Tag Archives: Cretan Christians

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.




Insurrectionists or Plagiarists ?

On arrival in Crete in March 1897, the ‘enemy’ the British troops faced were the invading Greek forces and Cretan Christian insurrectionists.

The photograph below, ‘A contingent of Cretan insurrectionists’ appeared in the Illustrated London News on 6 March 1897. The attribution is to ‘A Naval Officer On Board one of the Ships off Crete.’

ILN Heads of insurrection March 1897 Black and white RG Kruger

Cretan Christian Insurrgents March 1897

“The Heads of the Insurrection.”

The photograph above, ‘The Heads of the Insurrection’, appeared in the Supplement to ‘Black and White’ Magazine, 20 March 1897, and is attributed to R. G. Kruger. The text on the magazine page suggests the photograph was taken near Canea.

Other than an apparent case of plagiarism, there are several things in particular to note about the photograph.

Third from the left in the back row is a figure dressed in what appears to be a regular military uniform. This is possibly one of the Greek officers or artilleryman who are known to have traveled with a number of the insurgent bands.

The two figures on the extreme left of the front row are both dressed in western European clothes, complete with kepis, as is the figure fifth from the left, but without a hat. These are possibly western journalists, several of whom accompanied insurgent groups. These included The Times Journalist R.A.H. Bickford-Smith who was present at the relief of Kandanos ,

Post script. Within 12 hours of posting I received the following via facebook:

The second from right in the middle row with the white beard and black clothes, is the Cydonia chieftain Dimitris Gelasakis (1853-1912), uncle of my grandfather, and a close friend and associate of Eleftherios Venizelos!

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.