SA and Netherlands to co-operate on naval history

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Last week’s high level discussions, including a letter of intent at national defence level, in Pretoria between The Netherlands and South Africa saw a valuable spin-off in Simon’s Town, over 1 200 km south.

The home port of the SA Navy is also home to the SA Naval Museum, which among others, is housed in the Dutch Storehouse. This building dates back to 1743 and is in the historic West Yard of Naval Base (NB) Simon’s Town.

Making the effort to see this particular part of Dutch naval history was Commodore Wolter Sellevis Smitt (Director of the Department of International Military Co-operation). His visit to Simon’s Town was to discuss co-operation between the Netherlands Marine Museum in Den Helder and the SA Naval Museum, reports Commander Leon Steyn, museum Officer-in-Charge. It was a component of the official Netherlands visit which saw King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima meet South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his defence and military veterans minister sign a letter of intent with Kajsa Ollongren, her Dutch counterpart.

On arrival, Commodore Sellevis Smitt was welcomed by a silent guard of the SA Navy (SAN) with the most significant first point of interest the historic Dutch Storehouse, Steyn wrote.

“It was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1743. The three-storey building comprised barracks, a sickbay, a blacksmith, a carpenter’s shop and storage facilities. It was the first structure built in the naval West Dockyard of Simon’s Town following an earlier decision by the Dutch to use and develop Simon’s Bay as a safe winter anchorage for its fleet.

“Today, 280 years later the building forms a part of the SA Naval Museum and houses, among others, the transformation display and Chiefs of the Navy official gallery.”

The Royal Netherlands Navy was founded in January 1488, making it the world’s third oldest naval force.

The Dutch delegation spent over an hour at the museum to viewing its exhibitions and displays and concluded its visit with an informal discussion and a complimentary gift exchange.

The Dutch defence delegation led by Commodore Sellevis Smitt was Colonel Rene Marchal (defence attaché), Lieutenant Colonel Joop van de Heuvel (senior policy advisor) and Lieutenant (Navy) Roan Dijkstra (staff officer).