Tag Archives: Crete 1898

Iraklion, 25th August Street…then and now.

On 25th August 1898 by the Cretan calendar, or 6th September by the British one, a serious riot resulted in the destruction of a large portion of Candia (Iraklion), and the death of several hundreds of Cretan Christians as well as 14 British soldiers and sailors. Brought about by a miscalculation on the part of the European Admirals who effectively ruled Crete at that time, and an even greater miscalculation on the part of the British Army commander on the spot, Lieutenant Colonel F. M. Reid, 1/Highland Light Infantry, the events of that day are commemorated in Iraklion by the name of the main street leading from the town centre to the harbour; the site of the outbreak of rioting.
On one level a riot which saw the deaths of so many people and the destruction of so much property seems nothing to celebrate, but on another level, the events that day culminated a few months later in the departure of all Ottoman troops and authorities from Crete, paving the way to the creation of the Cretan State, Κρητική Πολιτεία.

25 August Street  before riot.

25 August Street before riot. Looking down to the harbour.

25th August Street after the riot.

25th August Street after the riot.

25th August Street today.

25th August Street today.

Many thanks to Zacharias J. Nikolakakis for the photographs.


Gentlemen who lunch

Pachides Meeting. 13 November 1989

Pachides Meeting. 13 November 1989

The text beneath the illustration reads:

“A meeting convened by the British Military Commissioner, Sir Herbert Chermside, was held on Crete on November 13, in a large tent at Pachides, on the outpost line, at which Sir Alfred Biliotti, the British Consul was present. Representatives of Christians of the province of Candia accepted with acclamation the conditions for the disarmament of the population, and urged that British officials and troops should be used to administer and safeguard their districts. Later Sir Herbert Chermside entertained about seventy headmen to a champagne lunch. Some 300 (?) rifles were brought into Candia on the following day.”
The Graphic 20 December 1898.

No details have been found of the quantity or quality of champagne consumed.

Cretan Muslims within Candia by the British had been disarmed within days of the Candia massacre of 6th September, a process that produced some 5,356 firearms of which 1,576 were deemed to be the property of the Ottoman Government, and the final Ottoman troops had been thrown off the island by 5th November. The problem remained with the Cretan Christians whose leaders had made it clear to Chermside that infighting within the Christian community could preclude disarmament taking place. The mistrust between the political factions of the Christian community, and the suspicions of the Christian leaders that any Cretan Christian administrators would act in a partisan fashion, was so great that only the presence of ‘neutral’ British troops in the countryside could induce the chieftains to instruct their followers to surrender their arms.

On 6th December 1898, following the Pachides meeting, Chermside was able to report to Rear Admiral Noel, the Senior British military commander in Crete and one of the ruling ‘Council of Admirals’, that British troops and officers previously confined within a ‘cordon’ around Candia within the range of naval guns, had started administering the towns and villages within the British secteur. By that date they had collected 16,000 firearms, ‘exclusive fowling pieces and revolvers’ from the civilian population.*

*National Archive. FO78/4969. Page 230. Chermside to Rear Admiral Noel, 6th December 1898. Inclosures 1 & 2 in No. 1.

British Justice.

Following the rioting in Candia on 6th September 1898, which left 14 British military personnel, and a number of British citizens, dead – not to mention some 400 Cretan civilians, mostly Cretan Christians – the British reaction was swift. Courts martial were set up to try those accused of killing the service personnel and a Military Tribunal to try those accused of killing British civilians. Neither judicial body allowed appeals against their verdicts. Capital sentences were passed on 12 men for the murder of British soldiers, none appear to have been tried for the murder of British sailors, and five men condemned to death for the murder of British civilians. The prisoners were kept on board H.M.S. Isis while awaiting both trial and subsequently their execution.

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

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

(Photograph used by courtesy of www.maritimequest.com)

The first batch of 7 men were hanged on 18th October 1898, The Graphic covering the executions in some detail in its issue of 5 November 1898.

‘’When we arrived at Candia we found that the court martial had sentenced seven of the Bashi-Bazouks to death. Accordingly they were taken ashore in one of the ship’s boats and hanged before all the troops on a scaffold which had been erected during the night on the ramparts.Three of the criminals were convicted of murdering two Highland Light Infantry men. The other four men were convicted of firing into our hospital and killing three patients inside. Each prisoner had his crime labelled on a large board in English in front of him and in Turkish on his back. The bodies were left hanging until sunset. All seven prisoners were placed on the false floor of the scaffold and allowed a six-foot drop. The floor was kept up by a rope which passed up over the side of the scaffold and was secured in the little hut shown in the sketch at the top. Here was a Highland Light Infantry man with an axe, and at seven as the bugle sounded he cut the rope and the floor fell.’’

Execution of rioters. The Graphic. 5 November 1898.

The magazine returned to the subject on 3rd December 1898, this time featuring the execution on 7th November of three of the men convicted of murdering British civilians.

The Graphic 3 December 1898.

The Graphic 3 December 1898.

Two further men were condemned to death by an International Tribunal for the murder of Cretan civilians. This Tribunal took place in Canea and was under the control of the Italian military and, as a result, the method of execution was by firing squad rather than by hanging. Even though it managed to get the nationality of the executed men wrong, the ‘Terrible Turk’ was Cretan, The Sketch was happy to provide its readers with the detail:

“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 Power, two for the front rank and one in reserve, to shoot the prisoners. So Kaider Ismaneki and Halil Araf Halilaki took their seats with their backs to the firing party. There Commandant’s sabre fell, and in an instant they dropped dead.”The execution of rioters. Canea 23 November 1898.The aftermath of November executions. The Sketch 28 December 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

On 18th March 1897 the Admirals’ Council, after discussions with the various Ambassadors in Constantinople, and with the very reluctant consent of the Porte, announced that commencing on 21 March a blockade would be enforced to prevent Greek flagged ships entering the waters surrounding Crete without them being inspected for contraband The purpose of the blockade was to prevent Greece from shipping more men to the island. In addition, the blockade would stop the arrival of food and supplies for the Greek force already there under Colonel Vassos, and cut off the flow of arms and ammunition to the Cretan Christian Insurgents. In return for the Powers preventing a build up of Greek forces, the Ottoman Empire agreed to cease sending reinforcements to the island and to maintain its troop numbers at their existing levels.

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.