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24 September 2014

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No room at naval base for Vengeance
HMS Vengeance
HMS Vengeance was launched in 1944

A campaign to rescue the last surviving British built World War II aircraft carrier has hit problems. A bid to bring HMS Vengeance back from a scrapyard in Brazil and base her at Devonport has fallen through - because there's no room.

Save the Vengeance Appeal

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Vengeance was a light fleet aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy's Colossus Class.

She was built by Swan Hunter, launched on 16th November, 1942, and commissioned 14th January, 1945.

Between 1952 and 1955 she was loaned to the Royal Australian Navy.

Vengeance was finally sold to the Brazilian Navy where she was recommissioned in December 1960.
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Plans to bring a World War II aircraft carrier to Plymouth have run into trouble because the vessel is too big.

Tyneside-built HMS Vengeance, which is currently in Brazil, was bought by a British businessman with the intention of returning it to Britain.

It is the last surviving British-built aircraft carrier from the Second World War. A small Brazilian crew is still keeping her seaworthy, and equipment on the bridge is intact.

he room where pilots would have heard their last briefing before going into combat more than 50 years ago has changed little. The ship also still has the lifts for bringing the aircraft up onto the deck.

Campaigners had hoped the vessel would be brought to Devonport Naval Base and turned into an education centre, including a museum, hotel and conference facilities. But the base says it does not have room.

HMS Vengeance in Rio harbour
The Brazilian navy says it cannot afford to keep HMS Vengeance idle in Rio harbour for much longer

HMS Vengeance has spent the last 56 years anchored off Rio de Janeiro. After her launch in 1944, HMS Vengeance sailed to Asia to become part of the British Pacific fleet and take part in the invasion of Japan.

She was later on loan to the Australian Royal Navy for the Korean War before being transferred to become the flagship of the Brazilian navy under the name the Minas Gerais.

Since being decommissioned by the Brazilians, a small crew has been keeping her seaworthy.

The news there is not enough room at Devonport - the biggest working base in Europe - is a blow to the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, which was leading the campaign.

Tim Jones of the council said: "We are looking for anywhere else in Plymouth Sound, or a possibility in Torquay has come up. But it's going to be a struggle.

Pilot briefing room
HMS Vengeance's pilot briefing room

"If we want to make long-term use of it as a conference centre, then it needs to be somewhere near a population centre."

Falmouth in Cornwall has been described as a viable site.

In Torquay, some space could be made available if an MoD barge is moved. But the vessel's size may cause some problems for the town's harbour.

Tim Jones said: "Well, 14,000 tons is quite big, but we are hoping we can persuade harbour authorities of the added value the ship would bring, such as harbour fees."

Other bidders for the vessel since it was bought by businessman Philip Best include the Chinese, the Dutch, plus several scrap breakers.

A spokesperson at Devonport said: "Although the base is supportive for what we think is a worthwhile cause, we are unable to commit to it because of other operational commitments."

That is a blow to a Devon man who has led the campaign to save the vessel.
James Watling, from Sidmouth, served on Vengeance and wants her to return home as a museum.

James Watling
James Watling wants to bring HMS Vengeance back to Britain and turn her into a museum

Mr Watling, who is chairman of the HMS Vengeance Association, said: "She's very unique as the Japanese signed the surrender of Hong Kong on her, which is very significant.

"She could be a living memorial to all those who served in the Fleet Air Arm, not just on the Vengeance."

Former veterans like the first Brazilian captain of the ship, who fought in World War II alongside Britain, would also like to see her preserved.

Vice-Admiral Helios Leonicio Martins said: "She's operating like a new ship. After 50 years this is the only one. All of them are destroyed. I think the Vengeance deserves to be a sort of example."

But time is running out. The Brazilian navy says it cannot afford to keep her idle in Rio harbour for much longer.

The campaigners have been looking to raise hundeds of thousands of pounds in the bid to bring the Vengeance back to Britain.

But if a new base isn't found soon, this sea-faring war survivor will end up being turned into scrap.

If you want to find out more about the campaign to save HMS Vengeance, check out the website at:

e-mail: vengeancecampaign@

OR write to:
Save the Vengeance
C/O East Lea, Main Road, Burton Agnes, Driffield, East Yorkshire

(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites)

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