Turkish Gun Markings

by Charlie Clelland


There were a large number of Turkish guns captured by the Light Horse in Palestine in 1918. Many of these were returned to Australia and distributed as war trophies in 1921/22. The most common guns found as memorials are the 75mm Krupp M1903 guns. The Turkish Army received 4 shipments of these guns from Krupp in 1905 to 1914. The largest shipment was the first in 1905 when 462 guns were shipped. Many of the guns in the first shipment had the manufacturer, gun number and build date inscribed on the breech in old Turkish script. This poses some problems for English speakers to decode the gun number and build date. This article is limited to retrieving numbers from the Turkish script.

The old Turkish script is no longer used in Turkey and is pretty much lost to modern Turkish speakers but a version of the same script is still used in Iran and many Persian speakers can translate the text.

The old Turkish script is written in Perso-Arabic script and follows the same rules of construction as Arabic or Persian. Numbers in this script are written left-to-right (like English) unlike the normal right-to-left of Arabic or Persian. Numbers are always written as separated characters unlike words which are usually written with the letters joined together. Fortunately the number system in Arabic or Persian is the same as English, except that different characters are used for the numerals.

Numbers in Arabic

Decoding Numbers in Inscriptions

Taking the inscription of the Krupp M03 at the Wallaroo RSL as an example:

There seem to be 2 numbers in this inscription (remember Turkish numbers are written as disconnected characters). These are:


The four character number (١٣٢٣) may be a date - converting the characters to Latin gives "1323" - this seems to be the manufacture date in the Islamic calendar. This can be converted to the Gregorian calendar (approximately) by ((date) x 0.97) + 622. This gives 1905 as the build date. However, the Ottoman empire also used the Rumi calendar for civil matters. This was introduced in 1840 and was in use until abolished in 1925. Rumi dates can be converted to Gregorian by adding 584 years, which for this gun gives a build date of 1907. The line under the date is an indicator that the date is a Rumi date. The date this gun was processed through the Imperial Arsenal (Top Hâne) was 1907.

The 3 character number (٥٤٧) transliterates as "547" - Billett's book on War Trophies gives the serial no. of the Wallaroo gun as "547" so this is most likely the serial number.