Charity chiefs at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) have just two months to plug the funding gap in the £4.7m project to restore LCT 7074 and are now desperate for the public’s help.
LCT 7074 is the last surviving landing craft used during the pivotal Second World War invasion of France 76 years ago.
It had been hoped work to restore the huge 193ft, 300-tonne behemoth would be completed by May and that the tank could be moved to its new home near Southsea’s D-Day Story museum.
Emergency crews battling to save someone’s life on Southsea seafront
Thunderstorms in Portsmouth yellow weather warning: The Met Office forecast for the next three days in city, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and Waterlooville and Hampshire
Police update on probe into death of ‘Wiggy’ Symes after fatal dog attack in Fareham
Southsea seafront incident: Police update after man found 'unresponsive'
River Ems crisis: Westbourne villagers plead with Portsmouth Water to introduce a hosepipe ban
But the coronavirus outbreak ruined these plans leaving the project with a huge black hole in its budget.
Nick Hewitt, head of collections and research at the NMRN, said: ‘When the lockdown happened we were just coming to the end of the conservation of LCT 7074 and were on track to move the ship to its new home at The D-Day Story in Southsea in May. However, all of that work had to be paused
‘The project had to be delayed because of the Coronavirus crisis, it was a difficult decision but essential to ensure the safety of the teams working on her.
‘However, unfortunately the delay has bought additional costs on a project that was already reliant on the generous donations of the public. We now find ourselves having to raise an additional £75,000 to help us plug the Covid-19 gap by the end of August.’
The situation was revealed on Saturday, the 76th anniversary of the June 6 invasion of Normandy.
The huge tank is stored inside a shiphall at Portsmouth Naval Base, where refurbishment work has been carried out.
The effort to complete the mighty craft was resumed last month, with conservationists and engineers carrying out key jobs to complete the ship.
Among the work includes the completion of the ship’s original disruptive pattern paintwork used to camouflage the vessel.
Over the coming weeks, the restored funnel, replacement guns and rocket launchers will also be reattached ahead of the internal fit out of the ship.
It’s hoped the ship will be moved to its new position outside the D-Day Story museum in the summer
Portsmouth culture boss Councillor Steve Pitt said: ‘The work done to restore LCT 7074 is absolutely phenomenal and the conservation team should be proud of the transformation of this historic ship. It will make a fantastic addition to Portsmouth's cultural offering and is set to become a landmark attraction alongside the D-Day Story and the many heritage sites we have in the city.’
To donate to the fundraiser, see nmrn.org.uk/donate.