Monthly Archives: November 2019

Sir Alfred Biliotti – One British newspaper’s view.

In March 1897, the British Consul in Crete, Sir Alfred Biliotti, was the only Consul of the European Powers to accompany the expedition sent to rescue Cretan Muslims and Ottoman troops besieged in Kandanos. On his arrival there, he negotiated the safe passage to Canea of some 523 men, 1047 women and children and 340 Ottoman soldiers.[1] The response to Biliotti’s role in these events from one British newspaper at least, was verging on the hagiographic.

‘Brave Old Biliotti’

The Penny Illustrated Paper, describing Sir Alfred as ‘Brave Old Biliotti’ and the ‘Grand Old British Consul at Canea’ who has ‘…made this present month of March memorable by a noble achievement worthy of ranking with the best exploits in our national Glory – roll…’, published in the same edition a poem which, along with its exaggerated praise of Biliotti, castigated religious intolerance and took to task Christians in particular for their role in the threatened massacre of Muslims in that village.


“God hath no creed!” Oh, truest words that e’er were sung or spoken

Not to one Church, but seven, He spake – humanity the token:

And that humanity, when one is striving ‘gainst the other,

Can do what battles ne’er have done – make man to man a brother.


O England! Ye may well be proud of children of your rearing’

Mid battle, smoke, and ocean roar, fresh paths to glory clearing:

And well ye do to honour one who for the Moslem stranger

Defended hordes of bigotry, and faced grim death and danger!


They bring the gallant Consul word that Christians are forgetting

The holy symbol of their faith, and deeds of blood begetting.

One man alone amy stay the sword that o’er the weak is falling –

He went: he heard the Moslem’s voice unto the Christian calling.


E’en doughty kings of old when unto war their way they wended,

By galaxy of knight and squire were guarded and attended;

And great ones of our present day must have their guards about them,

But he – he faced the foe alone, unaided went to rout them.


It was a strife of creeds: there rang no mighty battle thunder,

Which weaker hearts can stir to deeds at which the world may wonder:

No lofty strain of martial song, no drums’ and trumpets’ rattle

The brave old Consul’s heart made strong upon the way to battle.


A horde – nay, the the whole world of dark fanaticism daring,

He went, alone for England’s good and England’s glory daring:

The strife of Crescent and of Cross he veiwed with eye impartial,

And stands from out its background dark, a figure grand and martial.


He calls upon the Pow’rs allied, his motive wise and human:

To save the weak and the oppressed – the child is there and woman.

The Pow’rs reply, and round him throng French, Russian and Italian,

With Austrian and Englishmen, strong Europe’s brave battalion.


It was a sight ne’er seen before, when heroes of all nations

As one to save the Moslem took and kept their death-fraught stations:

It was a stand ‘gainst bigotry, and all its hosts defying

To safety the oppressed they bore while shots around were flying.


Ay, high o’er struggling Powers and creeds one old grand form is standing,

In England’s eyes the noblest there – mild, just, and yet commanding:

The truest servant of the Cross; for its divinest beauty

Not in oppression lies, but in Humanity and Duty.


Unto a journal known to fame,* whose counsels to the nation

In peace and war have ne’er o’erstepped the bounds of moderation’

We owe the thrilling tale of how one man’s heroic action

Won more for peace and Christian faith than e’er was gained by faction.


Humanity’s the noblest creed: we who have read the story,

Say that brave Biliotti’s deed was worthy of all glory.

Kate Bishop (“Kay Bee).

*The Daily News, which first made known the story of Sir Alfred Biliotti’s noble heroism, and which has, under the sagacious Editorship of Mr. E.T. Cook M.A., most wisely counselled the nation during the Cretan Crisis.”[2]

Some 18 months later however, the Penny Illustrated Paper was no longer complaining about Christian intolerance, but rather now, under the headline “A Warning to the Turk” was more concerned with celebrating the execution of Cretan Muslims.

The execution of Muslims convicted of murdering British soldiers – The Penny Illustrated Paper’s view.

 “Execution of the Murderous Mussulmans at Candia. –  On the lofty gallows which had been erected for the purpose upon a commanding position near the Canea bastion the seven murderers to whom the crime of participation in the slaughter of British troops had been brought home, were duly executed at 9 a.m. on Oct.18. Detachments of Marines and Bluejackets and of the British infantry attended the execution under arms, and lined the ramparts hard by. The names of three of the men hanged were Mustapha Djorba Dzakis, Djemali Bilialaki, and Mehemet Nazifaki, executed for the murder of Privates Fiddler and Rayne, Highland Light Infantry, on Sept. 6. These two soldiers were returning from outpost duty, one of them being sick, when they were shot down and mutilated. And for the murder, on the same date, near the hospital, of Privates Allison, Weston, and McNeill, of the Highland Light Infantry, there were executed with them four others – namely Haki Delzobayaki, Mehemet Arabalaki, Mustapha Hakeshaki, and Mehemet Pervoboraki. Bodies of Bluejackets from the British fleet to the number of over a thousand marched through the town on Oct. 21. The court-martial convicted seven other Moslem murderers. The Porte notified the Powers on Oct. 20 of its acceptance of the complete evacuation of Crete, leaving them to make the arrangements necessary to demonstrate the Sultan’s sovereignty.”[3]

As it happens, the illustration of the place of execution used by The Penny Illustrated Paper bore little or no resemblance to the scaffold used, the actual device being a box like structure.

(Details of Sir Alfred Biliotti’s life and his service in Crete and elsewhere in the Levant can be found here.)


[1] House of Commons Debate 10 March 1897. Hansard: 10 March 1897. Vol. 47 c428.

[2] The Penny Illustrated Paper 20 March 1897

[3] The Penny Illustrated Paper October 29 1898