Remembering our navy

By | Category: Travel rumblings

A final snap of Ark Royal?

Yesterday I was down in Portsmouth. Co-incidentally HMS Ark Royal was being positioned by tugs at a wharf before it is taken from Portsmouth for the very last time and cut up for scrap.
For £2.9 million, a Turkish scrap metal company will end her days. When this government announced the decommissioning of the aircraft carrier some three years ago there were suggestions that it become a training school, a London heliport or put to another good use. One suggestion was a museum and, as I saw it just a few hundred yards from the new Mary Rose museum which opens in a fortnight’s time, HMS Victory of Battle of Trafalgar fame, HMS Warrior and HMS Monitor that served at Gallipoli, I wondered why –for a paltry £2.9 million – she didn’t remain at Portsmouth as a floating museum.
In San Diego in the US, USS Midway – another carrier – draws visitors from far and wide. Different historic aircraft are parked on her decks and her shop does very well with souvenir sales. In New York, another carrier, USS Intrepid is used as an air and sea museum. Nearby is one of our Concordes and, on board, is a space shuttle. Again, that has become a successful attraction.
I can’t say that Ark Royal has been one of the most illustrious aircraft carriers we have ever had. But for £2.9 million? Look how much recent museums refurbishments have cost such as the Ulster, the National Museum in Edinburgh or even the new Hepworth. Money has been found to preserve HMS Caroline and to keep her in Belfast. All are in many millions. In this time when governments, regions and cities recognise the value of tourism in bolstering economies, an Ark Royal attraction would entice many people to visit.

Ark Royal as she was yesterday

An attempt to preserve the last carrier from WWII, HMS Vengeance, came to nothing ten years ago. HMS Illustrious, when it retires next year, will be preserved but would it matter to have two? Given how many people visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard each year – some 500,000 – and even more when the Mary Rose opens wouldn’t it have been possible to add HMS Ark Royal to their collection and say, have HMS Illustrious somewhere in the north such as Tyneside, where she was built, as another attraction?
It’s too late to do anything now but – in the future – maybe the ministry of Defence and the government could employ some joined up thinking.

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