FALKLANDS flagship HMS Hermes is to be scrapped after plans to transform her into an £85m luxury hotel collapsed.
The once-mighty aircraft carrier was due to be converted into a 600-room floating resort in India, complete with five restaurants, a nightclub and swimming pools.
But after buying the 13-storey ship for less than a penny, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh axed the deal, condemning the 24,000-tonne vessel to the scrapheap.
The move has saddened naval veterans who served on the Centaur-class ship.
Vice Admiral Bob Cooling commanded Britain’s last remaining aircraft carrier, the former HMS Illustrious, and served aboard Hermes in his early career.
He said: ‘To see any magnificent warship like that come to the end of her time is a great sadness to all the veterans.
To see any magnificent warship like that come to the end of her time is a great sadnessVice Admiral Bob Cooling
‘But she was in a dreadful state. She looks pretty reasonable externally. But inside she has had coat after coat of paint to disguise the rust.’
Hermes began her service in the Royal Navy in 1959.
In April 1982 she became the flagship of the British attack against Argentine forces after they invaded the Falkland Islands.
Three days later, Hermes headed to the South Atlantic, carrying 12 Sea Harrier jets and 18 Sea King helicopters to retake the British territory.
After the 74-day battle was won, Hermes sailed back to Portsmouth to a rapturous welcome from thousands of relatives of the 1,700-strong ship’s company.
She was sold to the Indian Navy in 1986 and renamed INS Viraat before being decommissioned this year.
Admiral Lord Alan West, the former head of the navy, said plans to convert her into a hotel were ‘stupid’ and said it was better to scrap Hermes with her dignity intact.
But he said her legacy would live on in those who served aboard her.
The former First Sea Lord added: ‘She has had her noble period in our navy.’
Hermes is being scrapped at breakers yard in Kochi.