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Our Committee is raising funds to create a lasting legacy telling the story of Lemnos' link to Gallipoli and Australia's Anzac story. Our projects include the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park, the publication of a major new historical and pictorial publication and more. To make a donation you can also deposit directly by direct debit into the Committee's bank account: Account Name: Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc; Bank: Delphi Bank; Account No: 204299-020 BSB No: 941300; Include your surname in the reference section. For further information on our legacy projects or to make a donation please contact either Lee Tarlamis 0411553009 or Jim Claven 0409402388M

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

When Russia's Fleet sailed into Mudros Bay - Pages from Lemnos' history

The destruction of the Ottoman Fleet in the Bay of Chesme 1771 by Jacob Phillip Hackert. State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Lemnos has played a part in the rich history of the northern Aegean - in ancient mythology, the era of Classical Greece to modern times.One of the little known aspects of Lemnos' history is its role in the late 18th century in the war between Catherine the Great's Russia and the Ottoman Empire. This was would see Lemnos' great bay of Mudros play home to a great fleet, Russian troops landed at Myrina and a British Admiral and other British officers command ships sailing the waters between Lemnos, Imbros, Tenedos and the Dardanelles - as they would again in 1915.
Memorials stand on Lemnos to this period in its history. This story explains the background to these memorials.
The Russo-Turkish War
This naval war raged from 1769 until 1774, with the most decisive battles taking place in 1770-71. Catherine the Great's fleet sailed from the Baltic and across the Mediterranean to engage the Ottoman fleets across the Aegean.
Admiral Count Orlov. Wikipedia
The overall Russian commander was Admiral Count Alexie Grigoryevich Orlov. Other commanders included various British naval officers enlisted into the Russian service. One of these was Rear-Admiral John Elphinston, a Captain in the British Royal Navy
Rear-Admiral John Elphinstone.
In the course of the war, the Russian fleet engaged with Turkish forces across the Aegean - Evia, Skiathos, Mykonos, Santorine, Patmos, Naxos, Milos, Rhodes, Cos, Chios, Lesvos, Samos, Thasos, Imbros, Tenedos and Lemnos - all were visited by the Russian Fleet and became involved in the war. Engagements also occurred around the Peloponnese and as far as Egypt and Cyprus.
The Russian Fleet not only engaged the Ottoman Fleet but also landed on various Aegean Islands, besieged Ottoman fortresses and were supported in the various harbours of the region.
Battle of Chesme
The most famous engagement was the Battle of Chesme, fought in the great bay north of Chesme and subsequentl in the port of Chesme itself. After the initial engagement in the bay during the 5th July 1770, the Russians pursusd the retreating Ottoman fleet to the port, sending in a small fleet including fire and bomb ships in the morning of the 6th July to wreak havoc amongst the Ottoman Fleet. This force of 4 battleships, 2 frigates a bomb-vessel and a number of fire ships was commanded by the Flag Captain Samuel Grieg, a Scottish naval officer. Other officers in this force were a Lieutenant Dugdale and Sub-Lieutenant Prince Gargarin. 11 Ottoman battleships were destroyed and one captured. Later in the war, Grieg, now a Rear-Admiral, would return to Chesme on 9th November 1772 land troops and take control briefly of Chesme port.
After this victory, the Russian Fleet had command of the Aegean and proceeded to blockade the Dardanelles straits - that force under the command of the British Rear Admiral John Elphinston. During this time Russian battleships sailed the waters between Imbros and Gallipoli, with some sheltering in the harbours of Imbros and Tenedos.
Battle of Chios Chesma by Ivan Aivazovsky 1848. Wikipedia.
Gravour showing the first day of the Battle of Chesma. Wikipedia.

The Russians at Lemnos 1770-1771
Towards the end of July the Russian Fleet arrived at Lemnos - no doubt appreciating the advantage of its large bay at Mudros. On the 26th July 1770, Admiral Count Alexie Grigoryevich Orlov sailed into Mudros Bay. He then joined the rest of the Russian Fleet (with the exception of Elphinston's ships blockading the Dardanelles) on the other side of the Island at what was then called Pelari (most probably Kastro, now Myrina), bombarded the Turkish forces there and  landed 1,300 men and began to besiege Kastro on 3rd September. Although the Ottoman commander agreed surrender on 5th October, the arrival of 21 Ottoman ships and the landing of fresh troops on Lemnos, resulted in Admiral Orlov lifting the siege and sailing for Paros on 7th October.
Prior to this, on the 16th September 1770,  Rear-Admiral Elphinston sailed from Imbros to Lemnos and ran aground to the north-east of Lemnos.
Russian warships returned to Lemnos (and Tenedos and Lesvos) under Admiral Elphinston in early December 1770. In the following year, Russian warships returned to Lemnos - on 13th April and 10th June 1771.
Memorials to Admiral Orlov's Fleet and its arrival on Lemnos have been erected at both Myrina and Moudros on Lemnos.
1770 and 1807 Russian Memorial, Roman Shore, Myrina, Lemnos. Photo Jim Claven 2013
1770 and 1807 Russian Memorial, Roman Shore, Myrina, Lemnos. Photo Jim Claven 2013

1770 and 1807 Russian  Memorial, Roman Shore, Myrina, Lemnos. Photo Jim Claven 2013
 
1770 Memorial, Agios Evangelismos, Mudros, Lemnos. Photo Jim Claven 2013
1770 Memorial, Agios Evangelismos, Mudros, Lemnos. Photo Jim Claven 2013


Greek Revolt
The fleet reached Mani in February 1770, prompting the Maniots to raise their war flags. Russian soldiers remained to help fight in the ground war, while the fleet sailed on to the Aegean Sea. The Greek army was initially successful, quickly liberating large portions of Morea. The revolt however failed to effectively spread in the rest of Greece—with the notable exception of Crete, under the leadership of Ioannis Vlahos (known as Daskalogiannis). However, the support promised by the Russian emissaries never arrived at Crete and Daskalogiannis was left to his own devices. However as the Russians failed to bring forces to the Peloponnese, the revolt was soon crushed. The failed revolt resulted in the death of the noted preacher and monk (later canonized) Cosmas of Aetolia, who was arrested and executed in 1779 on suspicion of being a Russian agent.
1807 - The Russians and British Return to Lemnos
This Russo-Turkish war broke out in 1805–1806 and raged until 1812 across land and sea
In 1806, Sultan Selim III, encouraged by the Russian defeat by the French at Austerlitz, deposed the pro-Russian Constantine Ypsilanti as Hospodar of the Principality of Wallachia and Alexander Mourousis as Hospodar of Moldavia, both Ottoman vassal states. Simultaneously, the French Empire occupied Dalmatia and threatened to penetrate the Danubian principalities at any time. In order to safeguard the Russian border against a possible French attack, a 40,000-strong Russian contingent advanced into Moldavia and Wallachia. The Sultan reacted by blocking the Dardanelles to Russian ships and declared war on Russia.
In 1807, the Russian Fleet, allied to the British, sailed into the Aegean to engage with the Ottoman Empire. They would sail to and land on many of the Islands of the Aegean, aided by Greek sailors and ships, including Imbros, Tenedos and Lemnos.
On June 5th the British Captain Commodare A Grieg commanded four Russian battleships as they sailed to Lemnos from the Dardanelles. On the 15th June 1807 Grieg landed a force of 800 men on Lemnos. Following a Russian naval diversion off the north of Lemnos, Grieg's force was ordered to re-embark on the 18th June and to sail for Tenedos.
In the meantime, the Russian Imperial Navy under Dmitry Senyavin blockaded the Dardanelles and defeated the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of the Dardanelles, after which Selim III was deposed. The Ottoman fleet was destroyed the following month in the Battle of Athos, thus establishing Russian supremacy on sea for the duration of the war.
Russian Fleet after the Battle of Athos by Alexey Bogolyubov. Wikipedia.

See the Battle of Chesme Painting in Melbourne
The original painting - The destruction of the Ottoman Fleet in the Bay of Chesme - reproduced at the top of this page - can be seen at the National Gallery of Victoria as part of its current new exhibition - Masterpeices from the Hermitage: the Legacy of Catherine the Great. The exhibition concludes on 7th November 2015. for information on the exhibition click here.

Information sourced from RC Anderson, Naval Wars in the Levant 1559-1853, University of Liverpool Press, 1952 and wikipedia.

Jim Claven
Secretary
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

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