Douwe Aukes-class

Design history
The military strategy of the Netherlands primarily focused on operations on land, and the role of the Royal Netherlands Navy was limited to defence of coastal waters. The naval strategy was centered around defence of essential ports, estuaries and coastal areas. Defensive minefields played an important part in this defensive strategy. For this, the Royal Netherlands Navy built a number of classes, starting with the Hydra-class, followed by the very similar, but slightly larger Douwe Aukes-class. One difference was that the Douwe Aukes-class had much more bunkerage than the preceding Hydra-class, and with that (presumably) extended range.

Both Douwe Aukes and Van Meerlant escaped to the UK in May 1940, where they were initially laid up. Being coal-fired and having only small range, they were only suitable for local defence duties, for which they were used until transferred to the Royal Navy. These transfers allowed their crews to man modern warships such as anti-aircraft cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck and destroyer Isaac Sweers.

Douwe Aukes off Vlissingen, 1937

Construction details
Name Douwe Aukes Van Meerlant
Dockyard Werf Gusto, firma A.F. Smulders, Schiedam Werf Gusto, firma A.F. Smulders, Schiedam
Laid down October 28, 1919 October 14, 1919
Launched February 23, 1922[2] November 23, 1920[3]
Commissioned November 2, 1922 July 25, 1922
Pennant T 309 (WW II)
ML-1 (June, 1946)
N-81 (October 15, 1950)
A-898 (October 15, 1952)
M 36 (WW II)
[1]: Information taken from [GB110] unless noted otherwise. Confirmed by other sources unless noted otherwise.
[2]: [GB110], [MAR] say January 23, [VAM], [VML], [WSS] say February 23, 1922. Contemporary newspaper articles confirm February 23.
[3]: [WSS] says November 24, 1920. Contemporary newspaper articles confirm November 23.

Specifications [1]
Displacement 687 tons standard
748 tons full load[2]
Crew 60
Dimensions 54,82 (o.a.) x 8,97 x 3,18 m.
Armament 3 x 75 mm Bofors L/55 semi-automatic No.4 (3x1)
2 x .50 (12.7-mm) No.1 machinegun (1x2)
2 x .25 (6.5-mm) machineguns.[3]
Mines 107 model 1907
108 model 1918
87 model 1921
Anti-submarine No information available[4]
Radar No information available[4]
[1]: Information taken from [GB110] unless noted otherwise. Confirmed by other sources unless noted otherwise.
[2]: full load tonnage from [WSS].
[3]: Not all sources mention the 6.5-mm machineguns.
[4]: I haven't been able to find information that indicate anti-submarine armament or radar was fitted.

Propulsion details [1]
Boilers 2 Yarrow boilers (built by dockyard)
Machinery 2 triple expansion engines (built by dockyard)
Shafts 2
Bunkerage 115 metric tons coal[2]
Performance 1170 ihp[3]
Maximum speed 13 knots
[1]: Information taken from [GB110] unless noted otherwise. Confirmed by other sources unless noted otherwise.
[2]: From [MB30].
[3]: [CAG], [MB36], [VML], [WSS] says 1000 ihp.

Histories
Douwe Aukes[1] Involved in laying defensive minefields in Dutch coastal waters September 1939 - May, 1940.
Evacuated from Den Helder on May 14, 1940 with minelayers Jan van Brakel, Medusa, Nautilus and gunboat Johan Maurits van Nassau. Johan Maurits van Nassau was sunk by air attacks from German bombers.
Arrived Portsmouth May 19, 1940
Arrived Falmouth May 26, 1940. Laid up with only crews for anti-aircraft guns with Douwe Aukes and Van Meerlant.
Returned to active service July 13, 1940.
Refitted Portsmouth, July - October, 1940.
Assigned to lay closing minefield at Southampton October 1940 - February, 1941.
Near-missed by bombs December 1, 1940. Minor shrapnel damage. One crewman killed in action, four wounded.
Assigned boom defence as part of Thames Local Defence Flotilla, Sheerness February 17 - April 29, 1941.
Refit at Chatham Naval dockyard March 5 - April 5, 1941.
Decommissioned and transferred to the Royal Navy on April 29, 1941.
Returned 1945 and laid up 1945-1948.
Commissioned as minesweeper depot ship March 15, 1948. Decommissioned late 1948.
Commissioned as minesweeper depot ship September 6, 1949.
Commissioned as minesweeper repair ship May, 1950.
Accommodation ship for the mine service in Hellevoetsluis 1959
Decommissioned February 1, 1962.
Sold for scrap July 6, 1962 to N.V. Holland, Hendrik Ido Ambacht (Netherlands).
Van Meerlant[1] Involved in laying defensive minefields in Dutch coastal waters September 1939 - May, 1940.
Evacuated from Vlissingen (Netherlands) May 16, 1940 - arrived Portsmouth May 19, 1940 via Ostend (Belgium) and Dunkirk (France).
Arrived Falmouth May 26, 1940. Laid up with only crews for anti-aircraft guns with Douwe Aukes and Medusa.
Returned to active service July 2, 1940. Transit from Falmouth to Portsmouth July 2 - 3, 1940.
Refitted Portsmouth for service as minelayer July 3 - 11.
Assigned to lay closing minefield at Sheerness July 12 - August 3, 1940.
Refit Sheerness July 25 - August 1, 1940.
Assigned boom defence as part of Thames Local Defence Flotilla, Sheerness August 3 - February 24, 1941.
Refit Chatham Naval Dockyard December 9, 1940 - January 3, 1941.
Laid up February 24, 1941.
Mined in Thames estuary on June 4, 1941 in position 51.28 N - 00.52 E. Three officers and 39 ratings lost.[2][3]
[1]: War history from [GB110]. Postwar history from [VML].
[2]: The full casualty list of Van Meerlant can be found at [NHS].
[3]: The personal papers of the commanding officer at the time of the mining are kept by King's College, Londen. See [PGT].

Photos
Van Meerlant during the neutrality period between september, 1939 and May, 1940. Note the twin 12.7-mm machine gun on the forecastle, which is absent on the following photo. (Collection webmaster)
Van Meerlant at the quay, date and place unknown (Collection Jan Klootwijk).

Sources
BOS1 Ph.M. Bosscher "De Koninklijke Marine in de Tweede Wereldoorlog", volume 1, published 1984.
CAG M.A. Cageling "Onze strijdmacht ter zee, published 1938.
GB110 GB110 (Mededelingen van de Marinestaf), volume 3, chapter 18: "De bewegingen en acties van Hr.Ms. Nautilus, Hr.Ms. Medusa, Hr.Ms. Van Meerlant, Hr.Ms. Douwe Aukes, F.S. Bouclier, Hr.Ms. Campbeltown, F.S. Notre Dame de France, F.S. Jean Frederic, Hr.Ms. Gruno."
MB30 Departement van Defensie, "Jaarboek van de Koninklijke Marine 1930-1931", published 1932.
MB36 Departement van Defensie, "Jaarboek van de Koninklijke Marine 1936-1937", published 1938.
MAR Chris Mark "Schepen van de Koninklijke Marine in W.O. II", published 1997.
NHS Naval-history.net - full casualty list Van Meerlant.
PGT Collection of LCDR Piggott, Commanding Officer HMS Van Meerlant
VAM W.H.E. van Amstel "De schepen van de Koninklijke Marine vanaf 1945", published 1991.
VML A.J. Vermeulen "De schepen van de Koninklijke Marine en die der gouvernementsmarine 1862-1962", published 1962.
WSS Richard Osborne "Profile of a ship HNMS Van Meerlant minelayer", WSS Warship Supplement #110 (autumn 1992)

August 9, 2014 Updated page (all sections).
July 24, 2014 New photo of Van Meerlant added.

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