Nile gunboats to be given new role

Agreement has been reached by the Melik Society and National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM)

Agreement has been reached by the Melik Society and National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) to set up the Nile Foundation for the purpose of restoring the Gunboat MELIK and the Armed Steamer BORDEIN and giving them new roles to attract visitors to the Sudan. NCAM has been responsible for Sudan’s extensive heritage since Independence in 1956. The Agreement was signed in London at the Sudan Embassy today in the presence of the Minister of Culture, HE Mohamed Yusef Abdullah, HM Ambassador (Khartoum) HE Ian Cliff OBE and the Sudanese Ambassador, HE Omer Siddig.

Chairman Henry Keown-Boyd said after the signing formalities “this represents an important stepping stone towards the rejuvenation of these historic vessels for the benefit of future generations, but there is much hard work to be done to bring this major project to a successful conclusion”. He went on to pay paid tribute to the invaluable support of HMA Ian Cliff “without whom we would not probably be gathered here today”.

In response Mr Cliff said “The Melik and the Bordein are part of the common bond of heritage between Britain and the Sudan. In many ways it is remarkable that these vessels have survived on the banks of the Nile. The fact that they have is a tribute to the Blue Nile Sailing Club and to the staff of the River Transport Corporation. I think it is very exciting that as a first step we may see the Melik carrying passengers on the Nile in the not too distant future. I hope this will encourage many more visitors from Britain to sample the remarkable heritage of the Sudan”.

Fraser-Nash Consultants were commissioned by the Melik Society to carry out a technical assessment on the feasibility and costs of restoring the vessels to working order for use on the Nile. Their report will form the basis for the business plan to underpin the fundraising campaign to be launched internationally. The cost of refurbishing the Melik itself to working order is estimated to be in the region of £1.5 million STG. Much of the work will be done using the skills in the River Transport Corporation’s Dockyard at Khartoum North.

These river steamers played major roles in a feverish period of Anglo-Sudanese history (1870-1900). Like many others, they were originally built on the Thames, shipped out in sections and reassembled on the Nile. Since 1926, the Melik has served as the Headquarters of the Blue Nile Sailing Club and the Bordein lies in sections in the Dockyard on the opposite bank of the Nile. Today they are the sole survivors of the eras of Generals Gordon and Kitchener.

Professor Yusef Fadl Hasan, Chairman of NCAM and one of the leading Sudanese historians welcomed the latest development. He said “This is a moment which I cherish. This historic project brings together our two countries; between us we have the expertise to see these vessels operating again and sailing down the Nile in the setting sun.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Gunboat Melik was part of the flotilla commanded by officers of the Royal Navy and Royal Engineers. The flotilla was shipped out in sections and reassembled on the Nile and fulfilled a vital role in support of Kitchener’s army in the re-conquest of the Sudan. Built by John I Thorneycroft of Chiswick in 1897, the Melik is the only remaining vessel of the flotilla and since 1926 has been the headquarters of the Blue Nile Sailing Club.
  2. The Bordein was built by Samuda Bros on the Thames as part of a fleet of six paddle steamers originally ordered and sent up to Khartoum for Sir Samuel Baker’s Nile Expedition in 1870 She was used by General Gordon and for the Gordon Relief Expedition of 1884/5. Captured after the fall of Khartoum in 1885, she was used by the Mahdist forces until 1898 when she was laid up in 1905 in Khartoum North Dockyard where her hull lies today.
  3. The Melik Society is a registered charity formed in 1994 for the purpose of advancing public awareness of British and Sudanese history and to establish lasting memorials to all on both sides who fought in the campaigns 1883-1899.
  4. The National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) is part of the Ministry of Youth Culture and Sport which is responsible for all antiquities and museums in the Sudan including the MELIK and BORDEIN
  5. For further information, please call Anthony Harvey, Hon Secretary of the Melik Society on 020 7928 8100 / or Khalid Omer, Counsellor at the Embassy of the Sudan on 020 7839 8080.
  6. The web-site and photographs can be found at