Kitchener’s last gunboat – Al Melik

Kitchener’s last gunboat lies half hidden under some trees on the banks of the Blue Nile in Khartoum. Silent and slowly decaying.

The Melik has served as the headquarters of the Blue Nile Sailing Club since its retirement from military service in the 1920s. It was moored in the river until an unusually heavy flood in the late 1980s left it high and dry. Ironically, the flood may have saved it from slowly rusting away.

Its wooden decks may be decayed and its windows broken, but the Melik has not been entirely forgotten or betrayed.
The Melik Society (UK) was established to assist with the preservation of this gunboat and to promote more general interest in Britain’s historical involvement in the Sudan between 1883-1956. Several members of the Kitchener family have served as presidents of the society. But it will clearly take a very different sort of gunboat diplomacy to get Kitchener’s last gunboat back on the Nile where it belongs. I wish them luck.

Additional notes:

The photographs below show the Bordein, a paddle steamer that was used by Gordon during the siege of Khartoum and was part of the force that arrived just too late to rescue him in January 1885. Rescued from the former dockyard in Khartoum North, it was reassembled near to the Mahdist fortifications at Murada in Omdurman where I took these photos in May 2009. A fuller history and a better selection of images can be found on the Melik Society’s web site and from Mallinson Engineers & Architects




5 thoughts on “Kitchener’s last gunboat – Al Melik

  1. I well remember this wrecked boat from the 1950’s. Unfortunately I was, initially, too young to appreciate its historical significance. Glad to hear that someone is working to preserve it.

    • It would be wonderful to see it on the Nile again one day! One that is beyond repair, however, is the Bordein which has transferred from the old dockyard in Khartoum North to a site in Omdurman adjacent to the Mahdist forts. I must have passed it lots of times in the dockyard (now closed) when I crossed the Mek Nimr bridge but never noticed it. The Melik Society have more about this boat

  2. I saw the Melik in front of the place often during my time at the U.S. Embassy in 1957-58. It looked just fine then and so sorry to hear it is now in disrepair. For months I walked past it on the way to the embassy from my residence at the Grand Hotel during the tour as their was no housing back then for me except the Grand. Soon I had wheels and no more missing lunch do to the lateness of my arrival back at the embassy for the meal and then siesta.

  3. I was a pupil at the Sister’s School in Khartoum in the late 1940’s and often played truant to wander along the river bank ,I remember ‘Melik’ and have vague memories of once getting on board.

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