Royal Navy's HMS Bronington: Former crew on 'last of wooden walls' warship fondly remember service as restoration efforts set to step up

FORMER crew on a once-proud Royal Navy warship captained by Prince Charles that is now rotting submerged in a dockyard have fondly recalled memories of serving on her as efforts step up to save the minesweeper.

By Steve Deeks
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 4:55 am

HMS Bronington, a Cold War-era minesweeper and one of the last naval ships to feature a wooden hull, is set to undergo its first dive survey in order to identify the state of the hull before a decision is made on salvaging her.

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 at Birkenhead Docks, Merseyside.

But the Bronington Trust, set up at the end of last year to save the former warship, has so far raised more than £7,600.

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HMS Bronington submerged at Mersey Docks

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As the rescue mission continues, those who served on Bronington have rallied with donations and messages of goodwill on the fundraising page.

Charlies McMains, who donated £1,000, said: ‘I admire the Prince and his service.’

Stephen Lee wrote: ‘I remember going on board when she was moored alongside the IWM North.

Lord Mountbatten watches as Prince Charles brings his minehunter HMS Bronington alongside at HMS Vernon, Portsmouth,

‘I hope she is rescued and restored, we have lost too many ships that should have been preserved as part of our naval heritage.’

John Plummer posted: ‘During that time in 1978 I had the honour of commanding HMS Bronington for about two months before taking command of HMS Lewiston.’

Albert Thompson said: ‘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.’

William Dowell said: ‘It will be great to see this ship saved.’

HMS Bronington when she was active. Pic supplied

David Wilson wrote: ‘A great bit of naval heritage worth saving.’

Carla Williams posted: ‘I donated because we need to restore and cherish every piece of history available. And what better way than an HMS ship. Good luck.’

Phillip Plevey added: ‘I served on Bronington in 1968/69 as a CD2. She is well worth saving. A grand old ship.’

Mino Manekshaw said: ‘This is an historic vessel, the very last in a long line of wooded-walled warships in the Royal Navy and one which our future King commanded.

HMS Bronington crew. Pic Phillip Plevey

‘She is also a tribute to the lasting spirit and ethos of the men who manned this small-ship navy that served so well around the world, in conflict zones and peacekeeping missions.’

A picture of the journey ahead will be clearer after Gilgeous Diving and Marine Services begins its dive survey next week.

Following this, the MoD’s Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) will conduct a training dive survey in late June to confirm the underwater status of the vessel.

If the dive surveys are successful and enough funds are available she will then be transferred to a shipyard for restoration.

If Bronington is salvageable, the trust will apply for the reactivation of a charitable status from 1990 - 2003 which will ‘assist massively with obtaining grants and sponsorships for the project’.

A number of stakeholders are involved in the project with many offering their services for free.

If the restoration project fails then all money raised will be donated to military charities.