HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship of the Battle of Jutland, will be preserved for the nation as a result of an agreement to gift the ship to the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN).
Following negotiations between the Ministry of Defence, the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the NMRN, the Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Mark Francois, has announced the gifting of HMS Caroline to the NMRN.
The move will allow the museum to bid for external funding for her restoration and preservation.
HMS Caroline, which decommissioned as the Headquarters of the Ulster Division of the Royal Naval Reserve on 31 March last year, will remain in Belfast where she has been berthed since 1924.
Her continued presence in the city, at Alexandra Dock, will provide a welcome addition to the maritime heritage of the province, providing Belfast’s Titanic Quarter with another world attraction.
Mr Francois said:
“We are very pleased and relieved that HMS Caroline has been secured for future generations.
“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.”
Director General of the NMRN, Professor Dominic Tweddle, said:
“While Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home of the NMRN, has the facilities for restoring vessels of such immense historic significance, we are very pleased that Belfast, Caroline’s home for 80 years, will now provide a berth in perpetuity for the much loved ship.
“We are grateful to the MOD for gifting the ship to us and to the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for the spirit of partnership, the enthusiasm it has shown, and the commitment it has made to the vessel’s restoration and eventual presentation to the public.”
Welcoming the news, Northern Ireland’s Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said:
“Today’s [15 October] announcement is great news as it means we will be able to begin the process of bringing HMS Caroline back to her former glory.
“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 to create a plan for the future of the ship in Belfast.
“My Department has also set aside up to £100,000 towards remedial work this year on HMS Caroline.
“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 is part of the fabric of Belfast and she is also an integral part of our maritime history.
“The ship is of outstanding national significance and HMS Caroline has huge potential as a visitor experience as she is listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels.”
HMS Caroline was designed as a fast cruiser and built by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead in 1914. In 1916 she was a unit of Admiral Jellicoe’s fleet when it met the German High Seas Fleet in the greatest maritime clash of the First World War.
The battle, in the North Sea off Jutland, resulted in thousands of casualties on each side. While the British losses were greater than those of the Germans, the battle was a strategically decisive victory for Jellicoe as the Kaiser’s fleet never again seriously challenged the Royal Navy to a major surface action.
In 1922 HMS Caroline was placed in reserve and became the headquarters of the Royal Naval Reserve in Northern Ireland two years later.