Friday, 25 April 2014

Preserved ironclads and old steam warships: HNLMS Buffel

In 2005 I visited Rotterdam, and whilst I was there I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam (Rotterdam Maritime Museum). At the time one of its major exhibits was HNLMS Buffel.

Buffel was one of a class of ironclad rams – her sister was the Guinea – that were built for the Royal Netherlands Navy in the late 1860s. She was designed and built on the banks of the River Clyde by Robert Napier and Sons, shipbuilders. Buffel served until 1894, when she was withdrawn from service and became a training ship and then an accommodation ship. In the latter role she was not decommissioned until 1973!

When she was decommissioned Buffel was sold to the City of Rotterdam to be used as an exhibit at the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam, but the rising cost of keeping her in good condition has meant that she has now been transferred to the small City of Hellevoetsluis in the western Netherlands.

The Buffel's characteristics (as completed):
  • Displacement: 2,402 tons
  • Length: 195 foot 10 inches
  • Beam: 40 foot
  • Draught: 16 foot 9 inches
  • Propulsion:
    • 2 Napier compound engines (2,000 ihp) driving 2 propellers
    • Steam provided by 4 boilers
  • Speed: 11.2 knots
  • Complement: 159
  • Armament:
    • 2 × 9-inch Armstrong MLR Guns
    • 4 x 30 pounder ML Guns
  • Armour:
    • Belt: 3 to 6 inches
    • Gun Turrets: 8 to 11 inches
    • Deck: ¾ to 1 inch


  1. I have been onboard the Buffel. It's a pity she is no longer at the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam as she is (was) one the highlights.

  2. Jim Duncan,

    I envy you as Buffel was shut on the day of our visit, and we were not allowed aboard her.

    Hopefully her new home will make her more accessible and will pay for her continued preservation.

    All the best,


  3. Splendid ship! Not heard of her before. The cost of maintaining these ships that still float is horrendous!

  4. Legatus Hedlius,

    I gather that modern technology has helped improve the preservation process, but not reduced the cost. One reason why the Buffel was moved was the cost of her continued preservation. The Rotterdam Naval Museum could no longer bear the level of cost of preserving all the ships in their collection, and made the sensible - if somewhat inconvenient decision for visitors like me - to transfer Buffel to a body that could.

    All the best,