Monthly Archives: August 2016

Canea, 15th April 1897. The International Parade.

In ‘Diary of the detachment 1st BN. Seaforth Highlanders at Canea Crete During the early days of the international Occupation 1897′,[1] for 15 April 1897, the following entry occurs:

“This International review was a sight that will probably never be seen again for a 1000 years.”[2]

The parade in question was a review by the Admirals then commanding Crete, of the International garrison of Canea; an event held with the purpose of impressing the inhabitants of Canea, both Christian and Muslim, with the might of the European Powers who had been landing over the past weeks. Presumably it was intended to impress Muslim population of the determination of the Europeans to protect them, and convince the Christians that the Insurgents, even backed by the 1500 or so Greek troops on the island, had no chance of military success. It also coincided with the recent repulse of a number of Greek troops and irregulars who at one stage, threatened to attack the town, only to be driven back by the guns of the International Fleet and field guns landed by the French Army and Royal Navy. Whatever the motive, the parade appears to have been somewhat spectacular; particularly, one assumes, by Cretan Standards.

The British troops stationed in Canea at this time consisted of D and G Companies 1/Seaforth Highlanders commanded by Major S. B. Jameson, and 184 men of No. 4 Battery Mountain Artillery, Royal Artillery, the latter recently arrived from Malta and about to be transferred to Candia [Iraklion].[3] (The bulk of the British troops, 390 men of 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the remaining 650 men of 1/Seaforths plus auxiliary personnel, were stationed in Candia.[4])

The provenance of the photographs below is difficult to ascertain, but there is some indication they come from an Austro-Hungarian source.

Ottoman troops on parade. Note the bastion in the background with the flags of the European nations flying.

Ottoman troops on parade. Note the bastion in the background with the flags of the European nations flying.

Ottoman Cavalry

Ottoman Cavalry

 

 

Italian Troops

Italian Troops

French troops (?) on parade.

French troops (?) on parade.

French troops (?) with mountain guns/telegraph laying equipment.

French troops (?) with mountain guns/telegraph laying equipment.

Both the French and the Italians were recorded as having some artillery in Canea at this time. Shortly after this parade, on 26th April, a battery of mountain artillery, 4th Mountain Battery , Royal Artillery, were landed in Candia..

Russian troops

Russian troops

Seaforth Highlanders on parade 12th April 1897.

Seaforth Highlanders on parade 15th April 1897. The mounted officer is possibly Major Jameson

Seaforth Highlanders

Seaforth Highlanders

The Seaforth Highlanders apparently made a good impression; at least they impressed the British Senior Naval Officer, Admiral Rear Admiral Harris, who reported that: “Our detachment of the Seaforth Highlanders made a most creditable appearance, and their smartness was much noted by the foreigners, including my colleagues.”[5]

The parade ground in Canea no longer exists; it is now a football pitch.

 

[1] National Army Museum 6807-171.

[2]  Later on the page, in a different hand, is written: “Not so sure – This International occupation may be the first of a series, marking a new epoch in the history of the world – for the prevention of war between two nations.” While on the page opposite appears: “Three years after this was written by Lieut. Gaisford came the International Occupation of China, which up to date has hardly been a great success. G. Egerton [?] Jany 1901 “

[3] WO 33/149. No. 30. Secretary of State for War to Commander in Chief Malta, 29 March 1897.

No. 43. Adjutant General to Commander in Chief Malta, 2 April 1897.

[4] WO 33/150. Correspondence Relative to the Occupation of Crete. No. 1. Chermside to Secretary of State for War, 14 April 1897

[5] ADM116 Vol.2. Telegram No.476. Rear Admiral Harris to Admiral Sir John Hopkins 23 April 1897.

August 18 1909, the Powers return

On 23 July 1909, two days before the evacuation of all British and International troops from Crete, the Admiralty issued the following instructions to the Commander of the Royal Navy force in Crete concerning the future role of the stationnaires, the ships that were to remain on station off Crete representing the four Powers:

“The stationnaires will protect the Turkish Flag and the flags of the four Powres (sic) on the Island at Suda bay. In case of disturbances which the local authorities are unable to suppress, the Commanders of the stationnaires will take the necessary steps to restored tranquillity in accordance with the recommendations of the Consuls General…. The foregoing instructions include authority for the Commanding officer of the British Stationnaire to join his colleagues in the use of force in case of need without special instructions in an emergency …”[1]

Similar instructions were issued by their governments to the naval commanders of the other Powers.

Following the departure of the land forces on the 26th July, as had been anticipated the Greek flag was raised above the Firka (Fortress) in Canea and also in Candia.

Flags of Powers Fort Suda July 1909. ILN 28 Aug 1909

Flags of Powers Fort Suda July 1909. Illustrated London News, 28 August 1909.

Text below photograph reads: Much excitement has been aroused in Crete over the question of flags. The Cretans flew the Greek flag at Canea, contrary to the wishes of Turkey, to whom they owe suzerainty, and, on their refusing to lowered it, a combined force from the international squadron landed and hauled it down. It was afterwards raised again but lowered by the Cretans themselves. The five flags in the above picture are those of Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, (the Protecting Powers) and Turkey. [The photograph appears to show the flags flying on Fort Suda.]

Greek flag flying above the Firka, Canea. July 1909

Greek flag flying above the Firka, Canea. July 1909

Diplomatic efforts by the Consuls General of the Powers failed to persuade the Cretan authorities to lower the flags and in the face of strenuous Ottoman complaints, and the threat of an Ottoman fleet returning to Crete to enforce the removal of the Greek Flag, the Powers agreed to take the matter in hand.

On 15th August Captain Cecil Thursby, H. M. S. Swiftsure, arrived off Crete and the following day, as Senior Naval Officer in Cretan waters, assumed command of all the Powers’ ships. An unsuccessful attempt had been made that morning to lower the flag in Canea but the gendarmes given the task had withdrawn in the face of armed Cretan Christian opposition.  Having discussed the situation with his naval counterparts and with the Consuls General, Thursby ordered that the flag in Canea would be removed, by force if necessary.

At 5am on Wednesday 18th August accompanied by Thursby, sailors and marines from the Powers, the British contingent being men from either H. M.S. Swiftsure or H. M. S. Diana, the  report is unclear, landed at Canea. Here, according to Thursby,[2] they were “… received on landing by the representative of the Colonel commanding the  [Cretan] Troops, who reported the Town quiet and being patrolled by the Gendarmarie while the gates were held by the Militia to prevent armed villagers coming in. he placed himself at my disposal. I therefore informed him that I would relieve the Guard over the Flagstaff, and accompanied by him I proceeded with the mixed Company (under the command of Lt. Boulain (?) of ‘Jules Michelet’  to do so. As soon as the gendarmarie had withdrawn, the Company was fallen in opposite the Flagstaff – the flag had not yet been hoisted. The Staff was then removed, together with the iron fastenings and clamps, so that if could not be put up again. At this time the remainder of the landing Parties were fallen in outside the Fort.”

After about half an hour, there being no reaction from the town, the landing parties were withdrawn, with the exception of a party left to guard the remains of the flagpole.

International force at the Firka, Canea. August 1909

International force at the Firka, Canea. August 1909. British contingent at the front on right.

The Firka, Canea, after the flagpole removed.

The Firka, Canea, after the flagpole removed.

British guard party at the Firka, Canea, after flagpole removed.

British guard party at the Firka, Canea, after flagpole removed.

Italian guard party at the Firka, Canea, after the flagpole removed.

Italian guard party at the Firka, Canea, after the flagpole removed.

Cretan gendarmarie guard party at the Firka, Canea.

Cretan gendarmarie guard party at the Firka, Canea.

Meanwhile, in Candia, the Greek flag had also been raised; only to be lowered after the Power’s actions in Canea, and then raised again. It was finally lowered for good when Captain Thursby made it clear to the Cretan Assembly, via the Consuls General, that the combined naval forces under his command were quite prepared to use force to remove the flag.

In the end, the remains of the flagpole in Canea remained under International guard until 1st September when Thursby and his colleagues came to the conclusion that their point had been made sufficiently forcefully, and the detachment was withdrawn.

The next time the Greek flag was flown on Crete, at least semi-officially, was on 13th February 1913 when the Ottoman flag was removed from it’s last flying place on Suda Fortress by the crew of  H. M. S. Yarmouth. The first time it was ‘legally’ flown was on 1st December 1913 when, at a ceremony on the Firka, Crete formally became part of Greece.

 

Foot Note. That the matter of whose flag should be flown was a serious one is shown by the fact that when the Greek flag was raised in July 1909, the Ottoman empire threatened to send forces to remove it; a threat which was taken sufficiently seriously for Captain Thursby to draw up instructions for the ships of the Powers under his command, making it clear that any attempted Turkish landing would be forcibly opposed.

[1] National Maritime Museum NOE 10/1. Admiralty to Rear Admiral ‘Duncan’ Canea.

[2] This and subsequent details of the operation in National Maritime Museum NOE 10/1. Ships Copy of Reports of Proceedings Nos 1,2 & 3. Captain Cecil Thursby. H, M. S. Swiftsure, Canea to Senior Naval Officer Malta.

The Powers withdraw

In July 1909, the last of the International troops in Crete withdrew amid scenes of much rejoicing on the part of all parties concerned… other than the Ottoman Empire and probably the remaining Cretan Muslims. The British troops, 2/Devonshires, appear to have left Candia (Iraklion) on 24th July, stopped for a day in Suda Bay, and then finally departed the island on 26th July, en route for Malta on board S. S. Rameses, in a move timed to occur simultaneously with those of the other three Powers; France, Italy and Russia.

2/Devonshires lowering the British flag for the last time in Candia

2/Devonshires’ lowering the British flag for the last time in Candia

Departure of British troops from Candia. Illustrated London News, 14th August 1909.

Departure of British troops from Candia. Illustrated London News, 14th August 1909.

Meanwhile, in Canea.

International Troops departing from Canea

International Troops departing from Canea

International, mostly Italian, troops departing from Canea. 26 July 1909.

International, mostly Italian, troops departing from Canea. 26 July 1909.

The departure of International troops from Canea, the last goodbye? 26 July 1909

The departure of International troops from Canea, the last goodbye? 26 July 1909

However, International forces were soon to return to the island, as the wording under the photograph from the Illustrated London News of 14 August 1909, above, hints at:

“Since the evacuation by the four Powers there have been decided signs of trouble in Crete, most of it caused by the fact that the Greek flag has been flown there, despite the Turkish suzerainty. Greece made a definite reply to the Turkish charges a few days ago.”

RN Kidnapping?

Towards the end of 1911 Cretan and Greek politics were in somewhat of a turmoil … plus sa change. Cretan Christians were agitating for enosis, and insisting that they be allowed to send the Christian deputies elected to the Cretan Assembly to the Greek parliament – a move which would have created a casus belli with the Ottoman Empire, and the last thing either the Cretan- born Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos or the European Powers wanted, or, in the case of the latter, were prepared to tolerate. While Venizelos was prepared, in spite of the obvious political difficulties, to bar the Cretans deputies from taking their seats in the Greek parliament, with Italy effectively at war with the Ottoman Empire following the Italian seizure of Tripoli (Libya), it was left to the three remaining Powers, Britain, France and Russia, to assure the Porte that Cretan deputies would not be allowed to leave Crete.

Accordingly, in December 1911, a group of Cretan deputies, en route for Greece, were intercepted and detained by the Powers.

The British plan, to keep them all on Malta, proved impractical when the Governor of Malta refused to take them, so they were kept on board European warships until “…On 3 January 1912, they were dumped – according to Captain Parker of H. M. S. Minerva, a ‘rather forlorn and depressed company’ – back on Cretan soil, though not before having been charged two shillings per diem for their upkeep.”[1]

Cretan delegates on board European war ship, 1911

Cretan delegates on board French war ship, 1911. Probably H. M. S. Minerva.

Cretan deputies on board European ship 1911

Cretan deputies on board European ship 1911. Probably H. M. S. Minerva.

HMS Minerva in 1895.

HMS Minerva in 1895.

In the end, it took the immanent outbreak of the First Balkan War to facilitate the entry of the Cretan Deputies into the Greek Parliament; Venizelos admitting them on 10th October 1912, War officially being declared, at least by Greece, on 18th October. *

 

 

*In an apparent attempt to keep Greece out of the War, the Ottoman Empire not only did not declare war on Greece when doing so on Bulgaria and Serbia on 17th October 1912, but also offered to abandon its claim to Crete if Greece stayed neutral…a case of too little too late.[2]

 

[1] Capt. Hyde Parker (Senior Naval Officer, Crete) to C-in-C Med Fleet, 16. Feb. 1912, FO371/1352. Quoted in: Holland R. and Markides D. The British and the Hellenes. Struggles for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean 1850 – 1960. OUP. p.154.

[2] Lord Grey minute, 20 Oct. 1912, Fo371/1358. Quoted in Holland R. and Markides D. The British and the Hellenes. Struggles for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean 1850 – 1960. OUP. p.157.