Dawn 1897; Crete is “simmering” by the atrocities of the Turks. The Cretians have decided to declare Union with mother Greece. The rebels barricade themselves in Prophet Elias, at Akrotiri of Chania, Crete and raise the Greek flag, which had been delivered to them by Konstantinos Kanaris, the first mate of the battleship “Hydra”, grandson of admiral Kanaris.
Further to the Turks, they also have to face the reactions of the Great Powers (Italy, France, Austria, Germany, England and Russia), who start a fierce bombardment on February 1897.
One of the cannonballs hits and throws down the staff of the Greek flag.
Rebel SpyrosKayales Kayaledakis throws himself in the inferno of the bombing and with great danger to his life, puts up the fallen staff; the flag is once again flapping in dignity. A new cannonball again throws down the staff. SpyrosKayales Kayaledakis puts it up, as he did before.
A third cannonball now shatters the staff and throws down the flag. Then, something incredible and unique happens:
Spyros Kayales Kayaledakis grabs the flag and raises it by turning his body into a staff. As soon as the admirals of the united fleet saw through their binoculars that the Greek flag was once again flapping having a... rebel as staff they ordered cease fire in perplexity.
The camp is vibrating by the cheering and the rejoicing. The national anthem is chanted on the battleship “Hydra”. Cheering and clapping is now heard coming not only from the Greek ships but also the Italian and the French ships!!!
Rear admiral Canevaro, who is in charge of the fleet of the Great Powers, writes in his memoirs: “The raising of the flag in such a heroic manner formed a moment in my life, which I shall never forget”. As the Leader of the Nation Eleftherios Venizelos, who played a pivotal role in the events of that period, later recounted in person, admiral Canevaro had told him that he was spellbound by admiration for this nice and particularly heroic act of Spyros Kayales Kayaledakis, who on that day – literally – beat European Diplomacy; not only because he caused the bombing of Akrotiri to cease immediately but also by the favorable recommendations submitted by the admirals to their governments.
The result of this was that a few months later, Crete gained independence from the Ottoman Empire, a fact which preceded the Union thereof with Greece. The first positive development was announced two days after this heroic and unique in history act of SpyrosKayales by the Proclamation of the Admirals of the United Fleet of Italy, France, Austria, Germany, England and Russia.
The municipality of Acrotiri holds an annual celebration in memory of the bombardment of 9 February 1897 and honors the hero Spyros Kayales Kayaledakis by the placement of wreathes on his statue (next to the graves of the Venizelos Family), who became the symbol of the struggle of the Cretians for Union with Greece.
Translation: Despoina Karantza
Historical Research: Spyros Efst. Kayaledakis
Book:ChaniaAdministrativePrefecture Editions, February 1997,
relating to the 100th anniversary date of the 9th February 1897
Cover: Michael Varelas’ painting
Technical Support: Vaios Grammenos
Co-operators: Afrodite Kalomari, George Kagialedakis, Toula Zografou, Eva Kanaki