Royal Navy's HMS Bronington: 'Last of wooden walls' set for romantic return to Portsmouth after 35 years

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An historic warship once captained by King Charles is set to return home to Portsmouth if efforts to save her are successful, The News can reveal.

The trust put the record straight on those false rumours and also revealed they were locked in ‘secret’ discussions over finding a suitable home for the ship. Now The News can reveal that Bronington is set for a romantic return to Portsmouth after 35 years if restoration efforts prove successful.

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HMS Bronington in June 2022. Pic Phil OwenHMS Bronington in June 2022. Pic Phil Owen
HMS Bronington in June 2022. Pic Phil Owen

Discussions have been taking place between the trust, Portsmouth Historic Dockyards and the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), who have ‘identified prestigious berths within Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard that would be suitable for HMS Bronington’.

In an email, the director general of the NMRN Dominic Tweddle told the trust: ‘If you are able to find the resource to restore HMS Bronington, then NMRN will look favourably on a request to find space for her on one of its sites, preferably in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. There are potential berths available. I wish you all the best in your endeavours.’

It means the vessel, decommissioned in 1988 at Portsmouth, is looking increasingly likely it will return to her final squadron base port in the city, if restoration funds can be found.

Mike McBride, of the trust, said: ‘Key to successful funding applications and restoring HMS Bronington has been finding a viable post restoration home for the vessel. On the advice of the NMRN, the charity has applied to the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) for rescue funding. The NHMF will give their initial response to this expression of Interest funding application later this month.’

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Dive survey of HMS Bronington. Pic Phil OwenDive survey of HMS Bronington. Pic Phil Owen
Dive survey of HMS Bronington. Pic Phil Owen

The rescue funding would include stages of vessel salvage and recovery, delivery to a nearby shipyard at Birkenhead, and landing at a nearby shipyard slipway on a bespoke steel cradle - all to happen this year. The next phase would be stabilisation of the vessel's condition and removal of toxic and polluting materials that would take place this year and into next. The final phase would then be restoration to a defined state likely from next year through to 2026.

‘The charity is optimistic that rescue funding from the NHMF will lead on to major restorative funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and other charitable sources to conduct phases four and five of the project,’ Mr McBride said.

The trust has now raised over £12,000 to save Bronington, a Cold War-era minesweeper and one of the last naval ships to feature a wooden hull. A dive survey last June revealed Bronington, which has been left rotting and submerged at Birkenhead Docks, can be saved. The Bronington Trust previously declared its bid to become a charity was successful with the formation of HMS Bronington Preservation Trust Ltd in December.

Mr McBride added: ‘The level of public support and crowd funding has been humbling.’