Tag Archives: Seaforth Highlanders

Birthday Souvenirs

While the European Intervention in Crete was carried out for serious political purposes, the seriousness of the situation did not preclude the Powers throwing the occasional party.

The British celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee on 22nd June 1897 with a military parade in Candia, the principle British base, and a reception there in the evening. At the reception it was reported by Sir Alfred Biliotti, the British Consul, to Sir Philip Currie, his superior in Constantinople, that the Seaforth Highlanders ‘executed national dances’ to the apparent satisfaction of the audience.[1] Quite how satisfied the audience actually were at the sight of kilted Highlanders dancing is not recorded. Nor is it recorded that the British troops were given any souvenirs of the event.

Seaforth Highlanders ‘execut[ing] national dances.’ Undated photograph.

The Austro-Hungarian and German forces on the other hand did appear to produce mementoes of the celebrations held in honour of their Monarchs.  On 18th August 1897, a birthday party was held in Canea to celebrate the birthday of Kaiser and King Franz Josef I, his 67th, and on 27th January the following year a party held to celebrate the birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm II, his 39th. Souvenir cards were produced for both events, presumably to be given to those who participated. Unfortunately, it’s not known apparent whether or not the Austro-Hungarian and German troops were amongst the recipients.

K & K Franz Josef birthday party souvenir

As well as an image of the Monarch and an overview of Canea harbour, the Austro-Hungarian souvenir features photographs of the Austro-Hungarian Consulate at Halepa, barracks at Canea and Suda and the Armoured Cruiser S.M.S. Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia.

Kaiser Wilhelm birthday party souvenir.

In contrast to the Austro-Hungarian card which was clearly produced for the occasion and features images specific to the Austro-Hungarian presence on Crete, the German card has nothing specifically ‘German’ about it. It is apparently a generic commercial souvenir postcard, overprinted with the souvenir declaration. The only images which could be said to relate to the German presence on the island are of groups of International troops. The definition on the image of the troops is insufficient to allow identification of German troops, although Italian, Montenegrin and Scottish troops can be made out, albeit with difficulty.

Original version of Kaiser Wilhelm birthday party souvenir.

One hope the German Consulate, or whoever decided on the card, were congratulated on their thrift.



[1] National Archive, Foreign Office FO 195/1983, From Crete. Sir Alfred Biliotti to Currie 24 June 1897.


European views of Cretan Christians

It’s unlikely that too many of the British and other European enlisted/conscripted troops sent to Crete in 1897 had much idea about who they would be involved with on their arrival on the island. However, British and European civilians, and presumably some of the Officers, were being ‘informed’ about the parties involved in the fighting on Crete – albeit the information given often had to do more with the fanciful thinking of the journalists and illustrators rather than what was actually happening.

The massacre in Canea. as imagined by Le Petite Parisien, 1897.

(It may safely be assumed that the illustrator of the above had never been to Canea, the city isn’t in the middle of impossibly tall mountains, furthermore, turbans were banned throughout the Ottoman Empire in 1829. )

Cretan Christian Insurgents as seen by Le Petite Parisien 14 March 1897.

Insurgents lighting signal fires in the mountains. Illustrated London News, 23rd March 1897.

A band of Cretan Insurgents at Tsiliphe. Illustrated London News, 6 March 1897.

Insurgents. Illustrated London News, 1897.

The illustrator above was clearly using his imagination when it came to the armament carried by the Christians.

Cretan Christian Insurgents at Acrotiri – outside Canea.

The above group could have been some of those described by Capt. Egerton 1/Seaforths:

“……I took out about 25 men, and we marched through Halepa to the extreme Turkish outpost below Akreterion. The Insurgents showed much interest in our movements, and we were all very anxious that they should send a shot or two at us when I should have smacked in two volleys at them for firing on the British Flag, which we carried in front of us.

But though we trailed our coats all along the front of our position they were too wise to let off their “bundooks[?]”. We had to put in 4 hours out of door somehow, so we loafed about under the olive groves, passing the time of day to Turkish Officers on the outpost, and generally had rather a good time of it.”

Cretan Christian Insurgents 1897.

The uniformed soldiers on the right hand side appear to be Russians, possibly indicating that the photograph was taken in the Rethymnon  area; the Russian Secteur of the island.

Cretan Christian Insurgents 1897.

The legend on the flag reads: Enosis H Thanatos – Union (with Greece) or Death.


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.

Camping in Crete.

From: Army Medical Department, Report for 1897.

“At Canea the detachment of British troops was at first quartered with the other international Forces and with the Turks in the flag redoubt. As, however, the place was filthy and overcrowded, our troops were soon removed to a camp in the Municipal Gardens, where they occupied a new building intended as a theatre, which afforded room for about 100 men, the remainder being encamped in an adjoining field…..Our troops remained in this camp until August, when in consequence of the prevalence of fever  and the ground having become much fouled, it was, on the recommendation of the Principle medical Officer, Malta, who visited the island at this time, moved to the residential suburb of Halepa, about two miles from Canea, where an excellent site overlooking the sea was found, and where water was obtained from a spring where contamination seemed impossible.”

Canea bastion c.1897

Canea bastion c.1897

Seaforth Highlanders' camp, Halepa.

Seaforth Highlanders’ camp, Halepa.


In Candia meanwhile…” With the exception of the men occupying the Greek Hospital, all the troops have been accommodated in Indian pattern European privates’ tents, which were pitched on the western ramparts which encloses the town from sea to sea. The space was scanty and some digging was necessary before the tents could be properly pitched, but this disturbance of the soil was not attended by any bad effects. The European privates’ tent is too well known to require further description, and the experience of it here in all weathers has confirmed everything that has been said in its favour in other countries. Clay being plentiful, the men were able to make well raised puddled floors which were easily kept clean, even in bad weather. When it became known that the huts would not arrive before winter set in, wooden linings were supplied for the walls of the tents, and added greatly to the comfort of the men. A proportion of marquees was supplied for hospital purposes; but they are not well suited for standing camps, and compare very unfavourably in comfort with the European privates, tents, for which they were discarded.”

Camp of Royal Welsh Fusiliers. late September 1898

Camp of Royal Welsh Fusiliers. late September 1898

ILN Sept 1898 English camp

Part of British camp Candia, late September 1898.


[E.P. tent … according to The Soldiers’ Pocket-Book, there were three types of issue tent in India in the 1880s, the Staff-Sergeant’s tent, (S-S tent) the European (or English) Privates tent (EP tent) and the circular tent (bell tent). Native soldiers had a Lascar ‘pâl’.

The EP tent was made of multiple layers of white cloth, was 22 ‘ by 16′ and had two stout poles and a ridge pole and all together weighed between 600 and 630 lbs (4 pack mule loads, up to 40% over the standard load weight if wet….). In Bombay service it accommodated 22 men, in Madras service it accommodated 26 men. (see next note). When used outside India it became the EPIP to distinguish the Indian pattern tent from its British made equivalent. The 160 lb General Service tent was introduced later so as to be one standard pack-mule load. It was about 12′ by 8’. http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_foreandaft_notes.htm]

The Widow’s Uniform

In 1897 the British army adopted khaki as the colour for the uniforms of its troops serving overseas; a move that had to wait until 1902 for home based troops. However, It’s unclear from the contemporary accounts whether the first two battalions to arrive on Crete in 1897, the 1/Seaforth Highlanders and the 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers, had actually changed into khaki before reaching the island. Assuming they had changed, the photograph below, taken in Malta and published in 1898 in the Navy and Army Illustrated, shows the standard kit for the ‘other ranks’: for the Welsh at least.Field Service Kit Navy Army Illustrated 1898

However, at least one illustration in the Illustrated London News in 1897 indicates, in the artist’s colouring notes, that at least some of the British Officers in Crete wore red uniforms. Additionally, the coloured engraving below showing the troops of the Powers occupying the bastion in Canea, source and date unknown but before early 1898 when the Austro-Hungarians withdrew, appears to show some British troops still in red.

Canea bastion c.1897

Canea bastion c.1897

Similarly, the photograph below, taken in 1897 and showing the Seaforths and Welsh Fusiliers changing the guard in Candia, appears to show both bodies of troops in red uniforms: compare with the khaki worn by the figure in the bottom right of the photograph.

Crete 1897. Changing Guard, Candia. Seaforths and Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Crete 1897. Changing Guard, Candia. Seaforths and Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Additionally, the illustration of the of the Seaforths firing the salute appears to show them in their dress, red, uniforms, rather than in Khaki. When out in the field, as in the illustration below of a Seaforths patrol going out to deter Christian Cretans from interfering with the water supply to Candia in 1897, they apparently wore khaki.

Crete 1897. Seaforth Highlanders on patrol near Candia.

Crete 1897. Seaforth Highlanders on patrol near Candia.

While khaki was an improvement on the previous red uniforms (excepting of course for the Rifle Brigade and King’s Royal Rifles who were in green), the Scots still had to wear their kilts, both at home and abroad, as above photographs, and the one below of a Seaforth Highlander at kit inspection c. 1897, clearly show.

Seaforth Highlander's kit. c.1897

Seaforth Highlander’s kit. c.1897 Source: Navy and Army Illustrated.


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.