Monthly Archives: January 2019

When Allies fall Out…

On 17th  July 1899, a number of British newspapers carried similar, if not identical, reports from Reuters:

‘European Affray in Crete

Two Soldiers Killed.

Canea July 15 [1899]

An affray occurred last evening between parties of French and Italian soldiers, in which two men were seriously wounded on each side. In the course of the night one of the Frenchmen died and one of the Italians. Two other less serious collisions occurred in which a third Italian soldier was injured. Owing to the cordial co-operation of the officers and the Consuls-General of the two nationalities order was promptly restored, and the Italian and French troops are now confined to their respective quarters.

Canea July 16 [1899]

The funeral of the French soldier killed in the affray on Friday last, took place last evening, and that of the Italian this morning. The Consuls and commanding officers of both countries were present. There was an exchange of wreaths and of sympathetic and regretful expressions. The wounded men are doing well.’[1]

 

The incident of July 1899 wasn’t the last time French and Italian troops came to blows on Crete. on 14th May 1903 the London Evening Standard reported under the headline Military Riot in Crete:

‘Canea May 6 [1903].

The brawl which took place in a café between French and Italian soldiers, and resulted in several men being wounded, has had no further consequences. At a Review of the International troops on Prince George’s fete-day, Colonel Destolle, the commander, formed the French and Italian contingents in a square, and addressed them as follows:-

“Two days ago I addressed you as your chief. Today I wish to speak to you as your father, for I really represent the absent fathers of all of you. The incidents which have occurred have caused me deep grief. I have nod doubt that you have all repented of a moment of misconduct, and that like good soldiers you will make a point of following and perpetuating the sentiments which have always formed a link between French and Italian soldiers. In the presence of your flags, which have often floated side by side on the field of honour, I appeal to you to promise me to live together henceforth on the terms of brotherly friendship which have always united you.”

The bugles then sounded and the French and Italian flags were crossed, and the men were dismissed shouting “Long Live France!” “Long Live Italy!”’[2]

Funeral of an Italian soldier killed in a fight (brawl) in Canea. Date unknown.

The illustration shows the funeral of an Italian soldier in Canea. While there is no date on the illustration, the flag of the Κριτικη Πολιτεια flying alongside the Italian flag indicates that the funeral took place after late December 1898. The caption states that the soldier being buried was killed in either a brawl or a fight, depending on the translation service used, in Canea. There’s nothing in the caption to indicate that he was killed as a result of any Cretan activity. All in all, this would suggest the illustration is of the funeral of the soldier killed in the brawl in 1899.

(A trawl through British archives suggests that only one Italian soldier was killed ‘in action’ on Crete; that incident occurring in Kampanos in January 1906 during mayoral elections.[3] This resulted in the Italians, having failed to receive an indemnity from the Cretan Government, seizing the Customs houses in Paleochora, Kastelli Kissamos and Kolymbari.[4])

 

[1] Morning Post Monday 17 July 1899, p.5.

[2] London Standard Thursday 14 May 1903, p.5.

[3] London Standard Thursday 18 January 1906, p.9.

[4] Morning Post. Monday 29 January 1906, p.9.

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Birthday Souvenirs

While the European Intervention in Crete was carried out for serious political purposes, the seriousness of the situation did not preclude the Powers throwing the occasional party.

The British celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee on 22nd June 1897 with a military parade in Candia, the principle British base, and a reception there in the evening. At the reception it was reported by Sir Alfred Biliotti, the British Consul, to Sir Philip Currie, his superior in Constantinople, that the Seaforth Highlanders ‘executed national dances’ to the apparent satisfaction of the audience.[1] Quite how satisfied the audience actually were at the sight of kilted Highlanders dancing is not recorded. Nor is it recorded that the British troops were given any souvenirs of the event.

Seaforth Highlanders ‘execut[ing] national dances.’ Undated photograph.

The Austro-Hungarian and German forces on the other hand did appear to produce mementoes of the celebrations held in honour of their Monarchs.  On 18th August 1897, a birthday party was held in Canea to celebrate the birthday of Kaiser and King Franz Josef I, his 67th, and on 27th January the following year a party held to celebrate the birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm II, his 39th. Souvenir cards were produced for both events, presumably to be given to those who participated. Unfortunately, it’s not known apparent whether or not the Austro-Hungarian and German troops were amongst the recipients.

K & K Franz Josef birthday party souvenir

As well as an image of the Monarch and an overview of Canea harbour, the Austro-Hungarian souvenir features photographs of the Austro-Hungarian Consulate at Halepa, barracks at Canea and Suda and the Armoured Cruiser S.M.S. Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia.

Kaiser Wilhelm birthday party souvenir.

In contrast to the Austro-Hungarian card which was clearly produced for the occasion and features images specific to the Austro-Hungarian presence on Crete, the German card has nothing specifically ‘German’ about it. It is apparently a generic commercial souvenir postcard, overprinted with the souvenir declaration. The only images which could be said to relate to the German presence on the island are of groups of International troops. The definition on the image of the troops is insufficient to allow identification of German troops, although Italian, Montenegrin and Scottish troops can be made out, albeit with difficulty.

Original version of Kaiser Wilhelm birthday party souvenir.

One hope the German Consulate, or whoever decided on the card, were congratulated on their thrift.

 

 

[1] National Archive, Foreign Office FO 195/1983, From Crete. Sir Alfred Biliotti to Currie 24 June 1897.

Austro Hungarian naval contribution

Rear Admiral Hincke and Djavad Pasha.

Admiral Hinke, shown in the photograph above, was the Rear Admiral in command of the Austro-Hungarian force which landed on Crete in February 1897. The force initially consisted of the battleship Kronprinzessin Stephanie, the armoured cruiser Maria Theresia, the torpedo cruisers Tiger, Leopard, and Sebenico, along with three destroyers and eight torpedo boats.[1]

The Austro-Hungarian contribution to the Intervention forces was withdrawn in March 1898.

Djevad Pasha (Ahmed Cevad Pasha).

‘Djevad Pacha’, also known as Ahmed Cevad Pasha, was the Ottoman Military commander of Crete from July 1897 to October 1898, so the photograph must have been taken between his arrival there and the Austro-Hungarian departure in March 1898.

SMS Kronprinzessin Erzherzogin Stephanie

SMS Tiger

SMS Tiger

SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia

SMS Sebenico

 

 

 

[1] The Naval Policy of Austria-Hungary 1867 – 1918. Navalism, Industrial Development, and the Politics of Dualism. Lawrence Sonhaus, Purdue University Press, 1994.

The Sarakina massacre – the cycle of revenge.

(The events related below took place in late January/early February 1897. A more precise date cannot be given because, unfortunately, none of the written sources give an accurate date, and at that time there was a 12 day difference between the European calendar and that in use in Crete.)

One of the immediate triggers for the European intervention in Crete was the rioting, looting and arson that broke out in Canea, the then capital, on 6th February 1897.  European levels of alarm were further raised when that evening, Cretan Christian insurrectionists cut the Suda/Canea road and occupied the Akrotiri peninsula to the east of the town.

The rioting in Canea, instigated by Cretan Muslims, was, as far as the European Powers were concerned, a further symptom of the breakdown of law-and-order on the island. Such inter-communal unrest had been growing over the previous months as the Cretan Christian insurrection spread, one result of which being the mass movement of Cretan Muslims from the countryside into the towns and the movement of Cretan Christians in the opposite direction. This movement of people, essentially ethnic cleansing, had resulted on more than one occasion in the massacre of civilians.

Sarakina Monument.

On the left-hand side of the road from Paleochora, south west Crete, to Sarakina, about 2.5km before the village of Sarakina itself, is a small marble plaque set on a concrete plinth and set up by the Community of Sarakina in 1986.

Sarakina Monument Closeup.

The English translation of the plaque reads:

‘In January 1897 in this area of Sarakina a major battle was fought between Turks and Christians that resulted in 150 Turks being killed.’

This brief description however, though superficially accurate, hides the nature of the battle and the events that lead up to it. By early 1897, the collapse of Ottoman authority and the realisation that Ottoman rule of the island was coming to an end resulted in an increase in inter-communal violence between Cretan Muslims and Cretan Christians throughout the Selino District and many Cretan Muslims, including those of Sarakina, then a predominantly Muslim village, sought refuge in the major towns.

According to the account given by the British Consul in Chania, Sir Alfred Biliotti, to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, an account based on his interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses of both religions[1], in late January/early February 1897, the date is unclear in Biliotti’s report, as tensions between the two religious groups in Selinos grew, the inhabitants of the isolates and mainly Muslim village of Sarakina decided to emigrate. However, they were persuaded to remain for a time in their village by the local Christian leaders. A few days later the “…Dimarchi and Notable Christians of their commune,” told the Muslims it would be prudent for them to retire to Paleochora and that they would be convoyed there with a Cretan Christian escort to prevent them from being molested en-route. The Cretan Muslims, numbering 159 according to Biliotti, were placed in between two groups of Christians, each of about 200 men, and started the march to Paleochora. About half an hour out from Sarakina, a shot was fired in the rear of the column, apparently the result of a scuffle breaking out when one of the Muslims refused to surrender his firearm. This shot was immediately followed by “…a general discharge of firearms on the Musselman emigrants.”

Of the 159 Muslims who started, only 44 arrived safely in Paleochora and some of these reported to Biliotti that following the firing, all the wounded men and some of the small children were murdered and four Muslim women from Sarakina had apparently been forcibly taken to a Christian village. Biliotti reports that the massacre was “…deeply deplored by the (Christian) Chiefs and others” but, significantly in the light of his previously highly detailed reports of atrocities committed by both Muslims and Christians throughout the island, makes no mention of any Christian dead or wounded.

Biliotti went on to say that ‘…As soon as the news of the massacre were known at Selinos Castelli (Paleochora), twelve Christians, amongst whom a woman and child, residing there, were murdered.’  What appears to be the memorial to one such Christian is situated in a graveyard in Paleochora.

Paleochora Gravestone 1897.

Here lies Artemios Opsimakis. 27 years old. Murdered in Paleochora by the Turks. 27th January 1897.

(n.b. Assuming that this inscription, or its original, was made at the time, the date in European style would be 8th February.)

Reports of the Sarakina massacre reached England also from the unnamed Times correspondent in Chania. He describes interviewing a survivor on 21st February in a military hospital in Canea, and confirming Biliotti’s report that the Muslims had been offered safe conduct to the sea by the Christians, adding that they did so in exchange for some Christian hostages held in Paleochora.[2] His informant claimed that they were attacked by their guards and by other Christians who appeared from the mountains and that of the 154 Cretan Muslims who started the trek, only 48 escaped of whom 25 were wounded: the informant further alleged that two of his children had been beheaded.

Another view of the incident is given in a book, written about 1996, currently on sale in Paleochora. This states that the ‘famous battle of Sarakina’ was caused when ‘one of the Christians courageously asked for a gun held in quite a provocative way by a Turkish child (and) when the child did not respond to his demand, killed it.’ The book further argues that the reason for the attack “…was not merely revenge but also the gathering of loot in order to meet basic needs.” [3]

In contrast to the punishments handed down after 6th September 1897 for the murder of British servicemen and subjects in Candia, no real effort was made to address the issue of either the massacres perpetrated by Christians immediately prior to the arrival of the Concert forces, or the murders of Christians committed by Muslims on 6th September. The British were ‘…far less concerned with the punishment of those found guilty of crimes against humanity than with retribution upon those who had attacked the British forces which had been performing their duties as instructed’.[4] In the case of atrocities committed against Muslims in the countryside prior to the Admirals taking de facto control of the island, while Biliotti made strenuous efforts to record the victims and to try to start the process of getting justice, albeit within the context of persuading Muslims to return to their homes in the countryside,[5] no enthusiasm was shown by any of the Powers for following the matter up. While legally punishment of these crimes was the responsibility of the Ottoman authorities, unsurprisingly, it is clear that there was no appetite among the Powers to re-open old wounds. In the initial stages of the Intervention, at least up until early 1899 when Christian disarmament became a reality, Christian insurgents, among whom were undoubtedly some, if not all, of the criminals, were in complete charge of the countryside; as a consequence, neither the Ottomans nor the Powers were in a position to enforce their own, or any other, law. With the arrival of Prince George, the Powers were happy to divest themselves of the responsibility; matters were now in the hands of the High Commissioner and the Cretan Assembly and it was up to them to take appropriate action.

Similarly, while not pursuing the murderers of Muslims, the pursuit of Muslims who murdered Christians was quietly dropped; the International Military Commission in Canea had, at the request of the Russian Government, ceased to apply the death penalty after execution of two murderers on 23rd November 1898.[6] 

 

 

[1] House of Commons Command Paper (1897) [C.8437] Turkey #10, Inclosure No.249. Bilotti to Marquis of Salisbury (Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) 22 February 1897.

[2] The Times Monday 22 February 1897.

[3] Pyrovolakis N. (1996?) Self published.  Paleochora (Looking Back on the Past) p.29

[4] Prichard, R. J.,  ‘International Humanitarian Intervention and Establishment of an International Jurisdiction Over Crimes Against Humanity: The National and International Military Trials on Crete in 1898’, in  J. Carey, W. V. Dunlop & R.J. Pritchard (eds.), International Humanitarian Law Vol. 1 (Transnational Publishers: New York, 2003), 1-87, p.43

[5] Ibid. 67-69.

[6] Pritchard, ‘International Humanitarian Intervention’ p. 63.