Race on for HMS Caroline to be shipshape for battle centenary
The team behind the restoration of the HMS Caroline in a Belfast dock is working around the clock to have her ready for the centenary of the Battle of Jutland next month.
The last surviving ship of the May 31, 1916 battle - in which 300 Irish sailors were among those who died - is being transformed into a museum, community hub and conference venue following investment of more than £15m.
Thousands of hours of painstaking restoration by workers from Britain, Ireland and Poland have gone into the project overseen by the National Museum of the Royal Navy's Chief of Staff Captain John Rees OBE.
Captain Rees described the vessel, which is due to open to the public on June 1, as a "living legend".
"We are breathing new life into what is an internationally significant piece of world history," Mr Rees explained.
"We are particularly looking forward to hosting the centenary of the Battle of Jutland on May 31. This will be a solemn occasion to remind us of the sacrifice of 300 Irish men who died in the battle.
"It will also mark the memory of 10,000 Irish men who joined the navy in World War One."
The restoration project is being carried out in partnership with the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment.
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said that as the last floating survivor of the Battle of Jutland, HMS Caroline was an important part of maritime history.
"I am certain that, once opened to the public, it will become a significant part of the tourism offering within the Titanic Quarter," the minister added.
Work on the vessel has been split into three phases.
After it welcomes its first public visitors on June 1, landscaping work will continue until 2017.
In 2017, it will leave Alexandra Dock for dry dock inspection and hull conservation work, and then return to a new position close to the Pump House and facing out to sea.
By May 2017, the Pump House restoration will be finished and a permanent ticket office and visitor welcoming centre will be opened.