When Viscount Palmerston's Liberal government ceded the Ionian Islands to Greece, Benjamin Disraeli protested that it weakened the British Empire. The British occupied Malta and the Ionian Islands during the Napoleonic wars and they were both perceived as strategic prizes. After the Napoleonic Wars, Europe increased trade with the Ottoman Empire. Disraeli's policy was undermined, however, when Circassian irregulars quashed another Balkan revolt. Traditionally Russia threatened an advance over sea or over land (through the Balkans). By May 1878 the Cabinet had undergone great upheaval to unite behind a forward policy, which at its heart was the acquisition of Cyprus. Cyprus' attraction was clearly within Tancred's Oriental reality. Home's memorandum was an eloquent summary of the justifications for selecting Cyprus. John Simmons wrote in the margin that Colonel Robert Home gave it to him to take to Berlin and that it was the reason for selecting Cyprus.
Euphoric crowds greeted Lord Beaconsfield's declaration of 'peace with honour' as he and Salisbury arrived at Charing Cross. The Liberals lost no time in attacking the Beaconsfield government over its acquisition, which produced an apologia from the government. On 11 July, the leader of the Liberal peers, Lord Granville, a former colonial secretary, and in the Commons Sir Julian Goldsmid asked if Cyprus had a harbour. Entrepreneurs shared Beaconsfield's plans for Cyprus and Ottoman Asia. The crisis in Cyprus gave Gladstone the opportunity to launch a more general assault on the nature of imperial expansion and the taking of Cyprus in 'England's Mission'. The Tories selected Cyprus knowing that the government would have to develop Famagusta harbour which, as the sketch and photograph show, was capacious, but run down, with only a few light craft using it.
The first imperial funds were spent when Joseph Chamberlain became Colonial Secretary, but the projects did not aim to make Cyprus a strategic asset. In May 1880, Charles Dilke, the under-secretary at the Foreign Office, announced Cyprus's future transfer to the Colonial Office, where stringency was the norm. W. E. Gladstone also announced sweeping changes to local laws, including forced labour. In 1886 the short-lived Liberal government was asked about the tribute and the under-secretary of state at the Colonial Office, George Osborne Morgan, claimed that London retained the money because, once it was paid, it became Ottoman revenue. Edward Fairfield's trip to Cyprus aimed to produce a budget so Cyprus could pay the tribute with a minimal grant-in-aid. Fairfield endorsed Sir Robert Biddulph's proposal by claiming that Kyrenia was closer to 'civilisation' than Famagusta, which he claimed was too far from Nicosia and off the Egyptian route.
This chapter reviews the received wisdom that all the Cypriot Eastern Orthodox Christians were as one in identifying with Greece and the Greek nation and that they welcomed the British in 1878 with demands to join Greece. The traditional leaders of the Cypriot Orthodox Christians wanted the British to co-opt them into the governing structures, as the Ottomans had. But despite this favourable space, the British faced a nationalist and inter-communal crisis by 1912. The Conservatives had been right about the Christian and Muslim inhabitants living harmoniously. The absence of an 'ethnic' identity had resulted in social and cultural integration during the Ottoman period. The new modernist structures created the space for Hellenic nationalists to spread the topological dream of Hellenism. Hellenic nationalism, propelled by the failure of British social and economic policies, upturned the multicultural system and challenged the viability of British rule.
Imperial defence theorists had wanted coal guaranteed to the navy and denied to the enemy. The Carnarvon Commission made this official. The three reports established that sea access was a matter of survival; it was the navy's duty to protect commerce; and local governments had to assume policing and coaling station defence with the aid of fortifications. The crisis in Egypt also overshadowed the reports. During the war, Lord Waveney, the Conservative member for Cambridge, suggested redeveloping Famagusta into a base because of its location between Constantinople and Cairo. Troodos's role as a sanatorium during the Egypt and Sudan wars resulted in Cyprus figuring in Lord Salisbury's plans for defending Egypt. The Colonial Office used Hellenism in Cyprus to prevent War Office plans to remove the garrison. The British built their imperial defence around colonial manpower. The zaptieh showed considerable 'racial' integration and affinity with British imperial aims.
After Cyprus was occupied, Gladstonian and Radical Liberals thought it would ultimately be ceded to Greece. At Berlin in 1878, Greece had been promised an unspecified area of Thessaly and Epirus. After the 1894 Franco-Russian alliance an isolated Germany sought to induce Britain into the Triple Alliance. Anglo-German relations were strained in 1896 over German policy in Transvaal, but improved in 1898 when they agreed to divide Portuguese Africa and Germany withdrew its patronage of the Transvaal before the Boer War. In 1911 there were two dangerous crises that exposed the unreadiness of the Admiralty for war and its weakness in the eastern Mediterranean: the Agadir issue and the Tripolitanian War. The failure to realise the Cyprus for Argostoli deal did not end the policy to cede Cyprus to Greece. The policy of holding Cyprus as a pawn had a harmful impact on its rule.
The island, Trinidad, occupied a special place within the 'official mind' due to it being the largest oil producer in the British Empire, supplying 38" of its consumption in 1938. The Trinidad Naval Volunteer Force (TNVF) was inaugurated in October 1939. By 1945, the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (TRNVR) had grown to 75 officers and 1,215 ratings, representing 12 different Caribbean territories. In Trinidad, the main US naval base was built at Chaguaramas, adjoining the TRNVR's Staubles headquarters. The Ministry of Information (MOI) article, aimed at a different audience, attempted to relate the TRNVR to the British public. The implicit prejudice evinced itself in more overt racial discrimination towards TRNVR ratings at home and overseas. Non-racial colonial prejudice also permeated, with West Indian Europeans considered inferior to British personnel because of the debilitating effects of climate upon character.
During the Second World War, out of a population of just over 6,500, around 800 Caymanians served in the British Merchant Navy with another 201 in the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (TRNVR). Caymanians possessed a hereditary link back to Britain, a connection visibly reinforced by their lighter physical complexion compared to other West Indians. Although within a colonial naval force such as the TRNVR Caymanians garnered more respect than their West Indian colleagues, they were still viewed as inferior to regular British sailors. Upon their arrival at the TRNVR base in Staubles Bay, Caymanians encountered a foreign environment, poor facilities, professional neglect, and lack of proper uniform and medical care, causing many to fall ill. As with the sailors, the collective wartime experience at home strengthened Caymanian identity beyond skin colour, with the Islanders united in prayer for the safe return of their men.