Naval Battle of Lemnos

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The Naval Battle of Lemnos took place between January 5 and January 18, 1913, during the First Balkan War.

Before the Battle

Following the loss of a number of Aegean Islands to Greece during the first phase of the war in 1912, the Ottoman navy sought to check Greek progress by destroying the Greek fleet docked at the port of Moudros, Lemnos. The plan of action was to bait the Greek fleet into leaving the safety of the port and to ambush it just off the southern coast of the Island where the Ottoman navy lay in wait. Despite the sinking of a Greek transport ship off the island of Syros on January 1 1913, the Greek navy, having realised the Turkish trap, was not enticed into sailing out of its port.

Having unsettled the Turks with its apparent inactivity, the Greek fleet slipped out of Moudros on January 5 and engaged the Ottoman fleet 12 miles south east of Lemnos where a running sea battle, which culminated on January 18, took place.

The Battle

The Greek fleet, led by Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis was composed of its 9,960 ton armored cruiser flagship Averof, three coast defense battleships and eight destroyers. While the Ottoman flotilla included the pre-dreadnought battleships Hayreddin Barbaros and Turgut Reis, the battleships Mesudiye and Asar-i Tevfik, thirteen destroyers and torpedo ships. Following a three-hour gunnery exchange on the morning of January 18th the Turkish fleet, having sustained heavy damage, fled and was subsequently pursued and harried by the Greek ships all the way back to straits of the Dardanelles.

This, the final naval battle of the First Balkan War, forced the Ottoman navy to retreat to its base within the Dardanelles, from which it did not venture for the rest of the war.

Use of Aircraft

The withdrawal of the Turkish fleet to within the Dardanelles was confirmed by 1st Lieutenant Michael Moutoussis and Ensign Aristides Moraitinis on January 24, 1913 who conducted the first ever wartime naval aviation mission, flying their Maurice Farman hydroplane over the Nagara point where they spotted the enemy fleet. During their sortie, they accurately drew a diagram of the positions of the retreating fleet, against which they successfully managed to drop four bombs. Moutoussis and Moraitinis travelled over 180km and took 2 hours 20 minutes to complete their mission, which was extensively reported in both the Greek and International Press.