Category Archives: European Intervention Crete

Mapping Canea, Sitia and Retimo

Although the principal location for British troops was Candia (Iraklion), there was also a small detachment kept in Canea to be part of the Four Powers Occupation force of the city, then the capital of Crete. Shown below are British military produced maps of Canea, Sitia and Retimo (Rethymno).

Admiralty map of Canea and surround showing locations of Cretan Christian insurgents. March 1897.

Seaforth Highlanders’ camp, Halepa. Map drawn by Lt & Q.M. G.W. Anderson 1 Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, 8th September 1897.

War Office map of Canea. 1905.

Admiralty map of Canea. 1897 survey

Admiralty map of Canea, 1897 survey – detail.

War Office map Sitia, 1910.

War Office map of Retimo. 1905 survey updated 1909.

 

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British Maps of Candia (Iraklion)

From their arrival in Crete in February 1897 until their departure in July 1909, British forces, of necessity, produced a number of formal, and informal, maps of Candia (Iraklion), the headquarters of the British Secteur of the island and main British base.

Royal Navy Survey. Candia, 1898.  Megalo Kastron or Candia.

From a Survey by Mr. W. T. Chapman, 2nd Master, R.N. under the direction of Captain T. Graves, R.N., H.M. Survey Ship ‘Beacon’ 1843, with additions from a survey by Commander T.A.B Spratt, R.N., H.M. Surveying Ship ‘Spitfire’ 1852. Additions and corrections to 1897. (Map issue dated 28th December 1897.)

Candia September 1898  General Plan of town of Kandia.

Produced by Sub. Lt. [G?] Nicholson R.N. as part of the report into the events of 6th September. 1898.

 

Candia Harbour. September 1898.

Plan showing positions occupied by landing party H.M.S. Hazard and HLI (Highland Light Infantry) at Kandia Sept 6th1898. Produced by Sub. Lt. [G?] Nicholson R.N. as part of the report into the riot of 6th September 1898

Fields of fire, Candia 1898.

1898 map showing parts of eastern side of Candia which could be covered by fire from European ships and infantry. Drawn by Lt. F.E. Rickman 2nd Batt. Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Dated 19th September 1898, the map was produced as part of the contingency planning for the bombardment of Ottoman forces in Candia should they have refused to obey the Powers ultimatum to evacuate Crete. In the event, the Ottoman troops left without the necessity of force being used.

Location of British troops. Candia September 1898

Map showing the location of British reinforcements sent to Candia after the riots of 6th September 1897.

British Military map. Candia 1905/1910.

British War Office map of Candia. 1905 with 1910 corrections.

Venetian walls of Candia/Iraklion.

Modern map of Venetian walls of Iraklion/Candia/Khandia.

Montenegrin Gendarmes on Crete.

As a part of the August Agreements of 1896, designed to bring an end to the outbreak of fighting on the island, it was agreed by the Porte that the Cretan gendarmerie required to be re-organised. “The native Cretan [Muslim] gendarmerie had such a want of discipline, such partiality and had given such unsatisfactory results, that the Turkish War Minister was in favour of all gendarmes being non-Cretan. The Turkish views in this direction had indeed been previously illustrated by the importation of a large Albanian contingent, undisciplined, and recruited without care as to character and antecedents, and subsequently left without pay or training.”[1]

To this end a European Commission was set up consisting of Commissioners from Britain, France, Italy and Russia; the British delegate being Colonel Herbert Chermside. Under the terms of the August Agreements, a condition of its organisation was that two thirds of the force had to be Christian, and the Commission accepted as a starting point that the gendarmerie was to be an armed body. Given that no Ottoman Christians had undergone military training, in January 1897 the Commission proposed recruiting of a number of trained men as gendarmes from neighbouring states and countries such as Montenegro, Bosnia, Greek speaking areas of Bulgaria and Cyprus. While there appears to have been some disagreement, or at least debate, over the proportion of the force that could or should be composed of aliens to Crete, it was recognised that: “… ‘[t]he desire to utilize, as far as possible, and to discipline the Cretan element [of the gendarmerie] met with little favour as a practical measure…” Consequently, while “…admit[ting] the eventual contingency of a purely Cretan force, […] for the actual inception of the organization, the full proportion of aliens was adopted.. “[2]

Command of the new gendarmerie was eventually given to the British officer Major Bor, RMA, although not without opposition from both the Porte and the Russian government, and recruiting commenced.

International Officers of ‘New’ Gendarmerie. Montenegrin Officers marked in red.

The initial intake to the ‘new’ gendarmerie consisted of three companies under the command of seven European officers; a total of 225 men made up of 96 Albanians, 80 Montenegrins and 30 Muslim Cretans. Also recruited were some 50 Cretan Christians – 48 of whom promptly deserted to the Cretan Christian rebels when the insurrection broke out in late February.[3]

The usefulness of the Montenegrin contingent was also open to question. On February 13th, with Canea rapidly being surrounded by Cretan Christian insurgents and a Greek flotilla under Prince George having arrived off Canea the previous day, the Vali (Governor) Berovic Pasa, fled to the safety of the Russian Ironclad. He remained on board the Russian ship for 24 hours before taking the Austro-Hungarian Lloyds steamer to Trieste on 15th February; along with the treasury. However, the Vali was not alone in boarding the Russian ship. On February 19th 1897, The Times reported:

“Among the many strange occurrences of the last few days is the sudden disappearance of the Montenegrin company of gendarmes. The conduct of the late Vali in transferring them on board the Russian warships seems inexplicable, unless it is to be assumed that a previous understanding existed between him and the Russian Government. His Excellency had appropriated the Montenegrin corps – a remarkably fine set of men – as his bodyguard immediately on their arrival, apparently distrusting both the Turkish troops and the Cretan gendarmes. Up to the moment of his departure they were employed exclusively in guarding his residence at Halepa, which he rarely quitted after the outbreak of the disturbances. In reply to Colonel Bor’s demand that the men should be sent ashore, the Russian Admiral stated that he had telegraphed to the Prince of Montenegro asking whether it was His Highness’ pleasure that they should remain in Crete. For five days the men were detained on board, notwithstanding an order sent by Colonel Bor to their captain to bring them ashore immediately. On Tuesday the Russian Ambassador in Constantinople telegraphed that they might be landed if they wished and if their services were desired. Nevertheless, they were detained until late in the afternoon, when they were allowed to land. It appears the authorities neglected to swear in the men on their arrival, so technically they were not amendable to discipline.”[4]

Russian troops and Montenegrin gendarmes in Rethymno.

Montenegrin gendarmes.

International Officers, including Montenegrins. Picture taken before November 1898.

The gendarme seated in the front row bears a passing resemblance to Mašan Božović, who is described, albeit on Wikipedia, as:  “… participat[ing] in the leadership of the Montenegrin Detachment in Crete as part of the international peacekeeping troops on that island.”

Montenegrin gendarme on Crete. Mašan Božović

By early March 1897, it was apparent that the lack of local Christian recruits into the new body, the unreliability of the Montenegrin contingent and the lack of finance from the Porte to pay for the existing gendarmerie, let alone the ‘new’ gendarmerie, had put the whole re-organisation into jeopardy. Matters were further complicated when, on 1st March 1897, the ‘old’ gendarmerie went on strike over them not being paid for 18 months or so. The mutiny was eventually put down by Major Bor with the assistance of a detachment of Italian and Russian sailors; although not without loss of life.[5]

With European sailors and marines now landed at the major towns on Crete, the Powers were no longer prepared to carry the financial and organisational burdens of maintaining the ‘new’ gendarmerie and on 7th March 1897 the British Ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Philip Currie,  instructed Chermside “…that the officers and men of the new Cretan gendarmerie should be paid off and discharged, and that the Gendarmerie Commission, with the assistance of the Consuls, should do this with the least possible delay.” [6] On 9th March,  Major Bor tendered his resignation to the new Vali.[7]

That day, 9th March, Currie reported to the British Foreign Minister Lord Salisbury that the European Gendarmerie Commission propose to leave Crete and return to Constantinople, arrangements being made to pay off the new gendarmerie:

“Officers will receive three months’ pay and the Montenegrin soldier’s one month’s as an indemnity, in addition to pay for the last month, and the cost of their journey home…. the old Mussleman gendarmerie, consisting of 49 officers and 535 men, still exists.”[8]

On 13th March Col. Chermside reported to Constantinople that the 9th the ‘new’ gendarmerie had been paid up to the 12th March, being discharged the following day. He further reported that:

“Of the new gendarmerie, 4 Italian officers of the carabinieri are placed at the disposal of the Italian “Commandant de Place” of Canea, and also 2 Montenegrin officers and 83 men, now in Russian pay. Even had the latter been at once repatriated it would, in Major Bor’s opinion, have been quite possible, as a temporary measure, to undertake their duties which are exclusively those of guard and patrol, by men of the force of the international squadron already ashore.”

In the same report, Chermside goes on to make it clear why the new gendarmerie was disbanded when he states:

” Of the 2,700L in the safe of the 3 per. Cent Customs Surtax Fund, over 1500L were required for the [paying off]; it is therefore evident that under existing arrangements the force enrolled could not have been further developed, nor even have been much longer maintained.”[9]

Montenegrin gendarmes appear to have been employed by the Italians in Canea as late as April/May 1897, during the 30-Day War. Illustrations in several London magazines show what was presumably the same incident; the disarming of Bashi-Bazouks by a Montenegrin gendarme in the company of Italian Marines.

The Occupation of Crete, Disarming Bashi-Bazouks at the Gate of Canea after the Fight at Akrotiri

Montenegrin gendarme disarming Bashi Bazouk.

A photograph supposedly showing Montenegrin gendarmes in the company of British and European troops, was also taken around March/April/May 1897 – dated from the arrival of Seaforth Highlanders on 24th March.

International forces, Canea, April 1897. Possible Montenegrin gendarmes marked.

The British records concerning the Montenegrin gendarmes then go quiet for some time and it might be assumed that they continued in the Service of the Russian Consul. The final appearance in British records occurs over a year later, on 26th April 1898, when there was an allegation of “… an attack by French soldiers and Montenegrin gendarmes on a Turkish soldier near Canea…”[10] In reality, the attack turned out to have been made by an Ottoman soldier upon two French soldiers; the Montenegrins attempting to break up the disturbance and arrest the Ottoman.[11]

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Mark Ivanovic for reminding me, in a comment on a previous post,  of the presence of Montenegrin gendarmes on Crete.

References.

[1] House of Commons Command Paper. 1897 [C.8398] [C.8437] Turkey. No. 8 (1897). Further correspondence respecting the affairs of Crete. [In continuation of ”Turkey no. 7 (1896):” c.–8193.] Inclosure 1 in No. 341. Chermside to Currie, 13th March 1897.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Rodogno D. (2012) Against Massacre: Humanitarian Interventions in the Ottoman Empire, 1815-1914. Princeton University Press. F.N. 37. Chapter 9. p.331.

[4] http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NOT18970401.2.22 THE STATE OF CRETE., North Otago Times, Volume XXVI, Issue 8865, 1 April 1897. Reprint of The Times report dated February 19th1897.

[5] http://mickmctiernan.com/history/gendarmarie-mutiny-crete/

[6]House of Commons Command Paper. 1897 [C.8398] [C.8437] Turkey. No. 8 (1897). Further correspondence respecting the affairs of Crete. [In continuation of ”Turkey no. 7 (1896):” c.–8193.]  No. 248. Currie to Chermside, 7th March 1897.

[7] Ibid. No. 255. Currie to Salisbury, 9th March 1897.

[8] Ibid. No. 256. Currie to Salisbury, 9th March 1897.

[9] Ibid. Inclosure 1 in No.341. Chermside to Currie, 13th March 1897.

[10] House of Commons Command paper. 1899 [C.9084] [C.9085] [C.9086] Turkey. No. 5 (1898). Further correspondence respecting the affairs of Crete. [In continuation of ”Turkey no. 3 (1898):” c. 8853.] No. 197. Sir P. Currie to Salisbury, 26th April 1897.

[11] Ibid. Incl. 1 & 2 in No. 210. Admiralty to Foreign Office, 6th May 1898.

 

Italian Artillery.

 

The forces of the Powers landed in Crete in 1897 included not only marines and infantry, but a number of artillery units.  These consisted, in the initial stages of the Intervention, of ‘mountain guns’, small artillery pieces that could be easily dismantled and carried on the backs of mules or horses. The British contingent consisted of six guns from No 4 Mountain Battery, Royal Artillery, stationed in Candia, supplemented by a number of small naval guns, several of which were landed at Canea.

Photographic and pictorial evidence suggests that the Italian artillery contingent initially appeared to consist of at least four mountain guns.

Italian battery embarking from Naples en-route to Crete.

While the initial positioning of European troops, prior to the withdrawal of the German and Austro-Hungarian forces in 1898, called for the Italians to be based in Irapetra on the south coast of the island, the mountain artillery appears to have been located for the most part on the north of Crete, around Canea. This was in response to the threat to the town from Greek forces under Colonel Vassos and their Cretan Christian allies.

Italian troops with mountain guns, on parade in Canea

Italian battery in Canea, 1897.

Italian battery in Halepa, 1897.

Italian battery in Halepa, 1897.

As a consequence of the threat from the Greeks and Christians, two Italian guns were apparently stationed  at Fort Subashi, the fortress protecting the main water supply to Canea; these were joined at some stage by guns landed from H.M.S. Anson.

Italian guns at Fort Subashi. 1897.

Around the same time as the posting to Fort Subashi, April 1897, two Italian guns were stationed on the Akrotiri peninsula. These guns were under the command of Captain G.E. Egerton, Seaforth Highlanders. In spite of photographic evidence which would seem to suggest the Italians and the Highlanders got on well on at least one occasion, Egerton recorded that he  ‘…did not trust the Italians a yard …[although they] are very fond of the English and were ready to black our boots, and they have never forgotten how much we assisted towards a united Italy.’

It also appears that the Italian artillery was used to protect the western approach to Suda Bay, the main deep water port on Crete and base for the Powers’ navel forces.

Italian Gun, Suda Bay April 1897

In addition to the mountain guns in and around Canea, the Italian force in Irapetra clearly also had some artillery support.

1st battery, 36th Italian infantry in review in redoubt in Irapetra, 1897.

 

 

 

Whatever happens, we have got, the Maxim gun, and they have not.*

The British battalions landing in Crete in 1897/1898 were normally equipped with two Maxim guns. Unlike later machine guns, these Maxims, the forerunners of the Vickers machine gun, were mounted on wheeled carriages. While they outclassed and out gunned anything that the Cretan Christian Insurgents had available, they were relatively difficult to move and, as the Northumberland Fusiliers found to their cost in 1898 when they lost both of theirs, difficult to land in a rough sea from a small boat.

Royal Welsh Fusiliers’ Maxim guns, Candia c.1897

The guns shown here in Candia are those of the 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers. While the photograph is undated, given the fact that the campsite is neat and tidy and the cannonballs are nicely painted, it was probably taken during the RWF’s first tour on Crete between April 1897 and August 1898. Their return in September 1898, after the Muslim riots, was to a much less formal campsite.

 

  • Hilaire Belloc,  ‘The Modern Traveller’  1898

The Aptera Blockhouse

In spite of the failure of the Cretan Christians and their Greek allies to capture and hold Fort Malaxa, the insurgents continued to threaten the outposts of Fort Izzedin; the Ottoman fortress that dominated the entrance to Suda Bay, the main anchorage of the European Fleet.

Fort Izzedin viewed from Blockhouse. Fort Suda is across the Bay. (Photograph courtesy of Fred Rodgers.)

Austro-Hungarian Army map. Fort Izzedin and Aptera Blockhouse 1897

While realistically there was never any chance of them capturing the main fortress, the threat to it, and to the European naval forces using Suda Bay, was such that any move on Fort Izzedin was taken very seriously. Matters came to a head when in March 1897, the insurgents attempted to storm the blockhouse at Aptera, immediately above Fort Izzedin. The initial assaults were repulsed by fire from European ships

HMS Camperdown shelling insurgents above Fort Izzedin; view from HMS Revenge.

“On March 28th the insurgents made a second attempt on the Aptera blockhouse, near Fort Izzedin, which commands the entrance to Suda Bay. They were repulsed by the fire of the English, Italian and Russian warships, but resumed their attack two days later. “

A British sailor on board H. M. S. Camperdown described events in a letter to his mother:

Well last Tuesday [29th March] we heard that the Greeks were going to try and take the fort at the entrance to the harbour, The admiral sent all the small ships down to the mouth of the harbour near where the Greeks would come we also got orders to open fire. The battle started about 7pm as soon as the Greeks started firing the small ships fired shell at them it was a splendid sight to see at 8.30 we got orders to fire we fired at a distance of 4 miles the battle finished at 10pm for the night but started in the morning again at 9am we received orders to fire our heavy guns at them as well as the others our heavy guns weigh 67 tons each & throw a shell weighing 1250lbs which bursts at any distance you like from ½ mile to 15 miles we fired 4 rounds from these guns at them & a lot from the others The Greeks retreated then in the afternoon the Admirals visited the place we had shelled & they were astonished at the damage they had done they said the damage was inconceivable They couldn’t say how many were killed but it must have been a lot. We have quite a record what with sinking the Victoria & and being the only ship in the British Navy that has fired a modern heavy gun in action [1]

The Turkish garrison in the fort responded with its artillery, and the war-ships in the bay kept up a constant fire upon the besieging forces. At daylight next day the fight was resumed, but the Cretan Christians failed to storm the fort. In light of its strategic importance, the blockhouse commanded the water supply to Fort Izzedin, it was eventually determined that the outpost would be occupied by a force from the European Powers under the command of Colonel Bor, Royal Marine Artillery, who, for the purposes of this expedition, was awarded the ‘honorary’ rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Major Bor’s sketch map of Fort Izzedin and the Aptera Blockhouse. 30 March 1897.

Lt Col. Bor RMA

On 18 April at about 6p.m., Bor’s command occupied both Fort Izzedin and the Aptera blockhouse.

Austro-Hungarian and Russian troops in Fort Izzedin.

Ottoman and Russian flags over Fort Izzedin

Bor reported that he placed the Austrian and Russian contingents within the Fort, ordering them to hoist their flags to alert the insurgents to the European presence, while he went with the French and British contingents to the blockhouse; similarly hoisting their respective national flags. Both buildings apparently suffered from bad latrines and the accommodation in the blockhouse was so ‘indifferent’ that the French detachment requested, and were granted, permission to camp outside the building.

Izzedin Blockhouse February 2017 (Photograph courtesy of Fred Rodgers)

Shortly after his arrival firing broke out between Ottoman troops and insurgents to the east of the block-house, but following Bor’s instruction to the Ottomans to cease fire, the insurgents also stopped. The next morning the insurgents renewed their attack on the eastern outposts and their reinforcements could be seen advancing towards the firing line. Believing that the Cretan Christians could not see the French and British flags on the block-house from their firing line, Bor “ …marched out the French and British contingents with their flags to a conspicuous place, and, having previously sent to the Turkish outposts to cease firing, […] sounded the English ‘retire’ three times in order to attract the attention of the insurgents. They at once ceased firing and soon afterwards dispersed and went away, leaving slender guards for the rest of the day with two Greek flags which they planted along their line.”[2]  For the next few days there was little insurgent activity and the locals resumed working in their fields.

On 20th April, a group of 30 or so insurgents approached the abandoned village of Megalo Chorafia and planted a further Greek flag. No shots were fired by either side, and Bor issued strict instructions that the Ottoman and European troops were not to open fire unless a serious attack was threatened. The following day the Greek flags by the eastern outposts disappeared and more people, ‘very few of [whom] are armed’ appeared working in the fields within 1000 yards of the Ottoman lines. There were also indications that a few people were taking up residence in the Megalo Chorafia.[3]

The lull in the fighting was not to last and on 23 April Lt Col. Bor sent the following report to his superiors on H.M.S Revenge:

“…shortly before 11pm last night the insurgents commenced an attack on the eastern outposts of this position which lasted about an hour and a half and only ceased when some Krupp guns and Nordenfelts came into action from the Fort and Blockhouse. Reinforcements of uncertain strength were at this time coming down the valley as could be seen by a number of lights they were carrying but they had not come under fire when the attacking force fell back. In the meantime another, though lesser, attack had been made on the southern outposts which lasted about half an hour. At one o’clock as all appeared to be over, the garrisons of the Fort and the Blockhouse went to bed but an hour later a second and more determined attack was made on the same outposts and on two of the western outposts. The main attack this time was on the south side where the enemy closed to within 500 yds of the defence but retreated under heavy rifle fire.

On the east the attackers were crossing the river in considerable numbers when I again ordered the Krupp and Nordenfelts that side of the Blockhouse to open fire with the result that the attack fell back almost immediately.

About 2p.m. nearly all firing ceased and at 2.40 a.m. the garrison again lay down to sleep. Up to 5.30 a.m. occasional shots were exchanged between the outposts and the insurgents by which time most of the latter had got away over the hills out of sight. The total strength of the attacking force must have been at least 300 men and in this was included one company of about 40 men which appeared to be well trained and under good control as I saw it fire repeated good and well timed volleys. Two well trained buglers were also with the force.

The force in action holding the position numbered about 500 men including the Russians and Austrians in the Fort and the French and English in the Blockhouse. No casualties occurred probably owing to the fact that the outposts are very well defended by loopholed stone walls and that the bullets of the attackers were fired very high. The ammunition expended by the defence was as follows:

3 rounds from 15 cm Krupp gun

4 rounds from 6cm Krupp gun

10 from light field guns

56 from Nordenfelts

About 1800 rounds rifle ammunition.

There was a great deal of unnecessary and useless firing from the Turkish outposts which I was unable to control personally as I felt bound to remain close to the Blockhouse where the French and English were manning the battlements and which was central. At daybreak I visited all outposts and informed officers and men of the folly of wasting their ammunition.

There are no grounds for forming any opinion as to whether the attack will be renewed during the next few nights or not. But the position is quite strong enough even without the from the ships near the coast.[4]

As far as can be determined, this was the last serious attempt by the Cretan Christians to take over the Blockhouse and with the evacuation of Greek troops from Crete in May 1897, the situation quietened down.

 

[1] National Maritime Museum MS86/074 Letter dated 5 April 1897 from Fred (Blomeley?) to his grandmother describing firing on Greek attack on the Aptera outpost of Fort Izzedin. The reference to ‘sinking the Victoria’ relates to the fact that H.M.S. Camperdown had accidentally sunk the battleship H.M.S. Victoria, while on manoeuvers on 22nd June 1893.

[2] National Archives. ADM 116-92. Inclosure 183, Major Bor to Flag captain H.M.S. Revenge. 20 April 1897.

[3] National Archives. ADM 116-92. Inclosure 184, Major Bor to Flag captain H.M.S. Revenge. 21 April 1897.

[4] National Archives. ADM 116-92. Inclosure 192. Major Bor to Flag captain H.M.S. Revenge. 23 April 1897.

The battle for the Malaxa blockhouse.

In early 1897 one of the few lengths of properly paved road on Crete was the stretch between the then capital, Canea, and Suda Bay, the only large and safe deep water anchorage on the island. Commanding both the road, the main approach to Canea from the east, and the entrance to the harbour, was Fort Izzedin and its associated outworks.

British map of Suda Bay, April 1897.

While realistically  the Christian Cretan insurgents were never going to be able to take over the Fort Izzedin, the capture and occupation of the outlying blockhouses would put pressure on the Ottoman forces, both within the fort and in Canea. Accordingly, several attempts, some more successful than others, were made to capture these positions.

The first assault was on the Malaxa blockhouse.   An initial attack on Sunday 28th February was forced back by fire from the Ottoman iron-clad Mukaddami Khair. (In illustration of how little control the Ottoman authorities actually had over the events unfolding at that time, the Mukaddami Khair was obliged to seek, and was eventually given, the permission of the European Admirals to open fire on the insurgents. She eventually fired three shells, ‘…the first a well-directed one, which had the effect of rapidly clearing the hillsides.’[1])

The insurgents were more successful when they attacked again three weeks later.

Cretan Christians assaulting the Malaxa Blockhouse

While the illustration above is from the French magazine Le Petite Journal, the original appeared in the Illustrated London News of 10th  April 1897 with a text which reads;

“Early on the morning of March 25th a large force of Christian insurgents took up its position, with three guns, for an attack upon the Turkish blockhouse at Malaxa, a village near Canea. After prolonged artillery firing, the insurgents advanced on the blockhouse. The Turkish garrison eventually raised a white flag, and the Christians entered the blockhouse with a rush. The first of the insurgents to enter the fort was a young Cretan, Manos, who was recently an undergraduate at Oxford and is now the leader of a band of young patriots. Thanks to his intervention, the lives of most of the garrison were spared, forty-three prisoners being taken to Kontopoulo by the insurgents when their bombardment by the war-ships of the Powers obliged them to evacuate the blockhouse.”

The Illustrated London News drawing is described as being ‘[d]rawn by R. Canton Woodville R.I., from a Sketch by our Special Artist, Mr. Melton Prior’, and has Canton Woodville’s initials on the bottom left hand side and what appears to be an engraver’s mark on the bottom right. The identical illustration  published in Le Petite Journal contains no attribution to the artists.

From other contemporary reports in the Illustrated London News it would appear that in addition to the intervention a British educated insurgent, the assistance of an American journalist and a Greek Army officer were instrumental in preventing a massacre of the Ottoman defenders and facilitating the transfer of the Ottoman prisoners to the Greek Army HQ in the nearby village of Alikianos.

“When the Cretan insurgents had stormed the blockhouse of Malaxa and rushed forward to occupy the stronghold, the first men to enter the fort was the young insurgent leader, Manos, who was but latterly and undergraduate at Oxford. He was closely followed by Mr Benn an American correspondent and these two between them prevailed on the victorious forces to spare the lives of most of the garrison, and rest content with taking them prisoners. Forty-three of the Turkish soldiers were taken as prisoners to [Kastropoulo/Kontopoulo?] under fire of the war-ships of the Powers.”

Not all of the garrison were captured or killed, some managed to make their way down the steep hill-side to safety.

The fall of the Malaxa Blockhouse; The flight of Ottoman troops

In spite of having captured the Malaxa blockhouse, the insurgents were not to remain there for long. The Illustrated London News reported;

‘One heavy shell from the Combined Fleet passed through the blockhouse, demolishing one of its main walls. Some hundred shells fell around the position, doing considerable damage in the villages of Malaxa and Kontopoulo. The Christians fired the ruined blockhouse before withdrawing from this bombardment, and carried forty-three of the garrison with them as prisoners.’

European forces bombard Malaxa Blockhouse.

Again according to the Illustrated London News, below;

‘[During] the Christian attack upon the blockhouse (…..) Turkish war-ships in Suda Bay kept firing upon the attacking force at intervals throughout the fight, with the object of relieving the garrison, and after the occupation of the blockhouse the war-ships of the Powers fired upon the victorious Christians, and forced them to evacuate the now ruined stronghold.’

The fall of Malaxa blockhouse.

A handwritten note on the illustration describes the figures in the foreground as ‘Turkish troops from roofs of houses in Nerokouron. The smoke from the Malaxa  blockhouse is shown in the top right hand corner of the illustration.

The Ottoman prisoners were taken to the headquarters of the Greek invasion force at Alikianos and kept there until the evacuation of the Greek army a month or so later.

Ottoman prisoners from Malaxa.

Malaxa Insurgents

The date of the above photograph is unknown and the caption might refer simply to the location of the shot. However, it is possible that it may contain images of some of the Cretan Christians who fought at Malaxa.

 

 

 

 

[1] Command Paper No Turkey No.9, 1897. No1. Admiral Harris to Admiralty, 24 February 1897.