Commander of the Greek forces
Occupation: Military officer
He visited Greece for the first time as a 16-year-old ensign in 1800 and wrote home: ‘The Greeks, who are slaves to the Turks and are Christians, are … a brave, honest, open generous people, continually making us presents of fruit’
More Greek than the Greeks
Sir Richard Church was an Irish military officer in the British Army and commander of the Greek forces during the last stages of the Greek War of Independence after 1827. After Greek independence, he became a general in the Hellenic Army and a member of the Greek Senate. The rising of the Greeks against the Turks, which began at this time, had his full sympathy from the first. In 1827 he took the honorable but unfortunate step of accepting the commandership-in-chief of the Greek army. At that point of anarchy and indiscipline to which they had now fallen, the Greeks could no longer form an efficient army, and could look for salvation only to foreign intervention. Sir Richard Church, who landed in March, was sworn commander in chief on 15 April 1827. But he could not secure loyal co-operation or obedience. The rout of his army in an attempt to relieve the acropolis of Athens, then besieged by the Ottomans, proved that it was incapable of conducting regular operations. The acropolis capitulated, and Sir Richard turned to partisan warfare in western Greece. After the Battle of Navarino, and during the Capodistrias period, he was placed commander-in-chief of the Greek regular forces in Central Greece, together with Demetrios Ypsilantis. He lived for the rest of his life in Greece.
He died after an illness and he was buried at the First Cemetery of Athens at public expense on 27 March 1873. The funeral monument is at the First Cemetery of Athens, opposite the Church of St. Lazarus, and it has an inscription in English on the front and Greek on the back.