Sunday, 3 May 2009

(1890-1929) Battleship "Psara"

Battleship Psara (unknown date)In 1885, the government of Charilaos Trikoupis bought the Battleships "Hydra", "Psara" and "Spetsai" from France, as part of an effort to modernise the armed forces that had proved inadequate during the Cretan Revolt of 1866-1869 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.

In the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, Psara, Spetsai and Hydra were at least 25 years newer than their Turkish counterparts. Nevertheless, due to their lack of coordination, they had little impact.

Operational History
1885 - Ordered from France.
1887 - Laid down at Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranée at Granville, France (while the Hydra was built at St.Nazaire). Plans made by French Admiral Dupont.
1890 - Launched and commissioned.
1897 - Commanded by Vice-Admiral K. Chatzikiriakou, Psara sees limited action against the Turks in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897.
1899 - Psara represents Greece at the founding anniversary of the city of Nice in France, and at the festivities for the crowning of British King Edward VII.
Battleship Psara in 19051912 - Although antiquated by now, Psara participates in the two decisive naval victories of the Balkan Wars (Battle of Elli and Battle of Limnos). She is commanded by Andreas Miaoulis, a descendant of the famous Admiral of the 1821 Greek War of Independence.
1917 - Greece enters World War I and Psara serves as Coast Defence ship.
1919-1922 - Psara serves as Coast Defence ship during the Asia Minor Campaign.
1932 - Psara is scrapped.

From Adm. Mezeviris' memoirs: (translated from Greek)
"[Battle of Elli, 2 Dec. 1912] The dawn of the first great day of the modern Greek Navy, 3 Dec. 1912, found our navy sailing between Imbros and Gallipoli. Until that day, our hopes to meet the enemy had been denied. In fact, crew and officers were spending their time being entertained by a flag officer's jokes. When the sun started to set, we saw the smoke of several ships coming from the narrows. Our flags were raised and the war trumpets sounded. Following the captain's order, I went to the guns and read the historic message of the Admiral to the crew:
'With God's power, the King's wishes and in the name of justice, I sail full speed ahead, certain of the win against our nation's enemy.'Ensign Mezeviris inspecting Austrian steamship (1912)
During the battle, my role as safety officer was to deal with fires and damages, but there was no such problem. So, from the deck I could watch the battle evolving, although I would often inspect the teams below the deck, because they didn't have any officer. I vividly remember the 'Averof' speeding up and taking independent action against the enemy fleet and under attack from the enemy shore batteries. At some point, the ship seemed to be surrounded from every direction. With great anxiety we were looking (from the old battleships) at the ship that was in danger, but we couldn't help, because we were too slow. When Averof survived the engagement, everyone felt relief and there was wild enthusiasm. As we later realised, this audacious attack did not inflict the crucial blow against the enemy fleet that we were hoping for, because Averof's speed was limited due to overheating of the plastic shutters of the guns. Still, the retreat of the enemy, despite being at a better position and having suffered little damage, was a major victory of morale for the Greek Admiral.
Battleship Psara in 1895The gunnery officer, afraid that his men's morale would drop if they stayed idle during the battle, had ordered them to fire from a distance that was out of range and without giving precise target. Being near him at the time, I reminded him about it and he replied: 'Let them fire anywhere, as long as they fire'. After many shells were wasted, the gunnery officer was convinced to order them to stop. The replenishment of these shells was manual and was done mainly by the kitchen crew, led by the athlete-sized civilian cook. With such speed replenishment was carried out that despite the continuous firing, in the end, the superstructure was full of unused shells. These were posing a danger, so they were ordered to move them back in the powder magazine.
At some point, I went out on the deck and found out that the some of the crew had left their stern powder magazine posts and were watching the battle, cheering whenever they would think an enemy ship was hit. With great difficulty I convinced them to return to their posts. The old battleships survived the battle without damage, but a little later were put in danger when a friendly torpedo from 'Averof' was accidentally fired against them."

"[Battle of Limnos, 5 Jan. 1913] ... Our old battleships took part only in the first half hour of the battle. Aboard 'Psara' we had the pleasure to identify at least one good hit against 'Messudiye', which was targetted by us and 'Hydra'. Since the guns of these ships were firing independently, we thought it was ours (the stern tower) that made the hit. There was wild cheering at that part of the ship and we could hardly hold the men below the deck from leaving their posts and coming to see the result of the hit. Apart from this case, however, we serving on the old battleships felt left out of the action. Psara in folk artSeveral discussions, a lot of conflicts between officers and a lot of ink spent about this choice. The Admiral (Kountouriotis) had ordered the squadron of the three old battleships to follow him, but the message was not received, because the radio of battleship "Spetsai" had been damaged during the battle. One of the oddities of war! I was on the bridge at that time and what I vividly remember is the exasperation of Captain Andreas Miaoulis. Eventually, that brave seaman, so calm normally, but so full of energy during the battle, turned towards the officers and said: 'I believe I must exit the line'. He ordered a turn and full speed ahead until we reached 'Hydra' that was in front of us. At that time, the squadron leader 'Spetsai' changed direction and positioned itself in front of 'Psara' on the same route. 'Psara' slowed down and took its normal position in the line. It was, however, too late for the squadron to reach the retreating enemy."

Hydra-class Battleship "Psara"

Displacement: Standard 4,885 tons
Length: 103 m
Beam: 15.8 m
Draft: 6.4 m
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: 17 knots in trials, but less than 13 knots in battle.
Armament: 3x 274mm, 5x 150mmBattleship Psara on an old Greek stamp
Armour: Hull 100-280mm, deck 70mm

For gamers and game designers

The three Hydra-class battleships were a failed experiment in terms of gun layout.
The central battery housed both the two 10.8" and five 6" guns, which meant that a single hit would take out almost the whole of the firepower.

There was no fire control system and due to the various gun sizes on the ship, it would be difficult to tell which splash corresponded to which gun.

In terms of protection, while they had a thick Creusot steel belt below water, the the above waterline armour was only 3", which left the boilers and engines quite vulnerable, and the ship could be taken out with one good hit. Nevertheless, gunhouse and barbette were well-armoured.

The following are some technical details of the guns that would be useful to a game designer:

274mm Guns: Weight of shell 260 kg, velocity 815 m/s
150mm Guns: Weight of shell 45 kg, velocity 597 m/s, range 8,000 yards

For Modellers
The three battleships had a small pipe ("auxiliary funnel") immediately before the first funnel; this was removed on Psara just before World War I. While Spetsai and Hydra were two-masted, Psara had three masts.
A model of Psara from the Hellenic Maritime Museum:

A profile of Psara without the auxiliary funnel (unknown source).
Profile of Psara


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