1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Navarino, Battle of

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NAVARINO, BATTLE OF, fought on the 20th of October 1827, the decisive event which established the independence of Greece. By the treaty signed in London on the 6th of July 1827 (see Greece, History), England, France and Russia agreed to demand an armistice, as preliminary to a settlement. Sir Edward Codrington, then commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, received the treaty and his instructions on the night of the 10th/11th of August at Smyrna, and proceeded at once to Nauplia to communicate them to the Greeks. His instructions were to demand an armistice, to intercept all supplies coming to the Turkish forces in the Morea from Africa or Turkey in general, and to look for directions to Stratford Canning (Lord Stratford de Redcliffe), the British ambassador at Constantinople. The ambassador’s instructions reached Codrington on the 7th of September. He was accompanied to Nauplia by his French colleague, Rear-Admiral de Rigny. The Greek government agreed to accept the armistice. Admiral de Rigny left for a cruise in the Levant, and Sir Edward Codrington, hearing that an Egyptian armament was on its way from Alexandria, and believing that it was bound for Hydra, steered for that island, which he reached on the 3rd of September, but on the 12th of September found the Egyptians at anchor with a Turkish squadron at Navarino. The Turkish government refused to accept the armistice. On the 19th of September, seeing a movement among the Egyptian and Turkish ships in the bay, Codrington informed the Ottoman admiral, Tahir Pasha, that he had orders to prevent hostile movements against the Greeks. Admiral de Rigny joined him immediately afterwards, and a joint note was sent by them on the 22nd of September to Ibrahim Pasha, who held the superior command for the sultan. On the 25th an interview took place, in which Ibrahim gave a verbal engagement not to act against the Greeks, pending orders from the sultan. The allies, who were in want of stores, now separated, Codrington going to Zante and de Rigny to Cervi, where his store ships were. Frigates were left to watch Navarino. The British admiral had barely anchored at Zante before he was informed that the sultan's forces were putting to sea. On the 29th of September a Greek naval force, commanded by an English Philhellene, Captain Frank Abney Hastings, had destroyed some Turkish vessels in Salona Bay, on the north side of the Gulf of Corinth. From the 3rd to the 5th of October Codrington, who had with him only his flagship the “Asia” (84) and some smaller vessels, was engaged in turning back the Egyptian and Turkish vessels, a task in which he was aided by a violent gale. He resumed his watch off Navarino, and on the 13th was joined by de Rigny and the Russian rear-admiral Heiden with his squadron. By general agreement among the powers the command was entrusted to Codrington, and the allied force consisted of three British, four French and four Russian sail of the line, if the French admiral’s flagship the “Sirène“ (60), which was technically “a double banked frigate,” be included. There were four British, one French and four Russian frigates, and six British and French brigs and schooners. The Egyptians and Turks had only three line of battleships and fifteen large frigates, together with a swarm of small craft which raised their total number to eighty and upwards. Ibrahim Pasha, though unable to operate at sea, considered himself at liberty to carry on the war by land. His men were actively employed in burning the Greek villages, and reducing the inhabitants to slavery. The flames and smoke of the destroyed villages were clearly seen from the allied fleet. On the 17th of October, a joint letter of expostulation was sent in to Ibrahim Pasha, but was returned with the manifestly false answer that he had left Navarino, and that his officers did not know where he was. The admirals, therefore, decided to stand into the bay and anchor among the Egyptian and Turkish ships. A French officer in the Egyptian service, of the name of Letellier, had anchored the vessels of Ibrahim and the Turkish admiral in a horseshoe formation, of which the points touched the entrance to the bay, and there were forts on the lands at both sides of the entry. The allies entered in two lines—one formed of the French and British led by Codrington in the “Asia,” the other of the Russians,—and began to anchor in the free water in the midst of Ibrahim’s fleet. The officer commanding the British frigate “Dartmouth” (42), Captain Fellowes, seeing a Turkish fireship close to windward of him, sent a boat with a demand that she should be removed. The Turks fired, killing Lieutenant G. W. H. Fitzroy, who brought the message, and several of the boat’s crew. The “Dartmouth” then opened “a defensive fire,” and the action became general at once. The allies, who were all closely engaged, were anchored among their enemies, and the result was obtained by their heavier broadsides and their better gunnery. Three-fourths of the Turkish and Egyptian vessels were sunk by the assailants, or fired by their own crews. On the allied side the British squadron lost 75 killed and 197 wounded; the French 43 killed and 183 wounded; the Russians 59 killed and 139 wounded. In the British squadron Captain Walter Bathurst of the “Genoa” (74) was slain. The loss of the Turks and Egyptians was never accurately reported, but it was certainly very great.

In its effects on the international situation Navarino may be reckoned one of the decisive battles of the world. It not only made the efforts of the Turks to suppress the Greek revolt hopeless, but it made a breach difficult to heal in the traditional friendship between Great Britain and Turkey, which had its effect during the critical period of the struggle between Mehemet Ali and the Porte (1831–1841). It precipitated the Russo-Turkish war of 1828–1829, and, by annihilating the Ottoman navy, weakened the resisting power of Turkey to Russia and later to Mehemet Ali.

See Memoir of Admiral Sir E. Codrington, by his daughter Lady Bourchier (London, 1873); Naval History of Great Britain, by W. James and Captain Chamier, vol. vi. (London, 1837).  (D. H.)