The future of HMS Caroline
It may not be. It may be fine inside, well maintained and functioning perfectly but from the outside it seems to be in need of some TLC. There is rust on the superstructure. The chain fencing around it is also rusty in places but painted in others The quayside – if that isn’t too posh a word – around it has weeds erupting through the cracks and the floating rubbish around the hull suggests that the ship is being allowed to quietly rot away.
Should this be the end for a ship that was launched in the second month of WWI?
In two years time it will be 100 years old. It is a survivor of the Battle of Jutland, probably the only survivor, the only major naval battle of that war. Berthed in Belfast since 1924, for many years she had been the Ulster headquarters of the Royal Naval Reserve until decomissioning fifteeen months ago. As the responsibility, I suppose, of the Ministry of Defence, it has been decided to move the ship from Belfast to Portsmouth perhaps because that is where much naval history is celebrated. These days it is owned by the National Museum of the Royal Navy which will be celebrating Armed Forces Day this coming Saturday. This year, they say the navy celebrates its 1,130th anniversary as it can be traced back to a naval battle won over the Vikings by Alfred the Great. Perhaps over this coming weekend they could announce that HMS Caroline will stay in Belfast.
The museum says that it has made this decision because it has been discussing what to do with the authorities in Northern Ireland for three years and little has happened. Looks like a game of one side blaming the other!
I’ll bet the public doesn’t care as long as the situation is sorted. The museum says that its hand was forced because if it did nothing, the ministry was due to announce a tender for it to be disposed as scrap in under a week from today.
It’s not as if Belfast wants to get rid of the ship. Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s tourism minister, wants it to remain where it will offer another big tourism draw. The city wants it. But, in the fifteeen months since it was decomissioned, precious little seems to have been done to look after it by whoever. Someone should accept responsibility. It is beginning to look like the fate of a country house where, as the sides bicker, the property decays until it is too late to save it and suddenly it becomes a site for a hundred flats at inflated prices because it has water views.
That probably won’t be the outcome but some heads may need to be bashed together so things happen.