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Κυριακή, 20 Νοεμβρίου 2016

In Memoriam British Ambassador on the 187th anniversary of Navarino Battle in Greece

John Kittmer
Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic
8th November 2014 Athens, Greece

In Memoriam

I attend a lot of commemorative events. Greeks and Britons share much history, and we value its importance, feeling its presence at least dimly in our lives. We commemorate key moments of our history, because we are aware that the freedoms we enjoy were built on the endeavours of those who were here before us. We know that we stand – as the saying goes – on the shoulders of giants.
In October, I attended the annual commemoration at Pylos for the decisive Battle of Navarino, which took place on 20 October 1827, in the seventh year of the Greek War of Independence. On that day, a combined British, French and Russian fleet destroyed a much larger Turko-Egyptian armada, ending the menace of Ottoman sea power and enabling the land war in Greece to be won a few months later. Over 6000 Ottoman sailors died under sustained bombardment from ten ships of the line. The allied dead amounted to 174 sailors: brave men, who died for the freedom of Greece. (You can find my speech here.)
And this week, we are commemorating those who fell in the First and Second World Wars, and subsequent global conflicts. At Alimos tomorrow, alongside the Greek Minister of National Defence, the Chief of the Hellenic General Staff, and diplomatic representatives from allies and former foes alike, I shall lay a commemorative wreath of poppies.
This year’s acts of remembrance are more than usually significant. We are commemorating both the centenary of the start of the Great War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which marked the start of the end of the Second World War. And here in Greece, of course, we have just passed the 70th anniversary of the end of the Nazi Occupation.
Although remembrance continues from year to year, enthusiasm for commemoration tends to rise and fall, like the economic cycle. When I was a boy, Armistice Day was no longer marked on 11 November and had become an act of church remembrance on the closest Sunday. I was a chorister and altar-boy, and so remember the careful preparations: the polishing of shoes, the washing and ironing of surplice and ruff, rehearsals. In the village where I grew up, the main act of remembrance took place around the war memorial. Remembrance Sunday was something very personal to our grandparents, and it brought us children closer to two generations of veterans. The dignity and sorrow of the old men and women, and the poignantly long inscription of village names from the Great War made a great impression on me.
In recent years, remembrance has recaptured the British public imagination more broadly. As the generations of veterans from the world wars pass away, we have needed definitively to mark the sacrifices of those by whose efforts our freedoms were won. In London, Her Majesty the Queen unveiled national memorials to the women of World War II and to Bomber Command.
Resurgent popular sentiment is not simply retrospective; it reflects also the continuing pain and cost of warfare and military engagement, as the current generation faces down the international threats that menace us. Since 2007, the national Armed Forces Memorial has memorialised all those killed on duty or through terrorist action since the Second World War. This year’s extraordinary sea of popies at the Tower of London testifies to the power of art to help us remember, and to understand something of the enormity and cost of industrialised warfare.
Of course, commemoration alone is not enough. As direct experience of the wars of the twentieth century fades into history, we need to educate new generations in what happened, and we need to preserve and strengthen reconciliation and peace between nations. In this, a true appreciation of the role that our servicemen and servicewomen continue to play in the maintenance and preservation of our freedoms and the balance of international order is essential.
This is very much my aim here in this Embassy.
We are, therefore, starting to think about how best to educate a generation of Britons and Greeks who may know nothing about the Macedonian Front here in Greece in the Great War. We aim to start our activities from next year onwards. Please follow our website as we publicise our plans.
At Alimos tomorrow, in the spirit of reconciliation, we shall remember our war dead in the presence not only of our then allies but also of our former foes.
Yesterday, I was pleased to pass to Prime Minister Samaras an authentic legal copy of the NATO Declaration on the Armed Forces, which was signed by all NATO Heads at the Wales Summit in September. This important text affirms our support to our servicemen and women, and their families, during and after their service, now and in the future. It is a proper tribute to lives of duty and sacrifice. (You can find a copy of the text here.)
The closing lines of Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen” are not the most well known from that poem, but they capture very clearly the active role – the ‘profound’ role – we must play in commemorating them. As I prepare for tomorrow’s remembrance, they are resonating in my mind. I hope they mean something to you too.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

News article

British Ambassador on the 187th anniversary of Navarino Battle in Greece

This world location news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Ambassador John Kittmer was in Navarino on Monday 20 October to participate in the commemoration of the 187th anniversary of the Navarino Battle.

The naval battle of Navarino, on the west coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, was fought on 20 October 1827. An Ottoman armada of Turkish, Egyptian and Tunisian forces, was destroyed by an Allied force of British, French and Russian vessels.
In his speech Ambassador Kittmer highlighted the courage and sacrifice of the great men who fought at Navarino inspired by the liberal ideals of the Greek Revolution. He also underlined the strong ties between the two people who share a deep culture, history and an abiding passion for freedom and democracy and stressed the importance of standing together now and in the years ahead.
In his speech the Ambassador said:
One hundred and eighty-seven years ago today, after many breaches of faith by Ibrahim Pasha, Sir Edward Codrington, commanding his flagship Asia, led 11 British ships, 7 French ships and 8 Russian ships into Navarino Bay. Their fleet was outnumbered by the Turkish, Egyptian and Tunisian forces at anchor in the bay. Admirals Codrington, De Rigny and Heiden were determined to halt Ibrahim’s devastation of the Peloponnese and prevent his fleet from attacking Greek naval forces at Hydra and Spetses. They wanted to dictate his return to Egypt. We here all know what happened that day. For me, therefore, it is a great privilege to be talking to you today. I was sixteen when I first came here, over 30 years ago. My schoolmaster, a man of deep learning and profound love for Greece, took my fellow pupils and me on to the waters of the bay, to visit the memorials to the British, Russian and French fleets, and to teach us about the basis of modern Greece. My teacher was proud of the role that Britain had played in liberating Greece. He taught us the great names: Lord Byron, Captain Hastings, in his small steamship, the Karteria, Sir Richard Church, Admiral Codrington.
These great men were inspired by the liberal ideals of the Greek Revolution. They wanted Greeks to be free. They demanded and fought for the ideal of the freedom of Greece. My teacher wanted us to be proud of what these British philhellenes had done. But more than that. He wanted us to understand the price that was paid. Here at Navarino, we should understand the terror of naval warfare. How it must have felt, to engage in a broadsides naval battle. The smoke, the deafening roar of the cannon, the risk of fire, terrible fire. Drawn up in the shape of a horseshoe, the Ottoman forces were disposed of brave men. Although they had more ships and more personnel, they faced no fewer than ten ships of the line, each capable of delivering huge broadsides. They say that the three English ships of the line fired 120 imperial tons of shot in four hours. And our teacher asked to imagine the sentiments of the British, Russian and French sailors, as they entered the narrow strait and engaged forces three times their size. These men too were brave, very brave. And they prevailed.
Here, at Navarino Bay, Greece ceased to be just an idea and became a nation. Since that day, Britain and Greece have never ceased to be friends. Like all good friends, we sometimes quarrel and we sometimes fail to understand each other. Sometimes our interests diverge. But we are always brought back together around some basic facts. We are two, geographically small seafaring nations at the edge of Europe, with deep culture, history and an abiding passion for freedom and democracy. At our best, we look outwards and we relish adventure. We stand together now in our military and economic alliances as we stood together in 1827. And, I have to tell you, we will need to stand together no less in the years ahead. Here, 174 French, Russian and British sailors died for the freedom of Greece. They paid the ultimate price. I am proud, and I know you are proud, of what they and their comrades did. Let us remember them always. Thank you for your attention.
— Speech

Commemoration of the Battle of Navarino

20 October 2016, Address of the British Ambassador to Greece, John Kittmer.  

Commemoration of the Battle of Navarino

20 October 2016, Address of the British Ambassador to Greece, John Kittmer.
[Courtesy greetings]
It is a pleasure to be here again in Pylos. This is one of my favourite places in Greece. As we drove down yesterday, I was reminded from the hills that the location of the town, the beauty of Spakteria, the haunting presence of the two castles, the crystal waters of Navarino itself - all are unparalleled. And today everything lies in beautiful peace.
On this day 189 years ago, however, a bystander on these hills would have had a very different impression.
In the morning light, he would have seen 65 fighting ships of the Turkish-Egyptian fleet, lying at anchor in the bay, drawn up in the shape of a horseshoe. From about 2pm, he would have seen Admiral Codrington’s flagship Asia, lead another 11 British ships, 7 French ships and 8 Russian ships into the bay.
The Turks sent a small boat to dissuade Codrington, but he issued the magnificent response,
I have come to give orders and not receive them.
By 2.15pm three British ships had anchored within the horseshoe. All seemed calm. But a peaceable attempt by the captain of the Dartmouth to parley with the officers of two Turkish fire ships was repulsed with murderous gunfire. By 2.30pm a general engagement had been enjoined.
Few of us today can imagine what a naval battle in the nineteenth century was like. The deafening roar of cannon, the smoke, the explosions, the flying splinters, the fires, the smell, the confusion, the screams of the wounded. Codrington’s son Henry took part in the battle as a midshipman and was injured. He has left us a harrowing account:
“On going down the ladder,” he wrote, “I found myself in the dark and in an atmosphere which was as hot, though not so pure, as many an oven. On the chests, the men’s mess tables had been laid, and over them beds; on these lay the wounded, some too bad to speak, others groaning and crying out…”
The battle was known for its sheer bloody brutality.
But it was also known for the astonishing determination and superior skill of the three allied fleets.
The battle lasted some four hours. By nightfall, the result was clear. The British, French and Russian allies had lost 174 sailors, but not one allied ship had been destroyed. It was noted at the time that “The harmony with which the ships of the allies operated was incredible….[as if they] belonged to one single nation”. By contrast, at least 60 enemy ships were totally destroyed, perhaps some 6000 Turco-Egyptian sailors lost their lives.
In England at least, the victory excited political controversy for a while. But today, we are proud of Navarino, we are proud of what the three fleets achieved, proud that they shattered the Ottoman will to hang on to Greece, proud that they liberated this great nation.
I am approaching the end of my four-year term as British Ambassador. In these four years, the Royal Navy has worked closely and effectively with the Hellenic Navy. We are partners in NATO. We share a similar view of the dangerous world we inhabit. We plan together and train together. For nearly 200 years, we have nearly always stood together. We share traditions of seamanship and ties of strongly held mutual respect.
For the liberation of Greece and the ideal of freedom, 75 British sailors lost their lives at Navarino, alongside 40 French and 59 Russian allies. I am moved to be remembering them here today with you. In the traditional Greek words: “Everlasting their memory”.
Let me close by congratulating and thanking the Regional Governor and Mayor for this magnificent event. The Battle of Navarino has created an indissoluble bond between Greeks and Britons. I dare to say: “Everlasting our friendship”.
John Kittmer Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador 20 October 2016 

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