Monthly Archives: November 2016

Another vanished Cretan flag.

As recorded elsewhere, flags, and the use and misuse of them, were a reoccurring motif throughout the period immediately prior to, and during, the European Intervention in Crete.

According to the “San Fransisco Call”, Volume 80, Number 75, 14 August 1896, the ‘Provisional Government of Crete’ had chosen their new flag. Ignoring the fact that body in question was probably the one called ‘The General Revolutionary Assembly of the Cretans’ and that they didn’t have a state for the flag, it does illustrate  the fluid nature of the Cretan Christians’ political claims during this era.

The Central Political Committee of Crete, set up in 1895 which morphed into ‘The General Revolutionary Assembly of the Cretans’ in 1896, was NOT seeking enosis, union with Greece, but rather autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. (Had they been seeking enosis, there would have been no call or need for a flag other than that of Greece, since Crete would not have been a state in its own right.) In the end, the abortive uprising of 1896 petered out with the usual atrocities being committed by both sides. It did however, result in the replacement of the existing, Christian, Governor by a more hard-line Muslim It also brought forth  a proposed new Constitution for the island as well as guarantees of more public jobs for Cretan Christians and the re-organisation of the Gendarmerie under European officers.

By early 1897 though, the proposed settlement had collapsed amid accusations of bad faith by both Christians and Muslims, resulting in a further insurrection by Cretan Christians, the attempted annexation of Crete by Greek troops, and the Intervention by the European Powers.

In the turmoil that followed, the proposal for this new flag was quietly forgotten.

 

A New Flag for Crete

san fransisco-call-1898

A New Flag for Crete. “San Fransisco Call”, Volume 80, Number 75, 14 August 1896,

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A lonely death?

From internal evidence obtained from other photographs, the photograph/postcard below was apparently one of a series which were the property of a member of 1/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers serving in Crete in 1907/1908.

British cemetery Candia 1907.

British cemetery Candia 1907.

British cemetery Candia 1907, reverse of postcard.

British cemetery Candia 1907, reverse of postcard.

The text reads:

Taken just after a funeral.

Another view of our cemetery.

This was taken by one of our men.

The chap that was buried when this was taken, was in hospital with me and died of Malarial fever after 5 days illness, and no one knew who his people were,  Sid

 

Three members of 1/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers died while the Battalion was stationed on Crete between February 1907 and February 1908. Given that the majority of British servicemen who died during the Intervention did so of disease and the records available are not that detailed, it’s almost impossible to determine who it was that is referred to on the postcard. The memorials in the British military cemetery in Agios Konstantinos and Helene, Iraklion, indicate however, that the deceased is one of the following :

Private J. Reid               No. 8733     Died 13th July 1907          Age 19   C Company

Memorial to Private Reid, Inniskilling Fusiliers. Candia 1907

Memorial to Private Reid, Inniskilling Fusiliers. Candia 1907

Corporal A.E. Smith     No. 4564     Died 2nd October 1907    Age 32   C Company

Memorial to Corporal Smith, Inniskilling Fusiliers. Candia 1907

Memorial to Corporal Smith, Inniskilling Fusiliers. Candia 1907

Private R. Truesdale    No. 8730     Died 9th August 1907       Age 19   C Company

Memorial to Private Truesdale, Inniskilling Fusiliers. Candia 1907

Memorial to Private Truesdale, Inniskilling Fusiliers. Candia 1907

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers memorial, Candia 1907

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers memorial, Candia 1907

Hopefully, someone eventually found out who his people were and informed them accordingly.

Artillery on Crete, 1897-1898

While one of the main focuses of the Governments of the European Powers in seeking to pacify Crete was the provision of sufficient naval forces and infantry to keep the warring factions apart, they were also faced with the fact that the Cretan Christians also had artillery at their disposal. This was highlighted when Rear-Admiral Harris, the then Senior British Naval Officer on Crete, referring to the evacuation of Greek troops from Crete in May 1897, reported:

‘The question of artillery has given much trouble. It was obviously most undesirable to have guns left behind in the hands of the insurgents when the whole object of the Powers is to pacify the island. After much trouble and insistence on the part of the Admirals, four of the six guns stated by the Greeks to belong entirely to the Cretans are to be embarked with the Greek troops, the other two are said to be on Akrotiri, and the Admirals have made a peremptory condition that they also shall be taken away.

The western end of the island will then, I believe, be free from insurgent artillery; though we know that there are four to six 7-centim. Krupp guns to the eastward, we cannot immediately connect them with the Greek troops or Government, though there is not much doubt that they indirectly or otherwise provided them.’[1]

In the end, the Royal Navy oversaw the evacuation of 6 field guns, 12 horses, 53 mules and 233 cases of artillery ammunition.[2]

(An internet search suggests that although described by the British as 7cm (70mm) there wasn’t a 70mm Krupps gun at this time: the pieces in question could possibly either have been 65/66mm guns or 60mm mountain guns. To add to the confusion, the Ottoman Empire was, at this time, the world’s largest importer of Krupp guns, purchasing 3,943 Krupp guns of various types between 1854 and 1912.[3])

To counter the threat of Greek/Cretan Christian artillery, in the early stages of the Intervention, both the Powers and the Ottoman military supplied artillery to the island.

Ottoman field artillery beneath what appear to be an Italian flag.

Ottoman field artillery beneath what appear to be an Italian flag.

An illustration from an Italian magazine shows Ottoman artillery beneath what is apparently an Italian flag.

 

 

Italian Guns Suda Bay April 1897

Italian Guns Suda Bay April 1897

 

It would appear that the French forces also had access to artillery, whether their own, Ottoman or that landed from H.M.S Anson. Captain Egerton recorded that:

“Last night [10th April 1897] at 6.30 p.m. the International Force at Soubaschi fired 5 shots from the 9 pdr. The fire–eating Perignon[?] who commands will someday if he irritates these fellows too much, bring Vassos about his ears – Vassos’ outposts are only about a mile away. – G.E. “[4]

In addition to the Royal Artillery Mountain Battery stationed in Crete in the early stages of the Intervention, following the events in Candia in September 1896 the Royal Navy reinforced the town, landing field artillery.

Royal Navy field guns being landed at Candia October 1898

Royal Navy field guns being landed at Candia October 1898

 

 

 

[1] ADM 116/92 Rear-Admiral Harris, Suda Bay, to Admiral Sir J. Hopkins, C in C Mediterranean Fleet, Malta. 23 May 1897

[2] ADM116/116 Captain Sir R. Poole, HMS Hawke, to Rear-Admiral Harris. 20 May 1897.

[3] Donald J. Stocker, Jonathan A. Grant. Girding for Battle: The Arms Trade in a Global Perspective, 1815-1940. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, pp.31-32.

[4] NAM 6807-171. Diary of the detachment 1st BN. Seaforth Highlanders at Canea Crete During the early days of the international Occupation 1897.

 

The Ottomans leave

Following the riots in Candia in September 1898, the decision was finally taken to remove all Ottoman troops and officials from Crete. After an ultimatum issued by the Admirals controlling Crete was issued to the Ottoman authorities on the 4th October, the Porte prevaricated but on 23rd October the evacuation began, only to be halted by the 28th with some 8,000 Ottoman troops having left.[1] The price for this delay, brought about to avoid Ottoman embarrassment during by the Kaiser’s visit to Constantinople, was to be high in terms of lost Ottoman prestige. At the insistence of the British, in punishment for the delay in evacuation, the Sultan’s flag was to be hauled down in Canea and all troops were to leave the island by 5th November; in the event of them failing to do so the Powers would take steps to remove them and make the Porte pay indemnities for any damages caused in their removal.[2]

Although The British Commander Major-General Chermside had reported on 4th November ‘Have taken over the keys of the fortress and civil and military administration,’[3] and British Consul Sir Alfred Biliotti on the 5th that ‘This morning British Authorities have assumed civil administration taken over police prisons and taken possession of Customs indirect contributions and dime,’[4] on 6th November there were still some 500 Ottoman troops left in Candia and steps were accordingly taken to ‘turn them out.’

The  Northumberland Fusiliers took over the barracks without difficulty, although one elderly Ottoman Colonel ‘a grey haired old man, refused to clear out without [a] show of force, so eventually he was marched down in the middle of a party of the Rifle Brigade to the harbour.’ A similar  story was played out later that day in the Artillery barracks where they removed ‘60 Turks under another ancient Colonel about 65 years of age, who absolutely refused to budge and said he had received no orders.’[5] Eventually all Ottoman troops and officials, complete with wives families and baggage, were escorted to the harbour and by the evening of 6th November;

‘Thanks to the efforts of the Royal Navy, who worked all night, under the electric light, the Turks, their horses, their women, their children and all their extraordinary belongings, were all shipped off to Salanka [sic] in an incredibly short space of time.’[6]

Royal Navy sailors 'assist' the departure of Ottoman troops

Royal Navy sailors ‘assist’ the departure of Ottoman troops The caption reads; The Evacuation of Crete – British Bluejackets Clearing Out The Turks ‘Bag and Baggage.’

The Ottoman presence on Crete, which had commenced in 1645, was thus effectively terminated.

Ottoman Troops departing Suda Bay. November 1898.

Ottoman Troops departing Suda Bay. November 1898.

Ottoman Troops departing Suda Bay. November 1898

Ottoman Troops departing Suda Bay. November 1898

expulsion-of-ottoman-troops

Ottoman troops departing (Suda bay?) November 1898.

French authorities lowering the Ottoman flag; Irapetra 1898. (The date on the postcard may be in correct; most of the Ottoman troops had left Crete by 6 November.)

French authorities lowering the Ottoman flag; Irapetra 1898. (The date on the postcard may be in correct; most of the Ottoman troops had left Crete by 6 November.)

Ottoman Troops departing Irpetra. 1898.

Ottoman Troops departing Irpetra. 1898.

 

In reality however, the Ottoman military presence did not finally come to an end until several months later; a few men stayed behind to supervise the shipping of Ottoman munitions, and arguments were still continuing up until December as to the rank of the most senior Ottoman officer the Admirals would allow to superintend the operation.

References:

[1] Şenişik, The Transformation of Ottoman Crete, 227.

[2] Ibid. 224.

[3] ADM 116/93, Vol. 2. Telegram No. 30 Chermside – no addressee. 4 November 1898.

[4] Ibid. Telegram No. 107. Biliotti to Constantinople Embassy, 5 November 1898.

[5] NFRA. St. George’s Gazette, November 30 1898, p. 183.

[6] Ibid. December 31 1898, p. 199.

[7] Turkey No. 1, 1899. No. 102. Noel to Admiralty, 1 December 1898.