Little Bits of History

Georgios Averof

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2015
George Averoff, oil painting by Pavlos Prosalentis

George Averoff, oil painting by Pavlos Prosalentis

March 12, 1910: Georgios Averof is launched. The ship was named for George Averof (1815-1899), a Greek businessman and philanthropist. He was one of the national benefactors of Greece and was noted for founding schools in both Greece and Egypt. The ship named in his honor is known as Θ/Κ Γεώργιος Αβέρωφ in Greek. It was ordered in 1909 and built by Orlando Shipyards in Livorno. She was laid down on February 27, 1910 and commissioned on September 1, 1911. She served as the flagship of the Royal Hellenic Navy for most of the first half of the century. Although called a battleship, she was really an armored cruiser.

Averof was 459.7 feet long and 69 feet at the beam with a 23.6 foot draft. She was propelled by two four-cylinder steam engine and was a twin screw ship with a top speed of 23.5 knots (27 mph) but proved to obtain only 20 knots in operation. The ship was built in Italy and was needed by the Greek Navy to update her rapidly outmoded fleet. The Italian government had also needed ships for her navy, but cancelled the third and when the Greeks learned of the cancelation, they quickly opted to purchase the last of the Pisa-class cruisers. Averof had left 2.5 million Gold francs to the Greek government in his will and this was used to purchase the ship which was then named for him.

The ship had Italian steam engines, French boilers, British artillery, and German generators. The Greeks were so eager to take possession of this marvel, they accepted delivery with a known deficiency in one of her 7.5 inch guns. He first captain was Ioannis Damianos who took command on May 16, 1911 and sailed Averof for Britain in order to participate in the coronation of King George V and to receive her first load of ammunition. The ship ran aground at Spithead on June 19 and the crew nearly mutinied before Captain Pavlos Kountouriotis was sent to take over command and return order to the ship and crew, which he soon did.

The ship was part of the Greek Navy during the Balkan Wars and both World Wars. Averof was decommissioned on August 1, 1952. Today, she is the only ship of this type still in existence. In 1984, the Navy took the old decommissioned ship and towed her to Palaio Faliro, where she was anchored as a floating museum. Free guided tours are provided to visiting schools and on holidays. She is still regarded as being in active service and carries the Rear Admiral’s Rank Flag atop the mainmast. Every Hellenic Navy ship entering or sailing in Falior Bay honors Averof when passing. Their crews are ordered to attention by either a Boatswain’s pipe or a bugle call and every man stands on deck at attention while the officers salute until the order to Continue sends them back to work.

It is due to the well known act of generocity of the great patriot George Averoff that the renovation of the Panathenian stadium is due, a work which gives a national character to the revived Olympic Games. – Charalambos Anninos

Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our vessel, and hangs on every other sail in the horizon. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A ship ought not to be held by one anchor, nor life by a single hope. – Epictetus

No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm. – Charles F. Kettering

Also on this day: Fireside Chats – In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first Fireside Chat.
Cookie Monster – In 1912, the Girl Scouts of America was founded.
Thing Go Better with Coke – In 1894, Coke was invented.
Attempted Murder in Oz – In 1868, an attempt was made on Prince Alfred’s life.
Water, Water Everywhere – In 1928, the St. Francis Dam failed.

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