Many happy returns to mighty ship in our midst

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Many happy returns! HMS Warrior is 150 years old today and, as celebrations are held on board, we think it’s a perfect time to reflect on this mighty ship and what she brings to the city.

HMS Victory and the Mary Rose, the other two historic ships in a triumvirate that makes our historic dockyard the envy of the world, may get more attention. But Warrior plays an important part too. Together, they are the main reason why 500,000 people visit the dockyard every year.

In her day, she was revolutionary. Steam-powered, with armour plating and a broadside of 17 heavy guns, Warrior must have been an awesome sight.

Indeed, such was her power that she struck fear into the hearts of our enemies without ever firing a shot in anger.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that she changed naval warfare. As the biggest and most powerful fighting ship in the world when she was commissioned into the navy in 1861, she made other ships obsolete – and played a vital role in helping to thwart Napoleon III’s challenge to our supremacy at sea.

As she sits proudly down at The Hard, it’s remarkable to think that Warrior, the link between Nelson’s Victory and the modern navy, could easily have been lost to the nation.

Taken out of service, she ended up as a mooring hulk for oil tankers, but could easily have been sold for scrap if demand for the metal had not fallen.

She was only given a new lease of life when the government handed her over to the Maritime Trust in 1979, leading to a £10m restoration project and her eventual return to Portsmouth.

Now she is very much part of the city’s scenery and a hugely important part of what makes Portsmouth such a draw for visitors from home and abroad.

As we wish Warrior a very happy birthday, her story is a reminder of how easily our old naval ships can be lost.

Here in Portsmouth we understand the value of maritime heritage – and what better way to interpret it than by allowing people to walk on the deck of a mighty ship and experience what life on board was like?