‘I’d rather see Ark Royal sunk than cut up for scrap’

SCUBA SITE HMS Ark Royal
SCUBA SITE HMS Ark Royal
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A BID to sink the former Royal Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal as a site for scuba diving enthusiasts has been welcomed by one of the great ship’s former captains.

Rear Admiral Terry Loughran told The News he’d rather see the axed aircraft carrier end her days under the sea than in pieces at a foreign scrap yard like sister ship HMS Invincible.

The Ministry of Defence said no final decision has been made about the fate of the Ark Royal, which was controversially decommissioned three years early as part of the government’s 2010 defence cuts.

But Rear-Adml Loughran, who commanded the Ark from 1993 to 1994 during the Bosnian conflict, urged the MoD not to send the Portsmouth-based warship to a breakers’ yard.

He said: ‘Whilst I’m still very sad to see the passing of what was a very fine ship which suffered a premature demise, I’d much rather see her have a proper burial at sea where she will bring years of joy for enthusiasts than have those terrible images of her being broken up in a foreign scrap yard.’

The Ark Royal was put up for sale on the MoD’s auction website last year.

It came just a few months after the Invincible was sold to Turkish-based scrap firm Leyal Ship Recycling for an estimated £2m.

As well as the usual bids from scrap metal merchants, the 20,000-tonne Ark Royal also attracted interest as a potential floating tourist attraction in Gibraltar, a heliport in London, nightclub and school in China, or as a casino in Hong Kong.

But a late offer from a charity called Wreck the World could see the 210-metre ship turned into an artificial reef off the coast of south Devon.

The bid has received £6.5m backing from the scrap metal firm GH Newbery and Son, and defence engineering firm A&P Falmouth.

If it’s successful, the former warship could be sunk as soon as this summer.

The bid has divided opinion within the navy, with some sources expressing alarm at a potential public relations gaffe if it does go ahead.

One officer said: ‘I think sinking our old flagship in UK waters could be seen as somewhat symbolic of the cuts this government has made to the Royal Navy.’