Ten years after the Greek-Turkish War of 1897, the Hellenic Navy had a limited force of antiquated torpedoes and three French warships built in 1889. The urgent need for a reliable fleet resulted in the reinforcement of the fleet – at the end of 1908 – with four new English and four German destroyers. The Battleship “Georgios Averof, “the glory of the Greek Navy, was to be added in the Greek fleet.
In 1908 at the Orlando Shipyards in Livorno, Italy, where at that time a Battleship was being manufactured and was to be used by the Italian Navy. It had preceded the demolition of two other armored cruisers – “Pisa” type. For this reason, the Italians decided to sell it. The Brazilians were first interested, who shortly afterwards canceled the order due to cuts. The government of Mavromichalis then addressed the Orlando Shipyards to buy the ship, but the Ottomans were also interested. The immediate advance of 1/3 of the total value of the ship enabled the acquisition of the battleship from Greece. This amount came from George Averof’s will and amounted to 8,000,000,000 golden drachmas, while the remaining 15,650,000 drachmas were covered by the National Fleet Fund, an amount that was accumulated from fundraisers by Greeks from all over the world. The government spent in total 23,650,000 gold drachmas for the Battleship.
The will stipulated that one-fifth of his property (20 shares) would be allocated for the construction of a powerful cruiser named after him and designed in such a way as to serve as a training ship for the Naval Academy for their practical and theoretical refinement.
The armored cruiser weighed 10,200 tons, it had 19,000 horse power, 22 French boilers, German alternators and English type ARMSTRONG naval artillery of 190 and 234 millimeters. The maximum speed of the battleship was 23 knots. The ship constructed on March 12 1910, and after a year’s trials it was received on May 16, 1911. Then it sailed under Captain I. Damianos for England to take part in King George E’s coronation feasts at Spithead and supply ammunition. During this event, on June 19, the Battleship straddled a reef and had to be tanked. Then the commander was replaced by Captain Pavlos Kountouriotis, who succeeded in restoring order and maximizing ship efficiency. On August 20, it sailed from England and on September 1, 1911 sailed to Faliro Bay where it was welcomed by the Greeks with enthusiasm. There, in a moment, due to the enthusiasm of the attendees, it was renamed from cruiser, to battleship.
In October 1912, in the beginning of the First Balkan War, “G. Averof”, flagship of the Aegean Fleet under Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis, sailed to the Dardanelia. It occupied Limnos and the advanced dock fleet settled in the bay of Moudros. This was followed by the occupation of Mount Athos, the islands of the north and east Aegean (Thassos, Samothrace, Imbros, Tenedos, Agios Efstratios, Mytilene, Chios). The conflict with the Turkish fleet was now inevitable. Admiral Koundouriotis gave aggressive character to the Greek plan. He ordered his fleet to start sailing from north to south, so the Ottoman fleet appeared at the exit of the Straits. When the Ottoman fleet showed up in the exit of the Straits, early in the morning of 3rd of December 1912, Kountouriotis sent his famous signal to the Greek ships that sailed with “G. Averof “:” By the power of God and the wishes of our King, and in the name of Law, I sail with full force and with the conviction of victory over the enemy. ” The outcome of the Naval Battle of Elli (3 December 1912) and Lemnos (5 January 1913) crushed the expectations of the Sultan for the control of the Aegean. The Ottoman fleet would no longer attempt a new naval mission in the Aegean.
The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 are undoubtedly the most glorious war period of the “G. Averof. ” With the start of hostilities in October 1912, the Greek fleet was called upon to achieve a particularly difficult combination of multiple objectives: to block the departure of the Ottoman fleet to the Aegean, to take possession of the islands of the northeast Aegean, to block the transport and supplies to the continental fronts of the Balkans, as well as to protect the corresponding maritime transport of Greece and its allies. The successful outcome of the Hellenic Plans was the result of three main factors: the increased operational capabilities of the newly built battleship, the undisputed leadership and courage of Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis, as well as the highly respected Greek ethic. The successful occupation of the islands of the northeast Aegean and the acquisition of Greek weapons in the Elli and Limnos battles resulted in the “G. Averof ‘to become a symbol of popular memory: a myth had already been born.
For most of World War I, Greece remained neutral. However, in 1917 the government of E. Venizelos decided to join the war on the side of the Allies. With the end of the world conflict – October 1918 – Turkey capitulated (truce of Moudros) and Greece found itself on the side of the winners. “G. Averof” sailed to Constantinople and there he raised the Greek flag as one of the victorious forces of the Great War. In conclusion, the complete control of the Mediterranean by the Allied navy and the success of the Allied naval strategy, which aimed at the exclusion of Central Powers of Adriatic and Turkish fleet from Bosporus, was largely based on exactly what the blows had been. Greek fleet and the “G. Averof “in Constantinople and the raising of the Greek flag, right across from Hagia Sophia, justified the courage and self-denial of the Greek war fleet in the struggle for national integration, a symbol of nautical courage and heroism, stimulated the collective imagination and visions of Hellenism.
After the peace treaty was signed “G. Averof ‘along with the rest of the fleet transported the Greek troops to Ionia. Business developments in Asia Minor quickly erased the negative course that led to the disaster of 1922. “G. Averof” was again found on the Asia Minor coast, this time to help transport troops and the uprooted Greek element.
With the start of World War II the battleship “G. Averof” was again commanded as the flagship of the Greek fleet. However, following the collapse of the front in April 1941, the Ministry of the Navy ordered the self-immersion of the battleship in order not to fall into the hands of the enemy. At the heart and mind of the Greek crews, the departure of the remaining fleets to Alexandria was inconceivable without the safe companionship of “Lucky Uncle George”, the heroic battleship “G. Averof, “as it was used to be called. So, after the warship sailed to Alexandria, the ship headed for Bombay for general repair and inspection. Originally the “G. Averof” was active in the Indian Ocean, with the mission of protecting convoys, headed from Bombay to Aden. At the end of 1942 “G. Averof” sailed to Port Side, where he participated in port protection missions. With the withdrawal of German occupation troops at the end of September 1944 and after almost four years of absence, the glorious “G. Averof” returned to Greece on the afternoon of October 16, 1944, transporting the then exiled Greek government and anchoring solemnly in the Faliros bay. Between 1947 and 1949 the Battalion became a Fleet Headquarters in Keratsini. However, the ship was ‘aging’ and in 1952 its decommissioning was ordered.
From 1957 to 1983, the battleship was anchored in Poros. In 1984, the Navy decided to restore it. After thirty years of abandonment, the Battleship started its new course. That same year, the ship was towed by Poros and ended up in Faliro, where restoration work began. The amount of expenditure on stabilization – rehabilitation since 1985 is large and much of the spending came from donations from individuals, the most significant of which were the Republic of Cyprus, the Latsi family and the Onassis Foundation. Today the ship-museum “G. Averof” is a monument commemorating those who served and fell during his glorious history. It also keeps alive intangible human resources, such as the heritage of the seas, the importance of maritime transport and the attractiveness of the maritime profession, where dignity, morals and democratic perception are common places for all seafarers. The Naval Warship Museum “G. Averof” has been a vibrant educational community for years, with daily visits to schools, institutions, organizations, and a host of individuals. These visits also accomplish the second aspect of the donor’s vision, who wanted the ship, along with its national purpose, to fulfil an educational mission.
It is questionable if in the world history of the Navy we could meet another military ship that has been linked for almost half a century to the history and casualties of a national. The Battleship “G. Averof”, perhaps the only exception, along with the personality and patriotic ethos of Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis, strongly associated his name with the shaping of historical events of national scope without ever knowing the loss and imitation.
Even after the peaceful epilogue of his military action after World War II, the soul of “Lucky Uncle George” was still alive, ready for the last fight. The mercy proclaimed by the Navy to contribute to the restoration of the ship had excellent results, demonstrating the strong symbolism that the showcase had established for decades in the collective consciousness of the Greeks. As a “ship in action”, the “G. Averof” stands today as a bold, bright symbol of Greek nautical and militant heroism. In his last battle, that of historical memory,” G. Averof” once again emerged victorious.
Ship’s length: 140 m
Ship’s max width: 21,5 m
Ships’ draft: 7,5 m
Weight: 10.200 tons
Diameter of barrel of bow and stern turrets (2 Twin Towers): 234 mm
Diameter of barrel of side turrets (4 Twin Towers): 190 mm
Max crew: 1200
Pavlos Kountouriotis’ Bio
Pavlos Kountouriotis (9 April 1855 – 22 August 1935) was an admiral of the Royal Navy and commander of the Aegean Fleet during the Balkan Wars. He participated in the government of Thessaloniki as a member of the Triandria and was twice President of the Republic.
He was born in Hydra and was the son of Theodoros Kountouriotis, consul and parliament member, and Loukia Negropontis. On his father’s side he came from the Kountouriotis maritime family and was the grandson of George Kountouriotis, the owner and president of the first provisional government of revolutionary Greece, as well as his brother banker and politician Ioannis Kountouriotis, while from his mother’s side he came from the chian family Negrepontis and was the great-grandson of Constantine Hatzeris, ruler of Wallachia.
Following the family’s naval tradition in 1874, at the age of 19, he joined the Royal Navy. In 1886 as Sub Lieutenant and cannon commander was distinguished in the bombing of the Preveza fortress, where he escaped under the bow of Turkish ships with minimal damage and loss. In Crete during the Greek-Turkish War of 1897 with the rank of Commander, as the captain of the steamship “Alfios” he landed the expeditionary body of Colonel Timoleon Vassou at Kolymbari of Chania and at Skala Leptokarias in 1897. Captain Kountouriotis then made his first overseas trip to the US. In 1908 he became an advocate of King George I and was promoted to captain the following year.
In June 1911 he assumed the position of Commander in the newly built Battleship “G. Averof “with the rank of Captain. With the outbreak of the Balkan Wars he was promoted to Admiral. He then becomes head of the Aegean fleet and takes action. It occupies Limnos, Thassos, Imbros, Tenedos, Psara, Agios Efstratios and Samothraki in the following days. It manages to liberate almost all the Aegean islands, including Chios. With the Battleship “Averof” the head of the Greek Fleet, he participates in two naval battles, the Elli (December 3, 1912) and the Limnos (January 5, 1913), during which he overwhelms the Turkish Fleet and gains full control of the Aegean.
At the end of the Balkan Wars, he was promoted to Vice Admiral due to his excellent service. He is the first Greek after Constantine Kanaris to receive this rank. Subsequently, on October 25, 1915, he retired and then took over the Ministry of the Navy. Disagreeing with the neutrality policy of Greece in World War I, in September 1916 he joined the National Defense Movement and moved to Thessaloniki, where he participated as a member of the Revolutionary Government’s Triandria along with General Douglas and Eleutherios Venizelos. In June 1917, after the expulsion of King Constantine, Greece is reunited and Koundouriotis returns to Athens, where he once again assumes the Ministry of Navy portfolio, actively working to reconstitute the Greek fleet. At the end of 1919 he resigned from the Ministry of the Navy and demobilized, receiving the rank of Admiral Hon.
After the sudden death of King Alexander on October 12, 1920, he is called upon to assume the duties of Regent until November 1920 and to hold elections, which E. Venizelos had already proclaimed. Also, after the end of the Asia Minor Campaign and the ensuing catastrophe in August 1922 and after the expulsion of King George II from the country, in December 1923 Admiral Koundouriotis was again required to assume the role of Regent until March 19. Then, with the leverage of A. Papanastasiou, the Republic of Greece is proclaimed. The National Assembly instructs Kountouriotis to temporarily hold its High Office, the Presidency. As a person of great prestige and widespread acceptance, he was essentially re-named the first President of the Hellenic Republic. In June 1925 General Theodoros Pagkalos overthrew the Michalakopoulou’s government and in January 1926 overthrew the Hellenic Parliament, establishing a dictatorship. Kountouriotis, in protest, resigns from his post and leaves for Hydra. In May 1929 he was re-elected by the Hellenic Parliament and Senate to the post of Regular President of the Hellenic Republic, a position he resigned permanently this time for health reasons in December of that year.
He was twice married: In 1889 in London with Angeliki Petrokoukini (1865-1903), who died of natural causes and in Athens in 1918 with Eleni Kouppa (1876-1957). He had three children with his first wife, two girls and a boy. His son, Theodoros Kountouriotis, enlisted in the Navy, served as commander of the “G. Averoff »during the Fleet’s return to Greece after the Occupation. Paul’s grandson, Theodore’s son, also made a career in the Navy.
He died on August 22, 1935 in Paleo Faliro and, even with his death, taught modesty to the nation. In particular, he had in his covenant sought to avoid any futile procession during his church ceremony and burial, for which he had wished to be done at his family tomb in Hydra. He demanded that the ceremony be held in the small church of his family and that be performed by a single modest priest. It is worth noting that his casket was guarded by four petty officers headed by an officer. In his covenant, expressing his love for his family and preserving his ancestral tradition, his thought turns to the whole Homeland, to which he devotes his last words: “All my affection belongs to Hydra, all my soul wishes God keeps Greece safe.”