four Italian regiments of infantry acted on the defensive and were supported by the San Marco and Agordat. The Italians rarely attempted a sortie. [31]

An attack of 20,000 Turkish and local troops was repulsed on November 30 with considerable losses. Shortly after this, the garrison was reinforced by the 57th infantry regiment from Italy. The battleship Regina Elena also arrived from Tobruk. During the night of December 14 and 15, the Turks attacked in great force, but were repulsed with aid of the fire from the ships. The Italians lost several field guns. [31]

At Derna the Turks and Arabs were estimated at 3,500, but they were being constantly reinforced and a general assault on the Italian position was expected. The Italian and Turkish forces in Tripoli and Cyrenaica were constantly reinforced. The withdrawal of the Turks into the interior enabled them to reinforce their troops considerably. [31]

The cost of the war was defrayed chiefly by voluntary offerings from Muslims. Turkish officers and men, weapons, ammunition, and all kinds of supplies were constantly sent across the Egyptian and Tunisian frontiers, notwithstanding their neutrality. The Italians occupied Sidi Barrani on the coast between Tobruk and Solum to prevent contraband and troops from entering across the Egyptian frontier, while the naval blockaders guarded the coast and captured several sailing ships with contraband. [31]

Italian troops firing on the Turks in Tripoli, 1911. Italoturca1.jpg
Italian troops firing on the Turks in Tripoli, 1911.

Italian troops landed at Tobruk after a brief bombardment on December 4, 1911, occupied the seashore and marched towards the hinterlands facing weak resistance. [32] Small numbers of Turkish soldiers and Libyan volunteers were later organized by Captain Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The small December 22 Battle of Tobruk resulted in Mustafa Kemal's victory. [33] With this achievement, he was assigned to Derna War quarters to coordinate the field on March 6, 1912.[ citation needed ] The Libyan campaign ground to a stalemate by December 1911. [5]

On 3 March 1912, 1,500 Libyan volunteers attacked Italian troops who were building trenches near Derna. The Italians, who were outnumbered but had superior weaponry, held the line. A lack of coordination between the Italian units sent from Derna as reinforcements and the intervention of Turkish artillery threatened the Italian line, and the Arabs attempted to surround the Italian troops. Further Italian reinforcements, however, were able to stabilise the situation, and the battle ended in the afternoon with an Italian victory.[ citation needed ]

On September 14, the Italian command sent three columns of infantry to disband the Arab Turkish camp near Derna. The Italian troops occupied a plateau, interrupting Turkish supply lines. Three days later, the Turkish commander, Enver Bey, attacked the Italian positions on the plateau. The larger Italian fire drove back the Turkish soldiers, who were surrounded by a battalion of Alpini and suffered heavy losses. A later Turkish attack had the same outcome.[ citation needed ] After that, operations in Cyrenaica ceased until the end of the war. Although some elements of the local population collaborated with the Italians, counterattacks by Turkish soldiers with the help of local troops confined the Italian army to the coastal region. [7] In fact, by the end of 1912 the Italians had made little progress in conquering Libya. The Italian soldiers were, in effect, besieged in seven enclaves on the coasts of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. [34] The largest of these, at Tripoli, extended barely 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the town. [34]

Italian cruiser bombarding Ottoman vessels in Beirut harbor. Beirut battle.jpg
Italian cruiser bombarding Ottoman vessels in Beirut harbor.

At sea, the Italians enjoyed a clear advantage. The Italian navy had seven times the tonnage of the Ottoman navy and was better trained. [35]

In January 1912, the Italian cruiser Piemonte , with the Soldato class destroyers Artigliere and Garibaldino, sank seven Turkish gunboats (Ayintab, Bafra, Gökcedag, Kastamonu, Muha, Ordu and Refahiye) and a yacht (Sipka) in the Battle of Kunfuda Bay. The Italians blockaded the Red Sea ports of the Ottomans, while actively supplying and supporting the Emirate of Asir which was also concurrently at war with the Ottoman Empire. [1]

Then, on 24 February, in the Battle of Beirut, two Italian armoured cruisers attacked and sank an Ottoman casemate corvette and six lighters, retreated, then returned and sank an Ottoman torpedo boat. Avnillah alone suffered 58 killed and 108 wounded. By contrast, the Italian ships not only took no casualties but no direct hits from the Ottoman warships at all. [36] Italy had feared that the Ottoman naval forces at Beirut could be used to threaten the approach to the Suez Canal. The Ottoman naval presence at Beirut was completely annihilated and casualties on the Ottoman side were heavy. The Italian navy gained complete naval dominance of the southern Mediterranean for the rest of the war.

Although Italy could extend its control to almost all of the 2,000 km of the Libyan coast between April and early August 1912, its ground forces could not venture beyond the protection of the navy's guns and were thus limited to a thin coastal strip. In the summer of 1912, Italy began operations against the Turkish possessions in the Aegean Sea with the approval of the other powers that were eager to end a war that was lasting much longer than expected. Italy occupied twelve islands in the sea, comprising the Ottoman province of Rhodes, which henceforth became known as the Dodecanese, but this raised the discontent of Austria-Hungary, which feared that this could fuel the irredentism of nations such as Serbia and Greece, causing imbalance in the already fragile situation in the Balkan area. The only other relevant military operation of the summer was an attack of five Italian torpedo boats in the Dardanelles on 18 July.

Irregular war and atrocities

Mustafa Kemal (left) with an Ottoman military officer and Libyan mujahideen. Trablusgarp2.jpg
Mustafa Kemal (left) with an Ottoman military officer and Libyan mujahideen .

With a decree of November 5, 1911, Italy declared its sovereignty over Libya. Although it controlled the coast, many of the Ottoman troops were not killed in battle and nearly 6,000 remained to face an army of nearly 140,000 Italians. As a result, the Ottomans began using guerrilla tactics. Indeed, some "Young Turk" officers reached Libya and helped organize a guerrilla war with local mujahideens. [37] Many local Arabs joined forces with the Turks because of their common faith against the "Christian invaders" and started a bloody guerrilla warfare: Italian authorities adopted many repressive measures against the rebels, such as public hanging as a retaliation for ambushes.

On October 23, 1911, nearly 500 Italian soldiers were slaughtered by Turkish troops at Sciara Sciatt, on the outskirts of Tripoli. [38] As a consequence, on the next day—during the 1911 Tripoli massacre—Italian troops systematically murdered thousands of civilians by moving through local homes and gardens one by one, including setting fire to a mosque with one hundred refugees inside. [39] Although Italian authorities attempted to keep the news of the massacre from getting out, the incident soon became internationally known. [39] The Italians started to show photos of the massacred Italian soldiers at Sciara Sciat in order to justify their revenge.

Treaty of Lausanne

Rumbeyoglu Fahreddin led the Turkish delegation at Lausanne (1912). Rumbeyoglu fahreddin.jpg
Rumbeyoglu Fahreddin led the Turkish delegation at Lausanne (1912).
Turkish and Italian delegations at Lausanne (1912). From left to right (seating): Pietro Bertolini, Mehmet Nabi Bey, Guido Fusinato, Rumbeyoglu Fahreddin, and Giuseppe Volpi. Treaty of Lausanne 1912.jpg
Turkish and Italian delegations at Lausanne (1912). From left to right (seating): Pietro Bertolini, Mehmet Nabi Bey, Guido Fusinato, Rumbeyoglu Fahreddin, and Giuseppe Volpi.

Italian diplomats decided to take advantage of the situation to obtain a favourable peace deal. On October 18, 1912, Italy and the Ottoman Empire signed a treaty in Ouchy near Lausanne (the First Treaty of Lausanne). [40] [41]

The main provisions of the treaty, often also called Treaty of Ouchy to distinguish it from the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, were as follows: [42]


Italian Alpini and Libyan corpses after the attack against "Ridotta Lombardia". Italians in Libya.jpg
Italian Alpini and Libyan corpses after the attack against "Ridotta Lombardia".

The invasion of Libya was a costly enterprise for Italy. Instead of the 30 million lire a month judged sufficient at its beginning, it reached a cost of 80 million a month for a much longer period than was originally estimated.[ citation needed ] The war cost Italy 1.3 billion lire, nearly a billion more than Giovanni Giolitti estimated before the war. [43] This ruined ten years of fiscal prudence. [43]

After the withdrawal of the Ottoman army the Italians could easily extend their occupation of the country, seizing East Tripolitania, Ghadames, the Djebel and Fezzan with Murzuk during 1913. [44] The outbreak of the First World War with the necessity to bring back the troops to Italy, the proclamation of the Jihad by the Ottomans and the uprising of the Libyans in Tripolitania forced the Italians to abandon all occupied territory and to entrench themselves in Tripoli, Derna, and on the coast of Cyrenaica. [44] The Italian control over much of the interior of Libya remained ineffective until the late 1920s, when forces under the Generals Pietro Badoglio and Rodolfo Graziani waged bloody pacification campaigns. Resistance petered out only after the execution of the rebel leader Omar Mukhtar on September 15, 1931. The result of the Italian colonisation for the Libyan population was that by the mid-1930s it had been cut in half due to emigration, famine, and war casualties. The Libyan population in 1950 was at the same level as in 1911, approximately 1.5 million. [45]

Europe, the Balkans, and the First World War

In 1924, the Serbian diplomat Miroslav Spalajković could look back on the events that led to the First World War and its aftermath and state of the Italian attack, "all subsequent events are nothing more than the evolution of that first aggression." [46] Unlike British-controlled Egypt and French-influenced Morocco, the Ottoman Tripolitania vilayet that made up modern-day Libya were core territory of the Empire, like that of the Balkans. [47] The coalition that had defended the Ottomans during the Crimean War (1853-1856), minimized Ottoman territorial losses at the Congress of Berlin (1878), and supported the Empire during the Bulgarian Crisis (1885–88) had largely disappeared. [48] The reaction in the Balkans to the Italian declaration of war was immediate. The first draft by Serbia of a military treaty with Bulgaria against Turkey was written by November 1911, with a defensive treaty signed in March 1912, and an offensive treaty signed in May 1912 focused on military action against Ottoman south-east Europe. The series of bilateral treaties between Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro that created the Balkan League was completed in 1912, with the First Balkan War (1912-1913) beginning with a Montenegrin attack on 8 October 1912, ten days before Treaty of Lausanne. [49] The swift and nearly complete victory of the Balkan League astonished contemporary observers. [50] However, the Serbs were unhappy with the division of captured territory and continued to hold areas promised to Bulgaria, resulting in the Second Balkan War (1913), in which Serbia, Greece, the Ottomans, and Romania took almost all of the territory that Bulgaria had captured in the first war. [51] In the wake of this enormous change in the regional balance of power, Russia switched its primary allegiance in the region from Bulgaria to Serbia, guaranteeing Serbian autonomy from any outside military intervention. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Serbian nationalist and the resulting Austrian plan for military action against Serbia is the oft-stated precipitating event of World War I (1914-1918)

The Italo-Turkish War illustrated to France and Great Britain that Italy was more valuable to them inside the Triple Alliance, rather than formally allied with the Entente. In January 1912, French diplomat Paul Cambon wrote to Raymond Poincaré that Italy was "more burdensome than useful as an ally. Against Austria, she harbours a latent hostility that nothing can disarm." [52] The tensions within the Triple Alliance would eventually lead Italy to sign the 1915 Treaty of London abandoning the Triple Alliance and joining the Entente.

In Italy itself, massive funerals for fallen heroes brought the Catholic Church closer to the government from which it had long been alienated. There emerged a cult of patriotic sacrifice, in which the colonial war was celebrated in an aggressive and imperialistic way. The ideology of "crusade" and "martyrdom" characterized the funerals. The result was to consolidate Catholic war culture among devout Italians, which was soon expanded to include the world war (1915-18). This aggressive spirit was revived by the Fascists in the 1920s to strengthen their popular support. [53]

Fate of the Dodecanese Islands

Because of World War I, the Dodecanese remained under Italian military occupation. According to the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, which was never ratified, Italy was supposed to cede all of the islands except Rhodes to Greece, in exchange for a vast Italian zone of influence in southwest Anatolia. However, the Greek defeat in the Greco–Turkish War and the foundation of modern Turkey created a new situation that made the enforcement of the terms of this treaty impossible. In article 15 of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which superseded the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, Turkey formally recognized the Italian annexation of the Dodecanese. The population was largely Greek, and by treaty in 1947 the islands eventually became part of Greece. [54]

See also


  1. 1 2 Chisholm, Hugh (25 March 2018). "The Encyclopedia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information". The Encyclopedia Britannica Co. Retrieved 25 March 2018 via Google Books.
  2. Italy. Esercito. Corpo di stato maggiore (1914). The Italo-Turkish War (1911–12). Franklin Hudson Publishing Company. p. 13.
  3. 1 2 3 The History of the Italian-Turkish War, William Henry Beehler, p.13-36
  4. 1 2 World War I: A Student Encyclopedia, Spencer C. Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts, page 946
  5. 1 2 3 Emigrant nation: the making of Italy abroad, Mark I. Choate, Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN   0-674-02784-1, page 176.
  6. James C. Bradford: International Encyclopedia of Military History, Routledge 2006, page 674
  7. 1 2 Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts: World War I: A Student Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2005, ISBN   1-85109-879-8, page 946.
  8. "Treaty of Lausanne, October, 1912". Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  9. "Treaty of Lausanne - World War I Document Archive". Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  10. Maksel, Rebecca. "The World's First Warplane". Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  11. U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission: Aviation at the Start of the First World War Archived 2012-10-09 at the Wayback Machine
  12. James D. Crabtree: On air defense, ISBN   0275947920, Greenwood Publishing Group, page 9
  13. Wireless telegraphy in the Italo-Turkish War
  14. A.J.P. Taylor (1954). The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918. p. 311.
  15. Andrea Ungari (2014). The Libyan War 1911-1912. p. 117.
  16. "Alliance System / System of alliances". Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  17. Clark, Christopher M. (2012). The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. London: Allen Lane. p. 244. ISBN   9780713999426. LCCN   2012515665.
  18. Clark, pp. 244-245
  19. Andrea L. Stanton et al eds. (2012). Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa: An Encyclopedia. SAGE. p. 310.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  20. Clark, pp. 245-246
  21. Clark, pp. 246
  22. Biddle, Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare, pg.19
  23. 30 September Italy and Trablusgarp (tr) Archived 2012-09-15 at the Wayback Machine
  24. M. Taylan Sorgun, "Bitmeyen Savas", 1972. Memoirs of Halil Pasa
  25. W. Mitchell. Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Whitehall Yard, Volume 57, Issue 2. p. 997.
  26. William James Makin (1935). War Over Ethiopia. p. 227.
  27. Tripoli inhabitants welcomed the Italians, p. 36-40 (in Italian)
  28. Crow, Encyclopedia of Armored Cars, pg.104.
  29. Biddle, Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare, pg.19.
  30. Hallion Strike From the Sky: The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1910–1945, p. 11.
  31. 1 2 3 4 William Henry Beehler, The History of the Italian-Turkish War, September 29, 1911, to October 18, 1912, Engagements At Benghasi And Derna In December 1911 (p.49)
  32. "1911–1912 Turco-Italian War and Captain Mustafa Kemal". Ministry of Culture of Turkey, edited by Turkish Armed Forces-Division of History and Strategical Studies, pages 62–65, Ankara, 1985.
  33. "1911–1912 Turco-Italian War and Captain Mustafa Kemal". Ministry of Culture of Turkey, edited by Turkish Armed Forces-Division of History and Strategical Studies, pages 62–65, Ankara, 1985.
  34. 1 2 Libya: a modern history", John Wright, Taylor & Francis, 1981, ISBN   0-7099-2727-4, page 28.
  35. Tucker, Roberts, 2005, page 945.
  36. Beehler, William (1913). The history of the Italian-Turkish War, September 29, 1911, to October 18, 1912. Annapolis: The Advertiser Republican. p. 58.
  37. "Arab Thoughts on the Italian Colonial Wars in Libya - Small Wars Journal". Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  38. Gerwarth, Robert; Manela, Erez (3 July 2014). "Empires at War: 1911-1923". OUP Oxford. Retrieved 25 March 2018 via Google Books.
  39. 1 2 Geoff Simons (2003). Libya and the West: From Independence to Lockerbie. I.B.Tauris. p. 7. ISBN   978-1-86064-988-2.
  40. Treaty of Peace Between Italy and Turkey The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 7, No. 1, Supplement: Official Documents (Jan., 1913), pp. 58–62 doi : 10.2307/2212446
  41. "Treaty of Lausanne, October, 1912". Mount Holyoke College, Program in International Relations.
  42. "Uşi (Ouchy) Antlaşması" [Treaty of Ouchy] (in Turkish). 31 May 2009. Archived from the original on 3 September 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  43. 1 2 Mark I. Choate: Emigrant nation: the making of Italy abroad, Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN   0-674-02784-1, page 175.
  44. 1 2 Bertarelli (1929), p. 206.
  45. The Libyan Economy: Economic Diversification and International Repositioning, Waniss Otman, Erling Karlberg, page 13
  46. Clark, pp.243-244
  47. Clark, pp.243
  48. Clark, p. 250
  49. Clark, pp. 251-252
  50. Clark, p. 252
  51. Clark, pp. 256-258
  52. Clark, p. 249
  53. Matteo Caponi, "Liturgie funebri e sacrificio patriottico I riti di suffragio per i caduti nella guerra di Libia (1911-1912)."["Funeral Liturgies and Patriotic Sacrifices: The Rites for the Souls of Those Who Fell in the War of Libya (1911-1912)"] Rivista di storia del cristianesimo 10.2 (2013) 437-459
  54. P.J. Carabott, "The Temporary Italian Occupation of the Dodecanese: A Prelude to Permanency," Diplomacy and Statecraft," (1993) 4#2 pp 285–312.

Further reading

In other languages

  • Bertarelli, L.V. (1929). Guida d'Italia, Vol. XVII (in Italian). Milano: Consociazione Turistica Italiana.
  • Maltese, Paolo. "L'impresa di Libia", in Storia Illustrata #167, October 1971.
  • "1911–1912 Turco–Italian War and Captain Mustafa Kemal". Ministry of Culture of Turkey, edited by Turkish Armed Forces-Division of History and Strategical Studies, pages 62–65, Ankara, 1985.
  • Schill, Pierre. Réveiller l'archive d'une guerre coloniale. Photographies et écrits de Gaston Chérau, correspondant de guerre lors du conflit italo-turc pour la Libye (1911-1912), éd. Créaphis, 2018. 480 pages and 230 photographs. ISBN   978-2-35428-141-0

Awaken the archive of a colonial war. Photographs and writings of a French war correspondent during the Italo-Turkish war in Libya (1911-1912). With contributions from art historian Caroline Recher, critic Smaranda Olcèse, writer Mathieu Larnaudie and historian Quentin Deluermoz.

  • "Trablusgarp Savaşı Ve 1911–1912 Türk-İtalyan İlişkileri: Tarblusgarp Savaşı'nda Mustafa Kemal Atatürk'le İlgili Bazı Belgeler", Hale Şıvgın, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, 2006, ISBN   978-975-16-0160-5

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Italo-Turkish War at Wikimedia Commons

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