Fresh calls made to save unique Royal Navy destroyer HMS Bristol from being scrapped and instead turn Portsmouth ship into a museum
MOUNTING calls to save a one-of-a-kind naval warship from the scrapheap and transform it into a new heritage attraction have been backed by a council leader.
Unique HMS Bristol is set to be scrapped by the Royal Navy next year after a whopping 57 years in the water.
Designed to defend a class of aircraft carriers which were never built, Bristol was the only Type 82 destroyer ever built for the Royal Navy.
She now moored at the tip of Whale Island, in Portsmouth Harbour, opposite navy HQ and has been a training ship for thousands of young Sea Cadets.
But the arrangement is set to cease ‘at the end of 2020’ the navy said, casting doubt over Bristol’s future.
A petition calling on the National Museum of the Royal Navy to consider taking on the vessel has so far been backed by almost 7,500 people.
And now, Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has thrown his weight behind the campaign to save Bristol.
Speaking to The News, Councillor Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has got a Tudor ship in the Mary Rose, a Georgian ship in HMS Victory, it’s got a Victorian one in HMS Warrior - what it doesn’t have is a good-sized, grey metal ship to add to the collection.
‘If HMS Bristol is in a suitable state to be a museum piece then that might be an option… I would be disappointed to see her go.’
HMS Bristol was launched in 1969 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on March 31, 1971. She served during the Falklands conflict in 1982 before being decommissioned nine years later.
Bristol was then converted into an accommodation ship for the sea cadets, hosting up to 17,000 visitors a year.
A petition was launched by former Sea Cadet Matthew Hutchinson after news broke she was to be scrapped.
He said: ‘As a former Sea Cadet and an amateur naval historian it saddens me to see such a great piece of British maritime history have an uncertain future and knowing that I had many joyous experiences onboard her while as a cadet.
‘The purpose of this petition is to ask the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) or the Royal Navy directly to ensure that she Is preserved, restored and turned into a museum ship so future generations can learn about the Falklands war, and her contributions to the lives of so many people; past and present.’
The MoD confirmed provision of training and accommodation facilities would ‘cease at the end of 2020’ and that Bristol would be ‘released for disposal by March 31, 2020’.
‘There are currently no plans to review this decision however alternative facilities for the delivery of the training and accommodation currently achieved on board HMS Bristol are being explored,’ the MoD said in a reply to a freedom of information request.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said it was important new accommodation was found before Bristol was scrapped and added: ‘‘I’m surprised the navy is going to get rid of her before they have come up with a suitable alternative for the accommodation of cadets.
‘Making sure that we grow the next generation of people that go into the navy is really important, therefore being a Sea Cadet is a really important part of that journey.’