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Paint samples aid Caroline revamp

Published 28/05/2015

HMS Caroline is the last surviving vessel of the 1916 Battle of Jutland
HMS Caroline is the last surviving vessel of the 1916 Battle of Jutland

Historians are rewriting their rule books after discovering the original colour of one of the world's oldest warships.

Paint samples taken from HMS Caroline - the last surviving vessel of the 1916 Battle of Jutland - have provided experts with a rare insight into maritime history.

Jef Maytom, who made the discovery, said : "It is the equivalent of a palaeontologist being able to finally prove that dinosaurs were a specific colour or had feathers."

HMS Caroline is currently undergoing a multimillion-pound restoration.

The 100-year-old Royal Navy ship was destined for the scrap heap but a preservation campaign was launched two years ago.

Archeologists, historians and interpretive designers have exactly one year to complete its transformation into a floating museum before the centenary of the famous sea battle.

Captain John Rees, of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: "The ship is full of curiosities and we are making discoveries of never before seen artefacts including important paint samples.

"Because photography was black-and-white during much of the first half of the 20th century, it has been more or less impossible to determine the colours in which ships, vehicles and equipment were painted during World War One.

"Thanks to what we have found on HMS Caroline, we are able to review the entire colour history of the ship and accurately depict the paint schemes Caroline was painted in over 100 years."

Built on Merseyside in 1914, the 3,750 tonne light cruiser was part of the screening force which sailed out ahead of the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet during the Battle of Jutland to establish the position of the German battleships.

Both sides suffered heavy casualties in what was the most significant clash between battleships during the First World War. Britain and Germany both claimed victory.

Six years after the war ended, HMS Caroline was moved from Portsmouth to Belfast to become a training vessel for local Royal Navy Reserves. Most of the rest of the fleet was decommissioned and broken up.

HMS Caroline performed its function as a drill ship up until 2011, apart from during the Second World War when it was used as an operations headquarters for efforts to protect Atlantic convoys from German U-boats.

While moored at Alexandra Dock, the boat fell into disrepair and came perilously close to sinking when pipes and radiators burst during the big freeze that hit the region in 2010.

Mr Rees said the preservation work was on course for completion by next year.

He said: "The first stage of safeguarding work was completed last month. This stopped any further deterioration of the ship."

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