Category Archives: Greek Army in Crete

Artillery on Crete, 1897-1898

While one of the main focuses of the Governments of the European Powers in seeking to pacify Crete was the provision of sufficient naval forces and infantry to keep the warring factions apart, they were also faced with the fact that the Cretan Christians also had artillery at their disposal. This was highlighted when Rear-Admiral Harris, the then Senior British Naval Officer on Crete, referring to the evacuation of Greek troops from Crete in May 1897, reported:

‘The question of artillery has given much trouble. It was obviously most undesirable to have guns left behind in the hands of the insurgents when the whole object of the Powers is to pacify the island. After much trouble and insistence on the part of the Admirals, four of the six guns stated by the Greeks to belong entirely to the Cretans are to be embarked with the Greek troops, the other two are said to be on Akrotiri, and the Admirals have made a peremptory condition that they also shall be taken away.

The western end of the island will then, I believe, be free from insurgent artillery; though we know that there are four to six 7-centim. Krupp guns to the eastward, we cannot immediately connect them with the Greek troops or Government, though there is not much doubt that they indirectly or otherwise provided them.’[1]

In the end, the Royal Navy oversaw the evacuation of 6 field guns, 12 horses, 53 mules and 233 cases of artillery ammunition.[2]

(An internet search suggests that although described by the British as 7cm (70mm) there wasn’t a 70mm Krupps gun at this time: the pieces in question could possibly either have been 65/66mm guns or 60mm mountain guns. To add to the confusion, the Ottoman Empire was, at this time, the world’s largest importer of Krupp guns, purchasing 3,943 Krupp guns of various types between 1854 and 1912.[3])

To counter the threat of Greek/Cretan Christian artillery, in the early stages of the Intervention, both the Powers and the Ottoman military supplied artillery to the island.

Ottoman field artillery beneath what appear to be an Italian flag.

Ottoman field artillery beneath what appear to be an Italian flag.

An illustration from an Italian magazine shows Ottoman artillery beneath what is apparently an Italian flag.

 

 

Italian Guns Suda Bay April 1897

Italian Guns Suda Bay April 1897

 

It would appear that the French forces also had access to artillery, whether their own, Ottoman or that landed from H.M.S Anson. Captain Egerton recorded that:

“Last night [10th April 1897] at 6.30 p.m. the International Force at Soubaschi fired 5 shots from the 9 pdr. The fire–eating Perignon[?] who commands will someday if he irritates these fellows too much, bring Vassos about his ears – Vassos’ outposts are only about a mile away. – G.E. “[4]

In addition to the Royal Artillery Mountain Battery stationed in Crete in the early stages of the Intervention, following the events in Candia in September 1896 the Royal Navy reinforced the town, landing field artillery.

Royal Navy field guns being landed at Candia October 1898

Royal Navy field guns being landed at Candia October 1898

 

 

 

[1] ADM 116/92 Rear-Admiral Harris, Suda Bay, to Admiral Sir J. Hopkins, C in C Mediterranean Fleet, Malta. 23 May 1897

[2] ADM116/116 Captain Sir R. Poole, HMS Hawke, to Rear-Admiral Harris. 20 May 1897.

[3] Donald J. Stocker, Jonathan A. Grant. Girding for Battle: The Arms Trade in a Global Perspective, 1815-1940. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, pp.31-32.

[4] NAM 6807-171. Diary of the detachment 1st BN. Seaforth Highlanders at Canea Crete During the early days of the international Occupation 1897.

 

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Well, someone got a medal.

Despite British soldiers, sailors and marines being involved in the European Intervention in Crete for nearly 15 years, and in doing so suffering considerable casualties albeit overwhelmingly from disease, no medal was issued to the British military personnel involved. However, a medal was struck and apparently issued to the Greek military. The one shown was up for sale in 2007 and described as being a ‘Service Medal (for revolution in Crete)’.

Greek Service medal: Revolution in Crete 1898

Greek Service medal: Revolution in Crete 1898

Translated, the obverse has the words ‘For Faith and Country’ set around a cross bearing the date 1898; the reverse the word ‘Freedom’.

No details were given as to who would have received the medal and there seems to be some doubt as to whether or not it was officially recognised by either the Greek or Cretan Governments. (Although given the less than brilliant efforts by the Greek Army during the short period it was on Crete, this is not unsurprising.)

Some British soldiers did, however, received medals while in Crete, albeit for the Sudan Campaign; participants being eligible for The Queen’s Sudan Medal and/or The Kedive’s Sudan Medal, the latter coming with up to 15 additional clasps. Colour Sergeant Archer, 2/Rifle Brigade, received his medal in early 1899. In March that year he wrote to his mother telling her that he was getting the [Queen’s?] Sudan Medal and “[hopes] to get an International Star for this place.” On 8th April 1899, in an obviously underwhelmed state of mind,  he wrote to his brother that that: “We received our [Sudan] medals, got them last Monday, they are though in a very crude condition having no bar nor the names on.” [1] Unfortunately for Archer, no International Star was awarded for service in Crete.

[1] Liddle Hart Collection, Kings College London. ARCHER.

A slight Greek exaggeration?

Capture of Voukoulies Tower

Capture of Voukoulies Tower

The Ottoman watch tower at Voukoulies, covering the route from Canea to the south west of Crete, fell to a Greek force consisting of Greek army troops and Cretan Christian irregulars, on the night of 6/7 February 1897. The illustration above (date and provenance unknown) somewhat exaggerates the events, in reality, the Ottoman forces lost somewhere in the region of 35 men killed, the Greek army one man killed and two wounded. The Cretan Christians, fighting rather ineffectively along side the Greek army, lost up to 30 men killed.

Of particular note in the illustration are the European ships in the background. While artistic license has been used, the sea is not visible from Voukoulies, the presence of European naval forces acted as a serious deterrence to Greek/Cretan Christian ambitions. Only when the European navies were out of range, as on this occasion, were the Greeks and Cretan Christians able to overpower Ottoman held positions. The reliance on on naval power in the early days of the European intervention, in particular in the British secteur of the island, was made clear to commander of the British land forces, Major General Chermside, who was instructed by the Council of Admirals, the de facto rulers of the island from from February 1897 until the arrival of Prince George in December 1898, not to attempt to base his men beyond  the range of the heavy guns on British warships.