Battle of Navarino - 1827.

Unhappy Greece had long groaned under the tyranny of the Turkish yoke, her efforts to throw it off having proved unavailing, and been crushed by the most barbarous cruelty; when at length, in 1827, England, France, and Russia combined to emancipate her, the latter influenced by other motives than those of humanity. Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Codrington was appointed to the command of the British squadron in the Mediterranean, and he was directed to mediate between the contending parties. As he was about to leave England, he received, as it was said, a hint from the Lord High Admiral how he was to conduct his negotiations, with the memorable words, “Go it, Ned!” The French and Russian squadrons, which afterwards joined him, were placed under his command. Sir Edward, on inquiring from Sir Stratford Canning how he was to act, received the following reply: “You are not to take part with either of the belligerents, but you are to interpose your forces between them, and to keep the peace with your speaking-trumpet if possible; but in case of necessity, with that which is used for the maintenance of a blockade against friends as well as foes—I mean force;” and he further added, “When all other means are exhausted, by cannon-shot.”

The harbour of Navarino is in the form of a horse-shoe, about six miles in circumference, with an island stretching across it, the only passage into it being about six hundred yards wide. The Turco-Egyptian army was encamped on the mainland, close to the fortress of Navarino, while on the opposite side was a strong fort, mounting 125 guns. Within this bay the Turkish and Egyptian fleets, consisting of 3 ships of the line, 4 double frigates, and 13 frigates, and a large number of corvettes, brigs, and other small craft, besides a number of transports, were at anchor, drawn up in the form of a crescent. Sir Edward Codrington’s flag was on board the Asia, of 80 guns. He had with him the Genoa and Albion, seventy-fours, the Glasgow, 50, the Cambrian, 48, the Dartmouth, 46, and the Talbot, 28 guns, besides a corvette, 4 brigs, and the Hind cutter, tender to theAsia. The French had 4 line-of-battle ships, a frigate, and 2 corvettes, and the Russians about the same number. The allied fleet was therefore superior to that of the Turks, except in point of numbers. The combined fleet being formed in two columns, the British and French in the weather or starboard line, and the Russians in the lee line, entered the harbour. The Asia led, followed by the Genoa and Albion, and anchored close alongside a ship of the line, bearing the flag of the Capitan Bey, another ship of the line, and a large double-banked frigate, each thus having their opponent in the front line of the Turkish fleet. The French squadron was directed to attack the Turks to leeward, and the Russian to fill up the interval, while the English brigs were to look after six fire-vessels at the entrance of the harbour. Positive orders were given that not a shot should be fired unless the Turks set the example. The first three English ships were permitted to pass the batteries, and to moor without any act of hostility taking place. A boat, however, was sent shortly afterwards from the Dartmouth to request the Turkish fire-vessels to move farther out of the way, when Lieutenant Fitzroy and several of her crew were shot at and killed. On this the Dartmouth and the French admiral’s ship opened a fire of musketry on the Turkish vessel, when one of the Egyptian ships fired a cannon-shot, which was immediately answered by theDartmouth’s broadside. The ships opposed to the Asia, however, did not for some time fire, and Sir Edward sent a pilot on board the Egyptian admiral’s ship to express his desire of avoiding bloodshed, when, as he was alongside, he was killed by some of the Egyptian crew, and soon afterwards his ship fired into the Asia. The action now became general. The Turks fought with the greatest bravery, but their ships, one after the other, were quickly destroyed, several blowing up. Two of the fire-ships were soon in flames, a third blew up, and a fourth was sunk by thePhilomel. A gallant officer, Lieutenant Maine Lyons, a brother of Sir Edmund Lyons, afterwards Lord Lyons, belonging to the Rose corvette, was mortally wounded while endeavouring to tow a fire-ship in flames clear of the French Armide. Commodore Bathurst of the Genoa was also mortally wounded, after having previously been severely hurt by a splinter soon after the commencement of the action. One of the Turkish ships fell foul of the Albion, when the crew of the former attempted to board, but being repulsed, the Turk was boarded instead by Lieutenant John Drake, who compelled her crew to cry for quarter. Unhappily, before he could rescue some Greek prisoners in her hold, she burst into flames, when he was compelled to retire, and her cables being cut by one of the Albion’s midshipmen, she drifted clear of that ship and soon afterwards blew up. Among the many acts of gallantry was one performed by Lieutenant Robb, in command of the Hind cutter. She had arrived after the commencement of the action, when entering the bay she took up a raking position at about the distance of forty yards across the stern of a large frigate, and opened a rapid fire. After remaining here for three-quarters of an hour, and receiving the fire of various smaller vessels, her cable was cut by a shot, and she drifted between a large corvette and a brig, which she engaged till the brig blew up. Her last cable being cut, she drifted into the hottest part of the action, till her main-boom ran into one of the main-deck ports of a Turkish frigate, the crew of which made several attempts to board her, but were repulsed by Lieutenant Robb and his crew. The Turks after some time sent a large strongly-manned boat to attack the cutter. Just as the boat got alongside the Hind two carronades, charged with grape and canister, fired into her by the latter, knocked her to pieces. The cutter after this fortunately drifting clear of the frigate, escaped the destruction which might have been her fate. Besides receiving numerous round-shot in her hull, she lost a master’s mate and 3 men killed, and a midshipman and 9 men wounded. Every ship in the squadron behaved well, and was ably supported by the Russians and French. A small number only of the Turco-Egyptian fleet escaped destruction, though it was larger than Sir Edward Codrington had at first supposed. The very doubtful advantage gained by the action was purchased at the heavy loss of 75 killed, including several valuable officers, and 195 wounded, while the French and Russians together lost still more. The usual rewards were bestowed on the victors; though a new ministry coming in, the action was spoken of in the royal speech as “that untoward event.” However, its ultimate result undoubtedly was the liberation of Greece from the Turkish yoke. Another result was the suppression of the office of Lord High Admiral by the Duke of Wellington, who, on becoming Prime Minister, requested the Duke of Clarence to resign, finding that his royal highness, having a will of his own, was not sufficiently subservient to the government. To the credit of our sailor-king, he never exhibited the least ill-feeling in consequence towards the duke for this apparent slight.