The Montenegrin hat was the first "blue helmet"
Following a decision of the Council of Ministers of Serbia and Montenegro to send troops of the Armed Forces to peacemaking missions of the United Nations, we may recall that this is not the first time of such intervention, when it was necessary. Members of ex Yugoslav People’s Army intervened not so long ago, and much before, soldiers from Montenegro as well.
The first world mission, as known, was confided to Montenegro i.e. its dynast prince Nikola – in order to intermediate and intervene peacefully together with those from other countries who would join them later, between Crete Greeks and Turks, in the uprising that shook not only Europe but the whole world at the time.
Prince Nikola did not hide his delight by a decision of world powers to select Montenegrins as the first ones to join the mission, in order to calm and extinguish a fire in Crete.
When the day of leaving came – January 11th of 1897. – unit of 70 members, eight noncommissioned officers and two officers was lined up in the Obilic field. Flags, battle music from Cetinje. Commander Mashan B. Bozovic stands before the Unit, and Prince Nikola begins the speech, addressing to the gathered soldiers:
“Heroes! Great world powers honored me to send one unit of my Montenegrins to join international forces in Crete, because they are convinced that Montenegrins will fulfill their duty as appropriate – honorably and heroically. You were to be selected, so I came my children, to wish you good journey, and to return healthy, honestly and heroically – as appropriate to Montenegrins! Listen to your officers and obey their commands! You will associate with friends from different countries. Be friendly, fairly and honestly! Act punctually and decently! Also, be aware – Christian people in Crete rose up and they are fighting for freedom that cost us great as well.
“Mister Captain, everything you do, you do on behalf of me”, Prince Nikola said to Commander Bozovic. “I will not ask an explanation. I wish the name, name of Montenegrins, to stay on the level it always was, even if that cost us lives!”.
From the holy place of Obilic field, where Montenegrin soldiers always gathered to leave for glorious victories, this unit of peacemakers left as well. Today, peace forces wear blue helmets. At the time, Montenegrins had national hats on their heads. Battle music played when they were leaving the field. They walked to Bar, where “vapor” waited to take them to Kandia, in Crete, where they arrived after five days of sailing over the wavy see.
Greeks were not informed about their coming to Crete, so they “greeted” unarmed Montenegrin soldiers with volley fires. Only when Pasha Djordje Petrovic provided them protection by giving them shotguns with 30 bullets, so they could calm down because they could take over to guard seven residences where European consuls were housed. Governor Petrovic and many weak Greek refugees were also situated in mansions, from where they were escorted to the boats in the port of Haleb.
The more it was shooting in Crete, the more it was dangerous. Although solitary peacemakers, Montenegrin soldiers were protecting barehanded people till allied troops from boats came to help. Many European delegates left Crete with their families, so in the spring of 1897. the only foreigners in Crete were the soldiers from Montenegro, peacemakers with national hats.
It is doubtful if their mission would be successful those days when Russian officers invited them in the critic moment to join them on their boats anchored away from the cost. Montenegrins at first rejected the invitation and remained on their positions to protect residences, until they were alarmed that the allies would bomb Haleb.
So they moved to admiral boat “Alexandar 11” where they remained for three days.
Meanwhile, Greek navy with Captain Timeleon Vasos (the sun of Mavrovunitos Brajovic, hero of our origin who was empowered by Greek king to occupy Crete), sailed into the waters of Crete.
Only then Montenegrin soldiers found their place and role, and remained with squads of great European powers to guard and protect Consulates.
This unit of Montenegrin soldiers remained in Crete till 1899. when Crete was liberated. They left with great honors.