Battle of Navarino

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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 Ionian Sea. A combined Ottoman and Egyptian armada was destroyed by a combined British, French and Russian naval force. It is notable for being the last major naval battle in history to be fought entirely with sailing ships. The Allied ships were better armed than their Egyptian and Ottoman opponents and their crews were better trained, contributing to a complete victory.

The central factor which precipitated the intervention of the three European great powers in the Greek conflict were Russia's ambitions to expand in the Black Sea region at the expense of the Ottoman empire and her emotional support for the fellow-Orthodox Christian Greeks, who had rebelled against their Ottoman overlords in 1821. As Russia's intentions in the region were seen as a major geostrategic threat by the other powers, British and Austrian diplomacy aimed at preventing Russian intervention in the hope that the Ottoman government would succeed in suppressing the rebellion. But in late 1825, the accession to the Russian throne of Tsar Nicholas I, who adopted a more aggressive Balkan policy, forced Britain to intervene, for fear that an unrestrained Russia would dismantle the Ottoman empire altogether and establish Russian hegemony in the Near East. France joined the other two powers in order to restore her leading role in European affairs after her defeat in the Napoleonic Wars. The governments of all three powers were also under intense pressure from their home public opinion to help the Greeks, especially after the invasion of the Peloponnese in 1825 by Ottoman vassal Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt and the atrocities committed by his forces against the indigenous population.

The Powers agreed, by the Treaty of London (1827), to force the Ottoman government to grant autonomy within the empire to the Greeks and despatched naval squadrons to the eastern Mediterranean Sea to enforce their policy. The naval battle happened more by accident than by design as a result of a manoeuvre by the Allied commander-in-chief Admiral Codrington aimed at coercing Ibrahim to obey Allied instructions. The sinking of the Ottomans' Mediterranean fleet saved the fledgling Greek Republic from collapse. But it required two more military interventions, by Russia in the form of the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-9 and by a French expeditionary force to the Peloponnese to force the withdrawal of Ottoman forces from central and southern Greece and to secure Greek independence.


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