Category Archives: British Army in Crete

The Seaforths go forth.

On April 18th, following Vassos’ ‘annexation’ of Crete and large-scale Greek incursions into Ottoman Macedonia, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Greece. In Canea, on April 19th an international detachment under command of Captain Egerton consisting of 75 Seaforths, 75 Austrians, 75 French, 90 Italians and 2 Italian guns, was sent to be part of a guard at the neck of Akrotiri peninsula, remaining there until June.

According to Egerton:

‘The orders given by the Council of Admirals …were to guard the neck of the Akrotiri peninsula and prevent a large body of insurgents encamped therein from breaking out, and equally to prevent any body of Turks or Bashi Bazouks from the mainland from breaking in and attacking the insurgents. The two chiefs of the insurgent bands on Akrotiri were Messers Fourmis [sic] & Venezelos [sic], both Athens’ educated natives of Crete, who spoke and wrote excellent French.’

Activity at this post was apparently limited and Egerton clearly had no great opinion of his allies, continuing his narrative in the first person he stated:

‘Nothing serious ever happened, but for the two months that I was in command at Akrotiri Lt. Campion and myself, took it in turn every night to visit the sentries and patrol the neighbourhood, after 12 midnight. I did not trust the Italians a yard, and had no great confidence in the French, but my Austrian detachment Officers and men, were reliable to the last degree. The Italians were 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. The Austrians were on very friendly terms always, their Officers were nearly all gentlemen, which was not certainly the case with most of the other foreign Officers. The Russians we saw little of, they were mainly kept outside of Canea, on account of their rowdy habits. Their Colonel was an ex-Guardsman exiled for St. Petersburg for his numerous crimes. He was often seen drunk.
The move to Akrotiri coincided with the European takeover of the Izzedin fortress overlooking Suda Bay and of a number of smaller blockhouses in and around the Bay. Command of the fortress and the outlying posts was given to Major Bor, who ‘to give him the necessary authority over his foreign colleagues [was given] the honorary rank of Colonel.’

The Illustrated London News of April 24th 1897 reported: “Captain Granville Egerton, of the Seaforth Highlanders, who is in command of one of the detachments of British troops now in Crete, has seen some years of active service. He received his commission in 1879, and proceeded at once to Afghanistan, where he was seriously wounded before the year was out in the operations around Cabul. He subsequently took part in the advance on Candahar, and distinguished himself in the battle there fought. In the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 he was Adjutant to the Ist Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders, and took part in the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir.”

On leaving Crete with in November 1897, the Seaforths, including Egerton, went on, via a spell in Malta, to take part in the campaign in The Sudan. Here, Egerton was mentioned twice in despatches, his first such mention having been during the campaign in Afghanistan in 1880. He eventually went on to command the 52nd Lowland Infantry Division at Gallipoli, surviving the war and retiring from the army with the rank of Major General in 1919. He died in 1951.

Major General Granville George Algeron Egerton.

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers arrive

The first tranche of 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers, consisting of HQ and four other companies, arrived in Candia on 8th April 1897, the remainer of the batallion arriving in August that year. They remained on Crete until August 1898, when they departed for Egypt. However, they returned again to the island the next month as part of the British reinforcements sent after the riots of 6th September; finally departing for good in December 1898.

Their arrival in 1897 was witnessed by a correspondent sent by the London newspaper, the Standard:

From our own correspondent. Candia Friday [9 April 1897]

I arrived here at dawn to-day on board the transport Malacca, conveying a company of the Seaforth Highlanders and a battalion of the Welsh Fusiliers. The disembarkation of the Highlanders was begun at once, with the assistance of the Bluejackets from the Bruiser and the launches of the Trafalgar. The work was favoured by perfectly calm weather, and all arrangements had, as far as possible, been made beforehand, even to the building of ovens and the preparation of kitchens by fatigue parties of the Highlanders already here. The Company of the Seaforths marched up to the barracks about four o’clock, but the Welsh Fusiliers will probably remain on board until to-morrow. The Malacca has brought five hundred tons of extra regimental stores, and as another canteen ship arrived simultaneously, the men need not be afraid of running short of personal comforts, although they have plenty of work before them. The Fusiliers will be camped along the ramparts to the north-west of the Highlanders, and will take over almost one-half of the ground hitherto patrolled and guarded by the latter.
Admiral Canevaro came over here this after noon, in consequence of exaggerated reports that the Turks had attempted to pillage the Catholic Church, during the fire that occurred recently close by, notwithstanding that the building was guarded by Italian sailors. It is so difficult in this part of the world to get at the truth of things, save by making exhaustive personal inquiries, that it is only with the utmost reserve that I give what are, lam told, the actual facts. It seems, then, that an Italian sailor dropped a revolver while engaged in extinguishing the flames, and that it was picked up by a Turkish soldier. The action was misconstrued, and gave rise to a short dispute, which, however, was speedily settled by the Italian and Turkish officers.
Yesterday nearly the whole of the Turkish garrison turned out, after requesting the Foreign troops to patrol the town while they engaged the Insurgents. A tremendous fusillade was kept up till sunset, resulting in the loss of a single horse on the Ottoman side. Meanwhile, Captain Grenfell landed all the Bluejackets that could be spared, and marched them round the ramparts.
The small-pox is, I am sorry to say, on the increase, and the streets are full of people in various stages of the disease. Most of the Seaforth Highlanders have been vaccinated afresh, but comparatively few of them “took.” The men are now fairly comfortable, though it is rather provoking to see the Turks fighting, or pretending to fight, every day, while they themselves are confined to barracks — not a man being allowed to go into the town except on duty, nor even the officers, unless they go in twos and threes.
Sir Alfred Biliotti arrived here about noon. Colonel Chermside, the British Commandant, has so far recovered from his recent indisposition as to be able to resume his outdoor duties.


Working party of 2/RWF entrenching camp on ‘Canea bastion’ Candia. April 1898.

RWF throwing up new earthworks on Venetian Ramparts, Candia. April 1897.


British Army Rewards for September 6th 1898.

Reports, albeit somewhat inaccurate, of the events in Candia (Iraklion) on 6th September 1898 were published in British newspapers the following day.[1] However, it took the bureaucracy of the British Army some time to catch up, particularly when it came to rewarding the troops concerned. It wasn’t until January the following year that the following despatch appeared in the London Gazette, the official journal of the British government.


War Office, January 24, 1899.[2]


THE following Despatch has been received, through the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Malta, from. Major-General Sir H. C. Chermside, G.C.M.G., C.B., Commanding the British Troops in Crete:

Kandia,, December 16, 1898.

Sir, I have the honour to submit the following report as to the services of the Officers and others present when the British Troops in Kandia were attacked on 6th September, 1898. I was not present in Crete on that date, but in subsequently forwarding copies of the reports despatched by Colonel F. M. Reid, Highland Light Infantry, Officer Commanding Troops and Acting British Commissioner, I had no hesitation in endorsing his opinion as to the coolness, steadiness, and gallantry of all concerned, during a most difficult and dangerous crisis.

The Infantry called on to defend themselves, with the assistance of other detachments, against this sudden, general, and treacherous attack, all belonged to the 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry, and behaved in a manner worthy of the traditions of this distinguished corps.

I recommend for favourable consideration the services of the following:

Highland Light Infantry.

Colonel F. M. Reid.

Major I. C. Conway-Gordon.

Captain A. G. Balfour.

Captain A. F. Lambton.

Captain E. R, Hill.

Captain and Adjutant J. W. A. Cowan.

Captain G. E. Begbie.

Second Lieutenant W. H. E. Segrave (wounded).

Quartermaster-Sergeant S. McNeill.

Colour Sergeant A.-Colville.

Colour-Sergeant J. B. Cameron.

Sergeant A. Gray (wounded).

Sergeant R. Murray.

Sergeant D. Christie.

Sergeant E. B. Underwood.

Corporal J. MacLean.

Corporal J. C. Harland.

Private D. Fraser (wounded).

Private W. Mason.

Private R. Jordan.

Private W. Guthrie (severely wounded).

Private Jos. Perkins (wounded).

Private W. Johnstone.

Royal Engineers,

Lieutenant M. R. Kennedy.

Sergeant G. Smith.

Royal Army Medical Corps.

Lieutenant L. Addams-Williams.

Lieutenant T. H. M. Clarke (wounded).

Private D. Philemon.

Private G. H. Lowden.

Private G. Leggatt.

Private G. Biddiscombe (wounded).

Army Service Corps.

Sergeant G. Gordon.

I have, &c.,



Wounded from Crete in the Highland Light infantry at the Valletta Military Hospital, Malta. (Navy and Army Illustrated Vol VII No 101 page 399, 7 January 1899.)

War Office, March 7, 1899.[3]

The Queen has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following appointments to the Distinguished Service Order, and promotions in the Army, in recognition of the services of the undermentioned Officers during the outbreak in Kandia on the 6th September 1898. The promotions to bear date 8th March, 1899.

To be Companions of the Distinguished Service Order: —

Captain James William Alston Cowan, the Highland Light Infantry.

Lieutenant Macdougall Ralston Kennedy, Royal Engineers.

Lieutenant Thomas Henry Matthews Clarke, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Second Lieutenant William Henry-Erik Segrave, the Highland Light Infantry.


To be Lieutenant-Colonel: –

Major I. C. Conway-Gordon, the Highland Light Infantry.

To be Majors: –

Captain A.- G. Balfour, the Highland Light Infantry.

Captain G. E. Begbie, the Highland Light Infantry.

The Queen has further been pleased to approve the grant of the medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field to the undermentioned: –

Royal Engineers.

Sergeant G. Smith.

The Highland Light Infantry.

Colour-Sergeant A. Colville.

Sergeant A. Gray.

Private W. Guthrie.

Army Service Corps.

Sergeant G. Gordon.

Royal Army Medical Corps.

Private G. Biddiscombe.

The Queen has also been graciously pleased to approve of the following promotions in the Army, in recognition of the services of the undermentioned Officers during the occupation of Crete, dated 8th March, 1899: –


To be Colonel: –

Lieutenant-Colonel R. B. Mainwaring, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

To be Major: –

Captain Sir H. W. McMahon, Bart., D.S.O., the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.


Lieutenant C. M. Dobell, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, is noted for consideration for the

Brevet rank of Major, on promotion to the rank of Captain.


An analysis of the distribution of ‘mentions in despatches’, medals and promotions awarded after the events of 6th September illustrates the social hierarchy of the late Victorian Army. In 1898 1/Highland Light Infantry while based in Malta prior to and after, its deployment in Crete consisted of a strength of approximately 700 Officers and men,[5] the overwhelming number of whom would be enlisted men and N.C.O.s. In spite of this, one third of those mentioned in the despatch, 11 out of 32, were offices, and of those given some recognition for their bravery that day, seven were officers and six were other ranks. (The brevet promotions for the Royal Welsh Fusiliers were unconnected with the events of 6 September, the RWF returning to Crete, having served there from April 18907 to August 1898, as part of the reinforcements sent following the riots.) The inclusion of so many members of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the official  Despatch reflects the fact that one of the significant locations for fighting on the 6th Sepember was around the British military hospital.

The Distinguished Conduct Medal, post-nominal letters DCM, was established in 1854 by Queen Victoria as a decoration for gallantry in the field by other ranks of the British Army. It is the oldest British award for gallantry and was a second level military decoration, ranking below the Victoria Cross, until its discontinuation in 1993. Coming with a gratuity paid on the recipients discharge from the army, all medals awarded bore the recipient’s number, rank, name and unit on the rim.

Distinguished Conduct Medal, Victorian version.

Distinguished Conduct Medal, Victorian version. (Later versions had the Monarch’s head on the reverse)

The Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded to Private William Guthrie, 1/ Highland Light Infantry, came up for sale in 2016.

Distingushed Conduct Medal awarded to Private William Guthrie, 1/Highland Light Infantry.

The following biographical details of Guthrie were recorded at the time of sale:

William Guthrie was born in Ayr, and attested for the Highland Light Infantry at Hamilton, in January 1897. He was discharged, 17 October 1899, as a consequence of the gunshot wound that he received at Kandia. The latter was ‘received in action at Crete 6.9.98… defending the military hospital when wounded… Bullet appears to have entered one sternal end of 1st rib passed outwards under the clavicle (right-side) making its exit on the outer side of arm 2 inches below point of shoulder.’ (Medical Report refers)

Guthrie had only served for 2 years and 239 days with the Colours, with the D.C.M. being his only medallic entitlement.[6]

The Royal Navy also rewarded their personnel for their bravery that day. The highest British award for bravery in the armed services, the Victoria Cross, was given to Royal Naval Surgeon William Maillard.


[1] Cf The Morning Post, London, 7 September 1898, p.4.

[2] London Gazette 24 January 1899. p458

[3] London Gazette 7 March 1899. p.1586.

[4] A Brevet promotion was an honorary, and temporary, promotion for bravery or distinguished conduct. It did not confer any seniority within the recipient’s regiment.




September 6th 1898, the Candia Riots

By September 1898, British and European troops were firmly ensconced on Crete having arrived there in response to an increase in intercommunal violence brought about, in part, by the landing of Greek forces attempting to support a Cretan Christian attempt to unite the island with Greece. Initially welcomed, or at least accepted, by the bulk of the Cretan Muslim population, by September the British contingent consisted a number of ships of the Royal Navy and a battalion of the Highland light Infantry; the latter consisting of about 370 men based in Candia (Iraklion), some 200 in outpost positions outside the town and a further 180 in Canea.[1]  Effective political control of the island was vested in the Council of Admirals, the commanders of the European naval forces.

The Admirals were faced with numerous problems, one of which was the lack of funds available to them to take any effective steps to introduce any type of civilian administration be it Christian or Muslim controlled. In an attempt to overcome this shortage of cash, at the end of August, apparently at the suggestion of the Russian Admiral,[2] the decision was taken to commandeer the islands customs revenues, to occupy the Dimes, the Cretan customs houses; dismissing the Muslim staff and replacing them with Christians. Such a decision was never going to be popular with Cretan Muslims; not only would they be losing control of lucrative jobs and assets at a time when the coastal towns were packed with unemployed Muslim refugees from the interior of the island, but also their replacements would be the Christians who had previously been subordinate to them.

The takeover went without too much incident in Canea and Rethymno, but on 6th September when it was attempted in Candia, things went horribly wrong.

Candia September 1898

On the morning of 6th September 1898 (25th August old style), Lt. Colonel Francis Maude Reid, commander of the 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry, along with an officer and some 20 men proceeded to the Dime office in Candia harbour and attempted to secure the customs building. On arrival at the Dime, Reid engaged in an argument with Major W.S. Churchill, head of the Gendarmarie, who initially refused to allow Reid to enter. Churchill eventually left and Reid and his party took over the building. While Reid was in the office, a crowd of protesters tried to force their way through the harbour gates which were being secured by a small group of HLI soldiers. In the scuffle, three soldiers were fatally stabbed and confused firing broke out from Bashi Bazooks, armed Cretan Muslim irregulars, who had gathered in the vicinity to protest the takeover.  (While Ottoman regular troops stationed in the area appeared to take no part in the ensuing violence, Edhem Pasha, the kaimakam, chief Ottoman civil officer in Candia, was allegedly seen in the area haranguing the crowd.)

Edhem Pasha

Reid’s party, joined by several men who had been guarding the nearby Eastern Telegraph office and horse lines, were now besieged in the Dime and under fire. The British soldiers, who had been joined by a small number of Cretan Christians, barricaded themselves into the building. There they remained, constantly under fire, while attempts were made to evacuate them by ships’ boats from HMS Hazard and HMS Hazel, British gunboats stationed in the bay.

Candia Harbour. September 1898

Taking part in this evacuation was Royal Naval Surgeon William Maillard whose actions were reported later in the London Gazette:

On the 6th September 1898, during the landing of seamen from Her Majesty’s Ship “Hazard” Surgeon Maillard, who had disembarked and reached a place of safety, returned through a perfect deluge of bullets into the boat and endeavoured to bring into safety Arthur Stroud, Ordinary Seaman, who had fallen back wounded into the boat as the other men jumped ashore. Surgeon Maillard failed to bring Stroud in only through the boat being adrift, and it being beyond his strength to lift the man (who was almost dead) out of so unstable a platform. Surgeon Maillard returned to his post with his clothes riddled with bullets, though he himself was unhurt.[3]

Surgeon William Maillard winning the VC.

For his bravery, William Maillard was invested with a Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 15th December 1898; the only member of the Royal Naval Medical Service to receive a VC.

While the fighting was taking place around the harbour, the HLI encampment at the western end of the town came under attack from Bashi Bazooks who opened fire from previously loophole houses overlooking the camp. In spite of taking casualties the British troops in the camp, under the command of Major Conway-Gordon, maintained their fire-discipline and the order not to return fire unless deliberately fired upon was obeyed.

Throughout the whole of the day, the Ottoman troops stood by and made no effort either to attack the British or to intervene to prevent their co-religionists from attacking them and the situation in the town was only brought under control when British warships began to bombard the town. At around 5pm, with much of the area around the harbour in flames, either as a result of the actions of the Muslims or the British bombardment, Edhem Pasha reappeared in the town, the Muslim firing immediately stopped and Ottoman troops belatedly commenced restoring order. By about 6.30 pm, with the passive aid of Ottoman troops who had themselves taken casualties from the Bashi-bazooks fire, the British had fallen back from their encampment onto the Ottoman fort from where joint British /Ottoman patrols were sent to clear the ramparts. By 7 pm, after the arrival of reinforcements in the form of a further 100 Ottoman troops, the firing died down.[4] The besieged in the Dime, still including Col. Reid, were escorted by Edem Pasha to the other side of the harbour and to the water purification vessel Turquoise, from where, at about 8 pm, they were eventually transferred to H.M.S. Hazard.[5]

Fourteen British troops were killed that day and 39 severely wounded. However, the true of Cretan casualties remains unknown. Holland estimates that 29 Cretan Muslims died, as did an estimated 800 Christian Cretans out of a population of approximately 1000,[6] Senisik, however, gives figures ranging from 153 Cretan Christian dead according to Ottoman sources, to 600, according to British sources.[7] To complicate the matter further, the overall commander of British troops on Crete, Major General Herbert Chermside, had reported several months earlier that there were less than 500 Cretan Christians in Candia.[8] All that can be said for certain is that the Cretan Christian dead numbered in their hundreds.

British retribution was remorseless. Further troops were sent to Crete and initially a cordon was thrown around Candia to prevent Christian Cretans seeking revenge on the Muslim population of the town. Under the threat of further bombardment, the Ottoman authorities were forced to pull down any houses that had been loop-holed and on 16 September the Admirals decreed that civilian disarmament was to be completed within four days. Ottoman troops were evicted from their fortress and, except for a few allowed to remain as an honour guard for the Ottoman flag, confined to their barracks, while Edhem Pasha was forced to leave the island. Some 140 Cretan Muslims suspected of being involved in the murders of the British troops were rounded up and held on British warships awaiting trial.

Cretan Muslim prisoners on board H. M. S. Isis

Seven men accused of the murder of British troops were tried by British Court-Martial on 13th, 14th and 15th of October.

Trial of Candia Rioters. ILN 5 Nov. 1898.

All were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The executions took place on 18th October; the men being hanged on a public scaffold built onto the walls of Candia, members of the HLI acting as executioners.[9] A further Court-martial of 10 men followed and on 29th October, a further five Muslims were hanged. Those accused of the murder of British civilians, most notably the British Vice Consul Lyssimachos Kalokairinos, and of armed riot, were tried by a British ‘Military Commission.’ This held two trials of 21 men. Five were found guilty and hanged from the ramparts on 7th November.[10]

Memorial to Lysimaxos Kalokairnos. Agios Constantine and Eleni Cemetery, Iraklion

 For the murder of Vice Consul Calocherino, three men were hanged. One of them, Klklrida(?) was a negro. The other two were Mahomodan natives, named Abdalaki and Vitorail. They were blind folded before being led onto a bridge connecting the platform of the scaffold with some high ground. The executions were carried out without disturbances. These were the last executions that took place in Candia.[11]

Crossing the Bridge of al Sirat. The Graphic 3 December 1898.

Crossing the ” Bridge of al Sirat.” (The Graphic wrongly states that 3 men were hanged. In fact 5 were executed on this occasion.)

Sixty other Cretan Muslims were also taken to Canea and tried by an International Tribunal for the murder of Cretan Christians during the riot. Two were found guilty and sentenced to death. In a deliberate attempt to ensure that the message riot and murder would meet with retribution was known throughout the island, the two guilty men were publicly shot:

It is rare nowadays that the British Tommy experiences the thrill of horror at seeing a comrade shot. Mr Kipling’s mere description of the hanging of Danny Deever is thrilling enough. But Tommy was vouchsafed the experience of seeing two Turks shot in Crete the other day. They had been involved in the massacre at Candia last September, and condemned to be shot. So at eight o’clock in the morning of Nov.3 they were taken to Canea and surrounded by the four Powers, England, France Italy and Russia, mustered a hundred strong each, and drawn up on three sides of a square. Three men were selected from each of the Powers, two for the front rank and one in reserve, to shoot the prisoners. So Kaider Ismaneki and Halil Araf Haliaki took their seats with their backs to the firing party. The Commandant’s sabre fell, and in an instant they dropped dead.[12]

Execution of rioters. Canea 23 November 1898.

The ramifications of the outbreak of violence went beyond the immediate vicinity of Candia. It was now determined that not only would all Cretan Muslims be disarmed, but also that all Ottoman troops would be required to leave the island by noon on 5th November; effectively ending Ottoman rule on the island. While the Sultan was still had de jure sovereignty over the island and the Ottoman flag was to remain flying, henceforth the protection of the Cretan Muslim population, and the Ottoman flag, would be in the hands of the European powers.

Post Script: In addition to the VC awarded that day to Surgeon Maillard, the Highland Light Infantry, having lost one officer and nine soldiers killed and had one officer, two sergeants, one corporal, two pipers and nineteen soldiers wounded, had eight officers and fifteen rank and file mentioned in dispatches, two officers appointed to the Distinguished Service Order, four Brevet promo­tions and three other ranks awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.[13]

[1] Oatts L.B. (1961) Proud Heritage. The story of the Highland Light Infantry Vol.3 The House of Grant. Glasgow. Chapt.3

[2] Holland R & Markides D (2006) The British and the Hellenes. Struggles for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean. 1850 – 1960. Oxford University Press. Oxford. p.100.

[3] London Gazette, 2 December 1898.

[4] National Archives FO 78/4934. Major Conway-Gordon to Officer Commanding British Troops, 7th September 1898.

[5] National Archives ADM 116/93, Vol. 2. Despatch 14 September 1898, No.1. Lieutenant Colonel Reid to captain Hallett, 7 September 1898 in Telegram No. 60, Biliotti to Salisbury, 7 September 1898.

[6] Holland R & Markides D (2006) The British and the Hellenes. Struggles for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean. 1850 – 1960. Oxford University Press. Oxford. p.101.

[7] Senisik, The Transformation of Ottoman Crete, p.309 foot-note 75.

[8] Turkey No.9, 1897. No.8. Chermside to Salibury, 17 April 1897.

[9] Oatts L.B. (1961) Proud Heritage. The story of the Highland Light Infantry Vol.3 The House of Grant. Glasgow. Chapt.3

[10] C9233 Turkey No 1 1899. Inclosure No.19. Rear Admiral Noel to Admiralty, 7 November 1898.

[11] The Graphic. London 3 December 1898

[12] The Sketch, London. 28 December 1898

[13] Oatts L.B. (1961) Proud Heritage. The story of the Highland Light Infantry Vol.3 The House of Grant. Glasgow. Chapt.3

Keeping Candia Clean, 1897 to 1909.

On arrival in Crete in 1897, British troops were faced problems in addition to those of keeping the peace between two rival, and antagonistic, groups of the population, and preventing a ‘foreign’ takeover of the island. Located for the most part in Candia (Iraklion) with small detachments in villages close to the town and a token force in Canea, the troops were quartered on the ramparts of the Venetian walls surrounding the town.

Location of British Troops in Candia 1898.

The town itself was overburdened with an influx of Muslim refugees fleeing from the Cretan Christian insurrectionists, bringing the population up from an estimated 20,000 to an estimated 40,000. Surrounded by the Christian fighters and initially threatened with attack from Greek forces landed on Crete early that year, the already primitive sanitary arrangements within Candia which had suffered from centuries of Ottoman neglect, came close to collapse, and in doing so added another danger not only to the inhabitants, but to the British troops. From the point of view of the British Army, over the period of their presence in Crete, 1897 to 1909, the greatest danger they faced came not from the threat of Cretan or Greek violence, but from disease, much of it the result of the unsanitary condition within Candia town. The situation in Canea, though similar, was not as extreme as far as the British were concerned. Not only were there fewer refugees in the town, but by the end of June 1897, the small number of British troops in Canea were relocated from inside the town to a tented encampment in Halepa, some 3 Km outside the town.[i]

Layout of Seaforth Highlanders’ camp, Halepa. 1897.

Drawing on the annual Army Medical Reports presented to the British Parliament each year, and the ‘Report on Sanitary Work in Candia, Crete’ produced in February 1899 by Lieutenant T. H. M. Clarke, R. A. M. C., the Sanitary Officer for Candia, it is possible to construct a picture of the sanitary conditions under which the population, and the British garrison, co-existed. On arrival in Candia, the British were faced with a scene in which:

“Kandia (…) was found in a deplorable sanitary condition. An epidemic of smallpox was raging and decaying offal littered the streets in great heaps as practically no attempt at conservancy was made. The town is partially drained, but the only adequate sewers are the main ones built by the Venetians, the subsidiary ones, of more recent origin, being square in section and built of rough unhewn stone without mortar in many instances. They consequently permit the escape of the fluid portion of the sewage, and quickly become blocked. Some houses are supplied with water closets of ancient and inefficient pattern, but in those of the poor, a cesspit is dug under the boundary wall, partly in the house or its courtyard and partly in the street. These pits are mere holes in the ground and unlined in any way, and so, permitting the absorption of their fluid contents, do not require to be emptied often. They are covered with a few sticks and old mats, on which earth, frequently the dried contents of the pit at its last emptying, is heaped. The ventilation of the drains and those pits is naturally free into the streets and houses. The subsoil is everywhere saturated with the filth of age, and it is rare to see clean soil turned up anywhere in the town. Every street corner is used as a urinal and the streets themselves as latrines by the juvenile population at all times, and by their seniors under the cover of night. The principle streets of the town which alone are fit for vehicular traffic are paved with large flat granite setts and are broad and airy; all the others are narrow and tortuous and paved with rough cobble stones…

The immediate neighbourhood of the town outside the walls, which apparently had always been used for the deposit of refuse and dead animals, was polluted to such an extent that an excursion outside the gates was a most unpleasant experience. Much of the ground was immediately below, and partly to windward, of our camp on the ramparts. On the beach to the west, but outside the town, the municipal abattoir is situated, and the carcases are brought into the town, uncovered, on donkey back, often through clouds of putrescent dust from the polluted area just mentioned. The condition of this building was so bad that it was necessary to erect a private slaughterhouse for the use of the troops and, to avoid the dust, to provide a covered cart for the conveyance of the meat to camp.”[ii]

While lack of money played a major factor in the state of the town, ‘[t]he expenditure of the Municipal authorities…amounted to exactly £18 yearly; the expense of keeping a ramshackle cart in use which was more often on the sick list than off,’ added to which ‘the Public Health Officer of the port of Candia, whose duty it was to give the vessels arriving […] pratique [the authority to enter the port on the ship being declared free of infectious disease], had been a leper for eighteen years;’[iii] a more novel explanation was provided by ‘a leading Christian doctor in Candia, an able and cultured medical practitioner.’ According to this account, while overcrowding brought about by Muslims fleeing from the rebellion in the countryside and from the Sitia massacres clearly played its part in the deterioration of conditions within the town, there was another, less obvious, contributor.

‘The orthodox Moslem, owing to the frequent ablutions and hot baths prescribed to him by his religion, keeps his body clean, but in every other respect his habits of cleanliness, either in his indoor or his outdoor life, are very unsatisfactory. On the other hand, Moslem country people, being for the most part affiliated to the sect of “Becktasheeys,” [Baktashi] which dispenses with the precept of prayer, and consequently with ablutions, are still less apt to feel horror of filth and dirt. Therefore soon after the arrival in town of the country people, it was reduced to a vast cloaca and centre of infection.’[iv]

Before accepting this explanation, relying as it does on the alleged uncleanliness of the Muslim Cretans, it is worth bearing in mind the description of Cretan Christian refugees, provided by  a possibly less biased observer than ‘a leading Christian Doctor.’ Some of these Christian refugees, returning from Greece where they had fled during the revolution, arriving in Candia at a rate of over 600 per day and forced to  and forced to live in overcrowded conditions in the Greek Cathedral, were described as ‘villagers with habits and customs not much superior to animals.’[v] It would appear that the gap between the sanitary habits and practices of the townspeople and those from the countryside was more significant than between Christian and Muslim.

The existence and continuation of such insanitary conditions were clearly of great concern to the British Army given both their proximity to the British encampment on the walls of the town, and the need for British troops to pass through to town when carrying out their peace-keeping duties. The response, initiated in August 1897 ‘in anticipation of partial autumnal rains likely to be followed by hot still weather,’ was to engage twelve native scavengers under the control of a British N. C. O., to remove, bury, or burn the refuse heaps outside the walls. In September, a grant of £150 per month from the British Government was sanctioned ‘to take over the conservancy of the town.’[vi] However, given the political situation on the island, security implications – European troops were at this time ordered never to go into the towns alone or unarmed – and presumably the necessity for British troops not to be seen doing menial tasks which might imply their subservience to the local population, it was decided that British personnel could not be employed on such duties within Candia town; only outside the town walls. As a consequence, under the supervision and direction of the Army’s Chief Medical Officer, in 1897 Surgeon – Major Babtie, municipal and gendarmerie employees, headed by a gendarmerie lieutenant, were engaged to clean up the town.

The town was divided into districts and each district allocated a team consisting of an overseer, sweepers and sewermen each team with a number of mules or donkeys and their drivers. Though not carrying out any major works of a permanent nature, using these teams,

The accumulations of refuse were gradually removed, and a regular system of scavenging introduced, the drains repaired and cleaned as far as possible, streets mended where dangerous to life or limb, filthy corners, and, wherever possible, houses occupied by refugees washed with quicklime, cesspits, wherever the owners were unable to do so themselves, emptied, dead animals removed from the streets and buried, etc. The result was a ‘considerable improvement… effected in the condition of the town.’[vii]

The monthly grant was continued in 1898 and the system for cleaning the town maintained in spite of is suspension for a short period immediately following the outbreak of rioting on September 6th 1898,[viii] during which the interpreter to the British Sanitary Officer was murdered. The work recommenced in October, the British taking over full responsibility for the sanitation in the town in November with the eviction of all Ottoman forces and administrators from the island. The situation with respect to the health of British troops was exacerbated following the riots by the arrival of British reinforcements; raising the numbers camped on the ramparts from 500 to 5,000, and including three regiments ‘fresh from the short but arduous campaign on the Nile, where the seeds of enteric and dysentery were widely sown’[ix]

No reference is made to the monthly sanitary grant in the report for 1899, with the arrival of the High Commissioner Prince George in December 1898 and the provision of British and European loans to the new authority, the grant came to an end. With the ending of the International Provisional Administration on the island in July 1899 and the passing over of civilian authority to the new regime, responsibility for the sanitary condition of the town was handed over to the Cretan Autonomous State – albeit with the exception of ‘a strip of the town 50 yards deep from the ramparts where the British camp was situated, the three Venetian sewers, the ditches behind the camp and the large refuse heap outside the Canea gate.’[x] The retention of responsibility for the 50 yard strip of ground within the town walls was probably in order to maintain a degree of security given the events of the previous September, as well as to enable the British authorities to continue their campaign attempting to eradicate mosquitoes from the vicinity for the camp; malaria being one of the most significant contributors to the debility of British troops. The inclusion of the ditches behind the camp appears to be related to their previous use as a dumping ground for dead animals and their being the only place in Candia suitable as a recreation ground for the British garrison. The British clean-up of the moat does not appear to have been as successful as the Parliamentary Reports initially implied, this recreational area being not only inadequate in size but also ‘unhealthy’ in the summer and autumn. The British also retained the right to periodically inspect the rest of the town, in order to bring sanitary defects to notice of the authorities. While not specifically mentioning who is actually carrying out the cleaning work in Candia town, the report does makes reference to convict labour being to assist sanitary staff.[xi]

In 1900 the sanitary state of Candia was reported to have been ‘on the whole… satisfactory’[xii] but in October 1901, during a visit by the Principal Medical Officer, Malta Command, it was suggested that the deposit of the town refuse be moved further from the camp. At the time it wasn’t found possible to find a site to the east of the town so arrangements were put in hand for the old site to be abandoned and the soil pits and refuse heaps moved away to the west.[xiii] However, by the following year, 1902, with the town still being kept ‘superficially clean, and some of the main thoroughfares…remade so it [was] possible for them to be used by wheeled traffic,’ the refuse from the town was now being disposed of at a site ‘beyond the Christian cemetery to the east of the town and camp.’[xiv]

Little mention is made of the sanitary condition in the Reports of 1903 and 1904, though reference is made to the continuing mosquito eradication campaign in the vicinity of the British encampment. By 1905, the conditions in Candia were described as ‘very bad.’ While the barracks were considered to be mosquito free, admissions to hospital from malarial diseases totalled more than a third of the average strength of troops. The cause was put down to them being infected while on prison guard within Candia or on outpost duty outside the town. In the former case the sanitary conditions of the prisons was described as ‘particularly bad’ and a recommendation made that troops on guard duty be issued with suitable mosquito nets.[xv] By 1906 however, it could be reported that mosquito nets had finally been issued to the guards in the town[xvi] and subsequent reports make no further reference to the sanitary conditions in the town.

Inspired not by any humanitarian impulse aimed at improving the lives of the Cretan population, but rather by self-interest, the need to preserve the lives of British troops, the British ‘clean up’ in Candia undoubtedly saved lives; both British and Cretan. However, in spite of their efforts at improving the surrounding sanitation, the British involvement in the Cretan Intervention still came at a high price. While 14 soldiers and seamen were killed and 27 wounded by enemy action during the thirteen years spent on the island, the army alone lost a further 90 men dead to disease and other injuries, with over 11,000 men hospitalised. No comparable record is available of the number of Cretans who lost their lives during this period.


Army Medical Department Extract of Annual Parliamentary Return

Crete 1897 – 1909


Report Number Year Reported On Average Strength Hospital Admissions Deaths Command Paper No.
XXXIX 1897 1152 1683 24 C 8936
XL 1898 1701 2424 51 C 9453
XLI 1899 1184 1110 12* Cd 521
XLII 1900 592 622 6 Cd 980
XLIII 1901 564 1827 7 Cd 1422
XLIV 1902 460 1338 4 Cd 1906
XLV 1903 410 510 1 Cd 2434
XLVI 1904 439 454 6 Cd 2700
XLVII 1905 720 593 3 Cd 3212
XLVIII 1906 843 262 4** Cd 3797
XLVIX 1907 750 459 3 Cd 4057
L 1908 640 368 Cd 4933
LI 1909 339 198 2 Cd 5477

*Includes one murder; excludes the execution of the murder.

**Plus 1 suicide.



[i] National Army Museum. 6807-171. Diary of the detachment 1st BN. Seaforth Highlanders at Canea, Crete, during the early days of the International Occupation, 1897.

[ii] House of Commons Command Paper (HCCP) 1898 [C. 8936.] Army Medical Department Report for 1897. Vol. XXXIX Section IV. On the Health of troops serving in the Malta Command. Sanitary Conditions, Section II Crete. p. 87. Based on the notes of by Surgeon – Major W. Babtie, the Senior Medical Officer.

[iii] HCCP 1899 [C9233] Turkey No. 1. Inclosure in No. 234. Report on Sanitary Work in Candia, Crete. Lieutenant H. C. M. Clarke R.A. M. C. to Captain J. C. Shaw, Governor of Candia City. 15 February 1899. p. 147, p. 149.

[iv] Ibid. Dr. A. Ittar to Lieutenant H. C. M. Clarke 6 February 1899. p. 152.

[v] Ibid. Clarke to Shaw. p.150

[vi] HCCP 1898 [C. 8936.] Army Medical Department Report for 1897 Vol. XXXIX. .p. 89

[vii] Ibid. p. 89

[viii] HCCP 1899 [C. 9453.] Army Medical Department Report for 1898 Vol. XL Section IV. On the Health of troops serving in the Malta Command. Sanitary Conditions, Section II Crete. p. 92

[ix] [ix] HCCP 1899 [C9233] Turkey No. 1. Inclosure in No. 234. Report on Sanitary Work in Candia, Crete. Lieutenant H. C. M. Clarke R.A. M. C. to Captain J. C. Shaw, Governor of Candia City. 15 February 1899 p. 149.

[x] HCCP 1901 [Cd. 521.] Army Medical Department Report for 1899 Vol. XLI Section IV. On the Health of troops serving in the Malta Command. Sanitary Conditions, Section II Crete. p. 83

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] HCCP 1902 [Cd. 980.] Army Medical Department Report for 1900 Vol. XLII Section IV. On the Health of troops serving in the Malta Command. Sanitary Conditions, Section II Crete. p. 83

[xiii] HCCP 1901 [Cd. 1422.] Army Medical Department Report for 1901 Vol. XLIII Section IV. On the Health of troops serving in the Malta Command. Sanitary Conditions, Section II Crete. p. 81.

[xiv] HCCP 1904 [Cd. 1906.] Army Medical Department Report for 1902 Vol. XLIV Section IV. On the Health of troops serving in the Malta Command. Sanitary Conditions, Section II Crete. p. 80.

[xv] HCCP 1906 [Cd. 3212.] Army Medical Department Report for 1905 Vol. XLVII Section V. On the Health of troops serving in Crete. p. 106. The question must be raised as to why it took so long for such prophylactics to be issued and why it was felt necessary to include in a formal report to Parliament the fact that mosquito nets were apparently not issued to these guards.

[xvi]HCCP 1908 [Cd. 3797.] Army Medical Department Report for 1906 Vol. XLVIII Section V. On the Health of troops serving at stations in the Mediterranean Area. Crete. p. 69.


Counting the British Dead – Candia 6th September 1898

There is little dispute that the trigger for the forcible eviction of all Ottoman troops and functionaries from Crete in 1898 was undoubtedly the events of 6th September (25th August Old Style). In the riot which broke out following attempts by a small British force to take over the customs house in Iraklion (Candia), a number of British military personnel and large number of Cretan Christians were killed and a significant part of the city was burnt down. The number of Christians killed was, and is, unknowable since, in the chaotic conditions prevailing before the riot, there was no accurate count of  how many Christians were in the town and, following the riot, there was little or no mechanism for counting or identifying the bodies of those killed. According to British historian Robert Holland,[1] up to 800 Christian Cretans out of a population of approximately 1000 died; as did 29 Muslims. Turkish historian Pinar Şenişik, however, gives figures ranging from 153 Christian dead according to Ottoman sources, to 600, according to British sources.[2] To further complicate matters, the commander of the British land forces, Col. Chermside, had previously stated that there were less than 500 Christians in the town.[3]

However, civilian deaths in Crete in 1897 had not produced any appreciable action aimed at limiting Ottoman power; although the island had been granted a degree of autonomy under Ottoman suzerainty until September 1897 no effective steps had been taken to put this into practice. What appears to have made the difference to the European Powers was not the number of civilians who died in the September riot, but the British military dead. Given the political importance of the British losses, it should, in theory, be relatively easy to determine the number of British military casualties. However, this does not appear to be the case.

The Cretan historian Theocharis Detorakis[4] puts the British losses at 17 soldiers and the British Consul killed. However, the British diplomat killed was not the British Consul, Sir Alfred Biliotti, who was in Canea at the time of the riot, but rather the British Vice-Consul, Lyssimachus Calocherino [Kalokairinos]. Reporting Calocherino’s death, Biliotti failed to mention the deaths of Calocherino’s wife and family, but stated that at least two other British subjects, Vincent Carabott, father of the Superintendent of the Eastern Telegraph Company and Marie Camillieri, a Maltese washerwoman, were also killed that day.[5] The body of Calocherino’s eldest daughter was never found and when he Ottoman troops and their families were evacuated, the veils of the women were lifted to check their identity; a rumour having circulated that Colocherino’s daughter had been kidnapped and forced into a harem.

Quoting unnamed French sources, Senisik puts the British casualties at ’13 British soldiers  and one British officer killed, and 40 British soldiers and two British officers wounded during the disturbances.’[6]

Holland puts the British casualties on the day at 17 with 39 severely wounded and states that one Victoria Cross was posthumously awarded.[7] However, the only Victorian Cross awarded that day was awarded to Royal Naval Surgeon William Maillard who certainly lived long enough to receive it, being invested with it by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 15th December 1898, the only member of the Royal Naval Medical Service to receive a VC. Maillard died on 10th September 1903.

R.J. Pritchard in his examination of the legal aspects of the subsequent British reaction to the killings puts total British casualties that day at 14 dead and 40 wounded.[8]

The British infantry involved on 6th September were all members of 1/Highland Light Infantry and the memorial plaque in the church of Agios Konstantinos, Iraklion, lists one officer and 9 men as dying in Crete, a figure which coincides with the 1961 history of the HLI[9] which records that ‘in the outbreak in Crete, the 71st [1/HLI] lost one officer and nine soldiers killed and had one officer, two sergeants, one corporal, two pipers and nineteen soldiers wounded.’ In addition, two members of the Royal Army Medical Corps, one Royal Engineer and one private in the Army Service Corps were also wounded that day.

What do the official British sources say?

According to the Army Medical Report for 1898, published in 1899,[10] only 9 deaths from gunshot wounds were attributable to the ‘September events’ on Crete, an additional death from gunshot wounds being attributable to the accidental ‘discharge of a revolver with which a comrade was playing’. However, these figures are for Army personnel only.

In the snappily titled: ‘Return of the number of Sailors and Soldiers Killled or Wounded in War or Warlike Operations carried out by the Government of this Country and Chartered Companies during the Years 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902 and 1903 respectively (exclusive of those carried on by the Government of India) in the same form as the Return granted in Session 1895’, on 14 February 1907, R. S. Haldane, Secretary of State for War, reported the following to the House of Commons:

Sailors and Marines

Fight with Bashi-Bazouks, Candia 1898.

Officers    Killed in action or died of wounds –  None.

Officers    Wounded – None.

Men          Killed in action or died of wounds – Four

Men          Wounded – Seven


Outbreak at Candia Crete 1898

Officers   Killed in action or died of wounds – One

Officers   Wounded – Two

Men        Killed in action or died of wounds – Nine

Men        Wounded – 18

Giving a total of one officer and 13 men killed, two officers and 25 men wounded; in all 14 killed and 27 wounded.

While the variation in the figures may be considered in itself irrelevant in the larger scheme of things, whether it was 14 or 17 British dead the result was still the decision to force the Ottoman evacuation of the island, the fact that such a variation in numbers can occur is significant. Even given the small number of British personnel involved in the September events, less than 200 from all services, and the limited geographical area in which the British casualties occurred, with the exception of two soldiers of the Highland Light Infantry killed outside Canea all the deaths and injuries occurred either in the harbour or in the British encampment, the difference in the numbers quoted by the historians above, illustrates the difficulty of writing any historical ‘truth’.

Doctor Maillard winning VC

Fighting at the Dime. 6th September 1898.



Detorakis, Theocharis E., History of Crete, trans. Davis J.C  (Iraklion,1994).

Holland, R. F. Markides Diana, The British and the Hellenes : struggles for mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1850-1960 2006).

Pritchard, R. John, ‘International Humanitarian Intervention and Establishment of an International Jurisdiction over Crimes against Humanity : the National and International Military Trials on Crete in 1898’, International humanitarian law International Humanitarian Law / ed. by John Carey, William,  (2003), 1-87.

Senisik, Pinar, The transformation of Ottoman Crete : revolts, politics and identity in the late nineteenth century, Library of Ottoman studies (London,2011).


[1] R. F. Markides Diana Holland, The British and the Hellenes : Struggles for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1850-1960 (2006). p.101.

[2] Pinar Senisik, The Transformation of Ottoman Crete : Revolts, Politics and Identity in the Late Nineteenth Century (Library of Ottoman Studies; London, 2011). p. 309 FN 75.

[3]  House of Commons Command Paper [C.8429] Turkey No.9, 1897. Reports on the situation on Crete. No.8. Chermside to Salisbury, 17 April 1897.


[4] Theocharis E. Detorakis, History of Crete, trans. Davis J.C (Iraklion, 1994). p.367.

[5] Admiralty file ADM 116/93. Despatch 11 October 1898 No. 1. Telegram No. 64 Biliotti to Lord Salisbury, 30 September 1898.

[6] Senisik, The Transformation of Ottoman Crete : Revolts, Politics and Identity in the Late Nineteenth Century. p.217.

[7] Holland, The British and the Hellenes : Struggles for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1850-1960. p. 101.

[8] R. John Pritchard, ‘International Humanitarian Intervention and Establishment of an International Jurisdiction over Crimes against Humanity : The National and International Military Trials on Crete in 1898’, International humanitarian law International Humanitarian Law / ed. by John Carey, William,  (2003), 1-87. p. 23.

[9] Oatts L. B. PROUD HERITAGE. The Story of the Highland Light Infantry Vol. Three. The Regular, Militia, Volunteer, T.A., and Service Battalions H.L.I. 1882—1918 (Glasgow 1961) p. 20.

[10] 1899 [C.9453] Army Medical Department report for the year 1898. Volume XL.

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!)  (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.


[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.


[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.