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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
or on Mastodon @balkandave@mastodon.scot, or Threads @davewatson1683

Turkey WW2

 This page brings together a range of posts on my Turkey and the Second World War project. This includes my related research, book reviews and wargaming in 28mm, 15mm and 10mm. This culminated in my book Chasing the Soft Underbelly (Helion 2022). And a booklet guide for wargamers (BMH 2023).

You can watch me talk about the book at the virtual book launch on YouTube.

And a presentation about the Turkish armed forces in WW2 here.

28mm model of the British supplied Valentine tanks to the Turkish Army from 1943 onwards. 

Turkey and the Balkans played a crucial role at key moments during the Second World War. Hitler understood Germany's need for the natural resources of the Balkans, including Turkish chromite and Romanian oil. As an Austrian, he also remembered the events of 1918 when the Entente knocked Bulgaria and Austro-Hungary out of the war from the Balkans. Turkey was also important to Stalin, who saw the Straits as a route into the Black Sea and the Soviet Union. Churchill was another of the key players whose interest in Turkey went back to the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War. An interest, some might say, an obsession, which he maintained during the interwar years and throughout the Second World War.

Britain was the driving force on the Allied side in the efforts to get Turkey to declare war. While these efforts failed, at least until February 1945, they did keep Turkey out of the Axis camp, which would have had severe military consequences in 1939-41. The Turkish leadership played a skillful diplomatic and military game to maintain their non-belligerent status, although at a considerable economic cost. Other than in 1942, at the height of the Axis tide, Turkey faced mainly in the direction of the Allies while always worried about the Soviet Union. That concern came to a head as the Red Army arrived on their European border in 1944. 

While Turkey is typically a footnote in most histories of the Second World War, it featured highly in the strategies of the combatants. However, military history remains relatively unexplored, with the available studies focusing largely on diplomatic history. 


Eights Years Overseas - Jumbo Wilson's WW2 memoirs. Wilson was a central player in the Middle East and Mediterranean campaigns of WW2 in various Middle East and Mediterranean commands.

Turkish Foreign Policy 1943-45 - A sympathetic study of Turkish diplomacy in the second half of WW2. by Edward Weisband. He concludes that Turkey played small state diplomacy rather than Great Power politics and survived the conflict.

The Warrior Diplomats - Metin Tamkoc looks at how the Turkish Republic's objectives were achieved by the presidents and their principal advisors, who he calls the 'warrior diplomats'.

The Politics of Turkish Democracy - a book by John VanderLippe, has quite a bit on the Turkish military in WW2 and the essential economic and political background to the decisions made.

Agent Cicero - Mark Simmons’ take on the story of Agent Cicero, the code name for an Albanian, Elyesa Bazna, who was the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir Hughe Katchbull-Hugessen’s valet.

The Balkans in WW2 - Christopher Catherwood's examination of the dilemma Britain faced in relations with Turkey and some of the Balkan states from 1939–41.

No Stars to Guide - Adrian Seligman's account of his WW2 exploits taking a Russian oil tanker from Istanbul to Beirut.

Churchill's Secret War - Robin Denniston's study of diplomatic decrypts, the Foreign Office and Turkey between 1942 and 1944.

Red Wind Over the Balkans - Study of the Soviet campaign in Bulgaria during 1944, including Stalin's potential invasion of Turkey.

British Intelligence in WW2 - Michael Howard's history includes Operation Barclay in 1943. This operation aimed to divert Axis units from Sicily by threatening targets in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Crete and the Peloponnese, as well as bringing Turkey into the war.

Struggle for the Middle Sea - Vincent O'Hara's study of the naval war in the Mediterranean between 1940 and 1945.

LRDG in the Aegean - by Brendan O’Carroll, covers operations in the Aegean, or more specifically, during the Dodecanese Campaign in November 1943.

Anders Lassen - Anders Lassen was a Danish merchant seaman who volunteered for the SAS. He would become the only member of the SAS to win the Victoria Cross. Fought in the Dodecannese. 

Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean - Two Ospreys covering the JU87 and fighter units in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Sea of Spies - Spy fiction based on the supply of chromite from Turkey to the Germans.


Turkish Army of WW2 - Balkan History page.

28mm Turkish army - Infantry and armour for games of Bolt Action.

15mm Turkish army on the tabletop.

15mm early war Turkish army using Blitzkrieg Commander rules.

15mm Turkish armies using Sam Mustafa's Rommel to play an Operation Gertrud scenario

Operation Hardihood - 15mm reinforcements for the Turkish army.

10mm Turkish armies using Rommel rules. The game board and army lists here.

Turkish fleet of WW2 - 1/3000 Turkish fleet first with the Yavuz, two destroyers and two submarines. The Atilay class were German U-Boats. Rules are Victory at Sea.

Air operations focused on defending Istanbul. We used Blood Red Skies to simulate these potential actions.

Operation Gertrud - board game of German plan to invade Turkey.

War in the Aegean - Study of the campaign and board game, ‘War in the Aegean’ (Against the Odds 2005) which represents the grand tactical level campaign.

Banzai at Basra - Wargame scenario covering a Japanese intervention in the Iraqi Revolt.

Bother at Batumi - Wargame scenario covering Turkey and the Soviet Union in the Caucasus.

Operation Gertrud - Wargame scenario of the German invasion of Turkey in 10mm using Rommel rules.

Related posts

Bulgarian Army of WW2

Soviet Black Sea Fleet during WW2

Royal Yugoslav Army

My wargamers guide to the subject with scenarios and army lists.

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