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.


1 thought on “British Justice.

  1. Pingback: Every picture tells a story…but not necessarily a true one. | The British in Crete, 1896 to 1913.

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