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Battle of Navarino


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Battle of Navarino

20th of October 1827



The naval Battle of Navarino was fought on 20 October 1827, during the Greek War of Independence (1821–32), in Navarino Bay (modern-day Pylos), on the west coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, in the Ionean Sea.




More detailed battle plan here:http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/540422.html



An Ottoman armada, which, in addition to imperial warships, included squadrons from the eyalets (provinces) of Egypt, Tunis and Algiers, was destroyed by an Allied force of British,French and Russian vessels. It was the last major naval battle in history to be fought entirely with sailing ships, although most ships fought at anchor. The Allies' victory was achieved through superior firepower and gunnery.




At 1.30 PM, 20 October 1827, off the entrance to Navarino bay, Codrington signalled to the Allied fleet: "PREPARE FOR ACTION" and Allied crews were ordered to stand to their guns. Gun-ports were left half-open, but Allied captains were under strict orders to open fire only if attacked. At 2.00 PM, Allied warships, with Codrington in the lead in Asia, began filing into the bay through the southern entrance, proceeding in two lines, British followed by French to starboard (SE, closest to Navarino) and Russians to port abreast but slightly behind the French. There was no attempt to prevent their entry by the Ottoman shore batteries or their corvettes posted at the entrance, but Codrington received a launch carrying a message from Ibrahim Pasha. This stated that he had not given permission for the Allies to enter the bay, and demanded that they withdraw. Codrington dismissed Ibrahim's objection, replying that he had come to give orders, not to take them. He warned that if the Ottomans opened fire, their fleet would be destroyed.




Some drawings of the bay:







As his flagship cast anchor in the middle of the Ottoman line, Codrington ordered a brass band to play on deck to emphasize his peaceful intentions. By 2.15 PM, the three British ships of the line had dropped anchor in their allotted positions. Meanwhile, as the Allied vessels moved into position, along the Ottoman lines trumpets sounded action stations. Ottoman crews scrambled to meet the unexpected intrusion into their base.

At this point, at the entrance, fighting broke out. Codrington claimed that hostilities were started by the Ottomans. The outbreak, according to Allied sources, occurred in the following manner:

At the entrance to the bay, Capt Thomas Fellowes on the frigate Dartmouth had been detailed, with six smaller boats (2 brigs and 4 schooners) to keep watch on the group of Ottoman corvettes and fireships on the left flank of the Ottoman line. As the Allied ships continued moving into the bay, Fellowes noticed that an Ottoman crew was preparing a fireship and sent a boat to instruct them to desist. The Ottomans fired on the boat and lighted the fireship. Fellowes sent a cutter to tow the fireship to a safe distance, but the Ottomans fired on the cutter, inflicting casualties. Fellowes opened musket fire on the fireship crew to cover his men. At this point the French  flagship Sirène, which was just then entering the bay on the tail of the British-French line, opened fire with muskets to support Dartmouth. An Ottoman corvette then attacked Sirène with its guns. This chain reaction spread along the line, so that within a short time, there was general engagement.

The battle thus began before the Allies could complete their deployment. In fact, this proved to be a tactical advantage, as it meant some Allied ships were not yet at anchor and could therefore manoeuvre more swiftly. Nevertheless, most ships fought at anchor. There was naturally very little scope for manoeuvre, except to change the orientation of the boat by hauling on the springs on the anchor chains.With ships blasting each other at very close range, the encounter was mostly a matter of attrition, in which superior Allied firepower and gunnery were critical.





Action at close quarters during the battle. This detail shows Codrington's flagship, HMS Asia (centre, flying Blue Ensign), simultaneously demolishing two Ottoman flagships


Combat action may be summarised as follows:

  1. The French ship Scipion (80 guns), behind De Rigny's Sirène (60), immediately came under intense attack, by a combination of Egyptian frigates on both sides, the shore batteries and a fireship. The latter was nearly fatal. The fireship jammed under Scipion's bowsprit, the fore sails caught fire and the fire spread onto the upper gun-deck. Men flung themselves on the fire to prevent it spreading to the forward powder magazine, with inevitable horrendous burn injuries. Nevertheless, the gunners continued to fire on the attackers. Scipion was saved from destruction by her sister ship Trident (74), which succeeded in attaching a tow-line to the fireship and, with the assistance of Dartmouth and 2 other British boats, pulling it clear.
  2. De Rigny's Sirène fought a lengthy duel with the 64-gun frigate Ihsania, which finally blew up. Sirène suffered significant casualties and damage. Sirène, with the support of Trident and Scipion, then bombarded the fort of Navarino and eventually silenced its shore battery.
  3. The captain of French Breslau (84), Capt De la Bretonnière, seeing that De Rigny did not need further support, decided on his own initiative to break away from the French formation and move into the centre of the bay, at the junction of the British and Russian lines, to reinforce British Albion (74) and Russian Azov (80). Both were hard pressed. Albion, which had wrecked an Ottoman frigate as she anchored, was under fire from all three Ottoman ships of the line simultaneously. Fortunately for her, the enemy gunnery was inept. Even so, Breslau's intervention was later acknowledged by the captain of Albion as having saved his ship from annihilation. Breslau then proceeded to play a leading role in the destruction of Ottoman admiral Tahir Pasha's flagship, the Ghiuh Rewan (84), and at least 4 frigates.






4.     Codrington's Asia (84) was anchored between Ottoman admiral Capitan Bey's flagship, Fahti Bahri (74), and Egyptian Moharram Bey's frigate Guerrière (60). Capitan Bey opened fire, but Moharram Bey sent word to Codrington that he was not going to attack. This enabled Asia to concentrate its fire on Fahti Bahri, which was in a poor condition and inadequately manned. Asia's deadly fire shortly disabled her. Codrington then sent an interpreter, Greek P. Mikelis, to parley with Moharram Bey; but Mikelis was shot dead as he went aboard. Guerrière then opened fire, but was reduced to a burning wreck within 20 minutes by crushing broadsides fromAsia and Azov. However, Asia suffered severe casualties and damage due to a concentration of heavy fire from smaller Ottoman boats in the second and third lines of the Ottoman formation: as Letellier had planned, these boats fired through the gaps in the front line. Codrington also believed that Asia had taken serious hits by mistake from sister Genoa.


5.     The Russians under Heyden were the last to take up station, as was planned. Their position, on the right end of the Ottoman crescent, was the most exposed. The fighting in this sector was even more intense than elsewhere. Azov sank or disabled 3 large frigates and a corvette, but herself took 153 hits, several below the waterline.



6.    The British frigates Armide and Talbot initially had to face the frigates on the Ottoman right wing and the island shore battery unsupported, as the other two frigates were away and arrived later. They were saved from annihilation by the arrival of the Russian frigates.



7.     The British and French small boats (brigs and the schooners Alcyone and Daphne), under the overall direction of frigateDartmouth, had been allotted the vital task of preventing fireship attacks. Their success was complete: apart from the initial fireship attack on Scipion, not a single fireship struck a target during the battle. A number of small boats greatly distinguished themselves, suffering casualties as great, in proportion, as the ships of the line.








By about 4 p.m., all three Ottoman ships of the line and most of the large frigates of the first line had been despatched. This left the mass of smaller boats in the second and third lines at the mercy of the Allied ships of the line, all of which were still operational. During the ensuing massacre, Codrington tried twice to order a ceasefire, but his signals were either invisible because of the thick smoke or ignored in the heat of the battle. Within the following two hours, virtually the entire Ottoman fleet was destroyed, despite the signal bravery of the Ottoman crews, which was praised by Codrington himself in his dispatches. Three quarters were sunk: many of them, dismasted but still afloat and reparable, were blown up or set on fire by their own crews to prevent them falling into Allied hands.

This contributed to the horrendous Ottoman and Egyptian casualty figures, as many men were trapped in burning or exploding vessels. Some, as mentioned, were shackled to their posts. Ottoman casualties given to Codrington by Letellier were approx. 3,000 killed, 1,109 wounded, although Codrington claimed the reverse was more likely. Of the entire Ottoman-Egyptian armada of 78 vessels, just eight remained seaworthy: one dismasted ship of the line, two frigates, and five corvettes.


Allied casualties were given by Codrington as 181 killed, 480 wounded (including Codrington's youngest son, midshipman H. Codrington, serving on Asia under his father, who was badly injured but made a full recovery). Several Allied ships were severely damaged: the Russian ships AzovGangut and Iezekiil were disabled. The three British ships of the line had to be sent back to the United Kingdom for repairs. In fact, given the rough handling all the ships of the line had endured and the danger from exploding Ottoman vessels, it was miraculous that not a single Allied vessel was sunk.

As the guns fell silent at dusk in Navarino Bay, news of the outcome raced over the Peloponnese and to the rest of Greece. In village after village, church bells started a continuous peal in the night. People rushed into village squares, to be greeted by the news that the Ottoman Sultan and his hated vassal Ibrahim Pasha no longer possessed a Mediterranean fleet. In a maritime country like Greece, the implication was evident, that the fledgling Greek state was saved. Wild rejoicing broke out, and lasted through the night and for days after. Huge bonfires were lit on the mountaintops of the Peloponnese and Mt Parnassos in central Greece. Celebrations swept even the occupied regions, which the demoralised Ottoman garrisons made little effort to prevent.






I just though i should share this little piece of history since it played a major part(arguably the biggest part) for the creation of my country and because as it was highlighted at the start of the article, it was the last major naval battle in history to be fought entirely with sailing ships.



For more info about the prelude and the aftermath here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Navarino



Hope you enjoy!

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If anyone is interested,finding the plans for the ships that took part in the battle and posting them here would be amazing.I could use some help with that.


Here is the chart with some of the ships that took part:




It is also in the wikipedia page.

Edited by Sella22
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  • 2 months later...

The battle of Navarino for me is very interesting because it was one of the first times in history where Britain and France worked together at all levels for the same goal and even though France had more revolutions and constitutional changes after Navarino Britain and France have continued to work together ever since. Before Navarino they were always bitter rivals and often on opposing sides in any dispute.

Edited by Morey
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  • 1 year later...

Hi,  I live in Greece in the Peloponnese and I went to the Battle of Navarino celebrations in Pylos last Friday.  Really good day.  The landing ship Azov from the Black Fleet and the Navarinon from the Greek Navy were moored in the port.  I am currently doing a page on the Battle for my website so have been researching lots of information and came across your topic.

There is a boat trip around Navarino Bay every day during the summer that visits the three memorials on various islands in the bay. I have some names of ships for you and will attach 2 photographs to show where I got them.  Hope you are interested.






Edited by sukiskye6
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