Belfast Telegraph

Plugging the leaks to make HMS Caroline shipshape

BY DERIC HENDERSON

VITAL weatherproofing repairs have started to secure HMS Caroline in advance of major restorative work to turn the famous First World War fighting ship into a floating museum in Belfast.

The Belfast Telegraph has led the campaign to have the only survivor of the historic Battle of Jutland preserved.

It came dangerously close to sinking during the big freeze of 2010 when pipes and radiators burst, but work is now under way to protect it from the ravages of another potential harsh winter.

Deck timbers are being replaced to prevent the risk of more flooding and a major internal inspection of space below the water line is being carried out. Electrician Billy Hughes (53) is satisfied everything possible is being done to halt further deterioration before the main multi-million pound restorative project is launched to get the ship ready for the 2016 centenary of the Battle of Jutland, in which it was centrally involved.

"There has been some leakage, but we're doing everything we can to get it wrapped up before the weather gets really cold and miserable," said Billy.

Some 165,000 visitors a year are forecast when the light cruiser, launched and commissioned in 1914 and currently at Alexandra Dock, opens as a museum.

Captain John Rees, chief of staff at the Portsmouth-based National Museum of the Royal Navy and project director, said the damage of three years ago threatened to sink the ship which was owned at the time by the MoD.

Caroline was the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, the First World War's longest sea battle.

When the war ended she became a static training ship based in Belfast, but was back in action in the Second World War.

She later returned to Belfast to resume a static role until being decommissioned in 2011, making her the longest ship in commission in the Navy after HMS Victory.

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