Monthly Archives: February 2018

An Italian Job

With the departure of German and Austro-Hungarian troops in 1898, Crete was divided into four secteurs each of which was the responsibility of one of the four remaining Powers. The Italians, centred on Canea, were responsible for the west of the Island; the Russians the area around Rethymno; the British were based in Candia [Iraklion] and the French the east of the island, their head-quarters being Sitia. The capital, Canea, was occupied by detachments from all four Powers.

For the period 1902 to 1904, the Italian presence consisted of elements of the 5th and 6th Infantry Regiments, which made up the Aosta Brigade. Like the 2/Royal Sussex who were in Crete in 1905 -1906, the Italians were apparently not averse to being photographed.

2nd Company, 5th Regiment, Italian Infantry. Canea c.1904

The three children in the photograph are possibly the children of the senior officers.

9th Company, 6th Regiment, Italian Infantry. Canea c.1904

Note the bicycle; apparently a feature of the Italian army at that time. For some reason, several of the men in the front left appear to have either fireman’s axes or ice axes.

Souvenir of 9th Company, 6th Regiment, Italian Infantry. Canea c.1904.

The motto on the card appears to read something like: “I’m waiting, but not looking, for good fortune”

10th Company, 6th Regiment, Italian Infantry. Canea c.1904

Again, several men appear to be armed with some type of axe.

11th Company, 6th Regiment, Italian Infantry. Canea c.1904

12th Company, 6th Regiment, Italian Infantry. Canea c.1904

That contentious flag – an Italian view.

In August 1909, shortly after the departure of the International troops from Crete, a row broke out over the raising of a Greek national flag on the flagpole in the Firka, the fortress overlooking Canea harbour. The flag in question was removed by representatives of the four Powers, including a number of Italian seamen.

From contemporary accounts mentioned previously, it would appear that the operation of removing the flag was done in the presence of military personnel only, the Cretan gendarmerie having first cleared the area of any Cretans.

However, the Italian magazine La Tribuna Illustrata clearly wasn’t going to let facts get in the way of a good illustration and decided to include a very sad looking old Cretan man, apparently weeping over the removal of the Greek flag. To further spice up the illustration, they decided that the Firka should be armed with several inauthentic looking guns which, needless to say, were not  on the walls at that time, all such artillery having been removed with the evacuation of Ottoman troops in November 1898..

Removing the Greek national flag from the Firka; an Italian view.


Cretan gendarmarie guard party at the Firka, Canea; the real Firka.