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taken largely from: Stephen Bottomore, Filming, Faking and Propaganda: The Origins of the War Film, 1897-1902 (unpublished University of Utrecht PhD thesis, 2007), as is Sussex Daily News advert.

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