History of Vessel

The Koning Willem II was built in Kinderdijk (Holland) during the year 1840. The name of the shipyard is unknown. The vessel first appears in the shipping register of Bureau Veritas in 1842. In that year the Captain was L.C.E. van der Brugh who remained with the vessel until 1849 when Captain Lammert Roelfs Giezen became the new Commander. The latter remained as Captain until his early death (37 years) in 1856. The last Captain until the Koning Willem II’s demise at Guichen Bay was Hindrik Remmelt Giezen.

Originally the Koning Willem II was owned by the firm B.J. Suermondt of Rotterdam. By 1842 its owner was P. Varkevisser of Scheveningen, and the vessel was registered in s’Gravenhage (The Hague), Holland. In 1849 it was registered in the port of Rotterdam.

Not much is known about the Koning Willem II’s sailing career. The vessel was certified to travel all seas but little evidence of her journeys can be found. One reference can be found in the shipping list “Rotterdam – United States”, which states that the Koning Willem II as having traversed the Voorne Canal (Holland) on the 14th May, 1847 on its way from Rotterdam to New York. On that occasion the vessel is referred to as a frigate and the owner is stated as M. Varkevisser.

An advertisement, dated 1851, is preserved in the Giezen family files of the Central Bureau for Genealogy in The Hague and reads as follows: “Awaiting loading to Batavia (now Jakarta – Indonesia) with Goods and Passengers the extra fast sailing coppered Dutch frigate ship Koning Willem de Tweede, Captain L. R. Giezen, ready to depart during this month. Address at the office of M. Varkevisser.”

In the Veendammer Newspaper of Wednesday, 26th November 1856 is an interesting news item, which appears to be the commencement of her last fateful journey. The article states that, “the Koning Willem II with Giezen as Captain, was sighted on the 15th October at the following location 10 degrees 36 minutes N, 24 degrees 39 minutes W”. This location is in the Atlantic Ocean near South Africa. At the time she was sailing from New Port (Island of Wight, England) to Hong Kong.

Many details relating to this last journey can also be found in the book-keeping ledgers of the firm P. Varkevisser & Sons which have been preserved. Sixteen entries between July 1856 and December 1857 deal directly with the Koning Willem II regarding sums expended and received. In all entries the ship is referred to as a Frigate.

An entry dated August 30, 1856 refers to the payment of 80 accounts for outlays on equipment and provisions for its 10th journey which on this occasion was from Newport to Hong Kong. Other entries deal with Insurance Premiums paid for the journey to Hong Kong and Java, also a refund is mentioned for a change of sailing plans. An additional sum of 350 Dutch Guilders was paid because the vessel sailed from Hong Kong not direct but via Guichen Bay (Australia) to Java.

Originally the vessel was to sail from Newport to Hong Kong with a load of coal and from there to the island of Java in the then Dutch East Indies. However an entry dated June 10, 1857, shows a receipt of $10 500.00, which was 31 500.00 Dutch Guilders, for the passage of 425 passengers at $25.00 “per head” from Hong Kong to Guichen Bay.

Interestingly the number of passengers quoted, 425, is different than the number quoted in the Police report (412) and Newspapers at the time. However it may well be that some of the passengers died during the voyage from Hong Kong to Australia. Another entry, also dated June 10, 1857, refers to various costs incurred whilst in Hong Kong. A sum of 4 284.57 Dutch Guilders was expended for hire of a Sampan (small vessel), Blacksmith, Police search and Gaol Fees for 4 crew members, Pilot Fees and various other items.

A third entry dated June 10, 1857 is very significant as it mentions the Captain of the King Willem II for the first time. He is referred to as H.R.Giezen; this corroborates the entry in the 1857 report of Bureau Veritas regarding the Captain of the Koning Willem II, being H.R.Giezen. Here he was paid various sums of monies for purchases and expenses incurred whilst in Hong Kong, e.g. Copper Nails, Charts of Australia’s Torres Strait, Clothing, Doctor’s Fees etc.

An entry dated July 4, 1857 states the book value of the Frigate Koning Willem II was 2 2326.65 Dutch Guilders. The next entry is dated October, 1857, this is after the return of Captain Giezen to Holland from Australia, and shows a receipt for 225 Pounds, being 2 700.00 Dutch Guilders from the sale of the wreck of the Koning Willem II at Guichen Bay.

An entry for October 23, 1857 shows a list of expenses incurred at Guichen Bay to a total of 2 722.55 Dutch Guilders. The entry is very detailed and mentions the following items; Payouts to three crew members, Groceries, Meat, Bread and Rice; Medical Assistance; Horse and Cart hire re wreck, Housing costs for crew members, Clothing and beds for crew members. Travel fees from Guichen Bay to Adelaide; travel fees 1st Mate to Cape town.; travel fees from Adelaide to Melbourne; Travel fees from Melbourne to Liverpool; and Travel fees from Liverpool to Rotterdam.

Entry dated November 6, 1857 states that Insurance Company paid H.R. Giezen for the loss of goods and clothing the sum of 1 496.25 Dutch Guilders. On November 18, 1857 the firm paid the sum of 2 168.73 Dutch Guilders to the Water Authorities in Rotterdam for payouts to the crew.

The last entry is dated December 6, 1857 when the firm P. Varkevisser & Sons received a payment of 19 344.00 Dutch Guilders for the loss of the Koning Willem II.

This is a photo of an aquarelle in possession of the “Prins Hendrik Maritiem Museum” in Rotterdam. It was made by Jacob Spin (1806 – 1875) in 1850 and shows the Koning Willem II sailing for the wind.

The flag on the foremast displays the letters PV , which stands for P. Varkevisser, and is the house flag of its owners, the firm Varkevisser of Scheveningen. (From the book: Neerlands vloot en rederijen. H. Sweys 1861).

The flag on the rear mast displays the letter R with the number 224. This flag represents the Seaman College in Rotterdam hence the letter R. The number 224 was allotted to Captain H. R. Giezen who was a member of this College. He was also a member of the College in Veendam, where his membership number was 173. (From the book: Neerlands vloot en rederijen. H. Sweys 1861).

In the “Amsterdamsche Almanak voor koophandel en zeevaart ” (Amsterdam Almanac for trade commerce and sea navigation), an annual publication, the following information is printed regarding membership details of the Rotterdam and Veendam Colleges.

1856    Veendam        number           173      L.R. Giezen

Rotterdam      number           224      L.R. Giezen

1857    Veendam        number           173      L.R. Giezen

Rotterdam      number           224      H.R. Giezen

1858    Veendam        number           173      H.R. Giezen

Rotterdam      number           224      H.R. Giezen

Information from Holland suggests, that if L.R and H.R were brothers, one could take over his brother’s membership and allotted numbers. Exhaustive genealogical enquiries in Holland reveal that Lammert Roelofs Giezen and Hindrik Remmelt Giezen were both born in Veendam, Holland and were related. It has been established they shared the same great-grandfather but not the same great-grandmother.