Category Archives: European Intervention Crete

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 British army make a profit out of Crete!

In his report to the Foreign Office dated 16 June 1899,[1] Major General. H. Chermside, the British Commissioner in Crete, stated that:  “A successful postal service of three lines runs all over the province three times weekly, and twice weekly takes mail to and from the French secteur.” Similar services existed in the French, Italian and, for a brief period, Russian sectors of the island. It was a symptom of the failure of the Ottoman Empire to provide an adequate infrastructure on Crete that prior to the international occupation of the island, the most reliable postal serviced was operated by the Austrian Hungarian Empire which, according to one source, had “ … three post offices, in Chania, Heraklion and Rethymno, operat[ing] from 1890 until 1914, replacing earlier Austrian Lloyd postal agencies and official Austrian postal agencies which operated in turn in these towns starting in 1837 and 1845 respectively.”[2]

The origins of the British postal service are to be found in ‘Circular Memorandum No.6’ issued on 22 November 1898 on Chremside’s behalf to the District Commissioners within the British sector and calling for the setting up of six receiving offices, each one staffed by  a “…man of confidence, recommended locally”  who ‘…must be able , besides reading and writing Greek, to read European adresses.” For receiving the mail, despatching it and selling stamps, it was proposed to pay him a salary of either 30 or 40 francs* per month, depending on the location.[3] A few days later a further circular, No.9, made it clear that the British postal system was to make use of the existing Austro-Hungarian service, the Austrian post office in Candia (Iraklion) being the central office; the reliance on the Austrian service was to the extent that they would provide the new postmen with sealing wax, string, packing paper as well as a seal for the Postmaster.[4] The British service was shortlived running from November 1898 to July 1899 but at least for part of that period, up until 28 February 1899 (O.S.), it made a profit of £163.0.2d.[5]

The first British stamps were ordered from a firm in Athens but failed to arrive in time and so, as an interim measure, some 3000 bright violet, hand printed stamps, based on a design produced by the Austrian Director of Post in Candia, were produced.

British handmade stamp. c.1898

The definitive stamps eventually arrived in December 1898.[6]

Examples of British issued stamps.

As would be expected given that Crete was still technically Ottoman, the value of the stamps was defined the currency of the Ottoman Empire and the initial stamps were worth 10 or 20 ‘Parades’, the British spelling of ‘paras’; 40 paras making one piaster, and approximately 112 piastres making £1 sterling. An inland letter within the British sector cost 10 or 20 paras depending on its nature and an international letter, or one to another international zone of occupation, cost 1 piastre.

Some idea of the complexity of selling the stamps on an island occupied by four European countries yet still in 1898/1899, in theory at least, operating within the Ottoman Empire, can be seen from the fact that, presumably in order to avoid currency speculation, the British authorities found it necessary to lay down an official exchange rate for the purchase of stamps: 1 silver medjidie bought 20 piastres worth of stamps, £1 sterling  120 piastres and 1 Gold Napoleon (20 francs) bought 95 piastres.[7] (Given the level of poverty on the island at that time, it’s difficult to see that anyone other than a currency speculator would be interested in buying that many stamps or even in a position to do so.)

The British postal service, which delivered mail free for British, and latterly French, troops on the island, remained in operation until 24 July 1899, the stamps continuing in circulation and use until 1st March 1900. The other occupying Powers maintained their postal services for longer, the Italian service finishing only in 1914.[8]

A word of caution! If you are tempted to buy one of the many British stamps from this period that are on offer on the internet, be aware that many of the stamps alleged to have been issued by the British in Crete, and the other powers, that are offered for sale are fake! (The ones shown above are probably fakes also!)

http://stampforgeries.com/forged-stamps-of-crete/

https://www.stampcommunity.org/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=30739

www.fipfakesforgeries.org/fip/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Week-27.-Crete-Forgeries-of-British-Administration-issues-1898-99.pdf  (Opens as a pdf)

*Note on Currency.

Very approximate exchange rates in 1898

£1= 112 piastres

1 franc = 4.75 piastres (1 gold Napoleon = 20 francs)

40 Paras = 1 piastre

1 medjidie = 19 piastre

[1] 1899 [C.9422] Turkey. No. 2 (1899). Report by Her Majesty’s Commissioner in Crete on the Provisional British Administration of the Province of Candia.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_post_offices_in_Crete

[3] 1899 [C.9422] Turkey. No. 2 (1899). Report by Her Majesty’s Commissioner in Crete on the Provisional British Administration of the Province of Candia.  Circular Memorandum No.6 in Inclosure 1

[4] Ibid. Circular memorandum No.9 in Inclosure 1.

[5] Ibid. Circular Memorandum No.39 in Inclosure 1.

[6] http://www.sandafayre.com/philatelicarticles/foreignposincrete.html

[7] 1899 [C.9422] Turkey. No. 2 (1899). Report by Her Majesty’s Commissioner in Crete on the Provisional British Administration of the Province of Candia.  Circular Memorandum No.9 in Inclosure 1.

[8] http://www.sandafayre.com/philatelicarticles/foreignposincrete.html

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.

The Surgeon’s Report.

Writing in The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1897 (May 8, 1897), p.1184, Surgeon E. J. Biden, R.N., H.M.S. Scout, wrote as follows:

The Effects of Shrapnel Shell Fire.

During the disturbances in Crete of the last three months I have seen many cases of bullet wounds, chiefly Martini Henry and Chassepot, in the persons of both Greeks and Turks, but have nothing new to remark in connection with these. On March 9th the relief of Candamos [Kandanos] was effected by the Powers, and the next day two Turkish outposts had to be relieved; but the position of the insurgents on the hills was so threatening that the ship’s guns were used to disperse them. The same evening I saw the effect of our last shell on one poor man, about seven hours later. He had been brought into Selino [Paleochora] in an unconscious condition, suffering from concussion, a scalp wound over the right supraorbital region caused, I think, by falling on the rocks, a contusion of the back, a flesh wound of the right thigh, and compound fracture of both legs.

The wound of the thigh was a contused wound, round, and penetrating all the tissues down to the deep fascia; a probe passed freely in all directions for some 2 inches beneath the superficial tissues. In the right leg there was a small cut like wound, with gaping edges over the crest of the tibia at the junction of the middle and lower thirds, from which there was free venous haemorrhage, and fracture of the tibia at the same site. In the left leg there was a large irregular wound with contused edges at the same level as in the right leg, situated rather to the outer side of the crest of the tibia, and both bones were broken; from this there was also free venous haemorrhage.

The shell causing these injuries was a 5-inch shrapnel, Mark iii, fired at a range of 2,500 yards: the shell is charged with 236 round bullets made of 4 parts lead and 1 part antimony, and weighing 14 to the pound. A charge in the base of the shell blows off the head and discharges the bullets in a forward direction. From the shape of the bullets and the nature of their discharge it is of course not to be expected that their penetration would be so great as from a rifle. We were told four men were killed and many injured by our shell fire, and I had arranged to go to Spaniaco [Spaniakos] and Candamos to see them, but the ship was suddenly ordered to join the Admiral at Suda Bay or I should doubtless have had some further observations to make regarding the effects of our shellfire.

 

The events Biden was referring to took place on 10th March 1897 during the evacuation of Cretan Muslims from Kandanos, via Paleochora, by sailors and marines from the European fleet.

Evacuation of Cretan Muslims from Kandanos. “San Franscisco Call.” 7 Marxch 1897

British Naval 5 inch shrapnel shell Mk. III. c.1898. (Illustration based on https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BL_5_inch_Mark_V_shrapnel_shell_diagram.jpg)

H.M.S. Scout c.1900.

Edward James Biden was appointed Surgeon in August 1881 and served aboard H.M.S. Opal during the Niger Expedition in 1883, under Captain A. T. Brooke, in the affair with the Igah and Aboh natives, and at the punishment of the Solomon Islanders in 1886. He was appointed Staff Surgeon in August 1893 and served aboard Scout in the Red Sea during the Dongola Expedition in 1896 (Khedive’s Medal). He served in China during 1900 as Staff Surgeon of Orlando (Medal), and retired in December 1904. https://www.dnw.co.uk/auction-archive/special-collections/lot.php?specialcollection_id=691&lot_id=61027 In retirement he served on the Council of the British Medical Journal. He is recorded as receiving a Greenwich Hospital pension of £50 per. annum on 14 November 1922, and shown as having achieved the rank of Surgeon Captain. https://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/92714430?mode=transcription

The truth of Knossos revealed…… it’s all a fake!

In June 1909 British troops were preparing to leave Crete. In the midst of their preparations for departure at least one of them, quite possibly a member of 2/Devonshires, found the time to visit Knossos. Unfortunately for the future Cretan tourist industry, he was less tham impressed – as this postcard he sent to his father shows.

Knossos. Behaeddin photograph 201.

Knossos. Postcard 1909.

Dear Dad,

The ruins of Knossos are about 4 ½ miles from here. I have been over them but don’t think them very remarkable, but perhaps I am not a judge of such things. To me the greater part of it looked as though it had been faked up a lot. Hope you are all A1 at home. How are the Gardens now?

Charlie.