Tag Archives: International 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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The Powers withdraw

In July 1909, the last of the International troops in Crete withdrew amid scenes of much rejoicing on the part of all parties concerned… other than the Ottoman Empire and probably the remaining Cretan Muslims. The British troops, 2/Devonshires, appear to have left Candia (Iraklion) on 24th July, stopped for a day in Suda Bay, and then finally departed the island on 26th July, en route for Malta on board S. S. Rameses, in a move timed to occur simultaneously with those of the other three Powers; France, Italy and Russia.

2/Devonshires lowering the British flag for the last time in Candia

2/Devonshires’ lowering the British flag for the last time in Candia

Departure of British troops from Candia. Illustrated London News, 14th August 1909.

Departure of British troops from Candia. Illustrated London News, 14th August 1909.

Meanwhile, in Canea.

International Troops departing from Canea

International Troops departing from Canea

International, mostly Italian, troops departing from Canea. 26 July 1909.

International, mostly Italian, troops departing from Canea. 26 July 1909.

The departure of International troops from Canea, the last goodbye? 26 July 1909

The departure of International troops from Canea, the last goodbye? 26 July 1909

However, International forces were soon to return to the island, as the wording under the photograph from the Illustrated London News of 14 August 1909, above, hints at:

“Since the evacuation by the four Powers there have been decided signs of trouble in Crete, most of it caused by the fact that the Greek flag has been flown there, despite the Turkish suzerainty. Greece made a definite reply to the Turkish charges a few days ago.”

Seaforth Highlanders – Akrotiri

On April 19th 1897, under command of Captain Egerton,  75 men of 1/Seaforth Highlanders were sent to join the existing  international detachment of 75 Austrians, 75 French, 90 Italians and 2 Italian guns, guarding the neck of Akrotiri peninsula, outside Canea. The force was placed there to prevent Christian insurgents from attacking the town form the north east, and remained there until June.

1/Seaforth Highlanders

1/Seaforth Highlanders. Location unknown.

Italian Gun, Suda Bay April 1897

Italian Gun, Suda Bay April 1897

According to Egerton:

“The orders given by the Council of Admirals …were to guard the neck of the Akrotiri peninsula and prevent a large body of insurgents encamped therein from breaking out, and equally to prevent any body of Turks or Bashi Bazouks from the mainland from breaking in and attacking the insurgents. The two chiefs of the insurgent bands on Akrotiri were Messers Fourmis [sic] & Venezelos [sic], both Athens’ educated natives of Crete, who spoke and wrote excellent French.”

Activity at this post was apparently limited and Egerton clearly had no great opinion of his allies, continuing his narrative in the first person he stated:

“Nothing serious ever happened, but for the two months that I was in command at Akrotiri Lt. Campion and myself, took it in turn every night to visit the sentries and patrol the neighbourhood, after 12 midnight.

I did not trust the Italians a yard, and had no great confidence in the French, but my Austrian detachment Officers and men, were reliable to the last degree. The Italians were very fond of the English and were ready to black our boots, and they have never forgotten how much we assisted towards a united Italy. The Austrians were on very friendly terms always, their Officers were nearly all gentlemen, which was not certainly the case with most of the other foreign Officers.

The Russians we saw little of, they were mainly kept outside of Canea, on account of their rowdy habits. Their Colonel was an ex-Guardsman exiled for St. Petersburg for his numerous crimes. He was often seen drunk.”

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.

 

Canea 1897. Two views of the bastion.

Canea Bastion 1897

Canea Bastion 1897 Photograph showing the flags of the occupying Powers.

Canea bastion. Illustrated London News. 20 March 1897

The Turkish Bastion in Canea with the flags of the  six Powers flying. Illustrated London News. 20 March 1897

Shows that, if nothing else, the photographer and the illustrator had the same idea about what made a good viewpoint.

Guarding the Ottoman Flag

Lowering the Ottoman Flag on the Firka, Canea.

Lowering the Ottoman Flag on the Firka, Canea.

This photograph is undated, but the last time the Ottoman flag flew on Crete, other than the retention of a symbolic flag on Fort Suda in the middle of Suda Bay, and possibly one at Fort Izzedin, was probably on or about 21st December 1898 when Price George of Greece arrived to take up the post of High Commissioner of the newly created Cretan Autonomous State. The nationality of the troops in the photograph above is unclear, but they are possibly Italian since Canea was the base of the Italian occupied secteur.

Following the arrival of the International troops in 1897, the Ottoman flag flew on the Firka under international guard in order to reinforce to the Cretan Christians the determination of the European Powers that Crete should not be united with Greece. On 3rd November 1898, on British orders, the Ottoman flag was hauled down in Candia in order to make it clear to the Ottoman authorities that their time on Crete was over. However, it was allowed to be flown again on 6th November after the eviction of all Ottoman troops and officials from the island: this time in order to show to the Cretan Muslim population that their rights were to be respected even though their co-religionists were no longer in power.

 

Raising the Greek flag, Suda bay 1913.

Raising the Greek flag, Suda Bay 1913.

By 1913 the political situation had completely changed and, as a result of the Balkan Wars, on 1st December that year Crete was finally legally united with Crete. Prior to enosis, one of the last acts of the International Intervention was undertaken by the Royal Navy when on 13th February 1913, the crew of H. M. S. Yarmouth hauled down the last remaining Ottoman flag, flown as a symbol of the Sultan’s suzerainty over Crete, from its flagpole in the fortress in the middle of Suda Bay and handed it over to the British Consul for safe keeping. (The whereabouts of that flag is currently unknown.) Immediately following the departure of H.M.S Yarmouth, the Greek flag was raised on the flagpole; this time guarded by Greek sailors.*

However, the Ottoman symbol displayed on Fort Izzedin, on the opposite side of Suda Bay to Suda Castle, was not what might be expected. An article published in 1937 stated that by 1912 the nominal Ottoman authority over Crete was “… represented by a Turkish flag, in painted tin, discoloured beyond recognition.” Arguably an apt metaphor for the end of Ottoman rule.**

 

*Robert Holland and Diana Markides. “The British and the Hellenes; Struggle for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1850 – 1960.” O.U.P. Oxford 2006. p.159

**Demetrius Caclamanos, “Reminiscences of the Balkan Wars’, The Slavonic and East European Review, 16 (1937), 117

Why such a mixed bunch?

International troops

International troops

As well as the 5 British soldiers, this motley crew includes Cretan Gendarmes, French, Italian and what appears to be a couple of less than happy Russians. Judging by the cap badges, the British are serving in the King’s Royal Rifle Regiment which dates the photograph to either early 1905, when 1/KRR served in Crete, or between February 1908 and January 1909 when 3/KRR were stationed there. The location is probably Canea since that’s the most likely place in which soldiers from all four Powers were to be found.

It’s interesting to speculate why such a disparate group would be photographed together by a professional photographer, and just who, other than those in the picture,  would have bought such a photograph as a souvenir.