It’s good to see HMS Bristol back in Portsmouth, looking spick and span after a £4m refit.
As the last warship still commissioned to have seen action in the Falklands War, she holds a special place in the city’s affections. That’s why veterans gathered to see her as she passed the Round Tower yesterday.
The government has invested the money because it can see the value in prolonging Bristol’s life so she can be used as a naval training ship for cadets and trainee sailors, giving them important experience on board a real warship.
We think that’s the right call – although we do have to wonder whether, if the decision to fund the work was being taken today, the outcome would be the same.
Financial pressures within the Ministry of Defence, along with every government department, are great.
With cuts demanded, the cost of keeping an old ship going would be much, much harder to justify now.
Although Bristol has had her radar mast removed for safety reasons, the Type 82 destroyer has been upgraded with new paint, heating and air conditioning.
There are also new toilets, comfier living quarters and even a lecture theatre.
From May 9, training will begin again following the six-month refit period.
Some people complained at the time Bristol left that the work should have been done in Portsmouth, not Tyneside.
Of course that would have been nice, but the reality was that no local firms submitted any bids. According to the Ministry of Defence, they had their chance and didn’t take it.
Apart from her training role, we think it’s important for 42-year-old Bristol to be in the city for another reason.
Because although our historic dockyard boasts the hugely impressive triumvirate of the Mary Rose, Victory and Warrior, the 20th century is not represented.
So we welcome Bristol back as a reminder of that time – and look forward to the day we see another ship on public display in the dockyard to fill the gap in our proud naval history.