Prince Charles’ sunken warship could be salvaged after crowdfunding campaign

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Prince Charles berthing the HMS Bronington at Tower Pier - PA
Prince Charles berthing the HMS Bronington at Tower Pier - PA

A minesweeper commanded by Prince Charles as a young Royal Navy lieutenant could be rescued by a last-ditch salvage bid.

Divers will assess the state of HMS Bronington which sank at its moorings in Birkenhead six years ago.

In the intervening period, she has lain flooded and partly underwater, growing over with plants and slowly disintegrating.

Mike McBridge, a naval veteran and part of the newly formed HMS Bronington Preservation Trust, told The Telegraph that the ship was “fantastically unique” and “a magnificent example of a Cold War era Royal Navy TON class minesweeper/mine hunter.”

He said the Bronington was “an irreplaceable part of our maritime heritage and it would be a great tragedy if she is lost”.

A dilapidated HMS Bronington at Birkenhead Docks before it sank at its moorings six years ago - Alamy
A dilapidated HMS Bronington at Birkenhead Docks before it sank at its moorings six years ago - Alamy

Previous efforts to save the ship have failed, but the preservation trust has raised enough money from a crowdfunding campaign for divers to assess the ship in the hope of making one more attempt.

The Ministry of Defence has also agreed to run a training exercise next month using an underwater drone and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to further assess if the ship can take the strain of being pumped out and raised to the surface.

This will be the final effort to save the Bronington and if it fails she will be left to her fate.

If it succeeds, however, the trust hopes that the ship can be restored to sailing condition and be used both as a museum ship and to deliver educational courses, including for the Sea Cadets.

Should she be raised, Merseyside shipbuilder Cammell Laird has agreed to take Bronington into its dry dock for restoration under their apprenticeship scheme in stages. That, however, will rely on further funding being found.

The preservation trust is still short of its overall target of £20,000, however, and is directing potential donors to its Go Fund Me Page.

The Bronington was launched in 1953 and was one of the last of Britain’s warships to have a wooden hull. Subsequent vessels have been made of plastic. Both materials help to avoid setting off magnetic sea mines.

Its special construction also saw the ship added to Britain’s National Historic Fleet.

HMS Bronington was launched in 1953 and one of the last of Britain’s warships to have a wooden hull - PA
HMS Bronington was launched in 1953 and one of the last of Britain’s warships to have a wooden hull - PA

The Prince commanded the vessel for ten months in 1976 and was cheered off the vessel with a ceremonial toilet seat hung around his neck apparently to remind him of the weight of his future throne.

Speaking not long after his time onboard, he said: “I spent most of the time petrified that I was going to run aground or we’d have a collision.”

Mr McBride said that he had been in touch with Clarence House about the ship and received a positive response which said the Prince was “humbled” by the efforts to restore her.

After retiring from the Navy it became a museum ship, but the trust that maintained it went bust and the Bronington was left to deteriorate.

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