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stepping stones of maritime history


The Dankbaarheid was built in 1772 for the VOC chamber Rotterdam. She left Goeree for her first return trip to Batavia on December 13, 1773.

Her second voyage started June 18, 1776 and she arrived in Batavia on November 27, 1776. She continued to serve in Asia until January 20, 1781. Then the ship left Bengal via the Cape Colony, bound for the Netherlands.

DEIC ships Table Bay
The Dankbaarheid arrived in Table Bay on April 25, 1781. There were already four large VOC ships waiting for an escort for the journey to the Netherlands. The Honkoop, Hoogkarspel and the Middelburg had already arrived from China on March 31, 1781. The Pearl also from China the next day. Finally, Gratitude came from Bengal at 25-4. An escort to accompany them was necessary because the fourth Anglo-Dutch War had broken out (20-12-1780). And the threat of a British attack was very real.
In March the British sent a squadron under Commodore Johnstone to South Africa to capture the Cape Colony. The French sent a squadron under Admiral De Suffren to assist the Dutch at the Cape. And possibly escort the DEIC ships to Europe.

By May, neither the British nor the French squadrons had arrived. The five DEIC ships were ordered to sit out the coming storm season in Saldanha Bay (approx. 100 km north of Table Bay). They were given strict orders not to let the cargo and ships fall into the enemy's hands in the event of a British attack.

A chance of luck
On June 21, the French arrived in False Bay (just east of the Cape).
Commodore Johnstone received this information from the skipper of a DEIC ship, De Held Woltermade, captured on July 1. The British were too late to take the Cape colony by surprise. But Johnstone also got information from the same source that there were five large DEIC ships waiting in the relatively unprotected Saldanha bay.

Attack on Saldanha bay
Johnstone then decided to attack it. On July 21, 1781, British ships entered Saldanha Bay. The Dutch were completely taken by surprise. Four of the five DEIC ships were captured.

The Middelburg was the only exception. Van Gennep had the ship filled with flammable material so that in the event of a British attack he could destroy the ship himself. And so it happened. The British were still able to pull the burning ship away from the rest of the DEIC ships with boats. Ten minutes after this was successful, the ship exploded at Hoetjens point and sank (see also Saldanha bay incident)

Prize ships
The Dankbaarheid, Parel, Honkoop and Hoogkarspel and the previously taken Held Woltemade (July 1) were sent to Great Britain as a prize. (memoirs 327)

The Saldanha prizes were Dutch ships in the service of the Dutch East India Company until July 21, 1781. The ships were captured by the British Navy. This meant that they were British property according to the applicable laws of war. Prize (law of war)


Tonnage850 ton (425 last)


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