Category Archives: Russian troops

Canea, 15th April 1897. The International Parade.

In ‘Diary of the detachment 1st BN. Seaforth Highlanders at Canea Crete During the early days of the international Occupation 1897′,[1] for 15 April 1897, the following entry occurs:

“This International review was a sight that will probably never be seen again for a 1000 years.”[2]

The parade in question was a review by the Admirals then commanding Crete, of the International garrison of Canea; an event held with the purpose of impressing the inhabitants of Canea, both Christian and Muslim, with the might of the European Powers who had been landing over the past weeks. Presumably it was intended to impress Muslim population of the determination of the Europeans to protect them, and convince the Christians that the Insurgents, even backed by the 1500 or so Greek troops on the island, had no chance of military success. It also coincided with the recent repulse of a number of Greek troops and irregulars who at one stage, threatened to attack the town, only to be driven back by the guns of the International Fleet and field guns landed by the French Army and Royal Navy. Whatever the motive, the parade appears to have been somewhat spectacular; particularly, one assumes, by Cretan Standards.

The British troops stationed in Canea at this time consisted of D and G Companies 1/Seaforth Highlanders commanded by Major S. B. Jameson, and 184 men of No. 4 Battery Mountain Artillery, Royal Artillery, the latter recently arrived from Malta and about to be transferred to Candia [Iraklion].[3] (The bulk of the British troops, 390 men of 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the remaining 650 men of 1/Seaforths plus auxiliary personnel, were stationed in Candia.[4])

The provenance of the photographs below is difficult to ascertain, but there is some indication they come from an Austro-Hungarian source.

Ottoman troops on parade. Note the bastion in the background with the flags of the European nations flying.

Ottoman troops on parade. Note the bastion in the background with the flags of the European nations flying.

Ottoman Cavalry

Ottoman Cavalry

 

 

Italian Troops

Italian Troops

French troops (?) on parade.

French troops (?) on parade.

French troops (?) with mountain guns/telegraph laying equipment.

French troops (?) with mountain guns/telegraph laying equipment.

Both the French and the Italians were recorded as having some artillery in Canea at this time. Shortly after this parade, on 26th April, a battery of mountain artillery, 4th Mountain Battery , Royal Artillery, were landed in Candia..

Russian troops

Russian troops

Seaforth Highlanders on parade 12th April 1897.

Seaforth Highlanders on parade 15th April 1897. The mounted officer is possibly Major Jameson

Seaforth Highlanders

Seaforth Highlanders

The Seaforth Highlanders apparently made a good impression; at least they impressed the British Senior Naval Officer, Admiral Rear Admiral Harris, who reported that: “Our detachment of the Seaforth Highlanders made a most creditable appearance, and their smartness was much noted by the foreigners, including my colleagues.”[5]

The parade ground in Canea no longer exists; it is now a football pitch.

 

[1] National Army Museum 6807-171.

[2]  Later on the page, in a different hand, is written: “Not so sure – This International occupation may be the first of a series, marking a new epoch in the history of the world – for the prevention of war between two nations.” While on the page opposite appears: “Three years after this was written by Lieut. Gaisford came the International Occupation of China, which up to date has hardly been a great success. G. Egerton [?] Jany 1901 “

[3] WO 33/149. No. 30. Secretary of State for War to Commander in Chief Malta, 29 March 1897.

No. 43. Adjutant General to Commander in Chief Malta, 2 April 1897.

[4] WO 33/150. Correspondence Relative to the Occupation of Crete. No. 1. Chermside to Secretary of State for War, 14 April 1897

[5] ADM116 Vol.2. Telegram No.476. Rear Admiral Harris to Admiral Sir John Hopkins 23 April 1897.

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All pals together…for a while

International forces in Canea. April 1897.

International forces in Canea. April 1897.

The British army  troops are from 1/Seaforth Highlanders, in Crete from March 1897 to November that year. It’s difficult to make out from the photograph but given the number of Naval officers in the background, it’s more than likely that there are British marines and sailors in the shot.

German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman troops. Crete c.1897.

German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman troops. Crete c.1897.

The postcard is stamped as being posted in 1904 in Canea. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians left Crete in early 1898 and the Ottomans were evicted in late 1898, so there’s a good chance the photographs date from 1897/1898. probably taken in the Canea/Suda Bay area.

 

The games people played.

By 1908, The Cretan Assembly having ineffectively declared ‘enosis‘, union, with Greece –  in spite of Greece not wanting to be united with Crete at that time – and the Theriso Rebellion being over, there was relatively little to do for the British troops on the island. Clearly the answer was to keep them occupied with sporting activities, and if these could be combined with a bit of ‘friendly’ competition with the other European troops on the island, so much the better.

Since football and rounders competitions probably had the potential of becoming too violent, the obvious answer was to give them ammunition for their rifles and let them shoot it out.

Spectators at the International Rifle Tournament, Crete 1908

Spectators at the International Rifle Tournament, Crete 1908

Though the detail is difficult to make out, from the uniforms, the British contingent are on the left of the picture, the French and Italian in the middle, Russian on the right, with a group of Cretan gendarmes on the extreme right. Since this was May 1908, the British troops would have been members of 3/Kings Royal Rifles.

Competitors. International shooting competition, Crete 1908.

Competitors. International Rifle Tournament, Crete 1908.

No British competitors appear to be shown in this postcard, but at least one British officer seems to be taking some notice of the activity.

International Rifle Tournament, Crete 1908.

International Rifle Tournament, Crete 1908.

Apparently taken later in the day than the photograph above, at least judging by the state of the sand, a British competitor is shown second from the left in the line of participants.

The location of the competition is not stated. However, Canea was the most likely venue since the town was nominally occupied by troops from all four occupying countries at this time; Britain, France, Italy and Russia. Furthermore, a War Office map of the town drawn up in 1905 shows a firing range on the sea shore in the area about 3Km west of the town.

The duel dating on the captions was because both Crete and Russia were still using the Julian calendar at this time, the rest of Europe being on the Gregorian.

 

Collecting weapons

collecting weaponsCollecting weapons from Cretan Christians. Late 1898 or early 1899.

One of the tasks of the British, and other European, troops on Crete was to disarm the Cretans. The Muslim population were mostly based in the larger towns on the north coast of the island, towns occupied by European forces, and their disarmament was straighforward. In the Christian controlled centre and south of the island European officers went out into the villages and working through the local chietens and political leaders, arranged the ‘voluntary’ disarmament of the local population.

Judging by the flags on the left of the picture, this photograph probably shows a Russian detachment receiving weapons from Cretan Christians. British troops carried out similar exercises in their secteur of control, Candia

The flag on the right hand side of the photograph is almost, but not quite, the flag of the Cretan Autonomous State. The one displayed here, with a cross in the upper left quadrant, was the version that was rejected by the European Powers. The objection to it was that it had two (Christian) crosses on it which was deemed to be politically insensitive since the Cretan Auonomous State had been created upon the expulsion of the Ottoman (Muslim) authorities by the Powers. The official flag had a star in the top left quadrant, representing the minority, Muslim, population of the island.

More information on the significance of Cretan flags can be found here.