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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