B/S Georgios Averof is the world’s only surviving heavily armored cruiser of the early 20th century. During the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913, she was the Hellenic Navy fleet flagship during the campaigns in the North and Central Aegean islands, as well as the coastal cities of East Macedonia and Thrace.
The former flagship of the Hellenic Navy, was built at Cantieri Orlando, Livorno, Italy in 1910-11. She was a de facto third member of the Italian Pisa class, with improved protection and British-style tripod masts. She joined the Greek fleet just before the First Balkan War of 1912-13, in which she outfought the combined Turkish fleet and spearheaded a blockade of Turkish ports on the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Izmir. The Greek fleet otherwise consisted of three slow, French-built 1890 battleships and a rather good TB flotilla. Together they prevented Turkish troops from sailing to the front in Macedonia or the Ottoman-held islands in the Aegean. As flagship, Averof (known as “Uncle Georgi” to her crew) played a leading role in this campaign. Armed with four 9.2″ guns and eight 7.5″ guns in twin turrets in a hex disposition, Averof expressed a sensible compromise between speed and protection. She had a top speed of 23.5 kts and an 8″ belt, making her the most formidable “battleship” east of Otranto in 1910. Commanding admiral Paulos Kountouriotis drilled his crew in gunnery, using advanced fire-control techniques as practiced in the British fleet (note tripod masts, essential for spotting the fall of shot).
Greece remained neutral during most of World War I. The Eleutherios Venizelos government in 1917 decided to participate on the Allies’ side. At the end of the first World War in November 1918 she sailed to Constantinople and raised the Hellenic flag as one of the winning powers of the Great War. After the signing of the peace treaties AVEROF with the rest of the fleet moved the Hellenic troops to Asia Minor.
She served on the Allied side during World War II, having fled to Egypt and the Indian Ocean with the rest of the fleet. She led the Greek naval force when the fleet dropped anchor in the Faliron Bay, Athens on October 17, 1944. The raising of the ship’s war flag in the Athens Acropolis marked the city’s liberation.
Averof’s last voyage was to Rhodes in May 1947 to commemorate the accession of Dodecanese from Italy. She was towed to her permanent berth in Faliron Bay in 1985, where is now open as a museum. The museum also displays Athenian Trireme Olympias [reconstructed, 1987] and WW II Destroyer HS Velos (D-16) as an anti-dictatorship struggle museum.