A short newsreel from British Pathé.
‘Were I to die at this moment “want of frigates” would be found stamped on my heart.’ Horatio Nelson, 1798.
In 1983, 30-years ago (which scarcely seems credible to this old fart), in the midst of the it-seemed-hot-enough-at-the-time Cold War, in the immediate aftermath of the Falklands Conflict, the Royal Navy planned for a force of 50 frigates and destroyers (HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc661-737).
In 1993, post Cold War, already in draw down and reaping the so-called peace dividend, the Royal Navy was facing reductions to a force of 40 frigates and destroyers (HC Deb 25 February 1993 vol 219 c717W).
By 2003, in the midst of the Global War on Terror and with the Iraq War coming to the fore, the force had been reduced to 31 frigates and destroyers… of which only 26 were operational (HC Deb 12 May 2003 vol 405 cc47-50W).
Today, 2013, realpolitik, Spain rattles its sabres over Gibraltar, Argentina remains bellicose over the Falklands, there is continued instability in Libya, Syria and Egypt, there are standing demands for counter-narcotics patrols in the Caribbean and counter-piracy patrols off the coast of East Africa, and the war of terror continues, and there is always the need for a Fleet Ready Escort… well… we’re down to just 19 frigates and destroyers (13 surviving Type 23, 5 Type 45 in commission, 1 Type 45 undergoing sea trials).
Just 19. And not a single Type 26 on order. Talked about, but not ordered. Spec’d, but not ordered. Number to be purchased undecided.
I don’t want to think about how things will be in 2023.
Granted, you can’t save every old warship as a museum. That would be impractical, expensive, wasteful and undesirable. However, there are certain vessels that simply must be preserved – those that took part in great historic events, particularly vessels that are “the last of their kind,” and those that would serve as a lasting tribute to the men and women who served in the nation’s conflicts. HMS Plymouth is one of those ships.
HMS Plymouth ‘should return to dockyard’
THE veteran warship HMS Plymouth should return to her birthplace at Devonport Dockyard, a campaigner believes.
HMS Plymouth is the last surviving warship from the 1982 Falklands War.
She was launched in Devonport in 1959 and decommissioned in 1988.
The ship is moored at Vittoria Dock in Birkenhead, after the collapse of the Warship Preservation Trust, which ran her as a floating museum until 2006.
Laurence Sharpe-Stevens, the director of the HMS Plymouth Trust, announced last year that he had found a berth for HMS Plymouth in the North East of England.
But this week he said that his preferred choice was Plymouth, where she could be turned into a museum and a training ship.
Mr Sharpe-Stevens said he believed the Ministry of Defence would release three docks at Devonport’s South Yard to Plymouth City Council in the next three years.
He is exploring the possibility of co-locating HMS Plymouth with the existing Devonport Museum, and bringing in visitors by water.
The trust was told last year by Peel Ports, the Birkenhead dock operator, that they had sold the ship to a Turkish ship breaker, and asked the trust to raise £400,000 to buy her back.
But Mr Sharpe-Stevens said he had discovered that this was untrue.
Mr Sharpe-Stevens said he had been given evidence by the Treasury Solicitor that ownership of HMS Plymouth had never been passed on after the failure of the Warship Preservation Trust. The Environment Agency had not received an application for the licence that would be required to send the ship abroad, he said.
And the Marine and Coastguard Agency had not been asked to carry out a survey which would be required before the ship could be towed to Turkey.
He said he had contacted all the scrap dealers in Turkey and none of them admitted to having obtained HMS Plymouth.
Peel Ports has not responded to The Herald’s requests for comments.
Mr Sharpe-Stevens said he was not seeking any cash from Plymouth City Council.
“Also, we are not raising money to purchase the ship because she is ownerless as the Crown Treasury has never gifted or granted the ship to anybody. Peel Ports do not own the ship by default as there is no such thing in law.”
He said the ship was in good condition, in spite of her rusty appearance in recent photographs. “This is mostly surface paint rust streaks. We think Peel Ports is not discouraging the spread of the ‘rusty hulk’ untrue rumour because it gives them justification (and no protests) to scrap her for cash.”