THE 32-year restoration of HMS Warrior will finally be completed on Wednesday when a sick berth is unveiled on the ship.
Curators have worked since 1979 to return the Victorian warship to her former glory after decades of decay and neglect.
The sick berth, which will be officially unveiled live on television, is the final stage of the multi-million pound restoration project on the warship which has been on display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard since 1987.
The project was led by archivist Andrew Baines who studied a detailed plan of the Warrior as drawn by a 14-year-old midshipman who showed the ship down to the smallest details.
‘This has been an enormously complicated project, needing thousands of hours of research,’ said Mr Baines.
‘To see the project complete will be tremendously satisfying for all of us on Warrior and will allow us to show our visitors another fascinating aspect of life at sea in Queen Victoria’s navy.’
As the world’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship, powered by steam as well as sail, the Warrior changed the course of naval warfare when the Royal Navy commissioned her 150 years ago.
But it was the ship’s devastating power that led to her early decline.
She sparked a fierce shipbuilding race between European nations which moved at such a rate that she became outdated and was withdrawn from front-line service in 1882 without firing a shot in anger.
After decades of neglect during her use as an oil fuel depot, Warrior was rescued from ruin by the Maritime Trust in Hartlepool in 1979 and has been fully restored to show visitors what life was like onboard the ship all those years ago.
The three-year, £60,000 refurbishment of the sick berth is the final piece of a heritage jigsaw.
Having spent so much time and money training Warrior’s crew, the Royal Navy wanted to ensure good health at sea and, in keeping with the ship, the sick berth was state of the art with facilities to dispense medicine and an operating table that would have rivalled that of a land hospital at the time.
Mr Baines said: ‘In undertaking the sick berth restoration we have remained faithful to the ethos established by the Hartlepool restoration team – that something only goes on display if we can guarantee that it was on board, and know exactly what it looked like.
‘One of the wonderful things about my job is that it covers so many different areas of research.
‘One day I can be looking into what materials were appropriate to the mattresses used on board, and another it might be how quickly a naval surgeon could amputate a leg.’
Warrior will star on live television as the sick berth is officially unveiled to the public on Wednesday. BBC One presenters Dan Snow and Sian Williams from National Treasures Live will broadcast from the 19th century warship from 7.30pm until 8pm.
Visitors to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will be able to look around the sick berth for themselves from Thursday onwards.