Monthly Archives: January 2016

2 Royal Sussex get the goat.

Drummers 2/Royal Sussex

Drummers 2/Royal Sussex.  (Assuming that’s an Ibex on the bottom left, the photograph dates from between August 1906 when they received the animal, and February 1907, when the battalion left the island.)

On 29th May 1905, the Head Quarters and five other companies of 2/Royal Sussex left Malta bound for Crete. Extracts from the battalion diary describe their experiences:

“[The battalion] under Lt Col. J. G. Panton moved to Crete in S. S. Sardinia to assist in the suppression of the insurrection of the followers of VENEZELO against the Cretan Government. The insurrection continued until the end of Nov. 1905.
Detachments of the battalion were distributed over the KANDIA secteur, (i.e. the British secteur) in fortified (posts?) and camps. Small columns were also sent out to patrol the district. A detachment of the battalion was also quartered at CANEA in the International zone.
Colonel Panton commanded the British Troops in Crete, and had under his command 400 of 1.K.R.R. [1/Kings Royal Rifles] in addition to various details of R.E. – A.S.C. etc [Royal Engineers & Army Service Corps.]
The Officers of the Bn. In addition to their military duties were employed in the administration of martial law, which was still continued after the conclusion of the 1905 insurrection. The work of the troops during the insurrection involved considerable hard work and discomfort. The armed bands of insurgents avoided coming into contact with the troops, and on three occasions only was there actual fighting between British troops and the insurgents viz. at SKYLOS, CORPHAIS and at BUTZENARIO.
The insurgents were armed with Gras rifles (chiefly) – very badly kept. Their shooting was bad.
Two cruisers, the “VENUS” & “MINERVA” and afterwards the “DIANA” were stationed at Crete and frequently co-operated by moving detachments of the Battn. by sea, to various parts of the Island. The signallers of the Battn did excellent work in in keeping up communication between all posts in the district & with Head Quarters in KANDIA………
On April 28th May 1st 1906 ‘C’ E’ and ‘H’ Companies under command of Bt. Lieut. Colonel H.R. Lloyd arrived at Crete from Malta on the “MALACCA”, disembarkation took place under considerable difficulties owing to the rough state of the sea at the time and the absence of any labour at KANDIA.
The Battalion was split up into many Detachments during the elections in the British secteur in May, and underwent a considerable amount of arduous work…….
During September trouble was expected in the island of Crete owing to the resignation of Prince George of Greece from the position of High Commissioner of Crete. Nothing of any account occurred in the KANDIA secteur, but at CANEA on the day of his departure as party of Insurgents fired at the International Troops, killing a Russian cavasse [official interpreter] and wounding a Russian soldier- a Detachment under Lieutenant R. (Pinker?) of the battalion was at Canea at the time but took but little part in the affair…….
Prince George of Greece presented the Battalion with two Ibex as Regimental pets in August 1906. The male Ibex died before the Battalion left Crete….


On 11th January 1907 a monument erected by the 2nd Bn in memory of their Comrades, who died in Crete during 1905-1907, was unveiled by Bn Colonel J.G. Panton C.M.G. in British Cemetery at Crete.”20150630_110026

2 Royal Sussex Memorial Iraklion.

2 Royal Sussex Memorial Iraklion.


Revolutionary soldiers

Participants in the Theriso Rebellion. 1905

Participants in the Theriso Rebellion. 1905

The battalion left Crete, en-route for Belfast, on 25th  February 1907.

The Widow’s Uniform

In 1897 the British army adopted khaki as the colour for the uniforms of its troops serving overseas; a move that had to wait until 1902 for home based troops. However, It’s unclear from the contemporary accounts whether the first two battalions to arrive on Crete in 1897, the 1/Seaforth Highlanders and the 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers, had actually changed into khaki before reaching the island. Assuming they had changed, the photograph below, taken in Malta and published in 1898 in the Navy and Army Illustrated, shows the standard kit for the ‘other ranks’: for the Welsh at least.Field Service Kit Navy Army Illustrated 1898

However, at least one illustration in the Illustrated London News in 1897 indicates, in the artist’s colouring notes, that at least some of the British Officers in Crete wore red uniforms. Additionally, the coloured engraving below showing the troops of the Powers occupying the bastion in Canea, source and date unknown but before early 1898 when the Austro-Hungarians withdrew, appears to show some British troops still in red.

Canea bastion c.1897

Canea bastion c.1897

Similarly, the photograph below, taken in 1897 and showing the Seaforths and Welsh Fusiliers changing the guard in Candia, appears to show both bodies of troops in red uniforms: compare with the khaki worn by the figure in the bottom right of the photograph.

Crete 1897. Changing Guard, Candia. Seaforths and Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Crete 1897. Changing Guard, Candia. Seaforths and Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Additionally, the illustration of the of the Seaforths firing the salute appears to show them in their dress, red, uniforms, rather than in Khaki. When out in the field, as in the illustration below of a Seaforths patrol going out to deter Christian Cretans from interfering with the water supply to Candia in 1897, they apparently wore khaki.

Crete 1897. Seaforth Highlanders on patrol near Candia.

Crete 1897. Seaforth Highlanders on patrol near Candia.

While khaki was an improvement on the previous red uniforms (excepting of course for the Rifle Brigade and King’s Royal Rifles who were in green), the Scots still had to wear their kilts, both at home and abroad, as above photographs, and the one below of a Seaforth Highlander at kit inspection c. 1897, clearly show.

Seaforth Highlander's kit. c.1897

Seaforth Highlander’s kit. c.1897 Source: Navy and Army Illustrated.


Suda Bay Golf Course

While the quality of the text below may leave something to be desired, the story it tells may strike a chord with those who have been following the seemingly everlasting debates as to whether or not to expend land, resources and water on building golf courses on Crete.1899 golf course (2)
Taken from the Navy and Army Illustrated of 20th (?) February 1899, the article tells the story of the golf course at Suda Bay, Canea.

Described as originally having been laid down by officers from H. M. S. Revenge “…a little over a year ago. Since then succeeding ships have expended time and labour on them, until now a nine-hole course exists that gives a very fair game. Indeed many Naval officers who have played a great deal on both courses declare that much better “gowf” can be had on the Suda Bay links than on the older course at Malta.

“The links are situated some twenty minutes’ walk from the landing place at Suda where a small river discharges its stream at the head of Suda Bay. Here, as shown in the [top] illustration is ‘Giacommenos (?) restaurant…” (Apparently known among British Naval officers as ‘The Sign of the Great Powers.’)

“Here caddies are engaged and a naval officer is, in our illustration, seen solving the difficult question, namely, which of the two caddies offering their services is likely to be the least untrustworthy.”

The Suda Bay course was not unique. While it was apparently in use in 1899 when the photographs were taken, writing in 1915 of his time stationed in Crete in 1906, Captain W. D. Downes of the 2/Sussex Regiment describes a golf course in Candia which had been built by ‘political prisoners.’

The site of the Suda Bay golf course still retains its connection with the British military. Today it is the location of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, containing not only the remains of those British and Allied troops who died on Crete during WW2, but also a small number who died on the island at other times, including during the Intervention period.

Seaforth Highlanders – Akrotiri

On April 19th 1897, under command of Captain Egerton,  75 men of 1/Seaforth Highlanders were sent to join the existing  international detachment of 75 Austrians, 75 French, 90 Italians and 2 Italian guns, guarding the neck of Akrotiri peninsula, outside Canea. The force was placed there to prevent Christian insurgents from attacking the town form the north east, and remained there until June.

1/Seaforth Highlanders

1/Seaforth Highlanders. Location unknown.

Italian Gun, Suda Bay April 1897

Italian Gun, Suda Bay April 1897

According to Egerton:

“The orders given by the Council of Admirals …were to guard the neck of the Akrotiri peninsula and prevent a large body of insurgents encamped therein from breaking out, and equally to prevent any body of Turks or Bashi Bazouks from the mainland from breaking in and attacking the insurgents. The two chiefs of the insurgent bands on Akrotiri were Messers Fourmis [sic] & Venezelos [sic], both Athens’ educated natives of Crete, who spoke and wrote excellent French.”

Activity at this post was apparently limited and Egerton clearly had no great opinion of his allies, continuing his narrative in the first person he stated:

“Nothing serious ever happened, but for the two months that I was in command at Akrotiri Lt. Campion and myself, took it in turn every night to visit the sentries and patrol the neighbourhood, after 12 midnight.

I did not trust the Italians a yard, and had no great confidence in the French, but my Austrian detachment Officers and men, were reliable to the last degree. The Italians were very fond of the English and were ready to black our boots, and they have never forgotten how much we assisted towards a united Italy. The Austrians were on very friendly terms always, their Officers were nearly all gentlemen, which was not certainly the case with most of the other foreign Officers.

The Russians we saw little of, they were mainly kept outside of Canea, on account of their rowdy habits. Their Colonel was an ex-Guardsman exiled for St. Petersburg for his numerous crimes. He was often seen drunk.”