Tag Archives: Kandanos

The evacuation of Kandanos, 1897

On 7th March 1897 a force consisting of 200 British sailors and marines, 100 French , 100 Austrian and 75 Russians, landed  on the south west coast of Crete. Accompanied by Sir Alfred Biliotti, the  British  Consul, their task was to evacuate some 1600 Cretan Muslims and 450 Ottoman soldiers from the village of Kandanos in south west Crete, then under siege by Christian Cretans supported by Greek manned artillery. (It should be noted that the actual dates on which the events in the evacuation occurred are somewhat difficult to determine. The main source of information is Sir Alfred Biliotti who although he was present throughout, was less than clear in his dispatches; particularly when it came to putting dates in his narrative! The dates given here was obtained from various accounts, including the log of  H. M. S. Rodney; in deference to the log keeping traditions of the Royal Navy, these dates are preferred to those given by Biliotti. Similarly, the numbers of evacuees varies from account to account.) The base for the operation was the then semi-derelict village Selino Kastelli, modern Paleochora.

Selino Kastelli ( Paleochora) Gerola

Selino Kastelli c 1900-1902

Landing at Sellino Kastelli (Paleochora) ILN 10 April 1897.

Midshipmen from HMS Rodney who took part in the evacuation of Kandanos. Penny Illustrated Press 10 April 1897

Landing at Sellino Kastelli (Paleochora) ILN 10 April 1897.

En-route to Kandanos the European troops stopped overnight in the hamlet of Spaniakos and evacuated the garrison from the Ottoman fortress above the village.

Ottoman Fortress, Spaniakos

Ottoman Fortress, Spaniakos

The French troops are reported as having spent the night in a local notable’s harem; the British in the local mosque.

Spaniakos Mosque

Spaniakos Mosque.

Royal Navy Guard at Spaniakos (ILN 10 April 1897.

The Spaniakos mosque was eventually destroyed after the evacuation of Cretan Muslims from the area. (Further details of the area around Spaniakos can be found here.)


Kandanos 3 April 97 ILN

British sailors leading column of refugees from Kandanos. Illustration by Melton-Prior.

The Ottoman Governaor of Kandanos. Penny Illustrated Press 10 April 1897.

For the most part the evacuation went without difficulty and the refugees arrived in Canea aboard the various European vessels. Some would stay in Canea, some went to the Turkish mainland, but few ever returned to Kandanos, and those who did were uprooted again in the 1923 population exchange.

Cretan Muslim refugees from Kandanos arriving in Canea. March 1897.

Sailors from HMS Rodney who took part in the Kandanos evacuation.

However, in the final stages, when the column reached the sea at Selino Kastelli, Cretan insurrectionists opened fire on the International troops. Given the overwhelming superiority in fire-power of the European forces, not to mention the presence of a considerable number of  European warships in the immediate vicinity, it’s not difficult to predict the outcome of the engagement.

During the operation several maps and sketches of the area were produced, apparently by French naval officers.

Area of Operations. 5th to 10th March 1897.

International troops landed at Selino Kastelli and then proceed to Kandanos via Spaniakos and Kakodiki.

Disposition of International troops Selino Kastelli, 10th March 1897.

View of the hills above Selino Kastelli and the disposition of International troops on their return from Kandanos. 10th March 1897.

The outline of the hills above the village appears to suggest that the sketch was made from a viewpoint in the south west bay.

Hills above Paleochora, February 2016.

Hills above Paleochora, February 2016. The route to Kandanos and Spaniakos is through the valley on the right hand side of the photograph.

Evidence of the use of Gras rifles, the type used by the Cretan insurgents, has been found near the site of the final encounter.

Gras bullet found in Paleochora near the site of the engagement.

Gras bullet found in Paleochora near the site of the engagement.

More details of the bullet can be found here.

The evacuation marked the effective end of the Ottoman presence in south west Crete, an event marked on a plaque erected on the wall of the old castle in Paleochora in 2020.

Plaque marking the end of the Ottoman presence in Selino.

The text in English reads:

“After 374 years of Venitian slavery and 244 years of Turkish, here on 1 March 1897 at the end of the revolution of 1896-1897 in Selino, the revolutionary liberation flag of Selino was raised. Here on 1 December 1913 with the union of Crete with Greece, the Greek flag was raised.”

Many thanks to Bob Tait for supplying the illustration of the Spaniakos mosque, and to Michalis Adamtziloglou for the translation of the plaque.

A minor mystery.

Kandanos 9 April 1905

Kandanos 9 April 1905

An interesting souvenir, but of what, and where was the photograph taken?

The photograph shows the flags of France and Italy flying above the ruins of some very large buildings. Included in the picture, along with French and Italian troops, are a number of British soldiers (extreme left of picture). There can also be seen what seem to be Cretan Gendarmes or members of the Cretan Civic Guards (on top of the wall top right).

The presence of the Cretan Gendarmes/Civic Guards would date the photograph as being taken sometime after 1899, and the arrival of Prince George of Greece as High Commissioner for the island in late 1898 and the subsequent setting up of these two Cretan law enforcement bodies. The problem is that the village of Kandanos is some 55 km south west of Canea and in 1905 was in the secteur controlled by Italian troops – the French and British would have no reason to be there, and judging by the weapons carried, they weren’t there for a holiday outing!

The other problem with the photograph is that Kandanos was, and is, a large village, not the sort of place likely to have three-story buildings.

The only place where French Italian and British troops are likely to have been in close proximity at around this time, and contained ruins of large buildings,  would have been Canea, which as the capital of the island was under the control of all of the four Powers.

Although Kandanos featured in the world’s press briefly in 1897 when a relief column consisting of international  marines and sailors was sent to rescue Ottoman troops and Cretan Muslims besieged in the town by Cretan Christians, no record of anything  significant happening there in April 1905 appears to exist – at least not in English. The Theriso Revolt lead by Eleftherios Venizelos had broken out the previous month, but by and large military activity was confined to the Russian secteur of the island, around Rethymnon; little of any import seems to have happened in Selinos, the province in which Kandanos is situated.

At the moment I’m completely baffled as to why such a souvenir should be have been produced showing as it does a specific date on which nothing much seems to have happened, and a very misleading location. Any suggestions as to what’s going on will be most gratefully received!