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Jan 14 2013

The Tower of Voukolies

Heading south from Chania, shortly after the junction with the National Road at Tavronites, the road to Paleochora passes through the village of Voukolies, on the outskirts of which is located the ‘Tower of Voukolies’; one of a series of guard posts created by the Ottoman authorities to protect and watch over the Cretan countryside following the Cretan Insurrection of 1866. Standing on a hill overlooking Voukolies, in 1897 the tower was the base for an Ottoman garrison of some 300 troops located there in order to dominate the road to Chania, disrupt any attempt by Cretan rebels to move forces from the south west of the island to the cities on the north coast and to provide security for the large Cretan Muslim population of the Voukolies area.

 

Voukolies, Tower of Voukolies
The current Tower at Voukolies

On 1st/2nd February 1897, a Greek force of some 1500 men, complete with artillery, under the command of Colonel Timothy Vassos landed at Kolymbari and proceeded to declare the union of Crete with Greece. By 5th February the force had moved inland and, having established their headquarters in Alikianos, a mixed detachment under the command of Major Konstantinidis and including an artillery platoon and an engineer platoon, was ordered to Voukolies to capture the tower: also with the force were many Cretans and the company of students under the command of Captain Em. Zimvrakakidon.[1]

The British Consul in Chania, Sir Alfred Biliotti, described the fall of the tower as follows in a telegraphed despatch to the Foreign Office:

“Two companies, about 300 men. Turkish troops garrisoned during last four months Voukoulies to afford protection to the Turkish emigrants, who returned to their village in that commune; their block-house was destroyed by Greek regular artillery; the garrison sallied out at night, but was afterwards surrounded. Major and many killed, over 100 taken prisoners, about 80 found their way back; no sortie was made from Canea in connection with Voukoulies affair…”[2]

However, the capture of the tower was not as straight forward as Biliotti implied. After surrounding the village and calling on the garrison to surrender, the Cretan troops made an initial attempt to storm the position but were beaten off with some loss. According to one contemporary account:

“The Cretans suffered heavily by their own fault. They disobeyed the order to withhold their musketry fire until the work of the artillery had been completed. They wasted 50,000 cartridges and lost thirty men in maintaining a foolish fire, advancing to within 100 yards of the redoubts while the Turks fired splendidly, wasting few bullets. The Cretans were obliged to send to Platonica for more ammunition which arrived on Thursday night, with four guns. The Cretans at this time surrounding the fort disobeyed orders and dispersed in search of food, the Turks profiting by the position evacuated by the Cretans.”[3]

Food was eventually provided by the local Cretan Christians, including by monks from a local monastery, though ammunition appears to haven been in short supply, poorly made and expensive.[4] Following the initial rebuff, Greek artillery fire was then concentrated on the tower. On the night of 6/7 February, the garrison, under the command of a Major Fouad,[5] attempted to break out. However, during the course of the sally the major was killed and subsequently 100 or so of the garrison who had failed to get through the Greek/Cretan lines surrendered and were taken prisoner.[6]

“On Friday morning, when the guns had been placed in position, and they were about to resume the bombarding, the troops were surprised to see the Cretans plant their flag upon the deserted fort. Thirty-two dead Turks were found inside the fortifications, which were blown up with dynamite. The Greek troops were all young men who had never before been under fire, and they displayed coolness, courage and enthusiasm. The Greeks took ten Turkish soldiers prisoners.” [7]

Ottoman losses were in the region of 35 killed: Cretan losses, depending on the account read, amounted to 15 or 30 dead and nearly 40 wounded; while the Greek army lost one man killed and two wounded.

The tower itself was destroyed prior to the Greek/Cretan withdrawal; the one to be seen today is a modern replica. Though militarily of minor significance, the action demonstrated to the Cretans that Greek forces landed on the island were there in sufficient numbers and suitably equipped to be able to engage and defeat the entrenched Ottoman forces and in doing so at Voukolies, provided a significant boost to Cretan Christian morale.

 

Voukolies, Tower of Voukolies
Plaque on the Tower of Voukolies

 


[1] History of the Tower of Voukolies. Information from the work of pupils of the Lyceum Voukolies, as the professors epivlexi Alysavaki Kiki and Kouroupou Anastasia, presented in February 2005. http://livenowtravel.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/browse-the-most-important-villages-of-chania-municipality-voukolies-part-4/

[2] House of Commons debate 26 February 1897. Vol. 46. cc.1264-6

[3] The Chania correspondent of the Daily News. Reported in The Daily Colonist, Victoria, British  Columbia.Tuesday 23 February 1897.   http://www.britishcolonist.ca/tc/1897/02/23/18970223001.pdf

[4] History of the Tower of Voukolies. Information from the work of pupils of the Lyceum Voukolies, as the professors epivlexi Alysavaki Kiki and Kouroupou Anastasia, presented in February 2005. 

http://livenowtravel.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/browse-the-most-important-villages-of-chania- municipality-voukolies-part-4/

[5]Ibid.

[6] House of Commons debate. 26 February 1897. Vol.46 cc.1264-6

[7]The Chania correspondent of the Daily News. Reported in The Daily Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia.Tuesday 23 February 1897.  http://www.britishcolonist.ca/tc/1897/02/23/18970223001.pdf

2 pings

  1. A slight Greek exaggeration? | The British in Crete, 1896 to 1913.

    […] 1897. The illustration above (date and provenance unknown) somewhat exaggerates the events, in reality, the Ottoman forces lost somewhere in the region of 35 men killed, the Greek army one man killed and […]

  2. The fall of the tower of Voukolies | The British in Crete, 1896 to 1913.

    […] Further details of the capture of the tower can be found here: http://mickmctiernan.com/history/the-tower-of-voukolies […]

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