Restored century-old warship returns to Athens to serve as floating museum

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 1:56am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 7:36am

After three months of extensive maintenance and conservation work, a 107-year-old battleship returned on Wednesday to its berth in Athens, where it serves as a floating museum.

A naval band played, surrounding vessels sounded their horns and a naval helicopter flew above as the Georgios Averof, a relic from the era of dreadnoughts, was nudged into its mooring spot.

Three tugs towed the 10,000-tonne former Greek navy flagship from a shipyard in Skaramangas, where the repairs were carried out with private funding, through the straits of Salamis to Trocadero in Athens.

Named after the Greek businessman who partly financed the huge cost of the ship’s purchase, the armoured cruiser was built in an Italian shipyard in 1910 and was at the time the most feared warship in the Aegean Sea.

It served in the Greek navy during the Balkan wars, playing a leading role in victorious encounters with the Ottoman Turkish navy, helping free a string of Greek islands in the northeastern Aegean and securing Greek naval dominance in the archipelago.

It also saw active service during World War II, when it was based in Alexandria, Egypt, after the fall of Greece to German forces. After the end of the war, it carried the Greek government-in-exile back to Athens.

The Georgios Averof remained in service until 1952, and spent the next quarter-century moored on the island of Poros, until the navy decided to restore and use it as a museum in the mid-1980s.

The 460-foot ship will open again to visitors in September, following further refurbishment at its berth. About 60,000 people visit it every year.