Monthly Archives: June 2018

The British depart.

On 26th July 1909, the 2nd battalion, the Devonshire Regiment departed Candia en-route to Malta on board S.S. Rameses; the last of the British garrison on Crete until 1941. (British sailors and marines did revisit the island on 18th August 1909 in connection with the removal of the Greek flag, and the flagpole, from the Firka in Canea.)

The 2nd. Devonshires leaving Candia.

‘The regiment marching out of Kandia. (Photograph by an old soldier from Exeter.) Devon and Exeter Gazette, Friday 20th August 1909.

Devonshire’s leaving Candia harbour.

‘British troops leaving Crete. A batch of 200 British troops left Crete for Malta at the end of last month and received a very cordial send-off. The quay was lined with Cretan militia and there was erected an arch with portraits of the King and Queen.’  The Graphic, 15th August 1909.

A Creto-British Entente.

‘Each man was presented with a sprig of olive and (myrtle), tied with a ribbon on which was an inscription in Greek and Englishas shown above.’ The Graphic, 15th August 1909.

British officers’ quarters and mess; Candia 1909.

‘The officers’ quarters and mess of the British garrison in Crete, showing the Union Jack flying for the last time. The protecting Powers are to withdraw all of the International troops before the end of July.’  The Graphic, 17th July 1909.

The Devonshire’s had arrived on Crete on 18th January 1909 and, while on the island, had suffered two deaths from amongst their number, one from liver failure, the other from a ‘digestive disease’.  Little appears to have been recorded of their stay, but they were, clearly, involved in to some extent in the training of the Cretan Militia; the training of the Cretan Gendarmerie being, by this time, the responsibility of Greek offices and instructors.

2/Devonshires’ with Cretan militia and Greek officers. 1909

The Graphic 14th August 1909.

Meanwhile, in Canea, other International troops were pulling out of the island. The majority of the troops shown below would have been Italians since the Canea Secteur of the island was their responsibility.

Canea, departure of International troops, July 1909.

International troops depart, Canea 1909

Canea harbour, International troops depart. July 1909.

International Flags, Suda Bay. July 1909

The Graphic, 17th July 1909.

Lowering the British flag for the last time. 26th July 1909.

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Kastelli Kissamos

While European forces concentrated on the major towns on the northern coast of Crete, in the early stages of the Intervention the smaller town of Kastelli Kissamos, on the north western coast of Crete, was occupied by Ottoman forces. Partially because of the presence of smallpox in the town[1], the European role appears to have consisted of providing naval support for the Ottoman garrison.

In March 1897 H.M.S. Rodney, under Austro-Hungarian command, the Austro-Hungarians still being part of the concert at this stage and responsible for naval activity around the western side of the island, became involved in discouraging Cretan Christians attacking the Ottoman garrison of the town. On 29th March 1897, the Captain of H.M.S. Rodney, W. Hewitt, reported to Admiral Harris that on the 28th after firing two rounds blank from her 6 pounder, the Rodney opened fire on Cretan Christian insurgents attempting to mine the walls of Kastelli Kissamos. In total some 13 rounds were fired at a distance of 2100 yards, with Rodney’s steam pinnace contributing a further four rounds from her 2 pounder gun.

Over the following day two days, landing parties consisting of 200 British sailors and marines and 130 Austro-Hungarians went ashore to pull down the house near the Ottoman fortifications.[2] The accompanying text to the illustration below, taken from the Graphic of 24 April 1897, states that three houses were demolished to prevent their use by the insurgents.

Demolition of houses in Kastelli Kissamos.

A month later, on 9th April, the Royal navy was again in action off Kissamos. In company with, and under the command of S.M.S. Sebenico, H.M.S. Fearless, a Scout Class Torpedo Cruiser captained by Commander Charles E. Gladstone, was involved in evacuating women and children from the Ottoman fort when their boats were fired on by insurgents. Both the Austro-Hungarian and the British ships opened fire to cover the embarkation. Over the next few days two Ottoman blockhouses were evacuated and one set on fire to destroy it, the other apparently had nothing flammable in it.  It was then decided to destroy the blockhouses by naval gunfire.

“All ships present opened fire on the east block-house, distant 3,800 yards, and expended a considerable amount of ammunition. The result was that the walls were knocked down to a certain extent, but the ruins remain just as effective as a protection for riflemen as they were before, and it would be an impossible task to level the building to the ground by gunfire.” [3]

H.M.S. Fearless.

[1] National Archive. ADM 116/88. Enclosure 142. Rear Admiral Harris to Admiralty. 6th April 1897.

[2] National Archive. ADM 116/92. Enclosure 146.6. Captain W. Hewitt to Rear Admiral Harris. 29th March 1897.

[3] National Archive. ADM 116/92. Enclosure 185. Commander Gladstone to Rear Admiral Harris. 14th April 1897.