Efforts to save Royal Navy's 'last of the wooden walls' HMS Bronington boosted as campaigners push for charitable status after hitting initial fundraising target

EFFORTS to save a sinking Royal Navy warship once captained by Prince Charles have seen campaigners ‘confident’ of securing charitable status after reaching its initial fundraising target.

By Steve Deeks
Friday, 11th March 2022, 1:47 pm
Updated Monday, 14th March 2022, 9:56 am

Supporters rallying to save HMS Bronington, a Cold War-era minesweeper and one of the last naval ships to feature a wooden hull, have secured one of their first targets to reach £5,000.

The recently formed Bronington Trust has also revealed they have plans to pledge for the return of artefacts from museums that were removed from Bronington under the stewardship of National Historic Ship UK (NHSUK) for safekeeping during her demise at Birkenhead Docks, Merseyside.

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HMS Bronington March 2022. Pic Mike McBride

Despite her past glories and service to the country in helping maintain peace during the turbulent Cold War, Bronington had looked set for the scrapyard after being submerged in the docks.

But after hitting nearly £6,000 raised, the trust is now in the process of applying for charitable status - paving the way for more donations.

Mike McBride, of the trust, said: ‘In 1989 the MOD announced that HMS Bronington had been placed in the care of a charitable trust, The Bronington Trust.

‘This has now expired due to the cessation of the original Bronington Trust. The newly formed trust are in the process of applying or reactivating the charitable status for HMS Bronington and are confident we can replicate the previous charitable status.’

HMS Bronington March 2022. Pic Mike McBride

This would mean the trust can receive access to funding only available to organisations with charitable status and would be eligible for a gift aid where they can claim back 25p every time an individual donates £1 to the charity.

Speaking of attempts to retrieve artefacts from the ship, Mr McBride said: ‘The trust have been actively pursuing the artefacts and equipment that was removed from HMS Bronington under the stewardship of NHSUK for safekeeping during her demise at Birkenhead.

‘If this project is successful, a pledge that all articles held by museums will be returned to HMS Bronington has been requested from NHSUK.’

If they can restore Bronington against all the odds then the trust has plans of how to use her.

Future aspirations would include delivering yachting and diving courses and teaching navigation. It could be hired for fishing/diving trips, filming, and used by Sea Cadets and the Prince’s Trust.

If these goals prove too much due to cost and unavailability of equipment, then Bronington would revert to becoming a static display alongside or in a dry dock, open to the public, similar to her successful years as a museum ship on the Manchester Ship Canal.

Should this project fail all money raised will be donated to service charities.

But in the meantime progress is being made.

The trust was approached by the navy and United Kingdom Naval Engineering, Science and Technology (UKNEST).

It is hoped the navy will help with the dive survey and recovery and UKNEST with fundraising and professional help.

The campaigners are in ‘constant discussion’ with commercial salvage and diving specialists, Cammell Laird Shipbuilders and Peel Ports.

A positive meeting between parties was held earlier this month.

‘The meeting went extremely well and was mainly held to allow divers from the MOD Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) to have an initial above water look at the ship with a view to conducting an internal/external dive survey in the near future,’ Mr McBride said.

‘Results of the dive survey will be critical to the progress of this salvage operation. We are of course hopeful that the dive survey, which will be conducted in conjunction with the commercial specialists - Gilgeous Diving and Marine Services, will trigger the efforts to re-float and stabilise the ship at her current location.

‘Following this, it is then planned to move her to a slipway at nearby Cammell Laird Shipbuilders in Birkenhead for renovation under their apprenticeship scheme.’

He added: ‘A massive team effort by all concerned.’

The trust have been blown away by people’s support, including a ‘very generous donation’ of £500 from the Liverpool Royal Naval Association.

Albert T donated £50. He said on the fundraising page: ‘In late 1969 I found myself on HMS Bronington as a new 'Schoolie' gaining familiarisation with a 'small' ship.

‘I learnt so much and gained invaluable experience, largely thanks to the close knit ship's company and the good humour of folk. Thanks to whomever it was who presented me with a spaghetti and tomato sauce "sarnie” on the first stormy day with the deck moving every which way. Very Best Wishes to all involved with her restoration.’

Lawrence D donated £50 and said: ‘I love the Royal Navy.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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