Uncertainty over future for city warship HMS Plymouth
CONFUSION continues to surround the future of the decommissioned warship HMS Plymouth, following reports she has been sold for scrap, writes Defence Reporter Tristan Nichols.
A number of websites are reporting that the Devonport-built frigate – which played a key role in the Falklands conflict – is to broken up.
But yesterday a spokesman for Peel Ports – which owns the port in Birkenhead, Merseyside, where the former Type 12 frigate has been based for more than 20 years – said he was "unable" to confirm any scrapping operation at this time.
"We are obviously very sorry that no permanent home has been found for HMS Plymouth given her rich and proud history," said the spokesman.
"We have been working closely with partners throughout the consultation period, including National Historic Ships, and we aim to ensure all items of historic value are safely removed and retained for preservation.
"We are unable to confirm any scrapping operation at present."
It is the latest twist in a long-running saga involving the vessel.
In recent years a number of attempts have been made to buy the vessel, but the problem has always been finding a suitable berth for her.
The Warship Management Ltd group led the original campaign to bring HMS Plymouth back to Plymouth.
But in 2008 its chairman, Mike Critchley – himself a former naval Lieutenant Commander – announced the campaign had "failed" due to a lack of support.
Speaking about the current situation he told The Herald: "It is very sad and just tragic that it seems like it is going this way.
"Personally, from what I've heard, I think she is very close to being sold to the Greeks or Turks.
"If that happens we are losing the only ship that is left that fought in the Falklands.
"Sadly the truth is that if someone came in out of the blue and bought her today, there would be nowhere to put her in any case. That has always been the problem."
Earlier this month the former Plymouth MP, Lord Owen, blasted Plymouth City Council and the Royal Navy stating: "You don't deserve a history if you are not prepared to fight for it."
Lord David Owen, who was MP for Devonport for more than 18 years, launched the blistering attack when asked about HMS Plymouth's future.
The former Foreign Secretary and leader of the Social Democratic Party was part of The Warship Management Ltd campaign to bring the vessel down to Plymouth where she would have been opened as a permanent tourist attraction.
Captain David Pentreath, who was the Commanding Officer of HMS Plymouth during the Falklands conflict, said he is "sad" if the scrapping rumours are true.
"It would be rather cruel if she was sold for scrap in this, the 30th anniversary year of the Falklands conflict," he said.
"People have been trying very hard for a number of years to preserve her for the future.
"It saddens me that it seems that no-one can save her."
Martin Slater, secretary of the HMS Plymouth Association and former crew member, added: "It is a confusing situation, but we believe that she is going to be scrapped.
"We don't know when or where but we believe she is on her way."
After being decommissioned from the Royal Navy in 1988, HMS Plymouth was acquired by the Warship Preservation Trust and it became a tourist attraction at numerous ports across the country.
But in 2006 the Warship Preservation Trust closed down and Peel Ports acquired the vessel.