© Courtesy NMRN
The amazing floating World War One relic that is HMS Caroline, has been given a restoration lifeline by the National Heritage Memorial Fund to help secure her immediate future.The Fund, which is often referred to as the "fund of last resort" for Britain’s threatened heritage, has confirmed a £1 million grant for urgent repair works to prevent further decay to the Belfast-based light cruiser whilst plans are finalised for a long-term future in the city.
Awarded to the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) the grant will now enable works to proceed to make the ship wind and water tight and incorporate the removal of dangerous asbestos while the ship is in situ and afloat.
The funding marks the beginning of a two-stage rescue plan, involving the NMRN and the Northern Ireland Government, who are working to transform the ship into a “world-class floating museum” in time for the Battle of Jutland centenary in 2016. A project is currently underway to collect histories and memories of the ship.
A C-class light cruiser originally launched in 1914, Caroline fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 before deployment in the West Indies and service in World War Two as a Navy HQ ship in Belfast. She survived into the modern era thanks to her role as a training ship – finally being decommissioned in 2011.
The Ministry of Defence gifted the ship to NMRN on the understanding that it would be transformed into a museum.
She is now reckoned to be the most significant war ship of the 20th century and significantly, for the consortium attempting to restore her, she is barely unchanged from the day she was constructed and is 80 per cent complete.
The Project Director overseeing the restoration, Captain John Rees of the NMRN, says work will soon begin on essential repairs to prevent further wind and water ingress.
“We will be seeking to repair upper deck drainage (scuppers), replace perished seals on hatches and doors, remove and refurbish portholes, repair the leaking funnel deck and lift areas of rotting deck and repair.
“Other essential work will include inspections of internal tanks and coffer dams, cleaning and repairing where leaks are found and the necessary asbestos remediation to enable this work.”