April 28, 1903: Anarchists blow up French boat in Greece

On April 28, 1903 members of the Boatmen blew up the French vessel Guadalquivir as it lay in Thessaloniki harbour, killing absolutely no one

THESSALONIKI, GREECE – Occupation is never fun but blowing up random stuff seems counterproductive.

Full disclosure: I have never lived in a land which was occupied by another power. I hence have little idea of how that feels and what I would do about the situation. Put up with it? Try to change it peacefully? Resort to violence to chase the occupiers out? I have no clue.

The occasions on which nation A invades and takes over nation B are legion (and often involve ‘legions’). Sometimes the outsiders are ‘invited’ by a small party of locals (e.g. the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979). At other times they most certainly are not! (e.g. the US invasion of Iraq in 2003). Whatever the case, the newly arrived are rarely – if ever – treated as ‘liberators‘.

Legitimacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq - Wikipedia
See? They made us a bridge of swords to drive under! How nice! (Photo: By Technical Sergeant John L. Houghton, Jr., United States Air Force, Public Domain)

Usually a plucky few will take up arms, or use other weapons, to make their unhappiness felt. This was the case for a Bulgarian anarchist group which called itself the ‘Boatmen of Thessaloniki‘ in the early 20th century. Their aim was to attract the attention of the Great Powers (i.e. Britain, France, the US and Russia) to the horrors of Ottoman oppression in Macedonia and Thrace.

On this day in 1903

Members of the Boatmen blew up the French vessel Guadalquivir as it lay in Thessaloniki harbour, killing absolutely no one. More attacks on railways and buildings were to follow.

In the wake of the violence the Ottomans declared martial law and the Turkish Army massacred many Bulgarian citizens in Thessaloniki. Four members of the Boatmen were later arrested and sentenced by a court martial to a penal colony.

Your pretty empire took so long to build, now, with a snap of history’s fingers, down it goes.

Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

I suppose targeting a French vessel would certainly get that nation’s government’s attention. But what did France have to do with Ottoman cruelty? I guess that is why terrorists of this ilk are called ‘anarchists‘: they seek mainly to sow disorder, regardless of those killed or injured.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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