Belfast Telegraph

Historic warship's future secured

The future of HMS Caroline has been secured with a £1 million pledge which means the historic warship can stay in Belfast.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund said it would commit the cash to help restore the vessel to its former glory.

The announcement was made during an event to reveal plans to mark the centenary of the First World War at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster, whose department has set aside £100,000 for urgent repairs on Caroline, said she was delighted by the investment announcement.

She said: "The commitment from the National Heritage Memorial Fund is as a result of a partnership between my department and the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) to create a plan for the future of the ship in Belfast. Over the last year there has been a significant effort, from myself and others, to find a solution to keeping HMS Caroline here.

"In July, Nigel Dodds MP and I met with Andrew Robathan, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans in London to press the case. I am very pleased that our collective efforts have played an important part in ensuring HMS Caroline's future is in Belfast. Fully restoring and preserving the ship will require significant funding and, to that end, we have had positive discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund."

HMS Caroline, the last survivor of the 1916 Battle of Jutland, is currently berthed at Alexandra Dock and is in need of major restoration. It is hoped that when restored the boat, which was one of the fastest warships of its time, will form part of a maritime heritage trail in Belfast's rejuvenated docklands. HMS Caroline was decommissioned as the headquarters of the Ulster Division of the Royal Naval Reserve on March 31, 2011. It has been in Belfast since 1924.

UK Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Mark Francois, said: "This is one of the most historic fighting ships in the world, one which played a role in a battle which was decisive in the outcome of the First World War. It was critical that the ship was preserved and made accessible to the public."

Peter Bleakley, from the Friends of Caroline campaign group, said: "This is fantastic news. The priority is getting the ship our of the water and repairing the leaks. The ship should have been dry docked every five years but, because of a lack of funding, this was never done.

"The ship is leaking and additional pumps have had to be purchased to help deal with the problems. The £1 million will help secure the general safety of the ship."

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