What’s my excuse?

No excuse but a space to display some stuff on the British armed forces in Crete which, for various reasons, won’t be going onto my website; www.mickmctiernan.com/history

Mention the British army in Crete and most people, British, Cretan or Greek, immediately think of 1941 and the defense of the island from German invasion. In fact, the British military had been there before as part of a Concert of Europe Intervention that at one time included armed forces from Britain, France, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Italy and Russia.

British lines on the ramparts of Candia (Iraklion)

British lines on the ramparts of Candia (Iraklion). Post Sept. 1898.

Between 1896 and 1913, European forces occupied Crete, arriving there ostensibly to keep the peace between Cretan Muslims and Cretan Christians, but in reality to prevent the potentially catastrophic effects of the premature breakup of the Ottoman Empire threatened by the Cretan rebellion of 1896 and the landing of Greek forces on the island the following year. The Concert of Europe was not prepared to allow Greece to annex Crete because of the knock-on effect that would have on the Ottoman and former Ottoman territories within Europe and threat that the scramble to occupy and control those lands would have on European stability, and accordingly sending troops to the island to keep the peace and prevent a Greek takeover.

Though granting Crete autonomy within the Ottoman Empire in 1898, and incidentally appointing the son of the Greek King as the first High Commissioner of the island, the Concert troops remained on Crete for some considerable time. European ground forces withdrew finally in 1909, naval forces in 1913, as Crete achieved enosis, union, with Greece in the aftermath of the second Balkan War.

* Quote from a letter by Private William West, C Company 1st Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers. Written to his sister and brother, 5 February 1899 from Candia, Crete.


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