PRESS RELEASE: 28 December 2001
CULTURAL HERITAGE UNDER THREAT : TIME RUNNING OUT FOR BRITAIN'S LAST WW2 AIRCRAFT CARRIER
HMS VENGEANCE, the last British WW2 aircraft carrier, once the pride of the Royal Navy is about to be scrapped in Brazil early in 2002 unless she can be rescued. Exactly 60 years ago she was launched to lead the fight against the terrors of the Nazis and Japanese evils in the Pacific. Today, she lies forgotten in South America awaiting her fate and eventual scrapping unless the British Nation can respond to a deadline in January 2002 to raise finance to purchase the ship from the Brazilian Navy. This appeal urges the British Government to take the responsibility to safeguard this unique naval heritage for future generations.
HMS VENGEANCE is of unique historic, educational, touristic and commercial value. She was commissioned in the Royal Navy and served in the Mediterranean and Pacific in WW2, she was subsequently loaned to Australia as HMAS Vengeance during the Korean war and finally sold to the Brazilian government where she served in the Brazilian Navy as NAeL MINAS GERAIS during the Cold War. She subsequently remained there until she was finally decommissioned on 16th October 2001 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry, her fate unknown after the Brazilian Navy bought the modern aircraft carrier FOCH. Following the events of September 11th, British and American naval forces have been protecting our freedom against terrorism with their state of the art technology including the modern warships such as HMS Illustrious. Yet their direct predecessor is to be cut up into razor blades unless the British people and Government can put together a last minute bid to save her.
'Save the VENGEANCE' spokesman Martin Hill, stated "Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, has been approached, asking him if he could intervene to help save this historic ship. This will help us to launch the Museum plan and seek commercial partnerships".
The plan is to rescue the ship and bring her back to the UK this summer and turn her into one of the world's largest floating education centre, naval aviation museum, trade exhibition area and tourist attraction. Displays will illustrate the leading role that Britain took in the development of ship borne naval aviation, as well as provide opportunity for training schemes with local industry, engineering firms and universities, and show her long history with the Royal Navy, Australia and Brazil. In addition to displaying historic naval aircraft on her flight deck, she will have a cinema and theatre, and provide attractive venues for conferences and trade fairs. She will also come alive as the flagship for boat shows and tall ship races as well as provide a unique focus in the UK for airshows, and be a magnet attracting film producers and documentaries. The British Port Authorities (ABP Southampton) have shown their support by offering her a berth in Southampton Water.
It may be a daunting task to preserve this massive ship at 693.1 feet (211 metres) in length but it can certainly be done! In the United States 9 aircraft carriers have been preserved in New York, Texas, and San Francisco, and serve the communities as tourist attractions, museums, education and business centres, where up to 1 million visitors come every year ensuring that they remain financially self-sufficient. If America can preserve its naval heritage, then so can we in the UK!
The project is masterminded by two enthusiastic naval aviation experts, Martin Hill, a retired Merchant Navy Officer, of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Ships, and Graham Falkner Drucker, Director of the Fleet Air Arm Archive. Falkner Drucker's uncle was one of the great Fleet Air Arm heroes, Lt Cdr Roy Baker-Falkner DSO DSC RN, killed in WW2 whilst attacking the German Battleship Tirpitz, and he believes this great ship will be a fitting tribute to all those who have died to protect our freedom - past and present - as well as provide a wonderful attraction for education and enjoyment alike. He went on to stress that "what we need now is for the British Government and the public to help in the appeal to Save the Vengeance" and to support our endevours to convince the Brazilian Government that she has not been forgotten and that she is too historic a ship to be scrapped. The Brazilian Navy is hopefully prepared to sell the ship to us and sail her back to the UK under her own steam".
Here again we urge the British Government to take action, and any help from the businesss community, private sponsorship, or the public is urgently required. If you wish to join the Save the Vengeance Affiliates or require information please contact:
Save the Vengeance Appeal.
Email: vengeancecampaign@ fleetairarmarchive.net
NAeL Minas Gerais (ex HMS Vengeance) in late 1990s after refit (Photo courtesy of HMS Vengeance website)