Five warships given a new lease of life as museums

American warship the USS Missouri

American warship the USS Missouri

3
Have your say

CALLS to turn Portsmouth’s iconic HMS Illustrious into a Falklands memorials may have been branded ‘unrealistic’ but there are plenty of 20th century warships which have been preserved.

The United States has preserved dozens of warships from the Second World War era and beyond.

And Russia and Japan have also taken steps to save their own iconic vessels from the scrap heap by turning them into museums.

Here are just five examples of how ships have been given a fresh lease of life as a heritage attraction.

1) USS Nautilus (America)

Nautilus was the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and was a potent force in the United States Navy.

Launched on January 21, 1954 she had a 25-year career at sea, travelling almost half a million miles.

She was decommissioned on March 3, 1980.

But in recognition of her pioneering role in the practical use of nuclear power, Nautilus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on May 20, 1982.

She is now based at the Submarine Force Museum in Connecticut.

2) Mikasa (Japan)

The 114-year-old Japanese Battleship has had an illustrious career and is the only pre-dreadnought battleship left in the world.

The Imperial Japanese Navy vessel served during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, engaging the Russians in a brutal seven-hour battle in the Yellow Sea.

Years later, she served in the First World War.

After being decommissioned and damaged by American bombs in the Second World War, the ship was left to rot, with the Japanese even contemplating scrapping her.

But in 1958 a drive was launched to restore her as a museum ship, with Japanese campaigners contacting American Admiral Chester Nimitz for help. He backed the Japanese government and offered cash to help pay for the restoration.

The work was completed on May 27, 1961. She is now anchored at Yokoshuka harbour, near Tokyo.

3) Aurora (Russia)

The famed ship was the first armoured cruiser produced in Russia.

In 1905, Aurora joined the battle of Tsushima (which also featured Mikasa) against the Imperial Japanese Navy.

In 1917 one of the ship’s guns was fired, giving rise to the storming of the Winter Palace and the October Revolution, which ushered in the Soviet Union.

She served in the First World War and by 1922, Aurora returned to service as a training ship.

During the Second World War, her guns were taken from the ship and used in the land defence of Leningrad.

Docked in Oranienbaum port, she was repeatedly shelled and bombed and on September 30, 1941 she was damaged and sunk in the harbour.

After being restored she now stands as a museum ship in Saint Petersburg.

4) USS Missouri (America)

Missouri is one of the US Navy’s most iconic Second World War battleships.

Launched towards the tail-end of the conflict, on January 29, 1944, she was the fourth ship to bear the name ‘Missouri’.

She was involved in the battle of Iwo Jima, which was controlled by the Japanese and seen as a strategic military target of importance for an American invasion of mainland Japan.

Her mighty guns provided direct and continuous support to the invasion landings begun on February 19.

Missouri was later involved in the battle for Okinawa supporting a dozen assaults and landside bombardments.

The Mighty Mo as she was known, was decommissioned on February 26, 1955, entering the Bremerton group, Pacific Reserve Fleet.

But in May 1984, the sleeping giant once again heard the call to arms. The United States Navy was recalling its dreadnoughts for modernization and updating.

She is now based at Honolulu, in Hawaii and operates as a tourist attraction.

In 2012 she stared in the sci-fi blockbuster Battleship, alongside pop star Rihanna and Liam Neeson.

5) HMS Belfast (United Kingdom)

The Royal Navy light cruiser built in the city after which she is named was launched on St Patrick’s Day in 1938. Early in the Second World War she struck a German mine and needed major repairs that took more than two years.

On her return she took part in the Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union during 1943, and in December 1943 played an important role in the Battle of North Cape.

She entered the reserve in 1963 and is now a museum ship, moored on the River Thames and run by the Imperial War Museum.

Back to the top of the page