Jan van Amstel-class

These minesweepers were the largest and most numerous in the Dutch Navy at the outbreak of war in 1939. With a speed of 15 knots and armed with a 3-inch gun, they were basically suited for escorting merchant ships in the relative calm waters of the North sea and East Indies. The first four were sent to the Dutch Indies, the last four remained in Holland. They were also equipped to carry 40 mines, a task for which they were only used on a few occasions. One reason was apparently the little practice they got, one of the main reasons of the sinking of the Willem van Ewijck in September 1939. The first serie counted 8 ships built in the mid thirties, but there were also another 4 ships planned to be laid down in 1939, later to be followed by another 2 in 1940. Of these 6 ships, only one was laid down, and that was the second Willem van Ewijck. Only two ships survived the war in the Dutch Navy. Two more were found in service with the Kriegsmarine and returned post war. The only bad feature appears to have been the cramped accommodation for the crew.

Van Amstel-class minesweepers in column before the war.

Construction details
Name Dockyard Laid down Launched Commissioned
Jan van Amstel P. Smit, Rotterdam March 21 1936 August 27 1936 March 15 1937
Pieter de Bitter P. Smit, Rotterdam March 21 1936 October 29 1936 May 26 1937
Abraham Crijnssen Gusto, Schiedam March 21 1936 September 22 1936 May 26 1937
Eland Dubois Gusto, Schiedam March 21 1936 October 24 1936 June 21 1937
Willem van Ewijck (I) P. Smit, Rotterdam 1936 February 22 1937 July 19 1937
Pieter Florisz P. Smit, Rotterdam November 22 1936 May 11 1937 September 13 1937
Jan van Gelder Gusto, Schiedam October 10 1936 March 27 1937 September 13 1937
Abraham van der Hulst Gusto, Schiedam November 13 1936 May 31 1937 October 11 1937
Willem van Ewijck (II) P. Smit, Rotterdam 1940 April 16 1940 August 30 1940 (KM)
3 unnamed ships P. Smit, Rotterdam - - -

Displacement (standard / full) 460 t / 525 t
Crew 45
Dimensions 56 (pp) 56.8 (oa) x 7.8 x 2.2 m
Armament 1 x 75 mm semi-automatic (various types) *
4 x .50** (2 x 2)
Mines 40
Minesweeping Mechanical paravanes  ***
ASW Jan van Gelder, Abraham Crijnssen and Jan van Amstel received asdic during WW II
Radar WW II adittions to surviving ships
* These old guns were replaced in Jan van Gelder and Abraham Crijnssen by British 12-pounders, which had AA-capabilities.
** In case of Jan van Gelder and Abraham Crijnssen, the double mounts were replaced by single 20 mm Oerlikons
*** Jan van Gelder received sweeping gear against acoustic mines.

Propulsion details
Boilers 2 Yarrow 3 drum*
Machinery 2 Stork triple expansion engines*
Shafts 2
Bunkerage 110 tons oil
Performance 1600 ihp
Max Speed 15 knots
* built under license by the dockyard.

Operational history
Jan van Amstel Damaged on March 6 1942 by an airattack on Soerabaja, killing 23 members of her crew. She was engaged by a Japanese destroyer near the Gili Islands in Madoera Strait during an attempt to escape to Australia after the capitulation of all forces on Java. She was sunk on March 8 1942 with heavy loss of life
Pieter de Bitter Sunk by scuttling charges in Soerabaja on March 6 1942. The wreck was probably never raised by the Japanese
Abraham Crijnssen Arrived in Geraldton, Australia from the NEI on March 15 1942. Served as local escort until August 26 1942, when decommissioned for transfer to the Australian Navy. Returned May 5 1943 for continued use as local escort. Towed the stricken submarine K IX from June 7 1945 from Sydney with destination Darwin, but she lost her tow underway. Returned to the NEI in 1945 for use as patrolship, but returned to minesweeping service in 1949. After the independence of Indonesia, she returned to Holland where she was rebuilt as boom defence vessel. Stricken in 1961 and transferred to the Zeekadetkorps Nederland, after which she remained moored in Rotterdam. Given to the Marine Museum in Den Helder in 1996. She is still on display today
Jan van Gelder Damaged October 8 1939 by own mines off Terschelling. Of the crew, 3 men were killed, 3 were missing and 7 were wounded. After initial repairs at the Rijkswerf Willemsoord in Den Helder, she received a new stern at Gusto, Schiedam, after which she was recommissioned on April 17 1940. Not yet added to her old division, she escorted the Dutch submarine O-13 to England on May 10 1940. Later that month (29-31 May), she escorted the Dutch passengership Batavier II to and from Cherbourg, where the latter picked up 280 Dutch aviators and infantrymen. She was refitted in 1940, after which she was added to the 11th minesweeping flotilla, which was stationed in Milford Haven. Later she served with the 9th flotilla off Portland for a few months during 1941. With these flotillas, she mainly served as buoyship, marking the swept channels. From October 1941, she had a few active months during which she swept acoustic mines off Harwich and the Island off Wight. Later, she was sent to Scotland and served as escort with a British submarineflotilla. Decommissioned on March 26 1943 and transferred to the Royal Navy. Returned March 1945 and recommissioned under her old name. She left for the NEI shortly after, where she served as patrol ship. After return, she was rebuilt as boom defence vessel in 1950. Stricken 1961 and transferred to the Zeekadetkorps Nederland. Scrapped.
Eland Dubois Scuttled near Gili Genteng after leaking watertubes made an escape to Australia impossible on March 8 1942. The crew transferred to the Jan van Amstel, which was sunk with heavy loss of life the same day.
Willem van Ewijck (I) Mined on own mines near Terschelling on September 8 1939 while sweeping. 33 killed
Willem van Ewijck (II) Built as a replacement for Willem van Ewijck (I). Not yet commissioned when Holland surrendered to Germany in May 1940. Commissioned into the German Kriegsmarine, first as AM 1 (also listed MH 1) from August 26 1940. Left for Emden on August 30 where it was renamed M 552 (one source mentions this was on August 20 1940 ?). She was converted to torpedo recovery vessel from December 1940. Under command of Oberleutnant-zur-See der Reserve Helmut Goos, the ship was added to the 27th U-flotilla (Korvetten-kapitän Erich Topp) in August 1944 in Gotenhafen, which was responsible for the tactical training of U-boats.Retroceded May 1945 and commissioned as Abraham van der Hulst (naval authorities apparently thought her to be this ship). Left for the Dutch Indies September 16 1946 for service as patrol ship. After returning to Europe, she was rebuilt as boom defence vessel. Stricken 1961 and transferred to the Zeekadetkorps Nederland in February 1962. Scrapped.
Abraham van der Hulst Sunk by own crew in Enkhuizen May 14 1940 after the capitulation by Dutch forces in Holland. Salvaged by the Germans and commissioned into the German Kriegsmarine as M 553. Converted from December 1940 as torpedo recovery vessel. Mined and sunk off Brüsterstort on April 21 1944 in the Ostsee. Salvaged July 20 1944 and towed to Gotenhafen for decommissioning. Afterwards, the wreck was towed to Stettin where it was set ablaze by bombs on August 20 1944 near the Gollnowwerft. The burnt-out wreck remained there and was captured by the Russians.
Pieter Florisz Sunk by own crew in Enkhuizen May 14 1940 after the capitulation by Dutch forces in Holland. Salvaged by the Germans and commissioned into the German Kriegsmarine. Converted from December 1940 as torpedo recovery vessel and renamed M 551. Under command of Oberleutnant zur See der Reserve Helmut Langer, the ship was in August 1944 added to the 27th U-flotilla, which was responsible for the tactical training of U-boats. Retroceded 1945 and repaired at the Rijkswerf Willemsoord in Den Helder. Commissioned under her old name in mid 1946, the ship served as fishery inspection vessel. She left for the NEI on September 16 1947 where it served as patrol vessel, later as minesweeper with the 1st flotilla in Soerabaja. After return, the ship was converted to boom defence vessel. Stricken 1961 and transferred to the Zeekadetkorps Nederland in IJmuiden in 1962. Decommissioned September 1976 and sold for scrap to Stolk's Handelsonderneming B.V. in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht. The ship lied there for many years.

The triple expansion engines were removed in June 2005 for use on the old ferry C. Bosman. In July 2006, the steam winch was sold for use on C. Bosman as well.

Other parts of the ship survive as well. Members of the first crew of the S-class frigate Pieter Florisz (1983-2001) purchased three portholes salvaged from the minesweeper. Two of these were mounted on wooden planks en decorated one of the messhalls for non-commissioned officers and the cafeteria. The third porthole was fitted in a bulkhead of the longroom during the final stage of construction. The dockyard had already fitted the porthole and had made it completely compliant with regulations, when Marine Toezicht (Navy Inspection Service) decided that the porthole had to be removed for a variety of reasons (safety, insurance). The porthole was replaced by metal sheets on the hull and the longroom bulkhead. The crew finally got approval to fit the porthole as originally planned in september 1985. The work was carried by the crew out while the ship was taking part in operation "Ocean Safari" in the Atlantic Ocean. All work was completed by early October, 1985. Photos of the ship clearly show the porthole fitted to the hull, a black dot on the hull near the NATO Sea Sparrow launcher. This frigate was the only one of her class to have this feature. The porthole was still there when the ship was sold to Greece and commissioned in that country's service as HS Bouboulina in November, 2002. (Thanks to Kapitein-ter-zee der administratie b.d. (Captain, retired) Martin Hellendoorn for bringing this to my attention).

Pieter Florisz was finally scrapped in 2006.

A German minesweeper in port during World War II. It appears to be one of the captured ships of the Van Amstel-class: M.551 (ex-Pieter Florisz), M.552 (ex-Willem van Ewijck) and M.553 (ex-Abraham van der Hulst).
Willem van Ewijck (I) at sea, date and place unknown. (Collection O. van Hoften)

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