HMS Victory is in line for a windfall of ‘tens of millions of pounds’ when the Ministry of Defence hands the famous warship over to a museum.
Admiral Lord Nelson’s iconic Battle of Trafalgar ship will be turned into a charitable trust and gifted to the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in April.
The deal will see Victory retain her status as a commissioned warship, flying the White Ensign as the Second Sea Lord’s flagship with a Royal Navy ship’s company.
But her charity status will mean she is entitled to millions of pounds in donations and lottery grants.
A naval source told The News: ‘The benefit of this plan is that it will secure the future of the ship and preserve her forever. It will immediately unlock tens of millions of pounds which would otherwise never be available and which can’t be guaranteed for the ship at the moment.’
Victory, which is 247 years old, is in urgent need of repairs to stop her falling apart. In October last year, BAE Systems was awarded a £16m, 10-year contract to completely restore the ship.
But at a time of deep military cuts, the MoD has been looking at ways of funding the work without taking cash away from the front-line.
Talks have been held with officials from the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) about handing over the day-to-day running of the ship. An announcement is expected to be made soon.
The source said: ‘NMRN will run the ship but it’s an organisation that is sympathetic. It’s professional and there’s a lot of expertise there. Handing over to such an organisation will mean nothing untoward will happen. Also, under the agreement we have with the NMRN, we will still retain a degree of control and there will still be a navy deck crew serving onboard.
‘To visitors, it will appear like nothing has changed.’
Former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, who is chairman of the trustees at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: ‘We are aware that the government is considering this important issue and we of course look forward to hearing the outcome of the deliberations. After all, Victory and Portsmouth are historically linked and the ship is the most famous and popular attraction in the Historic Dockyard.’
An MoD spokesman said: ‘We are considering options for the future of HMS Victory that will reinforce her status as a Royal Navy flagship and a commissioned warship.
‘There are no plans to sell Victory. Under consideration is how her future can be secured by responsible custodianship as befits such a national icon.’