Tag Archives: Crete 1898

Escorting a Prince

Graphic Jan 7 1899 George arrival naval escort

Naval Escort for Prince George. The Graphic 7 January 1899

The illustration shows the naval escort provided by the four Powers, France, Britain, Russia and Italy, to bring Prince George of Greece to take up his role as High Commissioner for Crete. Appointed only after diplomatic wrangling which went on for a considerable time after the decision to make Crete an Autonomous State under Ottoman suzeranity, his arrival on Crete in December 1898 was delayed further by arguments over his mode of transport and the flag he was to fly.

The original, Greek, proposal was that he be taken to Crete from Greece in a Greek warship, a suggestion which met with approval only from the Greeks. The next, Greek, proposal was that he be taken to the island in a civilian vessel flying a Greek flag; again only the Greeks found favour with this. Eventually he was told that he would be taken to Crete in a European warship escorted by other European warships, flying their respective flags; making the point to all concerned, including George, although later events would show he appeared incapable of getting the message, that his, George’s, appointment was made by the power and authority of the four Powers and no one else.

There was however, a last minute hitch when an argument broke out over the nature of the flag of the newly autonomous island. The symbolism of the flag eventually chosen referred to religious distribution of the population of the island; three quarters Christian represented as a blue field enfolded in a white cross, and one quarter Muslim, represented by a white star on a red field.

Flag of the Cretan Autonomous State. Shown on a souvenir  card c.1902.

Flag of the Cretan Autonomous State. Shown on a souvenir card c.1902.

The initial proposal put forward by the Committee of four Admirals from the Powers who were effectively ruling the island prior to George’s arrival, possibly at the suggestion of the Russian Admiral, was that the flag would consist of a the same blue field, white cross and red upper left quarter BUT that instead of the Muslim star, there would be a further white cross.

Proposed Cretan Flag.

Contemporary sketch of proposed Cretan Flag.

The British Ambassadors in both Constantinople and St. Petersburg (Leningrad), raised objections to the proposal pointing out that it would be viewed by the Ottoman authorities and the Cretan Muslims as a provocation, since it could, and probably would, be interpreted as indicating Christian dominance of the Muslim population.  The idea was dropped, although this ‘illegal’ version of the flag of the Cretan Autonomous State did still appear on the island on at least one occasion.





Even in Crete you couldn’t get away from football.

Riflr Brigade Crete 1899The illustration from 1899 shows two companies of 2/Rifle Brigade playing kickball.

The location appears to be outside the ‘Greek Hospital’ in Iraklion [Candia], an unfinished building originally taken over as a barracks by the British. However, when it proved to be too insanitary for that purpose, it was used as a British Field Hospital.

The 2/Rifle Brigade arrived in Crete in September 1898 from the Sudan Campaign and during their stay on the island, until October 1899, suffered 50 deaths in a battalion stated as consisting of 19 Officers and 813 Other Ranks. All but one of these deaths were due to illness, mostly Enteric Fever (Typhoid) or Malaria. The other death the battalion suffered was the murder of an Acting Sergeant, killed by one of his men. The murderer was hung in front of the rest of the battalion and of the other British troops.

The British memorial in Iraklion also lists one death of a member 2/Rifle Brigade as being ‘killed in action’ on 2 September 1898. However, the battalion didn’t arrive in Crete until 22 September and no other record of any British death by ‘enemy action’ on that day can be found.

Gazie Fair

Market 1898As part of the process of trying to stop the Cretans killing each other the British organised a series of markets outside Candia (Iraklion). The first was attended by several hundred people but the only thing to buy was some oranges.

If this photo was taken in early 1898, the troops are probably 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers…they were the only non kilted troops there at the time

Dividing Crete

Austro-Hungarian Map of Crete, 1897

Austro-Hungarian Map of Crete, 1897

The first map, from 1897, shows which nations had responsibility for controlling which areas during the early stages of the European naval blockade of Crete.  Germany didn’t take a major part in the blockade since she had only one small warship on station and both Austro-Hungary and Germany withdrew form the Concert of Europe and the Cretan Intervention in March/April 1898.

Chermside map

Map of the island showing the division of the island between the four Powers.

The second map shows the division of the island between the remaining four Powers in April 1898.

From left to right the areas of responsibility are: Selinos: Italian, Rethymnon: Russian, Candia (Iraklion) British and Lassithi; French. The then capital of Crete, Canea, and Suda Bay were  under joint multi-national control.