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Thursday, October 20, 2005

The last all sail sea battle 20 Oct 1827

The Battle of Navarino, reported here, was "the decisive event which established the independence of Greece." It was also the last sea battle involving all sail ships and was fought on the 20th of October 1827. More info here.
On the 20 October 1827 the allies, realising that it was impossible to undertake a blockade of Navarino, sailed into the bay to prevent the Turco-Egyptian fleet from leaving. Aware of the well-armed forts and batteries guarding the entrance, they took up position within the enemy crescent formation, almost alongside the opposing vessels. Codrington’s combined fleet consisted of 12 ships of the line, eight frigates and six other vessels, while the forces of Ibrahim Pasha numbered seven ships of the line, 15 frigates, 26 corvettes and 17 other vessels, including transports. Although outnumbered, the allied force enjoyed superior firepower to its opponents. A period of tense negotiation followed, but in a volatile and intimidating situation, conflict was practically inevitable.

While employed in approaching and moving an enemy fireship, a small boat from HMS Dartmouth came under Turkish musket attack, inflicting several casualties. The British frigate returned fire, and within a short time a full-scale battle developed. The engagement ended as a victory for the allied forces, after about four hours of heavy fighting. The Turco-Egyptian fleet suffered heavy losses, with one ship of the line, 12 frigates and 22 corvettes sunk, and about 4000 men killed of wounded. The allies suffered no ship losses, although many of their vessels were badly damaged and around 650 men were killed or wounded.

While the defeat of the Turco-Egyptian fleet was generally received with enthusiasm across Europe, Codrington was recalled to London to account for his obviously provocative action and decision to engage the enemy. He was, however, cleared of charges of disobeying orders and was awarded the GCB soon afterwards.

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