The Naval Battle of Navarino (1827). Oil painting by Carneray.
The naval Battle of Navarino was fought on 20 October 1827, during the Greek War of Independence (1821-29). A combined Turkish and Egyptian armada was destroyed by an allied British, French, and Russian naval force at the port of Navarino (now Pylos), in southern Greece. The Allied ships were better armed than their Egyptian and Turkish enemies, and their crews better trained, resulting in a rather quick victory. Some say that, due to the larger number of Turkish ships present, if the Allies had not been properly in position, the battle could have gone the other way.
The various Greek forces had achieved significant results against the Turkish fleet in 1821-24, but despite this a Turkish and Egyptian army had reconquered Crete and part of the Morea by mid-1825. The Turkish fleet was then able to return and base itself at places like Navarin and Missolonghi to help its land army. After several more skirmishes between Greece and Turkey, other countries decided to step in to help the Greeks and to protect their shipping, which was being raided by Greek pirates. The Treaty of London (6 July 1827) stipulated that if the treaty were rejected, the allied forces would sail against the Turkish forces. The Turkish/Egyptian fleet, which had been warned by the British and French to stay away, left Alexandria 5 August 1827 and arrived at Navarino 8 September. Codrington arrived 12 September 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 13 October. A Russian squadron under Geiden arrived on the 13th also. More ships were already at Navarino, and others arrived over the following week.
Ibrahim Pasha could not leave Navarino Bay, but continued to wage war on land. On 17 October Codrington, de Rigny and Geiden tried to arrange an armistice so that Ibrahim Pasha would stop this. The Greeks quickly agreed, but the Turks did not. The Turks' answer to this was unsatisfactory: Ibrahim Pasha's officers pretended not to know where he was. The Allied commanders decided to anchor their ships in Navarino Bay, amid the Turko-Egyptian fleet. The Allied fleet entered in two lines, one formed by the English and French ships, the other by the Russian ships. The Turko-Egyptian fleet was anchored in a horseshoe formation, and the Allied fleet anchored in the empty area in the centre of this horseshoe. While the fleet was still anchoring, the captain of 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 Turks 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 Turko-Egyptian fleet was either sunk or set on fire by their own crews. On 17 November it was reported that the Turko-Egyptian ships remaining afloat in Navarino Bay were 1 battleship and 4 frigates damaged, and 1 rasee 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 (http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/Naval_History/Vol_VI/P_485.html) 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 26 October. 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 3 November, and the Russians on 8 November. Albion, Asia and Genoa were sent to England for repairs, while the French ships went to Toulon.
An Egyptian corvette left Navarino Bay on 27 October and arrived in Alexandria on 2 November 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 Turks 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, leaving the Turks 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 enemy forces. The last holdout was Morea Castle (http://members.tripod.com/romeartlover/Rio.html), near Patrai, which fell 1 November 1828. After this, Greece (consisting of the Morea and surrounding islands, and mainland Greece south of a line from the Gulf of Arta to the Gulf of Volos) was independent.
Britain (Vice Admiral Sir Edward Codrington)
France (Rear Admiral Henri de Rigny)
Russia (Rear Admiral Count Login Petrovich Geiden)
Captain Bei Squadron (Alexandria): 2 battleships, 5 frigates, 12 corvettes
The line of battle, in order, was:
3 Egyptian fireships*
Ships marked * were Egyptian.
Names of frigates in the above line whose position are not known:
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.
To the curious dilettanti in dates etc, these almost coinciding circumstances may prove interesting:
See also: History of Greece
R. C. Anderson Naval Wars in the Levant 1559-1853 (1952)
Naval Battles in Greece (http://www.thalassa.gr/2002/to/en/i03.asp)
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