Monthly Archives: September 2017

Italian Artillery.


The forces of the Powers landed in Crete in 1897 included not only marines and infantry, but a number of artillery units.  These consisted, in the initial stages of the Intervention, of ‘mountain guns’, small artillery pieces that could be easily dismantled and carried on the backs of mules or horses. The British contingent consisted of six guns from No 4 Mountain Battery, Royal Artillery, stationed in Candia, supplemented by a number of small naval guns, several of which were landed at Canea.

Photographic and pictorial evidence suggests that the Italian artillery contingent initially appeared to consist of at least four mountain guns.

Italian battery embarking from Naples en-route to Crete.

While the initial positioning of European troops, prior to the withdrawal of the German and Austro-Hungarian forces in 1898, called for the Italians to be based in Irapetra on the south coast of the island, the mountain artillery appears to have been located for the most part on the north of Crete, around Canea. This was in response to the threat to the town from Greek forces under Colonel Vassos and their Cretan Christian allies.

Italian troops with mountain guns, on parade in Canea

Italian battery in Canea, 1897.

Italian battery in Halepa, 1897.

Italian battery in Halepa, 1897.

As a consequence of the threat from the Greeks and Christians, two Italian guns were apparently stationed  at Fort Subashi, the fortress protecting the main water supply to Canea; these were joined at some stage by guns landed from H.M.S. Anson.

Italian guns at Fort Subashi. 1897.

Around the same time as the posting to Fort Subashi, April 1897, two Italian guns were stationed on the Akrotiri peninsula. These guns were under the command of Captain G.E. Egerton, Seaforth Highlanders. In spite of photographic evidence which would seem to suggest the Italians and the Highlanders got on well on at least one occasion, Egerton recorded that he  ‘…did not trust the Italians a yard …[although they] are 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.’

It also appears that the Italian artillery was used to protect the western approach to Suda Bay, the main deep water port on Crete and base for the Powers’ navel forces.

Italian Gun, Suda Bay April 1897

In addition to the mountain guns in and around Canea, the Italian force in Irapetra clearly also had some artillery support.

1st battery, 36th Italian infantry in review in redoubt in Irapetra, 1897.