Battle of Navarino
A real naval affair, July's Coins & Medals sale is sure to provide connoisseurs with many fascinating areas of study. With the inclusion of a number of Long Service and Good Conduct Medals from throughout the 19th century, the stand out lot, however, is one of only 1,137 Naval General Service Medals awarded for service at the Battle of Navarino in 1827.
This, the last major British naval battle to be fought entirely with sailing ships, took place halfway through the 11 year Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. On the one side were the British, French and Russian fleets, and on the other was the Ottoman armada, who were ultimately overpowered by the superior firepower and gunnery of the allied forces.
The reason for the Royal Navy's involvement in this foreign campaign was a result of The Treaty of London (1827). The Russians, who shared the same orthodox religious convictions as Greece, were interested in securing Greek autonomy, but also saw the uprising against the Turkish as an opportunity to expand their empire. Nervous of Russia potentially gaining too great a foothold in Europe, the British and French agreed to help secure Greek independence – which would rectify disruption to trade routes in the Mediterranean – with the added motive of ensuring the Ottoman territorial integrity remained intact. The Treaty of London laid out their cooperation but bound Russia to an agreement that they wouldn't use the opportunity to increase their own strength in the region.
Led by Vice Admiral Edward Codrington, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, the British forces were instructed to establish a peaceful end to the Ottoman blockade and only use force as a last resort. However, as a hardened seaman with little time for diplomacy, Codrington was extremely ill-suited to the handling of such a delicate task and the situation quickly spiralled into conflict. The resulting battle ended with 181 killed and 480 wounded from the allies and over 4000 killed and wounded from the Ottoman armada.
This mishandling of the campaign led to Codrington falling from favour in the eyes of the Admiralty and government (perhaps undeservedly considering his years of loyal service) to the point that, despite his overwhelming popularity in the eyes of the British Public, he was relieved of his command the following year.