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.
The three children in the photograph are possibly the children of the senior officers.
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.
The motto on the card appears to read something like: “I’m waiting, but not looking, for good fortune”
Again, several men appear to be armed with some type of axe.