Monthly Archives: March 2015

Know your allies? Another minor puzzle.

International Troops but NOT in 1896.

The undated postcard above shows International troops based in Canea. However, it also appears (top left) to show a Greek Evzone. The Greek army were never part of the International force on Crete; their presence on the island was the reason for the international intervention in the first instance and they  were evacuated in May 1897 after a stay of four months. The card also apparently also shows (bottom left and bottom right) Ottoman soldiers. While the Ottoman troops were on the island until November 1897, they were not usually considered to be part of the International intervention.

International troops wrong yearA similar post card to the one at the top of the page although the elements are in a different order. The problem with this card is that it cannot be an accurate depiction of the date it purports to represent: 1896.

Foreign troops, other than Ottoman ones, didn’t arrive on Crete until February 1897.

Leaving aside the question of who plagairised whom, dating the cards is a problematic. Clearly the images were produced between 1897, when the international troops arrived, and 1904, the date on the franked stamp. However, assuming the images are of troops who served in Crete, the presence of a highland piper can assist since only two kilted regiments served on the island in this period. The Seaforth Highlanders were the first to arrive in April 1897, leaving in November that year; the Cameron Highlanders arrived in May 1902, leaving in March 1903.  If the highland soldier is, as he appears to be from comparison with other photographs, a piper in the Cameron Highlanders, then the cards probably date from sometime after early 1902. But then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I got it all wrong!

Italian Bootblacks?

Itallian artillery, Suda Bay.

Italian artillery, Suda Bay.

The caption, in The Graphic, 17 April 1897, reads:

“The peninsula of Akrotiri occupied by Italian and Austrian troops.
The peninsula of Akrotiri, which lies between Canea and Suda Bay, has been blockaded. The insurgents on the peninsula are cut off from communication with their fellows. They have made several sallies. As the Turks felt themselves too weak to hold their position, a company of Austrian infantry and a detachment of Italian marines with two mountain guns were sent to occupy it.”

Italian mountain battery, 1898.

Italian mountain battery. Crete, 1898.

Writing in a ‘Diary of the detachment 1st BN. Seaforth Highlanders at Canea, Crete, during the early days of the international Occupation 1897’, Captain G. G. A, Egerton, D Company, 1st Seaforth Highlanders, sent to command a mixed force on the Akrotiri peninsula from 19th April to 10th June 1897, stated:
‘I did not trust the Italians a yard, and had no great confidence in the French, but my Austrian detachment Officers and men, were reliable to the last degree. The Italians were very fond of the English and were ready to black our boots, and they have never forgotten how much we assisted towards a united Italy. The Austrians were on very friendly terms always, their Officers were nearly all gentlemen, which was not certainly the case with most of the other foreign Officers. The Russians we saw little of, they were mainly kept outside of Canea, on account of their rowdy habits. Their Colonel was an ex Guardsman exiled for St. Petersburgh for his numerous crimes. He was often seen drunk.’
The French were all Infanterie de la Marine “Les Marsouines[?]”, riddled with Madagascar and Touquin [?] fever and undisciplined devils I thought.’

British artillery were represented by 4th Mountain Battery, Royal Artillery, on the island from 26th April 1897 to November 1897.


God save the Sultan!

Ottoman troops cheering the Sultan. Canea 1897

Ottoman troops cheering the Sultan. Canea 1897

The caption reads: Musslemans in Canea Cheering the Sultan before sunset every evening.

“We entered Canea just as the ladies of the harems, bundled up in black wrappings, with black masks, embroidered with silver flowers, over their faces, and black umbrellas jammed down on the tops of their heads, began to dodder along the streets on their evening walk, like ghastly mutes in some funereal play by Maeterlinck. On an open space upon the Venetian ramparts, beside the gate, the Turkish garrison was drawn up in companies. A trumpeter blew, the band played a few bars, then all the troops shouted and howled and kissed their hands, the officers “carried” swords, the guard presented arms. When the paroxysm was over, the trumpeter blew again, the band played a few bars, all the troops kissed their hands, and the rest of the ceremony was repeated. These things were done three or four times over, to publish the glory of the Sultan who sat in Constantinople. Then the red sun went down, and in the east there rose a round and greenish moon.”

Excerpt from:  Scenes in the thirty days war between Greece and Turkey, 1897.
H. W. Nevinson 1898.
Nevinson, a reporter for the Daily Chronicle, was in Canea briefly in June 1897. (If his prose appears to lack the objectivity one might expect from a reporter and to display an element of disdain towards the Ottoman troops, it might be because he had originally gone to Greece with a small force of British volunteers who went to fight alongside the Greeks.)

A minor mystery.

Kandanos 9 April 1905

Kandanos 9 April 1905

An interesting souvenir, but of what, and where was the photograph taken?

The photograph shows the flags of France and Italy flying above the ruins of some very large buildings. Included in the picture, along with French and Italian troops, are a number of British soldiers (extreme left of picture). There can also be seen what seem to be Cretan Gendarmes or members of the Cretan Civic Guards (on top of the wall top right).

The presence of the Cretan Gendarmes/Civic Guards would date the photograph as being taken sometime after 1899, and the arrival of Prince George of Greece as High Commissioner for the island in late 1898 and the subsequent setting up of these two Cretan law enforcement bodies. The problem is that the village of Kandanos is some 55 km south west of Canea and in 1905 was in the secteur controlled by Italian troops – the French and British would have no reason to be there, and judging by the weapons carried, they weren’t there for a holiday outing!

The other problem with the photograph is that Kandanos was, and is, a large village, not the sort of place likely to have three-story buildings.

The only place where French Italian and British troops are likely to have been in close proximity at around this time, and contained ruins of large buildings,  would have been Canea, which as the capital of the island was under the control of all of the four Powers.

Although Kandanos featured in the world’s press briefly in 1897 when a relief column consisting of international  marines and sailors was sent to rescue Ottoman troops and Cretan Muslims besieged in the town by Cretan Christians, no record of anything  significant happening there in April 1905 appears to exist – at least not in English. The Theriso Revolt lead by Eleftherios Venizelos had broken out the previous month, but by and large military activity was confined to the Russian secteur of the island, around Rethymnon; little of any import seems to have happened in Selinos, the province in which Kandanos is situated.

At the moment I’m completely baffled as to why such a souvenir should be have been produced showing as it does a specific date on which nothing much seems to have happened, and a very misleading location. Any suggestions as to what’s going on will be most gratefully received!

Gentlemen who lunch

Pachides Meeting. 13 November 1989

Pachides Meeting. 13 November 1989

The text beneath the illustration reads:

“A meeting convened by the British Military Commissioner, Sir Herbert Chermside, was held on Crete on November 13, in a large tent at Pachides, on the outpost line, at which Sir Alfred Biliotti, the British Consul was present. Representatives of Christians of the province of Candia accepted with acclamation the conditions for the disarmament of the population, and urged that British officials and troops should be used to administer and safeguard their districts. Later Sir Herbert Chermside entertained about seventy headmen to a champagne lunch. Some 300 (?) rifles were brought into Candia on the following day.”
The Graphic 20 December 1898.

No details have been found of the quantity or quality of champagne consumed.

Cretan Muslims within Candia by the British had been disarmed within days of the Candia massacre of 6th September, a process that produced some 5,356 firearms of which 1,576 were deemed to be the property of the Ottoman Government, and the final Ottoman troops had been thrown off the island by 5th November. The problem remained with the Cretan Christians whose leaders had made it clear to Chermside that infighting within the Christian community could preclude disarmament taking place. The mistrust between the political factions of the Christian community, and the suspicions of the Christian leaders that any Cretan Christian administrators would act in a partisan fashion, was so great that only the presence of ‘neutral’ British troops in the countryside could induce the chieftains to instruct their followers to surrender their arms.

On 6th December 1898, following the Pachides meeting, Chermside was able to report to Rear Admiral Noel, the Senior British military commander in Crete and one of the ruling ‘Council of Admirals’, that British troops and officers previously confined within a ‘cordon’ around Candia within the range of naval guns, had started administering the towns and villages within the British secteur. By that date they had collected 16,000 firearms, ‘exclusive fowling pieces and revolvers’ from the civilian population.*

*National Archive. FO78/4969. Page 230. Chermside to Rear Admiral Noel, 6th December 1898. Inclosures 1 & 2 in No. 1.

British Justice.

Following the rioting in Candia on 6th September 1898, which left 14 British military personnel, and a number of British citizens, dead – not to mention some 400 Cretan civilians, mostly Cretan Christians – the British reaction was swift. Courts martial were set up to try those accused of killing the service personnel and a Military Tribunal to try those accused of killing British civilians. Neither judicial body allowed appeals against their verdicts. Capital sentences were passed on 12 men for the murder of British soldiers, none appear to have been tried for the murder of British sailors, and five men condemned to death for the murder of British civilians. The prisoners were kept on board H.M.S. Isis while awaiting both trial and subsequently their execution.

Cretan Muslim prisoners on board H. M. S. Isis

Cretan Muslim prisoners on board H. M. S. Isis.

(Photograph used by courtesy of

The first batch of 7 men were hanged on 18th October 1898, The Graphic covering the executions in some detail in its issue of 5 November 1898.

‘’When we arrived at Candia we found that the court martial had sentenced seven of the Bashi-Bazouks to death. Accordingly they were taken ashore in one of the ship’s boats and hanged before all the troops on a scaffold which had been erected during the night on the ramparts.Three of the criminals were convicted of murdering two Highland Light Infantry men. The other four men were convicted of firing into our hospital and killing three patients inside. Each prisoner had his crime labelled on a large board in English in front of him and in Turkish on his back. The bodies were left hanging until sunset. All seven prisoners were placed on the false floor of the scaffold and allowed a six-foot drop. The floor was kept up by a rope which passed up over the side of the scaffold and was secured in the little hut shown in the sketch at the top. Here was a Highland Light Infantry man with an axe, and at seven as the bugle sounded he cut the rope and the floor fell.’’

Execution of rioters. The Graphic. 5 November 1898.

The magazine returned to the subject on 3rd December 1898, this time featuring the execution on 7th November of three of the men convicted of murdering British civilians.

The Graphic 3 December 1898.

The Graphic 3 December 1898.

Two further men were condemned to death by an International Tribunal for the murder of Cretan civilians. This Tribunal took place in Canea and was under the control of the Italian military and, as a result, the method of execution was by firing squad rather than by hanging. Even though it managed to get the nationality of the executed men wrong, the ‘Terrible Turk’ was Cretan, The Sketch was happy to provide its readers with the detail:

“It is rare nowadays that the British Tommy experiences the thrill of horror at seeing a comrade shot. Mr Kipling’s mere description of the hanging of Danny Deever is thrilling enough. But Tommy was vouchsafed the experience of seeing two Turks shot in Crete the other day. They had been involved in the massacre at Candia last September, and condemned to be shot. So at eight o’clock in the morning of Nov.3 they were taken to Canea, and surrounded by the four Powers, England, France, Italy and Russia, mustered a hundred strong each, and drawn up on three sides of a square. Three men were selected from each Power, two for the front rank and one in reserve, to shoot the prisoners. So Kaider Ismaneki and Halil Araf Halilaki took their seats with their backs to the firing party. There Commandant’s sabre fell, and in an instant they dropped dead.”The execution of rioters. Canea 23 November 1898.The aftermath of November executions. The Sketch 28 December 1898.