What’s my excuse?

No excuse but a space to display some stuff on the British armed forces in Crete.

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.

Further information on Cretan history, archaeology, folklore and much more, can be found on the excellent Blogreco run by Dimitris Papagiannakis. It’s in Greek but, even for non-Greek speakers, well worth the visit

* 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.

3 thoughts on “What’s my excuse?

    1. Mick McT Post author

      Hi there.
      To the best of my knowledge, that illustration is out of copyright. I took it from my copy of the newspaper, the London Illustrated News, that’s over 100 years old.
      As far as my site is cocerned, I have no problem with you using it.
      Out of interest, what are you doing on Bor? Are you aware of his part in the later events at Fort Izendden?
      I’d love to see what you write when it’s complete, if that’s possible; so few people are writing on the events in Crete at this time.
      All the best.
      Mick McTiernan


  1. John Francis

    The history of the British in Greece and Crete is not always good. However, there was one very good thing and it’s this: during WW2 a group of Cretan Warriors and some British managed to Capture German General Keipe and smuggle him out to Cairo. They made a film about it in c1957 called “ILL Met by Moonlight” (which is a phrase from a play by Wm.Shakespeare,so I believe.



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