Guarding the Ottoman Flag

Lowering the Ottoman Flag on the Firka, Canea.

Lowering the Ottoman Flag on the Firka, Canea.

This photograph is undated, but the last time the Ottoman flag flew on Crete, other than the retention of a symbolic flag on Fort Suda in the middle of Suda Bay, and possibly one at Fort Izzedin, was probably on or about 21st December 1898 when Price George of Greece arrived to take up the post of High Commissioner of the newly created Cretan Autonomous State. The nationality of the troops in the photograph above is unclear, but they are possibly Italian since Canea was the base of the Italian occupied secteur.

Following the arrival of the International troops in 1897, the Ottoman flag flew on the Firka under international guard in order to reinforce to the Cretan Christians the determination of the European Powers that Crete should not be united with Greece. On 3rd November 1898, on British orders, the Ottoman flag was hauled down in Candia in order to make it clear to the Ottoman authorities that their time on Crete was over. However, it was allowed to be flown again on 6th November after the eviction of all Ottoman troops and officials from the island: this time in order to show to the Cretan Muslim population that their rights were to be respected even though their co-religionists were no longer in power.


Raising the Greek flag, Suda bay 1913.

Raising the Greek flag, Suda Bay 1913.

By 1913 the political situation had completely changed and, as a result of the Balkan Wars, on 1st December that year Crete was finally legally united with Crete. Prior to enosis, one of the last acts of the International Intervention was undertaken by the Royal Navy when on 13th February 1913, the crew of H. M. S. Yarmouth hauled down the last remaining Ottoman flag, flown as a symbol of the Sultan’s suzerainty over Crete, from its flagpole in the fortress in the middle of Suda Bay and handed it over to the British Consul for safe keeping. (The whereabouts of that flag is currently unknown.) Immediately following the departure of H.M.S Yarmouth, the Greek flag was raised on the flagpole; this time guarded by Greek sailors.*

However, the Ottoman symbol displayed on Fort Izzedin, on the opposite side of Suda Bay to Suda Castle, was not what might be expected. An article published in 1937 stated that by 1912 the nominal Ottoman authority over Crete was “… represented by a Turkish flag, in painted tin, discoloured beyond recognition.” Arguably an apt metaphor for the end of Ottoman rule.**


*Robert Holland and Diana Markides. “The British and the Hellenes; Struggle for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1850 – 1960.” O.U.P. Oxford 2006. p.159

**Demetrius Caclamanos, “Reminiscences of the Balkan Wars’, The Slavonic and East European Review, 16 (1937), 117


2 thoughts on “Guarding the Ottoman Flag

  1. Pingback: Royal Navy – Medical Ethics? | The British in Crete, 1896 to 1913.

  2. Pingback: August 18 1909, the Powers return | The British in Crete, 1896 to 1913.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.