Monthly Archives: November 2015

The propaganda plea that didn’t work

Cretan propaganda

Cretan propaganda leaflet 1897.

The leaflet was distributed to British sailors in Canea; it didn’t appear to have any effect, they still fired.

On 26th March 1897, after Cretan Christians had opened fire on Fort Izzedin, the fortress guarding the southern side of the anchorage in Suda bay, H. M. S. Camperdown was one of the ships that drove the insurgents off. A sailor on board the Camperdown, Fred Blomley [? the writing is unclear so the name might be mis-spelled] wrote to his grandmother describing the events:

‘The battle started about 7 p.m. as soon as the Greeks started firing the small ships fired shell at them it was a splendid sight to see at 8.30 we got orders to fire we fired at a distance of 4 miles the battle finished at 10 p.m. for the night but started in the morning again at 9 a.m. we received orders to fire our heavy guns at them as well as the others our heavy guns weigh 67 tons each & throw a shell weighing 1250 lbs which bursts at any distance you like from ½ mile to 15 miles we fired 4 rounds from these guns at them & a lot from the others.’


H. M. S. Camperdown bombarding Cretan Insurgents

Graphic 24 April 1897 Camperdown firing main armament

H. M. S. Camperdown bombarding Cretan Insurgents.

Meanwhile, making the most of the opportunity to advance medical science, in May 1897, Staff-Surgeon Biden, a Doctor on HMS Scout, one of the warships present at Selino-Kastelli during the Candanos evacuation, published an article detailing the effects on the human body produced by a 5-inch Shrapnel Shell Mark III fired at a range of 2,500 yards; the victim being one of Cretan fighters who had attacked the international force. The Doctor regretted that his ship had been ordered to sea before he was able to visit the other Cretan injured and thus he was denied the opportunity to make further observations on the effects of British shrapnel shells.

E. J. Biden. ‘The Fighting in Crete.’ British Medical Journal. 8 May 1897. 1184.

Candia British military cemetery, 1927

According to a report made by the Captain of H. M. S. Eagle to the C in C Mediterranean in 1927, the British military graveyard in Candia (Iraklion):

‘[S]o far as could be ascertained, […] first came into British possession during the occupation and shortly after the rising of 1896-7, presumably about 1900, as the earliest grave bore the date 1898 and this grave had been in another cemetery for a few years before being removed to its present position.
The cemetery is about 100 by 40 yards and is a fenced off portion of the Greek cemetery. The ground was purchased by the British Government for the sum of some £200 and the Greek Ecclesiastical Body guaranteed its upkeep.
The cemetery at the time of inspection was in good condition and appeared to have been well looked after. It is understood that this is in no small measure to the personal interest taken in it by the present Vice Consul, Mr C. Elliades, who has periodically donated sums of money for its upkeep.’

The report goes on to list the regiments and ships which have graves in the cemetery.

2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers
1/Seaforth Highlanders
1/Highland Light Infantry
2/Rifle Brigade
Kings Royal Rifles
2/Loyal North Lancs.
2/ Cameron Highlanders
2/K. O. Y. L. I.
2/Royal Sussex
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
H. M. S. Cambrian
H. M. S. Trafalgar
H. M. S. Empress of India
H. M. S. Minerva

The cemetery has changed a bit over time, is apparent from the photographs below, having been renovated in 1980.

Candia British military cemetery, 1927

Candia British military cemetery, 1927

Candia British military cemetery, 1927

Candia British military cemetery, 1927

Candia British military cemetery 1927

Candia British military cemetery 1927

Iraklion British Military Cemetery 2015

Candia/Iraklion British Military Cemetery 2015


However, there is some discrepancy in the  memorials. Assuming the 1927 list is accurate, there are a number of differences between the regiments and ships recorded in 1927 and those present in 2015.
Missing from the list of 1927 memorials but present in the cemetery in 2015, are memorials to:
2/Northumberland Fusiliers,
2/Border Regiment,
1 & 2/Lancashire Fusiliers,
as well as to members of the Army Ordinance Corps, Army Service Corps and Royal Engineers.

Also missing from the 1927 list but present in 2015, are memorials to men from H. M. S. Hood and H. M. S. Thetis; while mentioned in the 1927 list but absent from the cemetery in 2015, are memorials to men from H.M.S Cambrian and H. M. S. Trafalgar.

Given that the 1927 list was signed off by the Captain of H. M. S. Eagle, while some discrepancy in recording Army regiments might possibly be understood, it could be assumed to be accurate at least as far as H. M. ships are concerned. If the list is accurate, while the disappearance of memorials between 1927 and 1980, when the cemetery was apparently renovated and the new memorial wall installed, is possibly accounted for by a lack of a central register and the deterioration of the materials used in the original memorial, the addition of new memorials is less easy to explain. It would appear that even after 1927, 14 years after the last British involvement in the European Intervention in Crete, a number of additional memorials to men who had died in a relatively obscure and militarily insignificant operation, were still being raised by their former comrades: And this during a period when much greater losses, in much larger conflicts, were being in the midst of being memorialised.

Filming in Crete – 1897

The photograph below was taken by a British officer, serving in Crete with the 1/Seaforth Highlanders in 1897, and shows the International fleet firing a salute to honour Queen Victoria’s Jubilee on 22nd June that year. While it is not unusual for still photographs of such events of that era in Crete to have been taken, it also appears that, for the first time, a number of moving pictures were also taken, and furthermore, taken of the event

Ships of the International Fleet saluting Queen Victoria's Jubilee. 22 June 1897

Ships of the International Fleet saluting Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. 22 June 1897

British war correspondent and photographer Frederic Villiers (below) has some claim to be the first war cinematographer in history, and his efforts included film of events in Crete.

British War Correspondent Frederic Villiers

British War Correspondent Frederic Villiers

In April 1897, Villiers who at the time was working for the Standard and the Black and White, was in northern Greece covering the Greco – Turkish War, filmed the fighting on the Velestino front and at the battle of Domoko – a battle about which he claimed to have been given details of the time and place when the Ottoman attack would occur, by the Ottoman Commander.

With the defeat of Greece, Villiers them went on to Crete and arrived there in time to film the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. While there are apparently some doubts about some of Villiers claims to have filmed rather than faked events in the Greco –Turkish war, his claim to have authentic film of events in Crete was backed up in 1935 in a letter from William Coyne to the Radio Times on 2nd August 1935, p.9. Coyne, who served on Crete with 1/Seaforth Highlanders and later fought at the Battle of Omdurman, reported that while in Candia watching the International warships firing a Royal salute, he saw ‘…Fred Villars (sic) with his tripod and camera filming the marvelous scene.’ Coyle also confirmed seeing Villiers filming during the Battle of Omdurman.
Further evidence of filming in Crete comes from the advertisements put in English newspapers announcing Villiers’ show.

Advert for Villiers' film show.

Advert for Villiers’ film show.

Unfortunately, all Villiers’ films now appear to have been lost.

Source material taken largely from: Stephen Bottomore, Filming, Faking and Propaganda: The Origins of the War Film, 1897-1902 (unpublished University of Utrecht PhD thesis, 2007), as is Sussex Daily News advert.

Italians to the rescue

Italian sailors and marines rescuing Cretan refugees.

Italian sailors rescuing Cretan refugees.

The translation of the title is: The events of Candia. Italian crews saved the Greek refugees.

The illustration depicts events in the very early stages of the European Intervention. It’s unclear from the picture whether the refugees in question are Cretan Muslims or Cretan Christians; both religious groups had members who sought to flee the island because of the  the atrocities committed by followers of the other religion. Even knowing that it’s Candia doesn’t help much; Cretan Christians were fleeing from the town which had an overwhelming Muslim majority at this time, and Cretan Muslims were fleeing from the countryside, which was controlled by Christian insurgents besieging the town.

However, the refugees are described as ‘Greek’ which could imply they are Cretan Christians; on the other hand, if viewed in conjunction with the illustration below, it’s still just as unclear.

Cretan Muslims boarding Italian ships in Suda Bay.

Cretan Muslims boarding Italian ships in Suda Bay.

These refugees are clearly identified as being from ‘Candanos’ and would have been Cretan Muslims rescued from Kandanos by an International force in March 1897.

The last journey

The funeral of a British soldier

The funeral of a British soldier

The undated photograph shows the funeral procession for a British soldier en-route to the cemetery in Candia. The presence of huts, rather than tents, on the fortifications behind the procession would suggest that the funeral took place sometime after 1898.

In a letter possibly referring to the funeral of Captain Arthur W. Hole, Army Service Corps who died on 24th August 1897, Colin Grieve, 1/Seaforth Highlanders, wrote to his sister from Candia on 12th September 1897:

“I am fed up looking on and doing nothing. As a [Hillant Man] said on guard the other day as a Captain’s funeral was passing by ‘Aye Man; that’s all they get for looking for ‘Maidals’ and Stars’ and he was about right.”… ‘”This expedition has cost us a lot of lives out of the British forces but it has cost about 3 times as much out of the other Powers troops. You may be all right one day and 105 next but a lot of men give in to it then others eat too much fruit and tinned fruit [?] brings it on.”

Source of quote: National Army Museum NAM 7906 – 139.

Ottomans Evacuate Crete

On October 4th 1898 the Council of European Admirals, then effectively ruling Crete, gave the Ottoman authorities one month in which to evacuate all Ottoman troops from the island. The Porte having earlier the previous year, and with great reluctance, accepted that Crete was ultimately to be an Autonomous State, agreed to the evacuation in principle, but objected to both the time table and the detailed terms; the Sultan wanting to retain a small force to guard the Ottoman flag. From British records, it’s clear that the various European governments were prepared to compromise to some extent on the Porte’s response, provided that sooner rather than later, the Ottomans left.

However, the Admirals were adamant that if the Ottomans didn’t all evacuate by the given date, after an ultimatum issued forty eight hours beforehand, all ‘…Turkish authorities and forces [would] be considered as enemies.’ If compulsion should prove necessary, the Admirals would commence by attacking and destroying Fort Izzedin and sinking all Ottoman ships in Suda Bay. If the Porte did not immediately submit, ‘…operations will be continued at Canea, Hieraptra, Spinalonga, Kissamo, and Rethymo; but, in consequence of recent events at Candia [the riots of 6th September 1898] Admirals have not the same scruples, and consider that action there should take place at the same time as Suda.’

By way of preparation for an attack on Candia plans were drawn up which would involve the British forces outside the town, if not previously withdrawn into the town, to concentrate and, in a delicious irony, supported by Cretan Christian insurgents who the British had originally come to suppress, withdraw to the coast where they would be re-embarked. The action to be taken In Candia would include the bombardment of the town, and to this end, detailed maps were drawn up showing the likely fields of fire covered by the guns of the Royal Navy and the British infantry.

Map of Candia showing fields of fire.

Map of Candia showing fields of fire.

In the event, in spite of last minute delay and prevarications on the part of the Ottoman authorities, the evacuation in the British secteur took place on 5th and 6th November 1898, without the use of force being necessary – other than in the case of one elderly Ottoman Colonel ’… a grey haired man, [who] refused to clear out without a show of force, so eventually […] was marched down in the middle of a party of the Rifle Brigade to the harbour.’

Ottoman troops departing Suda Bay. November 1898

Ottoman troops departing Suda Bay. November 1898

The delay in meeting the November 4th deadline, albeit by a day or two, did however, have consequences. The Ottoman flag, which under the terms of the settlement granting Crete Autonomy was supposed to remain flying, was hauled down in Candia and wasn’t raised again until later that month. When it was finally reinstated, in a clear demonstration of where the power on the island actually lay, it was raised and protected by European troops, while, simultaneously, a proclamation was issued guaranteeing European protection to Cretan Muslims.
However, while technically, the last Ottoman troops left Crete on 6th November, a few men did remain behind to supervise the shipping of Ottoman stores and munitions and as late as December that year, arguments were still taking place as to the rank of the Ottoman soldiers who would be allowed to remain; the Ottomans wanting to send a Colonel, the Admirals insisting that no one over the rank of Captain be allowed to remain.

Ottoman Guns being removed from Candia. 1898/1899

Ottoman Guns being removed from Candia. 1898/1899

Cameron Highlanders

2/Cameron Highlanders 1902 -1903

2/Cameron Highlanders 1902 -1903

The caption reads:

‘Entry of High Commissioner through the gate of the fort. Officers and soldiers of the International Corps.’

International troops in Canea, outside the building housing the International Tribunal, not the fort!

The British contingent are from 2/Cameron Highlanders who were in Crete from May 1902 to May 1903.