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Proposed initial berth for HMS Vengeance -Minas Gerais when she returns from Rio de Janeiro
(Photo source: Port of Truro)


Map courtesy of ABC Southwest

One of the leading proposal is for the former HMS Vengeance / NAeL Minas Gerais to be permanently berthed in Devon, and active negotiations are underway for  her to go to Torbay or at Plymouth. Ideally the ship should be centred in a area of high population and with easy access to tourism.  The West country's largest city, Plymouth is a centre of industry from ship building to information technology. Devon has a population of 1.1 million people, with over 02.5 million in Plymouth alone. And the sea is never far from the mind  - the Armada memorial, Drake's statue on the Hoe, the marine aquarium, the marine-biological laboratories, the Smeaton's lighthouse brought from Eddystone, the Royal Marine Barracks, and the Naval Dockyard remind us that Plymouth is now, as she has always been, first and foremost a seaport and an ideal location for ship preservation. 

For photos see Plymouth Cyberheritage

Plymouth, the Royal Navy and HMS Vengeance

Plymouth is a fitting location for HMS Vengeance. Naval and Maritime heritage in the West Country and Plymouth go back a long way. Our greatest Naval hero, Sir Francis Drake, was from Plymouth and the English ships that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 sailed from the mouth of the River Plym. Drake even visited Brazil on his expedition in the Golden Hind to sail round the world in 1577 to 1580. Another famous Plymouth mariner was Captain James Cook, who set out from the Barbican in 1768 in search of a southern continent, Australia, leading to another link with HMS Vengeance and her time in the Royal Australian Navy. Later Darwin sailed off from Plymouth to adventure and fame. 

Maritime links to Plymouth include also the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrim Fathers left on the Mayflower on September 6, 1620 to the Americas where they established the Plymouth, Massachusetts settlement.  Today, Brittany Ferries operate between France and Plymouth and there is a thriving Port, the Associated British Ports at Millbay Docks. 

Plymouth's dock at Devonport (originally named Plymouth Dock but renamed Devonport in 1824) began on the eastern bank of the Tamar and dates from 1693. Most of the dockyard is now in private hands as a commercial enterprise and the remainder, occupied by the Royal Navy, is known as the Plymouth Naval Base. Nearby is HMS Cambridge is a Naval Gunnery School that has been having "Target Practice Seawards" since 1940.

The memory of Sir Francis Drake is still kept alive in the name, HMS Drake, which was recently  extended to inlude the whole of Devonport Naval Base. Royal Navy connection go back to 1691 when a major naval dockyard was established in the River Tamar at Plymouth. Today Devonport is the largest naval base in Western Europe. It covers over 650 acres, has 15 dry docks, four miles of waterfront, 25 tidal berths and five basins. Today, Devonport is the base port of the largest ship in the Royal Navy, HMS Ocean which is 21,000 tonnes. HMS Vengeance herself is a little smaller at 17,500 tonnes and could easily fit in Devonport.

Sir Walter Raleigh recommended that the Royal Navy establish a base at Plmouth prior to the Dutch Wars of 1652-74. However, the Naval Docks were finally established in May 1689, after King William III had come to the Throne, when the Admiralty asked its Naval Agent at Plymouth, John Addison, to draw up plans for docks at Point Froward.

The first ever RN Barracks were constructed in Devonport not far from the dockyard, in open countryside at the head of the Keyham Creek and was first occupied on June 4 1889. Naval barracks were later built at Portsmouth, Chatham and other bases.

Warships at Plymouth. Bulwark' was launched only seven months after her keel was laid and not   long afterwards HMS Warspite was built. She was a Queen Elizabeth class battleship and was perhaps the most famous of all warships to leave  the slipways of the Devonport Yard. The heritage of aircraft carriers at Plymouth is rich and honourable, with such famous names as Argus, Ark Royal, Courageous, Eagle, Furious, Glorious, Hermes, and Illustrious. 

The Fleet Aircraft Carrier HMS Furious was recommissioned at Devonport in 1925, and went on to play an important role in the Second World War including leading the air attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz, sister ship to the infamous Bismarck. Other aircraft carriers recommissioned at Devonport include HMS Courageous in 1928 and HMS Glorious in 1930, both to be sadly lost early in the war. More recently, warships such as HMS Plymouth, which saw service in the Falklands war of 1982, was built at Devonport in 1958, and now preserved in Birkenhead.

In 2002, aircraft carriers continue to be based at Devonort. HM ships Albion and Bulwark, along with the commando helicopter carrier HMS Ocean have create a centre of amphibious shipping excellence at Devonport. also in 2002 it was announced that Devonport will remain the home port for Trafalgar-class nuclear submarines, the Type 22 frigates, half of the Type 23 frigates, and the survey ships.

Each other year the Plymouth Navy Days provide a great spectacle, drawing crowds of 50,000   from across the country to what is effectively the Navy’s premier showcase event (see the Navy Days of the past).

Today, the Port of Plymouth is part of the Associated British Ports (ABP). The  Port of Plymouth is centred at Millbay Docks, which comprises a tidal basin with 13 ha of water. The great naval port Plymouth is, as every naval gin drinker knows, home to the famous Plymouth Gin.

Plymouth, Naval Aviation and Airshows


Plymouth has a rich heritage of aviation dating back to November 14th 1825 when two pioneer balloonists, Mr and Mrs Graham, flew from Stonehouse, and today Plymouth's aviation history  link continues through the resident Fleet Air Arm squadron at Roborough,  the City Airport and the Annual Military Airshows on the Hoe, and until recently through the RAF Mount Batten airbase which only closed in 1992. 

Fleet Air Arm units resident in Roborough have included 727, 801, 810, 814, 815, and 819 squadrons. Units at Mount Batten include 702, 710, 712, 716, 720 and 771 squadrons. Today, the Royal Navy Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) and the Flying Grading Flight (now 727 squadron) continue tthe Royal Navy presence at Roborough, flying AS.365N2 Dauphin and Grob G.115. No. 727 squadron replaced the Naval Flying Grading Flight (NFGF) on 6 December 2001. The Grobs are an now civilian being owned and operated by VT Aerospace. (see aerial photo map)

Naval Aviation in the Plymouth area started during the First World War when a Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) base was established at Chelson Meadow, known as RNAS Laira, home to two airships. At the Cattewater a seaplane base had been established on September 2nd 1913.   A Royal Naval Air Station was commissioned here in February 1917 and 2 hangars were erected close to the breakwater upon which a railway track was laid to enable a steam crane lift seaplanes into the water.  On April 1st 1918 the Royal Naval Air Service merged with the Royal Flying Corps to become the Royal Air Force and RAF Cattewater was established. In May 1919 the first ever crossing of the North Atlantic was completed by Naval Aviators, with Lieutenant Commander Albert C. Read USN flying a U.S. Navy flying boat, the NC-4, from Newfoundland to the airfield after a 3,925-mile flight, as commemorated at the Plymouth Barbican. Soon after in 1923 Roborough was to become Plymouth's aerodrome, although Harrowbeer, 9 miles from Plymouth also became a military airfield. Also in 1923 the Cattewater Seaplane Station Bill became enacted and Cattewater re-opened on October 1st 1928 as RAF Mount Batten. Seaplanes included the Southampton II's of 203 squadron and Fairey IIID's of newly formed 204 Squadron. In 1935 Mount Batten became a Fleet Air Arm floatplane base transferred from Lee-on-Solent near portsmouth. It was also used by the FAA catpult flights from ships based at Plymouth. By the outbreak of the Second World War there was a squadron of the new Sunderland flying boats stationed at Mount Batten. When 204 Squadron left for North Africa in 1940 they were replaced by Number 10 Royal Australian Air Force Squadron, who not only stayed for the remainder of the War but were set to become Mount Batten's most famous occupants - by th eend of the war they had undertaken 3,177 operational flights, sunk 5 submarines, received 25 Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC), one DFC with Bar, 9 Distinguished Flying Medals (DFM), 1 British Empire Medal (BEM) and had 36 'mentioned in despatches'. RAF Mount Batten closed on Sunday July 5th 1992.

Roborough, which was to become the future Plymouth City Airport, had an established civil air service in 1925 set up by the Surrey Flying Service, owning the airfield until they ceased to operate in 1936. The Surrey Services pilot who made the first services later formed the Sir Alan Cobham`s flying circus, drawing in great crowds. The RAF took over the airfield in 1939. Nearby RAF Mount Batton took control of the airfield. On September 21st 1938 it was ordered that Barrage balloon protection be established to protect Plymouth.

Roborough remained a coastal airfield used by the Royal Navy and RAF. 
Early in World War II Roborough was used by the Admiralty as part of HMS Drake, and transferred to the Air Ministry in May 1942. Roborough saw RAF and Fleet Air Arm activities throughout the war, with Fighter Command and Coastal Command aircraft such as the Hawker hurricanes and Gloster gladiators in the Battle of Britain, and Supermarine walruses and otters, of 247, 249 and 276 RAF squadrons, as well as the Swordfish of 819 FAA squadron embarking on HMS Illustrious prior to their involvement in the historic Fleet Air Arm attack at Taranto.  Roborough even saw the likes of the Fairey Barracuda when the RAF's 1623 AAC Flt and 691 AAC Sqdn Flt tested the aircraft in September 1943. 

Postwar Roborough was commissioned as HMS Drake II, and included the RNEC Manadon Flight. Roborough also was home to the Dartmouth Flight, operated by airwork. The airfield had civil flying from 1946, but the aerodrome was joined by Fleet Air Arm aircraft again in 1961, by the RM Commandos in April 1967, and the Army from August 1968 to early 1972. 

In 1961 Airwork began the Britannia Royal Naval College Air Experience Flight Nine Tiger Moths were used until 1966 when Chipmunks began flights-lasting for 25 years, until the German built Grobs were selected by Shorts under a similar Naval contract.

Plymouth City Airport is 4 miles from Plymouth City Centre. Once Plymouth Airport was home to home of Brymon Airways, and now the Airport as part of British Airways offers a range of services from Plymouth to destinations throughout the UK, the Channel Islands, Ireland and Paris. Plymouth Airshow takes place on Plymouth's Historic Hoe. Plymouth Air is an organisation formed under a Committe dedicated to providing a FREE  Military Airshow for the City of Plymouth, and to raise funds for Charity. The Plymouth Airshow has now become one of the top UK Airshows featuring the the Royal Air Force and International Air forces from around the world. Including the world renown Red Arrows display team and the RAF Falcons parachute display team. 

Plymouth and World War II

During the Second World War (1939-1945) the Devonport and the City played an important role in the war effort, in convoy and U-Boat searches and in the D-Day landings. The city suffered tremendous damage in the Blitz in 1941 but even before the war was over plans were being made to create a new city out of the ashes. 

Early in the war Plymouth was in the hedalines when HMS Ajax arrived in Plymouth Dockyard on January 31st 1940 after its historic action in the "Battle of the River Plate" against the German Graf Spee. Plymouth was the last British port of call for HMS Illustrious enroute to the Mediterranean and its involvement in the historic Fleet Air Arm attack on the Italian Fleet at Taranto in November 1940. Plymouth's first air raid alert took place on June 30th 1940, and soon after the first bombs were dropped just before midday on July 6th 1940. On January 13th 1941 there was a blitz air raid on Plymouth, described by Pat Twyford as a "nightmare".  The raid lasted for three hours from 6.30pm and killed 24 people, seriously injured 55 and slightly injured 62. The air raid warning system was discontinued on May 2nd 1945.

Plymouth was an important staging post in the build up for the Normandy D-Day landings in June 1944. The majority of the landing troops in the Plymouth area were from the US 29th Armoured Division, which went on to land at Utah and Omaha beaches. Their embarkation points in the Plymouth area included Turnchapel, Saltash Passage and Barn Pool (in Mount Edgecumbe). 

Today, the Plymouth Naval Base Museum presents the story of support to the Royal Navy at Plymouth since the days of King Edward I and his wars with France, and online information from the "Cyberheritage, Plymouth History, Naval and Military History" at

Tourism in Plymouth

Tourism in Plymouth is a multi - million pound industry offering employment growth and managed within a policy framework built around principles of sustainable tourism. The city is also a centre of excellence for tourism education and research and offers high calibre expertise worldwide. 

Undoubtably HMS Vengeance will form an invaluable tourist attraction when she comes to Plymouth, attracting up to 400, 000 visitors a year.  Finance Cornwall and Devon & Cornwall Business Council believe that she will form a leading commercial attraction and so are leading in the search for fnancial and business partners in the West Country. 

During 1999 a study into the economic impact of tourism in Plymouth, was undertaken by the Research & Development Department, West Country Tourist Board on behalf of the Plymouth Marketing Bureau. The Summary of results below shows the tourism potential in the area and the opportunities for HMS Vengeance to complement the Plymouth and West Country tourism industry.

Spend & Jobs : The combined expenditure by visitors to Plymouth amounts to £303.9 million (1998), split 31% by staying visitors, 35% non-local day visitors from home and 34% day visitors from holiday accommodation.

  • This expenditure supports 7,719 FTE jobs in Plymouth.  5,163 are directly supported, the remainder by linkage and multiplier.
  • In terms of actual (as opposed to full time equivalent) jobs, 10,549 actual jobs are supported by tourism expenditure, 72% of them directly.
  • The 10,549 actual jobs supported by tourism expenditure constitute 9% of the estimated 112,000 jobs (including self-employed) in Plymouth.

Visitors: It is estimated that Plymouth receives 729,000 staying visitors (trips) per year.  Around 655,000 (90%) are domestic visitors and about 74,000 (10%) are from overseas.

  • The most important accommodation type in terms of visitor nights is with local residents, accounting for 73% of nights.
  • Visits to friends and relatives make up 41% of the staying trips to Plymouth, holiday trips 28% and business trips 24%.  'Other' trips (education, health, sport etc) account for 7%.
  • Visits to friends and relatives are the most common purpose of domestic staying trips to Plymouth (43%), followed by holiday trips (28%).  Within all holiday trips short breaks are more than twice as common as longer holidays.  Business trips make up 24% of domestic trips.
Overseas trips are less likely to be for holidays (22% compared to the domestic 28%) and less likely to be to visit friends and relatives (35% compared to the domestic 41%).   Proportionately overseas visits are more likely to be for other purposes (education, health, sport etc) than their domestic counterparts, partly fuelled by language study visits.
  • There were an estimated 4.1 million non-regular day visits from home of at least three hours and a round trip of 20 miles.

  • It is recognised that Plymouth has a net inflow of day visits from holiday accommodation outside the city, estimated to number 7 million.
(Ref : Plymouth tourism)
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