Monthly Archives: October 2016

Well, someone got a medal.

Despite British soldiers, sailors and marines being involved in the European Intervention in Crete for nearly 15 years, and in doing so suffering considerable casualties albeit overwhelmingly from disease, no medal was issued to the British military personnel involved. However, a medal was struck and apparently issued to the Greek military. The one shown was up for sale in 2007 and described as being a ‘Service Medal (for revolution in Crete)’.

Greek Service medal: Revolution in Crete 1898

Greek Service medal: Revolution in Crete 1898

Translated, the obverse has the words ‘For Faith and Country’ set around a cross bearing the date 1898; the reverse the word ‘Freedom’.

No details were given as to who would have received the medal and there seems to be some doubt as to whether or not it was officially recognised by either the Greek or Cretan Governments. (Although given the less than brilliant efforts by the Greek Army during the short period it was on Crete, this is not unsurprising.)

Some British soldiers did, however, received medals while in Crete, albeit for the Sudan Campaign; participants being eligible for The Queen’s Sudan Medal and/or The Kedive’s Sudan Medal, the latter coming with up to 15 additional clasps. Colour Sergeant Archer, 2/Rifle Brigade, received his medal in early 1899. In March that year he wrote to his mother telling her that he was getting the [Queen’s?] Sudan Medal and “[hopes] to get an International Star for this place.” On 8th April 1899, in an obviously underwhelmed state of mind,  he wrote to his brother that that: “We received our [Sudan] medals, got them last Monday, they are though in a very crude condition having no bar nor the names on.” [1] Unfortunately for Archer, no International Star was awarded for service in Crete.

[1] Liddle Hart Collection, Kings College London. ARCHER.

Bringing up the big guns.

4th Mountain Battery Royal Artillery. Candia 1897.

4th Mountain Battery Royal Artillery. Candia 1897.

The picture shows the Royal Artillery, 4th Mountain Battery, commanded by Major H.C.C.D Simpson, who arrived in Candia on 26th April 1897 on S.S. Samaria.

Their departure from the UK in early April was reported in British newspapers as follows:

TROOPS FOR CRETE. Yesterday morning No. 4 Mountain Battery Royal Artillery left Newport, Mon., for Southampton, there to embark for Crete. The force numbered 104. the officers being Major H. C. Simpson, Captain C. 0. Smeaton, Lieutenant Freeland, Lieutenant Fowler, and Lieutenant the Hon. N. A. Hood.
Reynolds Newspaper Sunday 11 April.

An ‘Extract from Digest of Services of the above Battery’ dated 9th December 1898 and lodged in the Royal Artillery Archives, states that they were equipped with 2.5-inch Rifled Muzzle Loading guns, weighing 400 lbs. each.  Assuming that this is not simply a photograph of them being inspected by Colonel Herbert Chermside, Commander of the British force at the time, on 29th April, it was probably taken on either one of two parades.

The first was on 4th May, at a… ‘General review Order parade held in honour of Italian Troops, who marched past and were saluted by each British unit.’

Alternatively, it was taken on 22nd June at a ‘Special Parade held in honour of Her Majesty the Queen, having completed her 60th year of reign, and was inspected by the Admirals of the French, Russian, Austrian, Italian and English Fleet, and Russian and Italian Military Commanders.’

The Battery doesn’t appear to have fired a shot in anger but was deployed on at least two occasions.

On 7th June the …‘Centre Section under Captain C. (D?) Smeaton formed part of a force sent to {illegible in original} in the Insurgents area, for the purpose of repairing the aqueduct. The other troops were; 2 companies Seaforth Highlanders, a few Royal Engineers, and 1 Officer,25 men, 36th Italian Infantry. All under the Command of Major Campbell, Seaforth Highlanders.’ On 9th June Chermside reported to the Secretary of State for War… ‘British troops, with representative Italian detachment, encamped on Eastern aqueduct since 7 June; completely successful (in executing?) necessary repairs from sources, 9 miles from Candia. In accordance with agreement with Insurgent leaders no incident. [1]

On 9th (?) December, the bulk of the Battery having returned to Malta on S. S. Jelunga on November 21st, the remaining detachment …‘accompanied Sir Herbert Chermside to the outposts, and [was] fired on for ½ hour by Insurgents.’ * This detachment arrived back in Malta, via S.S. Augustine, on 21st December 1897.

Two men of No.4 Battery died… ‘from sickness incurred during the period the battery was serving with the Cretan International Force.’ Bombardier George Barrett, died 9th August 1897, and Gunner George Hogben, died 28th December 1897. Both appear to have died on Malta, and are buried there: their names do not appear on any of the memorials in Crete.

Maltese memorial to Royal Artillery dead.

Maltese memorial to Royal Artillery dead.

In addition to No. 4 Mountain Battery, in 1898,… ‘Lt G H Pickard and 55 men of 5 Coy. [Eastern Division, Royal Artillery,] went to Crete when trouble broke out between the Greek and Turkish communities. The men withdrew in May 1899.’[2]

*Colonel Herbert Chermside became Colonel Sir Herbert Chermside by virtue of being made a KCMG in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Honours list on 22nd June 1897.

[1] National Archive WO33/149. Telegram, Colonel Chermside to Secretary of State for War. 9th  June 1897.

[2] Photograph of memorial and details of Royal Artillery casualties at: