Name of Vessel
The name “Koenig Willem II” as written on the memorial plaque in front of the Canon on display at Flagstaff Hill, Robe is incorrect. “Koenig” is not a Dutch word. The correct name of the vessel was “Koning Willem II or Koning Willem de Tweede” which literally translates as “King William the Second”.
On July 7, 1857 the Adelaide Times carried the first report of the tragedy and printed the vessel’s name as “Koenig Wilhelm II”. The Register on July 8 and the Adelaide Observer on July 11 both referred to the vessel as “Koenig Willem II”. The Adelaide Observer again mentioned the vessel on September 19, this time using the name of ‘Wilhelm”. In the South Australian Parliamentary Papers, 1875, No 22, the vessel is referred to as “King William” and “Koning Willem”. In the Chronicle of August 17, 1933 the vessel’s name is mentioned as “Koenig Wilhelm”.
It is evident that most authors who have written something about the “Koning Willem II” have based their facts on those early newspaper reports. Had newspaper correspondents in 1857 consulted Corporal Warren of the Guichen Bay Police Station, the different names attributed to the vessel, would never have arisen. Corporal Warren, in his report of the incident to the Commissioner of Police, was the only person to use the correct name “Koning Willem II or Tweede”.
The “Prins Hendrik” maritime museum in Rotterdam, Holland confirmed that the vessel was shown, as “Koning Willem II” in the Veritas Ship Register of 1857 (page 923). Corroborating this register is the book “Nederlandse Koopvaardij-vloot” (Netherlands Merchant-fleet) by Willem van Houten, Rotterdam 1853 (page 43), where the vessel is listed as “Koning Willem II”, being one of nine vessels owned by the firm of P. Varkevisser of Scheveningen, Holland.
The demise of the “Koning Willem II” is reported on page 46 of the book “Verhandelingen en berigten betrekkelijk het zeewezen etc”. (Treatises and news concerning sea matters etc) by C. Huygens, Amsterdam 1858. The description is given as follows:
Vessel: Koning Willem II
Stranded at place of destination and demolished. 16 crew members drowned.