Tag Archives: Holyhead

Going Dutch: Wales and the Royal Netherlands Navy during World War II

First, apologies for the long delay in getting a new post onto this site – this was due to both other commitments and a shortage of suitable, or, at least, sufficiently substantial, material.

However, I was recently browsing the excellent Dutch maritime collections website, Maritiem Digitaal, looking primarily for suitable material for my new non-fiction book, Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II and the Royal Navy. Having done so, I then entered a number of Welsh search terms, and came across some excellent links. During the Second World War, for example, units of the exiled Dutch Navy were based in both Holyhead and Milford Haven, and I referred to these sojourns in Britannia’s Dragon. A search of Maritiem Digitaal under the names of both those ports, as well as for related ones (such as ‘Pembroke’), turns up some fascinating supplementary information.

‘Holyhead’, for example, produces photographs of the Dutch warships Hydrograaf and Medusa alongside Pelham Quay in 1943,  as well as a number of images, such as this one, of Dutch Marines training in the Anglesey countryside. There are also a number of photos, including this one, of the funeral at Holyhead in 1941 of M J R Matthias of HNLMS Noordsvarder, of the Stanley Sailors’ Hospital, and of the memorial in St Cybi’s church donated by the Protestant churches of the Netherlands, giving thanks for the area’s hospitality to the Dutch forces during the war. Perhaps we’ll forgive the captions that refer to ‘Holyhead, Engeland’!

A search for ‘Milford’ brings up photos of the Dutch armed trawler Vikingbank in the Haven in 1942, the communications vessel Traversa, and the captain and crew of the minesweeping trawler Gerberdina Johanna in the Haven in 1941. Changing the search to ‘Pembroke’ brings up quite a number of photos of the Dutch forces celebrating Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday at the Pembroke Dock flying boat base in August 1940, such as this one and this one, as well as other photos of her son-in-law, Prince Bernhard, visiting the base.

It’s worth trying several other Welsh search terms, too. Entering ‘Swansea’ brings up, among other things, a passport stamped both there and at Holyhead for Lubbert Kramer, boatswain of the tug Amsterdam, which escaped from the Den Helder naval base in May 1940; and two photos of the SS Texelstroomsunk by a German mine in 1915 when en route from Amsterdam to Swansea (despite being neutral in that war). A search for ‘Cardiff’ reveals several photos, including this one, of Dutch Marines disembarking from HNLMS Poolster in Cardiff docks in 1967, in order to take part in joint exercises with the Royal Marines, as well as a large number of photos of the exercises themselves. Most surprising, perhaps, are a couple of fascinating oil paintings of Dutch naval personnel in Pwllheli during the period 1943-5.

All in all, yet more proof that one can find important material for Wales’ naval and maritime history in all sorts of unlikely places!

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The Last Voyages to Wales of HMS Colossus [1908] and Cornwall [2013]

HMS Cornwall laid up at Portsmouth, 5 September 2013

HMS Cornwall laid up at Portsmouth, 5 September 2013

With the imminent arrival of the Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall in Swansea, where she will be broken up, naval shipbreaking resumes in Wales after a gap of some thirty years. This newspaper account, from the Cardiff Times of 28 November 1908, recounts the fate of one of the earliest warships to be scrapped in the Principality, namely HMS Colossus, which had served as the port guardship at Holyhead from 1893 to 1901. A second-class battleship, rather than a cruiser as stated in the report, her design was innovative in some ways but seriously flawed in others. She was the sister ship of HMS Edinburgh, launched at Pembroke Dock in 1882 by the Duchess of Edinburgh, daughter-in-law of Queen Victoria and sister of Tsar Alexander III of Russia.

HMS Edinburgh completing at Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock [photo credit – Tenby Museum]

LAST VOYAGE OF COLOSSUS

The cruiser Colossus, built over 20 years ago, and sold by the Admiralty recently to Mr Ward, of Briton Ferry, to be broken up, has been towed to Barry, where she arrived yesterday. The vessel was stationed off Holyhead for many years, guarding the Welsh port and cruising about the Irish Sea. Twice previously the Colossus formed one of the Metiterranean squadron, and was considered of good fighting strength before the days of the Dreadnoughts. A turret cruiser with a single funnel and guns fore and aft, the vessel looked well in Barry Roads on Sunday, where she rode for some time waiting a favourable wind to dock, a strong westerly gale blowing throughout the morning. The two tugs towing the vessel experienced great difficulty in manoeuvring her. It was impossible for the cruiser to have entered any other port in the Bristol Channel, owing to the fact that she has a draught of 25ft. 6in, In charge of Mr S. Davies, one of the leading Barry pilots, the warship was brought in at the height of the tide in a manner that was highly creditable, considering that almost a gale was blowing and that the cruiser had awkward projections above the deck level. With a beam of 70ft. she could not enter the Lady Windsor lock, and was taken in through the gates leading to the basin. The Colossus has a displacement of 10,000 tons, and after being lightened to the draught of 20ft, by the removal of guns and other materials, she will be towed to Briton Ferry. About 60 men will be employed in the task of breaking up the vessel.

HMS Colossus [1882]

HMS Colossus [1882]