My recent photograph of HMS Victorious leaving Portsmouth and passing the Round Tower prompted Mike Nolan to look through his collection.
And he found these three images of the aircraft carrier in her later life from being rebuilt from the waterline and having a new angled flight deck installed between 1950 and 1958; proudly ploughing towards a naval photographer at sea after recommissioning, and finally the heartbreaking sight of any ship when it has gone to the breaker’s we see the ‘Vic,’ as she was fondly known, back down to the waterline at the breaker’s at Faslane Naval Base.
Above we see the’Vic’ in dry dock in Portsmouth Dockyard.
In the caption I have said it is a rebuild photograph but on reflection I think it is a destruction photograph as we can see the name Victorious in the bottom left hand of the photograph. It would not have been painted in at that time if she was being rebuilt. Also, the names of naval ships were later painted on the stern of the ship.
So this must be when the Vic was being cut down in the very early 1950s ready to be built back up again over the coming eight years.
The second picture shows her having been reborn as almost an entirely new ship making her way towards a naval photographer more than likely looking out from one of Vic’s helicopters.
The complete rebuild cost £30m which equates to about £960m in today’s money.
One of the saddest sights for anyone who served in the Royal Navy is seeing one of their former ships going to the breaker’s yard.
After that rebuild in Portsmouth Dockyard and being recommissioned in January 1958 as a new ship, it was only 10 years later she was paid off and sent to destruction, a complete and utter waste of resources.
In the final picture on this page we see the ‘Vic’ down to the waterline. A few months later she would only exist in memories and photographs.
•And so to the final picture…
Seen in a state that would be recognised by someone living in a previous century we are looking into Grand Parade, Old Portsmouth.
The left side of High Street, from where the photographer was standing, was destroyed in the blitz of the Second Word War but just a few yards across the road, Grand Parade survived everything the Luftwaffe could throw at it.
My late father, a local to Old Portsmouth when a boy, told me he was quite shocked to see the state of High Street when he returned home from Egypt in 1945.
’You don’t know what you missed Bob,’ he would say.