Following the ejection of the Ottoman troops and authorities from Crete in November 1898, one of the first tasks of the British in Candia Province was to disarm the Cretans; both Christian and Muslim. The disarming of the Muslims was a relatively easy task since most of them were concentrated in Candia town itself. Not only were there over 1500 British troops in the town at the end of the year, but the town was also under the guns of the Royal Navy. The bulk of the Christian Cretans however, were in the villages surrounding Candia and in the countryside beyond the reach of the naval guns.
Disarmament of the Christians required junior British officers to go out into the villages and countryside and persuade the Christians to give up their weapons; a task which was carried out successfully. Given the title ‘ District Commissioner’ and living in his District with a minimal staff and a small group of enlisted men, the role of such Officers, rarely above the rank of Captain, at this stage of the Intervention was described by an officer of the 1/Northumberland Fusiliers in early 1899. The unidentified author, an officer on a Commissioners staff, recorded that the Commissioner’s first and biggest job being the collection of rifles; by early January 1899 between 3,000 and 4,000 had already been collected in his District alone, and more were arriving daily. In fact, by December 1898 Major-General Herbert Chermside, commander of the British troops, was reporting that, to that date, 18,007 weapons had been collected, including 200 rifles from monasteries.
In all, nearly 20,000 weapons of all sorts were eventually collected, the majority of them being taken from Cretan Christians.
Assuming the date of the photograph is correct, the British troops shown are most likely members of 1/ Northumberland Fusiliers who arrived in October 1898 and left in April 1899, and who were recorded as having taken part in arms collections. Alternatively, they may be from 2/Rifle Brigade who were stationed in Crete from September 1898 to October 1899.