For the past 24 years, HMS Warrior has become such a fixture on Portsmouth’s maritime skyline that it is hard to imagine a time when she was not here.
For nearly a quarter of a century the iron-clad battleship has been the third in the triumphant trio of celebrated ships dominating the Historic Dockyard.
It was late in the afternoon of June 16, 1987 that the ironclad and pride of Queen Victoria’s navy took her place alongside HMS Victory and the Mary Rose.
For the previous seven years she had been restored in the old Coal Dock at Hartlepool before she was towed 450 miles by the tug Formidable back to her old home.
HMS Warrior 1860 (to give her full title – the number refers to the year of her launch at the Thames Iron Works, Blackwall) had not been seen in Portsmouth for 58 years.
In 1929 she had been towed from the dockyard to Wales as a rotting hulk.
At Pembroke Dock oil fuel depot, near Milford Haven, she started a new role...as a floating jetty terminal. And so started 50 years of ignominy.
She arrived to a tumultuous welcome from thousands lining both the Gosport and Portsmouth sides of the harbour entrance as well as her final resting place alongside an especially-built, £1.3m jetty adjacent to The Hard.
A crescendo of firecrackers, cannons, hooters and whistles echoed around the Solent as Warrior – the ship they wouldn’t allow to die – slowly slid through the harbour mouth.
As The News reported: ‘Hundreds of red, white and blue balloons, sky escorts of helicopters and light aircraft, and an armada of small craft completed the city’s traditional naval welcome.’
Reporter Mark Wingham wrote: ‘Passenger ferries, yachts, tugs, fishing boats and canoeists, bobbed about in the Solent for pride of place in the guard of honour.
‘One – the ferry Solent Princess – carried the banner: ‘Warrior, Tears in Hartlepool, Cheers in Portsmouth’.
‘Warrior – the big-gun ship that never fired in anger – became trapped in a relentless crossfire of shot...from cameras.’