The campaign to save the ‘King’s ship’ has been boosted with the trust looking to restore HMS Bronington receiving charitable status. That opens the door to accessing funding, grants and handouts previously unavailable.
The HMS Bronington Preservation Trust – since December, registered charity No. 1201325 – is hoping to replicate the success of restoring D-Day landing craft LCT7074, part of the same collection of warships as the veteran minesweeper, which was salvaged, revamped and now enjoys pride of place at the D-Day Museum in Southsea, Portsmouth.
Vital to restoring the WW2 ship was £4.7m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, supported by fundraising efforts of the team dedicated to restoring the landing craft.
The Bronington team were prompted to act last year as the state of the Ton-class vessel continued to deteriorate.
The wooden-hulled ship has been partially submerged in a basin in Birkenhead since 2016.
Crowdfunding and local veterans raised enough money to both conduct a comprehensive dive survey of the vessel – which determined Bronington can be saved – and support the successful application for charitable status.
The goal for 2023 – the 70th anniversary of the ship’s launch and the Coronation year of her most famous commanding officer – is to get her refloated, then out of the water and on to a slipway, after which the restoration, and fund-raising effort to support it, can begin in earnest.
The trust has been offered free use of a crane/salvage equipment and a major UK shipbuilder has offered the free services of a naval architect to assist the salvage and restoration process.
In time, depending on the state of Bronington and cost of the restoration, the aim is to turn her into a museum ship – a static display or potentially working ship again.
The ship’s association with the King dates back to his ten-month tenure as her commanding officer as a then Lieutenant Wales in 1976, during which he dealt with WW2 ordnance, kept an eye on a Soviet submarine in home waters, and welcomed most of his family aboard during a visit to London.
Throughout his time in charge of Bronington, royal duties were also performed constantly; every three days a large blue dispatch bag containing correspondence and documents was delivered to the ship.
The king says he has “many fond memories” of his time in the ship – keeping in touch with former shipmates and occasionally hosting reunions. He has told the trust he finds their efforts to save Bronington “truly humbling”.
The charity is now pressing on with fundraising – https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-restore-hms-bronington – with any money donated going to Forces charities if the restoration attempt ultimately fail.