De Wadden

Keep the home fires burning
De Wadden

DE WADDEN is a three-masted auxiliary schooner built in the Netherlands in 1917. She was built by Gebr Van Diepen of Waterhuizen, Netherlands, for the Nederlandsche Stoomvaart Maatschappij (Netherlands Steamship Company). This company commissioned DE WADDEN and her two sisters, DE DOLLART and  DE LAWERS in order to take advantage of the very lucrative trading conditions created by Dutch neutrality in the First World War.

During the war the Dutch developed a new kind of coastal vessel which was a considerable advance on the traditional design of the sailing barge.  They were fitted with diesel engines.  British Marine Engineers were inclined to stay with the tried and tested steam designs which would, with their boilers, have been impossibly big for a power unit of a small coaster. The British were also keen to retain steam because of the plentiful supplies of steam coal. Oil had to be imported and supplies could be cut off in war time. For the Dutch, in contrast, oil was more plentiful and coal was in short supply.

 The Dutch capitalised on their neutral position during the war, and Dutch shipping companies made huge profits carrying cargo for both the Germans and Allies. It had been quiet in the Dutch shipbuilding industry for the coastal trade between 1911 and 1915 but when it became clear that the Dutch could exploit their neutrality at sea a real boom started in building for the North Sea fishery and small shipping businesses.  From the second half of 1915, and in 1916/17, coal and oil ran in short supply, and that was the reason why sail got her last chance.  

German imports were restricted by the Allied blockade, and importers were willing to pay almost anything for all the vital merchandise that could be taken into their country through the neutral waterways of the Netherlands.  Although she had been launched by 18th September 1917, DE WADDEN was still not in service in December  that year. However in March 1918 she was advertised as sailing from Rotterdam to Bergen.

Her crew consisted of only five men and a boy, and since she could sail, a qualified marine engineer was not required. She carried a motor winch in the forward deckhouse to allow the cargo to be handled without extensive shore-side facilities. The motor was used almost all the time when she was under sail. This allowed the motor schooner to be built with a flat bottom and shallow draught for maximum cargo capacity together with the ability to enter small harbours. Without the push of the motor, this hull shape does not sail very well.

During the First World War, many Dutch ships were lost through torpedoing, running on mines, gunning and bombarding, and also by confiscation by both Allied and German forces. DE WADDEN’s sister ship the DE DOLLART was bound from Amsterdam to Lisbon with cargo of tobacco, cigars and Dutch gin.  She called into England and France on this voyage.  Whilst 8 miles south-west of Vigo (Portugal) she was sunk by the German submarine U 82. Three of the nine crew (including the Captain) died. Six survived by rowing towards land on one of  the ship’s lifeboats. DE LAUWERS (like DE WADDEN) survived the war.  She was sold to the Yorke Shipping Property Ltd of Adelaide in Australia. 

As soon as the war’s shipping boom ended DE WADDEN’s owners sold her to Richard Hall of Arklow in the South of Ireland. The Hall family already owned a number of schooners, including the CYMRIC, and the port of Arklow was a major centre of schooner ownership.

From 1922 to 1961, DE WADDEN carried bulk cargoes such as grain, pit-props, china clay, mineral ores, and especially coal from the River Mersey to various Irish ports including Youghal and Dungarvan.

Richard Hall’s son, Victor, became her longest serving Captain, commanding her from 1933 to 1954. Her finest hour came during the Second World War when she was one of a small handful of vessels which provided the vital lifeline of supplies to the Irish Republic, after many other ships had been taken up for the British war effort.

This combination of sail and motor remained economical up to the early 1960s when she finally had to retire in favour of a modern motor coaster. She was therefore sold in Dublin and taken to Dunoon in Scotland for a new and varied career. Her tasks ranged from carrying sand to taking out fishing parties, and she appeared in a number of films, including The Onedin Line for the BBC.

She was eventually purchased by the Merseyside Maritime Museum in 1984. In 1987 she was drydocked to allow an extensive program of conservation and restoration. In the early 1990s the Museum briefly ran some onboard tours and education sessions, before this was withdrawn to allow further necessary conservation work to take place. Since then conservation has been ongoing to stabilise her and she has continued to be drydocked next to the Liverpool Pilot Cutter, EDMUND GARDNER.

Where is she now?

DE WADDEN is currently undergoing restoration in dry dock at Liverpool.


Stammers, M. and Kearon, J. (1986). The Motor schooner De Wadden, Ships Monthly, 18-20.

Tanner, M. (1984). The Ship and Boat Collection. Merseyside Maritime Museum: Liverpool.