The HMS Caroline, a historic Belfast-based warship that took part in World War One, is set to be transformed into a museum in commemoration of the Battle of Jutland. It is one of very few warships that survived WW1. In 1916 it was stationed off the coast of Denmark in preparation for what was the only full-scale clash between battleships in the war. The battleship will be turned into a visitor attraction and will feature a number of exhibits related to the famous conflict. The project will be primarily funded using the £12m Heritage Lottery Fund.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said that the funding announcement was “great news” for Belfast and that the restored ship would become a “tremendous asset” to the city. “(The museum) will complement the existing tourist attractions in Titanic Quarter to give more for visitors to see and do”. The chairman of the HMS Caroline project board, Captain John Rees, expressed his delight at the plan for a WW1 commemoration and said he was “thrilled the funding is now in place and that we can now get on and deliver a world-class attraction”.
A speedy vessel
HMS Caroline is widely known for its speed and effectiveness in battle. It was built in 1914 in Birkenhead and was widely regarded as one of the fastest warship in the world. The ship hasn’t moved since being berthed at Alexandria Dock in 1923. 80% of the ship is still intact and original, while the incorporated turbines are believed to be the only World War One turbines still in existence.
HMS Caroline is a light cruiser ship that weighs approximately 3,750 tons. It measures 446ft and took its place among the screening force that sailed at the head of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet. It was originally assigned with the job of identifying the position of the German Battleships so that the Grand Fleet could assemble and effective battle plan. As it was the one and only battleship conflict in WW1, both sides suffered heavy casualties and it was difficult to distinguish who had been victorious.
During the Second World War, HMS Caroline was used as an operations headquarters as there was an increasing effort to defend the Atlantic from the persistence of German U-Boats. Some of the museums highlights and exhibits will include WW2 compasses and telegraphs as well as the living quarters used during the WW1.
Helen Grant, a First World War Centenary, said that the renovation of the HMS Caroline was wonderful news. “HMS Caroline has had a long and distinguished career, starting of course in the First World War” said Grant. “It is beyond doubt an important part of our history and it’s great that the Heritage Lottery Fund have been able to support its restoration in this centenary year so that it can continue serving, in a different role, for many years to come”.
The ship had previously served as a Royal Navy Reserve until 2011 when it was decommissioned. The rest of the original fleet that took part in the Battle of Jutland had either already been decommissioned or broken up. The restoration project began in 2012 when a campaign was launched to ensure the ship stayed in Belfast. Citizens will undoubtedly be delighted with the news that their cherished WW1 artefact is to remain in Belfast as an iconic commemorative museum.