The survey made alarming reading. HMS Victory was riddled with rot, rainwater was leaking in and she was suffering serious structural damage.
But with government departments ordered to make big cutbacks, would the Ministry of Defence be able to find the millions of pounds it would cost to restore Nelson’s flagship? Or would it plead poverty and so allow the process of decay to continue?
We were all ready to fight to ensure she got the investment she so badly needed. We certainly weren’t prepared to sit by should the vital preservation of this iconic ship not be funded.
But that campaign is no longer necessary because we reveal today how up to £20m is to be spent on major restoration of Victory. A contract is to be put out to tender and work could start before the end of the year and last a decade.
That’s great news. We’ve always believed that Victory is well worth whatever it costs to keep her in good shape.
People from other parts of the country may wonder at large sums being spent on her by the MoD at a time of belt-tightening, but she gives good value for that investment.
We don’t just say that because Victory is one of the jewels in Portsmouth’s crown and attracts 350,000 visitors to the city each year.
This is not about parochialism. Victory is a huge asset, a unique piece of our heritage that has national and international significance.
Of course, the MoD faces a tough time number-crunching to find the money needed for Victory’s restoration. But we’re sure the end result will be well worth the investment.
We’re also pleased to see the MoD has no intention of selling off Victory to be run privately. Instead it has underlined its commitment to Victory remaining part of the Royal Navy and the Second Sea Lord’s flagship. That has to be the right decision.
There may be lingering sadness at the farewell of one iconic ship, Ark Royal. But now we can look forward to another getting the care and attention she deserves.