Greek cruiser Georgios Averof

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Coordinates: 37°56′02″N 23°41′01″E / 37.93389°N 23.68361°E / 37.93389; 23.68361

Averof Today2.jpg
Georgios Averof as a floating museum in Palaio Faliro, Athens
History
Greek
Name:
  • Georgios Averof
  • Θ/Κ Γεώργιος Αβέρωφ
Namesake: George Averoff
Builder: Cantiere navale fratelli Orlando, Livorno
Laid down: 1907
Launched: 12 March 1910
Commissioned: 16 May 1911
Decommissioned: 1 August 1952
Nickname(s):
  • "Uncle George" by Greeks
  • "Seitan papor" by Turks
Status: Museum ship at Palaio Faliro
General characteristics
Class and type: Pisa-class armored cruiser
Displacement:
  • Full load 10,200 tons
  • Standard 9,956 tons
Length: 140.13 m (459.7 ft)
Beam: 21 m (69 ft)
Draft: 7.18 m (23.6 ft)
Propulsion:
  • 22 × Belleville water tube type boilers
  • 2 × four-cylinder compound reciprocating steam engines
  • 2 shafts
  • 19,000 shp (14,000 kW)
Speed:
  • 23.5 knots (43.5 km/h; 27.0 mph) maximum
  • 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) operational
Range: 2,480 nautical miles (4,590 km) at 17.5 knots (32 km/h)
Complement:
  • 670
  • maximum capacity: 1200
Armament:
Armor:
  • Belt: 200 mm (7.9 in) midships, 80 mm (3.15 in) at ends
  • Deck: up to 40 mm (1.6 in)
  • Turrets: 200 mm (7.9 in) at 234mm turrets, 175 mm (6.9 in) at 190mm turrets
  • Barbettes: up to 180 mm (7.1 in)
  • Conning tower: up to 180 mm (7.1 in)

Georgios Averof (Greek: Θ/Κ Γεώργιος Αβέρωφ) is a modified Pisa-class armored cruiser built in Italy for the Royal Hellenic Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. The ship served as the Greek flagship during most of the first half of the century, although popularly known as a battleship (θωρηκτό) in Greek, she is in fact an armored cruiser (θωρακισμένο καταδρομικό),[1] the only ship of this type still in existence.

History[edit]

Construction and arrival in Greece[edit]

Right elevation and plan drawing of Georgios Averof from Brassey's Naval Annual 1915
"Averof" fitting out Summer 1910 Orlando yard Livorno, Italy

At the beginning of the 20th century, Greece decided to reinforce its fleet, whose ships were fast becoming obsolete due to the rapidly advancing naval technology of the era, the navy procured eight destroyers (then a relatively new type of ship) between 1905-1907, but the most important addition was Georgios Averof. The ship, a Pisa-class cruiser like her Italian sisters Amalfi and Pisa, was being built at Orlando Shipyards at Livorno in Italy. When the Italian government cancelled the third ship of the class due to budgetary concerns, the Greek government immediately stepped in and bought her with a one-third downpayment (ca. 300,000 gold pound sterling), paid with the help of a wealthy Greek benefactor, George Averoff, whose name she consequently received.

The ship was fitted with a combination of Italian engines, French boilers, British artillery, and German generators,[2] the most discernible difference between the Averof and her Italian sister ships was the shape of her six gun turrets. The former encased her British-built guns in round pillbox-form housings with convex roof plates, such was the earnestness of the Greek Navy to acquire and put her into service that the Averoff was delivered with a known deficiency in the barrel of one of her 7.5-inch (191 mm) guns (a gouge in the barrel produced by a slipping of the rifling cutting tool), and hastily accepted for service on the opinion of Armstrong Whitworth's chief ordnance engineer (a totally informed opinion, as it turned out), who judged the defect as inconsequential to the weapon's safety and performance.

The ship was launched on 12 March 1910, she would be the last commissioned armored cruiser in the world, a class of warship that had been already rendered obsolete by the battlecruiser. Her first captain was Captain Ioannis Damianos, who took command of her on 16 May 1911. Averof sailed for Britain, in order to participate in the festivities for the coronation of King George V and to receive her first load of ammunition. The stay in Britain was troubled, however, including running aground at Spithead on 19 June, forcing her to be drydocked for repairs, brawls with locals and a near-mutiny resulting from the unfamiliarity of the Greek sailors with blue cheese. It was clear that Captain Damianos was inadequate, so he was replaced by the highly esteemed Captain Pavlos Kountouriotis, who quickly reimposed discipline and set sail for Greece, during the journey, Kountouriotis took care to train the crew, with the notable exception of gunnery practice, since ammunition was limited. Averof finally sailed into Faliro Bay, near Athens, on 1 September 1911. Averof was at the time the most modern and powerful ship in the navies of either the Balkan League or the Ottoman Empire.

Balkan Wars[edit]

With the outbreak of the First Balkan War in October 1912, Kountouriotis was named rear admiral and commander-in-chief of the Hellenic Royal Navy. Averof, under Captain Sofoklis Dousmanis, served as the flagship of the fleet, and she took part in the takeover of the islands of the northern and eastern Aegean. During the naval battles at Elli (3 December 1912) and Lemnos (5 January 1913) against the Ottoman Navy, she almost single-handedly secured victory and the undisputed control of the Aegean Sea for Greece; in both battles, due to her superior speed, armor and armament, she left the battle line and pursued the Turkish Fleet alone. During the Battle of Elli, Kountouriotis, frustrated by the slow speed of the three older Greek battleships, hoisted the Flag Signal for the letter Z which stood for "Independent Action", and sailed forward alone, with a speed of 20 knots (37 km/h) against the Turkish fleet. Averof succeeded in crossing the T of the Turkish fleet and concentrated her fire against the Ottoman flagship, thus forcing the Ottoman fleet to retreat in disorder. Likewise, during the Battle of Lemnos, when the older battleships failed to follow up with Averof, Kountouriotis did not hesitate to pursue independent action.

In each battle the ship suffered only slight damage, while inflicting severe damage to several Turkish ships, these exploits propelled her and her Admiral to legendary status in Greece. After the Battle of Lemnos, the crew of Averof affectionately nicknamed her "Lucky Uncle George", it is a notable fact that, due to the aforementioned delays in the delivery of ammunition, Averof fired her guns for the first time during the Battle of Elli.

Georgios Averof is credited with successfully closing the Aegean Sea to Ottoman transports bringing fresh troops and supplies to the front during the First Balkan War. This success had a concrete impact on the land action where the Ottoman forces suffered decisive defeats, it is hypothesized that in the lack of such decisive control of the sea by the Greek Navy, the Ottoman Empire might have reinforced its forces on the Balkan Peninsula and therefore fared better in the war.[3]

World Wars and aftermath[edit]

Averof off the coast of Canea, Crete, 1919

During World War I, Averof did not see much active service, as Greece was neutral during the first years of the war, and in deep internal turmoil (see National Schism). After the Noemvriana riots of 1916, she was seized by the French, and returned only after Greece's formal entry in the war in June 1917, after the war's end, Averof sailed with other Allied ships to Constantinople, receiving an ecstatic welcome from the city's Greeks. She continued as the flagship of the RHN under Rear Admiral I. Ipitis, participating in landings in Eastern Thrace and bombardments of the Turkish Black Sea shore during the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) and helped in the evacuation of the refugees after the Greek Army's defeat. From 1925 to 1927 she underwent major reconstruction in France, in which she received modern anti-aircraft armament, a new foremast and improved fire control equipment, while the obsolete torpedo tubes were removed.

After Germany's attack against Greece in 1941 and the collapse of the front, the ship's crew disobeyed the orders to scuttle her to avoid capture by the Germans, and sailed to Souda Bay, Crete, under the constant threat of German air strikes (which had sunk many Greek and British warships in the evacuation of Greece). Her commanding officer embarked from a rope ladder when she was already underway.

Australian War Memorial Public Domain Photo #305863, 1941-1942
Averof at Port Said, 23 February 1943

From Souda Bay she sailed to Alexandria, arriving there on 23 April. While too slow to serve with the British Fleet in the Mediterranean, and also lacking sufficient anti-aircraft armament for that theatre of operation, the old armored cruiser was considered quite appropriate for escorting Indian Ocean convoys; in this capacity, she could offer more firepower than a contemporary heavy cruiser (albeit with less gunnery range), and twice their respective armour protection, quite sufficient to deal with the threat posed by German and Japanese raiders operating in the sector. This task also required no more speed than her then greatly reduced maximum of 12 knots. So from late-June 1941 to mid-November 1942, under British control, she was assigned to convoy escort and patrol duties in the Indian Ocean and based at Bombay, after that, she was anchored at Port Said as a guard-ship. Averof was the only WW1-era armored cruiser to serve in her original capacity during WW2 (several old Japanese vessels of the type acted as training ships, or were converted for minelaying). Fortunately, she had been built with British guns. While her 9.2 inch ordinance was no longer in sea service with the Royal Navy, many of these weapons had been moved to coastal batteries, and their shells were readily available. The British 7.5 inch naval gun was still employed on three of the Royal Navy's Hawkins-class heavy cruisers, as well as some shore installations, so its ammunition also remained in production. However, this was not to prove a factor in Averof's WW2 viability, as she was never required to fire her guns in anger.

On 17 October 1944, once again as the flagship of the exiled Hellenic Navy, under the command Captain Theodoros Koundouriotis (the Admiral's son), she carried the Greek government-in-exile back to liberated Athens, she continued as Fleet Headquarters until she was decommissioned in 1952. She remained anchored at Salamis until she was towed to Poros, where she remained from 1956 to 1983.

Averof as a floating museum[edit]

Georgios Averof with gangway in place for visitors in 2013

In 1984 the Navy decided to restore her as a museum ship, and in the same year she was towed to Palaio Faliro, where she is anchored as a functioning floating museum, seeking to promote the historical consolidation and upkeep of the Greek naval tradition. Free guided tours are provided to visiting schools and on holidays, she is berthed at Trocadero quay, next to Faliro Marina and the Resteion swimming pool and park.

The ship is regarded as in active service, carrying the Rear Admiral's rank flag a square blue flag with white cross, like the Greek jack, with two white stars in each of the two squares on the flagstaff side[4][5] atop the mainmast with the masthead pennant (a long triangular blue flag with a white orthogonal Greek cross) displaced downward. Every Hellenic Navy ship entering or sailing in Faliro Bay honours Averof while passing, the crew are ordered to attention (with the "Still to" order) and from the relevant boatswain's pipe (or bugle call) every man on decks stands to attention, officers saluting, looking to the side where Averof is in sight until "Continue" is ordered.[6]

In June 2010 the ship was involved in a scandal after being used as the stage for a lavish wedding party by Greek shipowner Leo Patitsas and TV persona Marietta Chrousala, the publication of photos from the party by the Proto Thema tabloid caused major political uproar, resulting in the dismissal of her commander, Commodore Evangelos Gavalas.[7][8]

On 26 April, 2017, the Averof was towed from her museum dock at Palaio Faliro to the Skaramangas Shipyard, in Elefsis. Two commercial tugs and a pilot craft maneuvered the cruiser under the command of the Commodore Sotirios Charalampopoulos. A Greek Navy tug and a helicopter also assisted the operation, at the shipyard, the Averof underwent two months of maintenance and repairs, partially funded by Greek shipping magnate and philanthropist, Alexandros Goulandris. In May 2017, Goulandris, together with Hydra Ecologists Club, and several retired Hellenic Navy officers, announced their intention to begin a thorough review of the mechanical parts that would need to be newly machined or refurbished, as a first step toward rebuilding the armored cruiser, so that she might eventually sail the Aegean under steam power. If realised, it would make the Averof the oldest operational steel navy warship in the world. Goulandris died on 25 May, 2017, three weeks after the announcement.

Image gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ However she was usually classified as a battlecruiser after the Washington Naval Treaty (1922) because her displacement and main armament slightly exceeded the limits imposed on cruisers.
  2. ^ www.bsaverof.com
  3. ^ Ozturk, Cagri., "For Want of a Horseshoe: Alternate Histories of Turkey That Fared Better in the First Balkan War", paper presented at The Centenary of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913): Contested Stances Conference, 23–24 May 2013, Middle East Technical University, Ankara.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-11-27. Retrieved 2005-08-13. 
  5. ^ http://www.pbase.com/drf/image/22944735
  6. ^ this link Archived 2005-12-20 at the Wayback Machine. is an mp3 sound recording of the order in Greek "Still to port side", the boatswain's pipe call and the order "Continue").
  7. ^ Σάλος για το γαμήλιο πάρτυ Πατίτσα-Χρουσαλά στο θωρηκτό "Αβέρωφ" (in Greek). AlphaTV. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 
  8. ^ Γαμήλιο πάρτι στο θωρηκτό Αβέρωφ! (in Greek). Naftemporiki. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 

External links[edit]