For Release at 0800 3rd December 2008
From Warship Management Ltd, 9 Branson Court, Plymouth PL7 2WW
"DISGRACE" AS FAMOUS WARSHIP IS SNUBBED
Three years of intensive efforts to return the Falklands veteran frigate HMS PLYMOUTH to her home port of Plymouth to go back on public display appear to have failed today (Tuesday 2 December) . After being bombed in action, this historic frigate hosted the surrender of South Georgia by Argentine forces in 1982 and went on to serve in the Royal Navy until 1988 after which she was purchased at full market value by the charity The Warship Preservation Trust (WPT) from the MoD . She was successfully opened to the public at Plymouth (88,000 visitors in the first year), Glasgow and since 1991, Birkenhead, but in 2005 the location in which her berth stood was sold to third party developers and alternative short term berths were unacceptable to the management of WPT. With no acceptable berth, the project closed and the WPT was placed into administration.
As the last surviving warship to have been built in Devonport, fund raising has continued ever since to purchase and re-open her in Plymouth as a focus for tourism and maritime heritage education. This has included a massive effort by her former crew members in the HMS PLYMOUTH Association who raised more than £30,000. Other donors across this country and abroad have raised enough money to purchase the vessel and tow her from Merseyside to Plymouth. The first possibility was at Commercial Wharf outside Sutton Harbour but was blocked by development, the second possibility, Howard's Quay on the Plym (owned by John Howard Marine), was ruled out by berthing costs & increased by technical doubts raised by the local harbourmaster, Capt. Tim Charlesworth and the previous Commander of HM Naval Base, Devonport, Commodore Simon Lister. It is believed that Commodore Lister commissioned a "Limited Survey" on this privately-owned ship, presumably at taxpayer expense. This report curiously declared that "as a warship" she was not fit to sit on the mud, despite surviving heavy seas around the world and an Argentinian bombing raid. WML commissioned extensive and expensive reports by professional Naval Architects whose calculations from the ship's original structural plans showed that there would be no difficulty. All has been on course to tow the ship south until unfortunately Howard Marine then trebled their charge for their potential berth.
Following this, an emergency meeting was held last week between Lord David Owen and the current Commander of HM Naval Base Devonport, Commodore Ian Jess, to ascertain if the Navy would allow the vessel to be berthed in Devonport's South Yard until this transfers to civilian ownership in the future. Commodore Jess however told Lord Owen that there was no room for the vessel. He also informed Lord Owen that the listed dry dock which the project might have hoped to use, No 2 Dock, had had its gates removed in the last three months and was now tidal, making it impractible to berth HMS PLYMOUTH without reinstating the gates at a cost of over a million pounds. This has led to WML despairing of finding a berth for HMS PLYMOUTH in the city, which, having to leave Merseyside soon, may swell be sent to the scrapyard.
Councillor Dr. David Salter of Plymouth City Council has given the project his full support and has been assisting and encouraging the project for two years, including many meetings with owners of potential berths. He said "I believe this outcome is a local and national disgrace after enormous effort by WML, the men of the HMS Plymouth Association and by well wishers all over the country. It is outrageous that in her namesake City with a huge waterfront and international maritime reputation, no place at all can be found for this historic warship with a proven ability to attract tourists and educate youngsters."
Speaking last night from his home in Liskeard, Mike Critchley (former Royal Navy officer and first CEO of the Warship Preservation Trust which took the vessel over from the Navy in 1988) said “It is a very disappointing day – particularly for those many volunteers who have spent thousands of hours keeping the vessel in a superb shape and open to the public for many years. Even today after three years awaiting her fate in the docks at Birkenhead and now looking scruffy externally, inside she is still ready to receive visitors. Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, the current owners, have given her plenty of care and the lights and ventilation are still on – she would just need a power supply in any new berth and someone somewhere could have a great tourist attraction of historic significance.
What concerns me the most is the beautiful chapel that was built into the ship as a memorial to all the UK seafarers lost in the South Atlantic in 1982. Many a parent and family member has returned to the ship over the years to see their sons name on the chapel oak panels....and I have never heard of a group of sailors raising OVER £30k amongst themselves to preserve their old ship with this memorial onboard.
What next? the owners, following this disappointing news, will no doubt reconvene to discuss the ships future – they have been more than generous in awaiting a favourable response from Plymouth and they feel Plymouth is letting them down at this final hurdle. Very soon she becomes the maritime equivalent of a listed building when she is 50 years old and that may bring them many a potential problem.
I am aware of two organisations overseas and one in the UK which have expressed an interest in hosting her in the past, but in recent times more inquiries have come to Merseyside to release her for scrap. The owners have always resisted this option in favour of seeing the ship return to her natural home – PLYMOUTH. I see the possibility of a breakers yard looming – a fate from which she was saved in 1988. Surely this should not be the way that her story ends?”
CONTACTS. You may want to contact the following who have been major players in this long running story in recent years
Ian Stockdale ( W M L Company Secretary)
Cllr David Salter (Plymouth City Council)
Dave Briody – Mersey Docks and Harbour Company
Captain Tim Chalesworth ( Cattewater Harbourmaster)
Captain David Pentreath ( HMS PLYMOUTH Captain during Falklands war)
Martin Slater – HMS PLYMOUTH Association Secretary . Tel 0151 286 6992
Sir Philip Goodhart – former Chairman of Warship Preservation Trust – ex MP and Govt Minister
John Howard Marine
HMS Plymouth Association’s Response to WML’s Press Release
It was with a sense of profound regret that HMS Plymouth Association, an organisation of former crew members, learnt of Warship Management Ltd’s (WML) intention to abandon all attempts at preserving HMS Plymouth in the City of her berth [sic].
The Association has been closely involved in a great many aspects of the negotiations in trying to obtain a suitable berth for the Falklands veteran; soon to be officially listed an Historic Vessel; and appreciate the frustration which WML has endured when dealing with a City, who for the most part, appears to be totally indifferent to not only saving this iconic warship, but where some elements appear to be actively attempting to thwart those efforts.
While the ship herself is fundamentally just the same as when she was last in RN service, there is one significant and poignant feature which makes her unique. A wood-panelled, dedicated chapel of remembrance was created on board which very quickly became a valuable asset, not only for many participants of the conflict, but also for families of the bereaved, providing for them a place to reflect and come to terms with those traumatic events.
Many view the failure to find a suitable berth as symptomatic of a society willing to expose its members to all manner of dangers, but once the immediate need is satisfied, equally willing to ignore their subsequent needs.
The Association, having taken a proactive role with WML - its members having raised significant funds - stands poised to support any venture that will facilitate opening the ship to the public once more; from ships husbandry to interpretation of the systems employed on board, and all points between.
In the current financial crises many members of the Association have found it difficult to reconcile the needs of bankers with the needs of some of the more ordinary members of our society.
1982 became the most recorded chapter in H.M.S. Plymouth’s history, when she took part in every significant action in the Falklands conflict, from the recapturing of South Georgia Island (the surrender document being signed in her wardroom), to the British re-entry into Port Stanley harbour when she took on the role of Queens Harbour Master
In what was the last naval battle of the 20th Century, a ship designed for the Cold War, was to see action in a Hot War, a war which cost this country 4 RN ships sunk, Sheffield, Coventry, Antelope and Ardent, 1 Merchant Navy ship sunk, Atlantic Conveyor and 1 Royal Fleet Auxiliary sunk as a war grave, Sir Galahad.
It does behove us to consider, in a more sympathetic way, the significant heritage that H.M.S. Plymouth represents.
CONTACTS. You may want to contact the following who have been staunch supporters of the bid to ‘Take H.M.S. Plymouth Home’
Andy Hayler, Association Vice Chairman Tel 01483 892 074 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (currently touring the Falkland Islands with the band of H.M.S. Collingwood. Available after 11th December)
Martin Slater, Association Secretary Tel 0151 286 6992 e-mail email@example.com
Rt Hon the Lord Owen, CH PC
Sir Philip Goodhart, former Chairman The Warship Preservation Trust
Capt David Pentreath, Commanding Officer H.M.S. Plymouth 1982
Lt Cdr Mike Critchley, CEO Warship Management Ltd.
Ian Stockdale, Co. Secretary Warship Management Ltd.
Cllr Dr. David Salter, Plymouth City Council
Dave Briody – Mersey Docks and Harbour Company
John Howard, John Howard Marine
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