Battle of Navarino

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The naval Battle of Navarino was fought on October 20 (October 8 OS), 1827, during the Greek War of Independence (1821–29). It is notable for being the final large-scale fleet action in history between sailing ships.

Overview

A combined Turkish and Egyptian armada was destroyed by an Allied force of British, French and Russian naval force at the port of Navarino (now Pylos), in southern Greece. The Western Allied and even Russian ships were better armed than their Egyptian and Turkish opponents. Likewise, the Western Allied crews were better trained, contributing to a quick victory. Some say that, due to the larger number of Turkish ships present and the fact that they were all positioned so that their guns could fire into the center of the semi-circle, if the Allies had not been properly in position, the battle could have gone the other way.

Background

The various Greek forces had achieved significant results against the Ottoman fleet in 1821–24, but despite this a Ottoman-Egyptian army under the command of Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha had reconquered Crete and part of the Morea by mid-1825.

Ibrahim was sent to Peloponnesos with a squadron and a Western trained army of 17,000 men in the service of Ottoman sultan Mahmud II. The expedition sailed on July 4 1824, but was for some months unable to do more than come and go between Rhodes and Crete. The fear of the Greek fireships stopped his way to the Morea. When the Greek sailors mutinied from want of pay, Ibrahim was able to land at Methoni on February 26, 1825. He remained in the Morea until the capitulation of October 1, 1828 was forced on him by the intervention of the Western powers.

Ibrahim's operations in the Morea were energetic and ferocious. He easily defeated the Greeks in the open field, and though the siege of Messolonghi proved costly to his own troops and to the Ottoman forces who operated with him, he brought it to a successful termination on April 24 1826. The Greek guerrilla bands harassed his army, and in revenge he desolated the country through "total war" and sent thousands of the inhabitants into slavery in Egypt.

The Ottoman fleet was then able to return and base itself at places like Navarin and Missolonghi to assist the land army. After several more skirmishes between Greece and Turkey, other countries decided to step in to help the Greeks and to protect Allied shipping, which was being raided by Greek pirates. The Treaty of London (July 6, 1827) stipulated that if the treaty were rejected, the allied forces would sail against the Turkish forces to enforce a peace. The Turkish-Egyptian fleet, which had been warned by the British and French to stay away, left Alexandria on August 5, 1827 and arrived at Navarino on September 8. Codrington arrived on September 12 and instituted a blockade. The Turks made several attempts to leave the bay and sail north, but they were repelled each time by Codrington's presence and by adverse weather, and by the arrival of a French squadron under de Rigny on October 13 which caused the Turks to return to port. A Russian squadron under van der Heiden arrived on the 13th also. More Allied ships were already at Navarino, and others arrived over the following week.

The battle

On 17 October Codrington, de Rigny and van der Heiden tried to arrange an armistice between Ibrahim Pasha and the Greek forces. The Greeks quickly agreed, but the Ottoman forces declined the terms of the armistice. Showing defiance to the Allies, the Ottoman officers pretended not to know Pasha's whereabouts.

The Allied commanders decided to anchor their ships in Navarino Bay, amid the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet. The Allied fleet entered in two lines, one formed by the English and French ships, the other by the Russian ships. The Ottoman-Egyptian fleet was anchored in a horseshoe formation, and the Allied fleet anchored in the empty area in the centre of this horseshoe — the British facing the Ottoman-Egyptian battleships on the east, the French north of these, and the Russians on the western side. French frigates took up position south of the British battleships, and the smaller British ships dealt with the fireships and corvettes near the entrance. While the fleet was still anchoring, the captain of the British frigate Dartmouth sent a boat to a Turkish ship anchored close by in order to demand that a fireship which was close to one of the British ships and appeared to be being set alight be removed. For reasons not quite clear, the Ottomans fired on the boat, killing the officer in command and several crew members. Dartmouth opened fire, and within a short time, the entire Allied fleet became engaged, as well as the Russian ships which were still entering the harbour. Heavier Allied broadsides and better gunnery quickly told, and in a few hours, three quarters of the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet was either sunk or set on fire by their own crews. On November 17 it was reported that the Ottoman-Egyptian ships remaining afloat in Navarino Bay were 1 battleship and 4 frigates damaged, and 1 rasée battleship, 2 frigates, 5 corvettes, 11 brigs and 5 schooners ready for sea, although this included some ships from Modon which had arrived after the battle (see this page for figures). Allied casualties were about 181 men killed and about 480 men wounded; Turkish and Egyptian casualties were given as 4109 (3000 killed and 1109 wounded, although those figures might be reversed).

After the battle the Allied fleet remained in Navarino Bay until October 26. Several Allied ships were badly damaged — Azov had been hit 153 times, 7 of them below the waterline, and was not fully repaired until March 1828. Gangut and Iezekiil were damaged too. The British arrived at Malta on November 3, and the Russians on November 8. Albion, Asia and Genoa were sent to England for repairs, while the French ships went to Toulon.

An Egyptian corvette left Navarino Bay on October 27 and arrived in Alexandria on November 2 with news of the battle. Other survivors made their way to Alexandria around the end of the year.

The most important result of this battle was that it crippled the Ottomans and Egyptians at sea. Their land forces in the Morea were unaffected, however. After tense negotiations the main Egyptian army returned to Egypt in September and October 1828, leaving the Ottomans no more than 1200 men in control of 5 forts. The French immediately sent troops in defiance of the agreement to remove these, and with the help of some British sailors, the Morea was cleared of Ottoman forces. The last holdout was Morea Castle, near Patrai, which fell 1 November 1828. After this, Greece (consisting of the mainland south of a line from the Gulf of Arta to the Gulf of Volos and surrounding islands) was independent. The capital was Nafplion.

Ships involved:

Allies

Britain (Vice Admiral Sir Edward Codrington)

Battleships:
Asia 84 (fleet flagship)
Genoa 76
Albion 74
Frigates:
Glasgow 50
Cambrian 48
Dartmouth 42
Talbot 28
Brigs and schooners:
Rose 18
Mosquito 10
Brisk 10
Philomel 10
Cutter:
Hind 6

France (Rear Admiral Henri de Rigny)

Battleships:
Breslau 84
Scipion 80
Trident 74
Frigates:
Sirene 60 (flagship, 2-decker)
Armide 44
Brigs and schooners:
Alcyone 10
Daphne 6

Russia (Rear Admiral Count Login Petrovich van der Heyden)

Battleships:
Gangut 84
Azov 80 (flagship)
Iezekiil 80
Aleksandr Nevskii 80
Frigates:
Provornyi 48
Konstantin 44
Elena 38
Kastor 36

Turkey/Egypt/Tunisia (Ibrahim Pasha)

  • Captain Bei Squadron (Alexandria): 2 battleships, 5 frigates, 12 corvettes
  • Mohara Bei Squadron (Alexandria): 4 frigates, 11 corvettes, 21 brigs, 5 schooners, and 5 (or 6?) fireships
  • Tunis Squadron (Alexandria): 2 frigates, 1 brig
  • Tahir Pasa Squadron (Constantinople): 1 battleship, 6 frigates, 7 corvettes, 6 brigs

There were also perhaps 41 transports; 8 Austrian and 33 Turkish.

The line of battle, in order, was:

3 fireships*
Ihsania* 64 (2-decker frigate) - Blew up
Souriya* 56 (2-decker frigate) - Aground, destroyed
? 64 (frigate) - Blew up
Guerriere* 60 (2-decker frigate, Egyptian flagship of Moharem Bey) - Aground, scuttled
Ghyu h Rewan' 84 (battleship, fleet flagship of Tahir Pasha) - Dismasted and aground
Fatih Bahri' 74 (battleship) - Aground, scuttled
Leone* 60 (2-decker frigate) - Damaged, refloated
? 56 (frigate) - Captured by Albion and blew up
Burj Zafer 74 (battleship) - Survived
? (frigate)
? (frigate)
? 52 (frigate, flag of Padrona Bey)
? 64 (2-decker frigate) - Sunk by Gangut
? (frigate)
? (frigate, flag of Reala Bey)
? (frigate)
"Conquerant" 56 (Fevz Nussret 64 (2-decker frigate))? - Captured by Aleksandr Nevskii, scuttled
? (frigate)
"Grande Sultane" 54 (frigate) - Captured by Armide
? (frigate)
2 or 3 fireships* (one sunk by Gangut?)

Ships marked * were Egyptian.

Names of frigates in the above line whose position are not known:
Fevz Nussret 64 (2-decker)
Ka'id Zafer 64 (2-decker) - Survived
Bandino Seret
Mejra Zafer 48
Keywan Bahri 48
Feyz Mi''raj 48

The Tunisian ships were north of the main Turkish line, near a small island. The other ships were east of the main line.

Approximate total: 1 84-gun Turkish battleship, 2 74-gun Turkish battleships, 4 2-decker 64-gun Egyptian frigates, 2 2-decker Turkish frigates, 3 48-gun Turkish frigates, 10 42-gun Turkish frigates, 2 or 3 48-gun Tunisian frigates, 8 Egyptian corvettes, 14-18 Turkish 22-gun corvettes, 5 10-gun Turkish brigs, 7 Egyptian brigs, 1 Tunisian brig, 5 or 6 (?) fireships, perhaps 41 transports. Other ships in the harbour included 3 Tunisian, 3 Tripolitan and 4 Algerian warships and 5 European transports. The Turks and Egyptians used many hired European transports, mainly Austrian.

Note: It is hard to get an accurate list of Muslim ships for this battle. Some of the confusion stems from the smaller ships being counted as transports on leaving Alexandria and warships on their return. There is some uncertainty in the number of guns carried by several ships also.

Trivia

  • The engagement took place on the anniversary of the memorable Battle of Salamis, 480 BC when the invading army of Xerxes was defeated by the Greeks; and on the same day Euripides, the Greek tragic poet, was born.
  • Nestor is said to have been born at Navarino.
  • The attack was made on the eve of the anniversary of the glorious Battle of Trafalgar, in which victory Codrington, the vice-Admiral of Navarino, then captain of Orient, was engaged.


References

  • Naval wars in the Levant 1559-1853 - R. C. Anderson (1952) [ISBN 0878397990]

External links