When it was announced in the March issue of Military Times that the decommissioned light-cruiser HMS Caroline was going to be scrapped and turned into razorblades, there was an understandable call to arms. Read Dominic Tweedle’s original article here
But now, thanks to the hard work of, among others, Dr Dominic Tweddle, Director-General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the museum’s Board of Trustees has resolved to accept the day-to-day responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the otherwise doomed vessel.
The ship was decommissioned on the 31st March but remains an MOD asset until Parliament formally approves the gift. The National Museum have taken on the gift of HMS Caroline on the basis that a long term suitable and sustainable solution for her can be found. They will be developing a submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and will continue to work with Northern Ireland to consider and examine any solution for her staying in Belfast. However, the emphasis is being placed on saving the ship rather than her location, so other options are being considered.
Dr Dominic Tweddle commented: ‘We are at the beginning of a long and hard road. Saving historic ships is never easy, and raising money in the current economic conditions is doubly difficult. But to fail in this endeavour cannot be contemplated. HMS Caroline is the equal of one of our great cathedrals; if any one of them were threatened with destruction we would not hesitate.’
In our article, Dominic explained exactly why the ship was of such great importance: ‘HMS Caroline is a light cruiser, a greyhound of the seas. Built in 1914, she served throughout the First and Second World Wars. She is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, and the last major ship to survive from the Grand Fleet. To stand on her bridge, with her tripod mast towering above you, is an unforgettable experience; and it is equally extraordinary to explore her galley, fitted out in 1914, or to sit in the doctor’s surgery, or to walk into her steering flat.
She has the only in situ First World War turbines in the world, indeed, 80 percent of HMS Caroline is original. Not only is she the most important warship still unprotected in Britain, she comes close to the top of the list of the world’s ten warships that should be protected at all costs.’
The museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has already taken her collection of around 400 items, which have remained with the ship throughout her service, into storage for security as well as for research and conservation. Highlights of the collection include the 1914 battle ensign as well as ensigns and flags from WWII escort groups.