HMS Bronington: Historic Royal Navy ship once captained by King Charles might now be homed on River Thames

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An historic warship once captained by King Charles could now be homed on the River Thames if efforts to save her are successful.

HMS Bronington submerged at Birkenhead Docks. Pic Bronington TrustHMS Bronington submerged at Birkenhead Docks. Pic Bronington Trust
HMS Bronington submerged at Birkenhead Docks. Pic Bronington Trust

In a major development amid efforts to save the “last of the wooden walls” minehunter HMS Bronington, it has now emerged the warship captained by the then Prince Charles in 1976 might not be destined for a romantic return to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

The Bronington Trust, which is spearheading efforts  to save the beleaguered ship currently submerged in Merseyside Docks, has maintained its preference to return her home to Portsmouth but has revealed talks have been held over the possibility of birthing Bronington on the River Thames.

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Mike McBride, of the trust, said they have held discussions with the HMS Wellington Trust (HMSWT) at Temple Stairs on the River Thames. The possibility of a restored Bronington joining HMS Wellington and HMS Belfast on the River Thames was discussed. The meeting was attended by members of the HMSWT, Dominic Tweddle (former director general of the National Museum Royal Navy) and Commodore Menzies (Royal Navy) and Ben Wilson (King's Waterman).

 “The King's Waterman suggested three or four berths on the River Thames that would be suitable for Bronington, and the HMSWT chairman suggested that their maintenance engineer could be shared between the vessels,” Mr McBride said.

“Although Portsmouth Historic Dockyard remains the trust’s preferred home for Bronington, it's good practice for the trust to have an alternative home for the vessel. The fast tidal race of the Thames may be detrimental to a wooden hull, berthing fees could be high, and lack of dry dock facilities may preclude the River Thames as an option. The significance and popularity of Bronington would undoubtedly increase the visitor footfall for HM Ships Wellington and Belfast.”

However, if the trust gets its wish then Portsmouth Historic Dockyards would prove a popular destination. “It's envisaged that if we're successful with restoring and then berthing her at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard she'll become a focal point for service veterans,” Mr McBride said.

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“She would complement the Vernon Mine Warfare and Diving Monument in HMS Vernon (now Gunwharf Quays), her former MCM2 Squadron base in the 1960s - 1980s.  Discussions with the director general of the National Museum Royal Navy Dominic Tweddle have been favourable.”

Mr McBride also commended the Ton Class Association (TCA) for its recent support and donations for the rescue phases of the project. “The kind support of Rear Admiral Roy Clare is much coveted, and we're extremely grateful for his appearance in the Maritime Films UK film production for Bronington. If we're successful, it's hoped that TCA members will visit the ship, have a wet or two at the bar, assist as ship guides, and help keep her shipshape.”

HMS Bronington in Portsmouth. Pic: Bronington TrustHMS Bronington in Portsmouth. Pic: Bronington Trust
HMS Bronington in Portsmouth. Pic: Bronington Trust | bronington trust

Meanwhile, Maritime Films UK (MFUK) has continued the production of a film that records the restoration project. Rob White, leading the production, has previously filmed the dive survey at Birkenhead in June 2022. Additional footage was then shot on HMS Wellington and featured Dan Snow (British Historian/TV Presenter) and Rear Admiral Roy Clare, former First Lieutenant for King Charles (then Prince Charles) on Bronington in 1976. “The trust is very grateful that all production costs are free of charge, and will count as volunteer match funding for the project,” Mr McBride said. 

Securing heritage funding now remains the key priority for the Bronington Trust after a dive survey concluded the ship could be salvaged. “Crowd funding and other donations has allowed the Bronington Trust to engage the services of the highly experienced heritage funding, project development and change management specialists Tricolor Associates (TA),” Mr McBride said.

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“TA are adept at working with Heritage Funding, and have had over £200m in funding success which includes consultancy for the World War Two D-Day Landing Craft – LCT 7074 now on display at the D-Day at Southsea, and many other cultural projects.” 

Councillor Steve Pitt, leader of the city council, said previously: "Our tourism and marketing team work with the Historic Dockyard to promote Portsmouth to visitors, and the arrival of a new historic ship at the dockyard would be something that would feature in our wider promotion of the city. I wish you well with your endeavours.”

Mr McBride thanked the public and all those who have donated to the project including The Community Council of the village of Bronington which has made a generous donation.

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