The Guardian Archive: 26 July 1867 -The barbarity of warfare is forcing women and children to escape Crete across the sea

The Guardian — In a letter dated “Platania, Crete, June 19,” a correspondent of the Daily News says:—
During the three weeks I have been in this island I have seen something of war, and much of its distresses. The entire country is at the present time bristling with arms from end to end, every man you meet being weaponed to the teeth, including every age from boyhood to senility. There is too much reason for this, as wherever you turn in the more accessible districts, the eye is constantly revolted by the spectacle of devastated villages, the blackened walls of roofless cottages “glooming” through the profuse foliage of the season, and attesting (with other outrages worse, but too well accredited to doubt) a barbarity of warfare on the part of the Ottomans such as we were wont to consider as characterising the fifteenth century rather than the present.

A portion of the women and children still hang round their ruined homesteads, but the greater part, forced by starvation or scared by the enemy’s violence, have resorted, or are yet resorting, in multitudes to the seacoast, both north and south (though chiefly the latter), where, peopling every tenantable headland, they await some blessed barque to carry them to a safer, happier land.

The ship on which their hopes chiefly centred (the Arcadi) has suffered damage, it appears, from a recent encounter with a Turkish frigate, which will necessitate a delay perhaps of some weeks at Syra for repair. In the meantime, exposed to all the horrors of starvation, the dread (even here) of atrocities by their ruthless foe, and that hope deferred which of itself “maketh the heart sick,” nothing can be well conceived more worthy of commiseration than the condition of these refugees upon the seacoast, consisting exclusively of women and children. To make that condition worse, disease, led on by the influences before mentioned, has now begun to creep among them, having already laid many low, and bidding fair, unless relief be soon afforded, to turn their wild haunts into so many graveyards.

I was myself witness of a medical visit paid to a body (some 1,800 in number) of these poor people located in some sea-beat caves of the southern coast, at a place called Korakos, of whom no less than 350 were prostrate from disease, and given over by the doctors one by one. The latter could do little for their relief, the sickness having its root in privation of the common necessaries of life – food and clothing.

Two days later, the same correspondent writes:—
Anyone coming here, and taking even but a cursory survey of the country, must arrive at the quick but sure conclusion that, with its huge backbone of mountain, stretching from end to end, tenanted on both its slopes and in numerous places by a population who, time out of mind, have enjoyed practical liberty – whose inaccessible positions give them the assurance they are able to maintain it, and who latterly, by the spread of light within their minds, and the example ever before them of neighbouring and independent Hellas, are more resolute than ever to do so – anyone, I say, must feel convinced that it is impossible for any foreign power to subjugate Crete or render it a profitable apanage.

Proceeding from the source above mentioned, the spirit of freedom has diffused itself through the entire population of the isle; and wherever you now go, instead of cringing rayahs, you meet with armed men, erect in walk, ready to do battle à outrance for their rights. Whilst from this warrior body quotas are told off to keep up the lines of resistance drawn round every Turkish lodgement (identified with the three or four chief seaports of the island), the women and children, save a few who yet linger round their burned and desolate homesteads (I have seen scores of these), are repairing in numbers to the seacoast in hopes of deportation to a happier land. Unless this be provided promptly, it is to be feared starvation and disease will make dreadful ravages among them, and leave but few eventually to be taken away. Even in their last resorts – the rugged sea cliffs – if we may believe late accounts, they are not safe from Ottoman outrage.