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.
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