World Coins

World War I era bronze medal issued for Dutch ship

This rare bronze medal marks the tragic 1917 attack on the SS “Amstelstroom.” Only 50 medals were issued.

Images courtesy of Schulman B.V.

Mention a World War I era medal marking a tragic attack on a ship and some folks in the hobby will immediately think of the medals for the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

Two different major design versions exist, the so-called British and German editions. But as important, interesting and ubiquitous as those medals are, they’re not the only one in the marketplace for a wartime attack.

Lesser-known, and much harder to find, is the bronze Dutch medal for the 1917 sinking of SS Amstelstroom, designed by artist J.J. Van Goor.

An example of this medal is offered in Schulman’s March 3 and 4 auction in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

On a journey from Amsterdam to London, loaded with cargo, the ship was attacked shortly after midnight March 23, 1917, by the German torpedo boats V-44, G-86 and G-87.

Two of these torpedo boats opened fire northwest of IJmuiden around 12:45 a.m.

The crew abandoned the ship, and four of the 24 crew members were reported missing. Dutch fishing vessels recovered survivors. The ship remained afloat and one of the missing crew members was later recovered from the wreckage by a British ship. The remaining three missing were later found to have died in the disaster.

On March 27, 1917, the still floating ship was finally sunk by a German submarine.

The event was not as internationally significant as the Lusitania, in which nearly 1,200 perished, but nonetheless is remembered in medallic form.

The obverse of the Amstelstroom medal shows Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, standing facing left, wearing chain mail, cloak and winged helmet, holding a sword in his right hand and a shield in his left. He stands on the deck of a stylized craft having an ornate raised prow in the form of a swan’s head and neck.

The reverse depicts the attacked Amstelstroom, sinking, its stern submerged, smoke pouring from its single funnel. In the left foreground are two crowded lifeboats and to the right figures in the sea. In the background are two destroyers, smoke coming from their sides, indicating gunfire.

The design occupies the upper portion of reverse, with the remainder occupied by text.

Though the number of casualties was small, the sinking of the ship caused great outrage in neutral Netherlands.

The company that owned the ship commissioned this medal, issuing just 50 examples, one of which is in the British Museum.

This example is as issued, and has an estimate of €200 ($241 U.S.).

Consigned: 1917 bronze medal
Condition: As issued
Auction Location: Amsterdam
Auction Dates: March 4, 2021
Details: Rare medal marks 1917 attack on Dutch merchant vessel by Germany 

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