The Holland class
The pantserdekschepen (armoured-deck cruisers) of the Holland class (3840 tons) comprised of 6 ships, Holland, Friesland and Zeeland, later the slightly larger (3970 tons) and better Gelderland, Utrecht and Noord Brabant, all being built between 1896 and 1899. As successors of the 6 stoomfregatten (ship rigged unprotected cruisers) of the Atjeh class they were designed to be fast ships operating on a long range. To achieve this the main armament of 2 x 15cm, 6 x 12cm, 4 x 7.5cm and several smaller, had been sized down compared with the contemporary battleships of the Evertsen class (3 x 21cm, 2 x 15cm a.o.) and the pantserdekschip Koningin Wilhelmina der Nederlanden (1 x 28cm, 1 x 21cm, 2 x 17cm a.o.), a previous cruiser-like experiment. There was a reduction in armour as well. The class was equipped only with an arched armoured deck, giving them the type-name: pantserdekschip, meaning armoured-deck-ship. The weight becoming available was used to install more powerful engines. The term ‘cruiser’ for a ship-type meaning a fast ship used for reconnaissance ahead of the main body of the fleet and sweeping large areas of the ocean came only later, but would have been appropriate in this case. The Holland class was considered a modest, but well thought-out design. At a speed of 10 knots the radius of action would have been 8000 miles, the 2 triple expansion engines could give a top speed of 20 knots.
On Oct 19th 1900 under the command of Colonel J.H.L.J. count Sweerts de Landas Wijborgh the Hr.Ms. Gelderland had the honour of taking the president of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger on board at Lourenco Marques, who had to withdraw after the Boer-War against the British. In the same year a squadron of 3 ships, the cruisers Holland and Koningin Wilhelmina and the battleship Piet Hein were sent to Shanghai to defend the Netherlands interests in the Boxer-upraise.
No mentioning in the records could be found whether the Royal Netherlands Navy tried to spot the Russian 2nd Pacific Fleet passing Sumatra in the spring of 1905, although the Dutch government must have been aware of the tempting situation for Admiral Rhozestvensky to drop anchor in one of the peaceful bays of the Netherlands East Indies and thus violating neutrality. It seems the Netherlands Navy had her hands full with the Boni-expedition, taking place at almost the same time and place. The cruisers Holland and Zeeland were part of a squadron under the flag of Colonel A.H. Hoekwater on board the battleship Hertog Hendrik, from which an action was undertaken to support the KNIL (Royal Netherlands Indian Army) in an already long lasting conflict to gain control of the Atjeh region. The squadron consisted further of the battleships Koningin Regentes and De Ruyter.
After diplomatic arguments with Venezuela related to the Dutch West-Indies in July 1908, the cruisers Gelderland and Friesland and the battleship Jacob van Heemskerck were ordered to patrol the Venezuelan coast. During this action two small sailing coast guard ships, the Alix and 23th Mayo were taken and brought to Curacao.
In 1913 Friesland and Utrecht were taken out of service, while the other 4 received some modifications. The funnels were fitted with different kinds of funnel caps and the armament was in 1914 altered into 4 x 15cm on Gelderland, 2 x 15cm and 8 x 12cm on Zeeland and 10 x 12cm on Noord Brabant and Holland. Later on the armament was changed again. When war broke out in 1914 the 4 remaining units were in home waters to guard neutrality of the Netherlands coast. In 1920 and 1924 Holland and Zeeland were taken out of service as well. Noord Brabant was converted into an accommodation ship from 1920 and was damaged beyond repair during the German invasion in May 1940. Gelderland lived longest. In 1920 she was converted into a training ship, in 1941 in German hands again converted into an anti-aircraft battery ship, renamed Niobe and in this new state the ship came violently to an end by a Russian air attack in 1944 off Kotka in the Finnish Gulf. In 1953 the wreck was broken up.
Some time ago the armoured-cruiser-fascination got hold of me, the more funnels the better. I love the French six stacked cruisers. It was inevitable that this led me into building such a ship. Well, for my own conscience it had to be a ship of the Royal Netherlands Navy, nevertheless, with a modest number of funnels. I was inspired by a beautiful picture of Hr.Ms. Holland laying off Spithead in 1902 and an equally beautiful model of Hr.Ms. Friesland in the Scheepvaartmuseum in the Museum for Maritime History at Amsterdam. In 1:700 scale the Holland measures about 14cm. I tried to model the appearance of 1902, a white hull, yellow funnels without weird funnel caps (unfortunate) and original armament. She is scratch built, except for the anchor chains, with a diameter of 0.8mm still rather too heavy. My building information came from a drawing from which I could only get the main dimensions right, the rest was provided by the model in Amsterdam and photographs. The model is mainly made of cardboard. The stern, searchlights and boats are made of wood, the masts, davits, vents, anchors and the gun barrels are made of copper or steel wire of different sizes. For the ropes of the masts and funnels I used black thread of mother’s sawing machine. For the finishing touch lots of putty. Getting the hull together is the biggest problem, after that it’s only a matter of knitting and gluing cardboard and wiring until everything is close enough on the (right) spot. Sorry for not having railings, I haven’t got the facilities and skill yet. It is clear to me that I still have a lot to learn. Sometimes I am amazed unto the end of my toes by the performance of other contributors to Steel Navy. I want that too! May be next time.