HMS Bruizer and the blockade runner.

In early February 1897 the Cretan crisis came to a head. With the dispatch of Colonel Vassos and 1500 Greek soldiers to Crete, the firing by the Greek navy on the Ottoman steamer Fuad, en route from Canea to Sitia with troops and gendarmes, and the imminent arrival in Cretan waters of a Greek torpedo boat squadron under Prince George of Greece, the Powers determined to act to prevent the Greek annexation of the island.

On 13 February 1897 the Admiralty issued instructions to Rear-Admiral Harris, Senior British naval officer off Crete, that, if the commanders of the European ships in Cretan waters were in agreement, the Royal Navy could, ‘oppose by combined action, if necessary, and after employing all means of persuasion and intimidation in their power, an aggressive action by Greek ships of war.’[1] This combined action was interpreted to include the prevention of any further build up of Greek forces on the island.

The British Ardent Class[2] torpedo-boat destroyer H.M.S. Bruizer (sometimes shown as H.M.S. Bruiser) under the command of Lt. Commander A. Halsey was directed by Rear-Admiral Harris, commander of British forces on Crete:

‘…to act under the orders of Rear-Admiral Gualterio [Italian navy] who was watching the western end of Canea Bay in the “Francesco Morosini” on the evening of 20 February to prevent disembarkation of troops, stores &c.

The “Bruizer” observed a steamer creeping up under the land, and accordingly made a preconceived signal to the “Morosini,” who closed, and ordered the vessel to heave-to. The Read-Admiral sent an officer to the “Bruizer” with the request that the vessel might be taken by her to Canea; in the meanwhile, the steamer went ahead and apparently attempted to run down the “Bruizer,” which would have inevitably sunk her. By going full speed astern this was just avoided, and the ship attempted to run. Having speed up for only 10 knots, and the steamer going about 14, the Lieutenant and Commander Halsey fired under her stern, when she stopped. She was then convoyed round to Canea Bay by the “Bruizer,” and a guard placed on board. She was found to contain 300 tents and poles, empty rifle chests, a few rifles and a small quantity of biscuit; examination subsequently proved that a large quantity of biscuit had been recently landed, and the empty arm chests had probably been cleared at the same time.

The steamer was taken to the inner harbour at Canea and her eccentric removed.[3] 

HMS Bruiser arresting Greek ship ILN 13 March 1897

“On the night of 20th February the British torpedo-boat destroyer ‘Bruiser’ received orders to patrol the coast off the Greek position. Observing a Greek vessel endeavouring to land military stores, Commander Halsey fired a shot over her bows, whereupon she attempted to sink the ‘Bruiser,’ but was taken prisoner and placed under a guard from the British flag-ship.”

Italian Ironclad ‘Francesco Morosini’ c.1900

HMS Bruizer. c.1900.

[1] 1898 [C.8664] Turkey. No. 11 (1897). Correspondence respecting the affairs of Crete and the war between Turkey and Greece. Inclosure No.92. Admiralty to Rear-Admiral Harris. 13 February 1897

[2] The Ardent class Torpedo-Boat Destroyers were fitted with two torpedo tubes amidships. Their immediate predecessors, the Daring and Havelock classes, had a third torpedo tube mounted in the bow of the ship. This design was subsequently changed when it was found that having fired the torpedo from the bows, the TBD would often overtake the torpedo and risk sinking itself.

[3] 1897 [C.8429] Turkey. No. 9 (1897). Reports on the situation in Crete. Rear Admiral Harris to Admiralty. Canea February 24 1897.

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