Canea on Fire. 23 February 1897

On Tuesday 23 February 1897, fire broke out in the Konak, the Governmental buildings, in Canea. The following report was made in one of the more sensationalist British newspapers of the time: the Penny Illustrated Paper.

“The Services of British Marines and Bluejackets at the Great Fire in Canea. illustrated on our front page, exemplified the general smartness of all our services. Again, did the Daily News Special Correspondent at Canea distinguish himself in being the first to send home details of this gallant achievement.

On Tuesday evening, Feb. 23, a fire broke out at the Government Palace at Canea, which resulted in the entire destruction of the Palace buildings. The fire was discovered next morning, at five o’clock, in a room in the centre of the building, next door to the bedroom of the Italian Commandant. It was already so fierce that the Commandant was unable to dress, and was forced to escape in a blanket. The flames spread rapidly, and the entire building, which was of wood, was speedily ablaze.

The British Marines quartered at the Greek School close to the palace were immediately marched to the square by Major Brittan, who with Lieutenant Nelson (good name) proceeded to attempt to extinguish the fire; but the palace being a Turkish Government institution, of course neither pumps, hose, axes, buckets, water, nor other appliances were available. The difficulties, therefore, were immense. Major Brittan and Lieutenant Nelson, seeing the impossibility of otherwise saving the quarter, then set to work with their men to insulate the fire, tearing down the buildings abutting on the palace literally with their hands, having no other means.

The Marines worked splendidly, displaying infinite pluck and indefatigable energy. The struggle lasted three hours before success appeared even possible. Ultimately the efforts of the Marines prevailed, and the quarter was saved. During the progress of the fire, bands of sailors from the war-ships, British and foreign, arrived to take part in the work of salvage, but although the British sailors did excellent work, it is not too much to say that the chief credit in saving the town from another appalling disaster rests with Major Brittan and Lieutenant Nelson and their men.

While the fire was in progress at the palace, the Moslem rabble profited by the confusion to set fire to several houses in the town and suburbs. Major Bor and the Montenegrin police force patrolled the streets, extinguishing the flames where possible, but three large houses in the suburbs, the property of absent Christian merchants, were burned to the ground.”[1]

[1] The Penny Illustrated Paper. 6 March 1897


Marines and Bluejackets fighting Canea fire. Penny Illustrated Paper. 6 March 1897.

The Great Fire of Canea: Ruins of the Market. The Penny Illustrated Paper, 13th March 1897.

Canea Ruins. The Graphic 6th March 1897

Canea Ruins. The Graphic, 6th March 1897.

Canea Ruins. The Graphic, 6th March 1897.


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