Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011
When was the last major battle of sailing warships?
On Oct. 20, 1827, British, French, and Russian naval forces defeat a fleet of Ottoman ships in the Battle of Navarino. The Europeans engage in the battle to aid Greece, which is fighting for independence from nearly 400 years of Ottoman rule. After six years of fighting the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829), the Greeks are nearing defeat. With assistance from Egypt’s Western-trained army, the Ottomans are wearing down the Greeks. Egypt’s forces also begin a program of ethnic cleansing inside Greece.
Public concern in Europe for the plight of the Greeks spurs Britain and France to action. Russia, seeing itself as protector of Orthodox Christians, also comes to Greece’s aid.
Prior to the Battle of Navarino, a British naval commander, Cmdr Codrington, meets with the Ottomans who promise the attacks on Greece will end. When the attacks do not end and attempts to contact the Ottoman naval commander fail, the allied forces approach the Ottoman forces at Navarino Bay. On Oct. 20, the fleets engaged and battle each other for four hours. Over three-quarters of the Ottoman fleet is sunk. The allies’ ships are damaged, but all remain afloat. The allies lose 181 men, and the Ottomans lose 3,000. The battle turned the tide, cutting off the supply line for Ottoman forces stationed in Greece. In 1829 Greece was granted independence.
Once again at the brink and nearing default on its debt, Greece is again in desperate need of assistance from its European neighbors.
On Wednesday, as Parliament prepared to pass a new austerity bill, which will allow the country to continue receiving EU aid and avoid default, tens of thousands protested. The new bill includes layoffs of public workers and will also change labor laws to make hiring and firing easier.
European Union leaders will meet Sunday to discuss the next installment of $11 billion in aid, as part of the $150 billion bailout hammered out last year. Terribly unpopular in Greece, the austerity measures have lost the Greek government much of its popular support, but desperate for the bailout, the Greek government is left with little recourse.