Project News


How a discovery on board HMS Caroline is helping redraw history


Cross section of paint samples from HMS Caroline

Discoveries made by archaeologists on board the last remaining floating survivor of World War One’s Battle of Jutland will have a global impact on our understanding of paint colours used by navies one hundred years ago.


A survey conducted by the restoration team on the Belfast-based HMS Caroline can now reveal its original colour the day it was launched in October 1914. It also shows the colour the ship was painted at the Battle of Jutland and subsequent moments in its history.


Revealed here for the first time are depictions of the ship in some of the colours it was painted throughout its 100 year history.


Captain John Rees OBE who leads the £14.1m conservation and interpretation project for the ship, dock, pump house and surrounding land at Alexandra Dock says the paint findings provide a unique time line for the ship .


“Because photography was black and white during much of the first half of the 20th century, it has been more or less impossible to determine the colours in which ships, vehicles and equipment were painted during World War One,” he says.


“Thanks to what we have found on HMS Caroline, we are able to review the entire colour history of the ship  and accurately depict the paint schemes Caroline was painted in over 100 years ,” he says.


“What is very reassuring is that the paint analysis and historical research work included  the ship’s hull and confirms that no anti-fouling paint has been applied.  Two paint sample reports confirm that the ship is free of organotin compounds, such as  TBT is present, an environmental hazard  associated with  ships, to  threaten the ecology of Alexandra Dock or indeed Belfast Harbour,” he adds.


Jef Maytom, the historic vessels expert who discovered the paint samples close to the bridge says the excitement generated by the finding cannot be understated.


“This finding rewrites the rule book for historians specialising in naval and maritime history and its representation,” he says. “It is the equivalent of a palaeontologist being able to finally prove that dinosaurs were a specific colour or had feathers.”




HMS Caroline porthole refurbished


Urgent repairs to halt the deterioration of historic World War One vessel HMS Caroline have been completed making the ship safe for the next stage of a massive restoration programme.


Repairs conducted by Belfast-based Blu-Marine included a top to bottom survey of the ship’s weakest spots, emergency repairs, removal and refurbishment of all portholes and removal of  the timber decking to ensure  no further water or wind ingress.


National Museum of the Royal Navy Chief of Staff Captain John Rees OBE has been leading the complex funding and restoration programme. He says: “HMS Caroline is a living legend. We are breathing new life into what is an internationally significant piece of world history.


“HMS Caroline is a world class heritage asset and the most complete ship remaining from the Grand and High Seas Fleet of some 250 vessels.  We must not underestimate the value of this ship and the resonance of its history and position in Northern Ireland, so it was a matter of urgency for us to ensure the ship could survive a prolonged restoration programme undertaken with great sensitivity to its archaeology and fabric. I am very pleased with the work conducted by Blu-Marine,” he says.


Blu-Marine managing director Craig McCoo says the project was unusual and rewarding.


“I feel very privileged to have been part of this unique restoration process,” he says. “The project leader’s team approach has made this complex restoration a pleasure to work on and we feel that we have been allowed to contribute in more than just the safeguarding of a truly magnificent ship.


Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: "I welcome the completion of this remedial work in preparation for the hugely significant project that will see HMS Caroline restored to her former glory.


"We have such a rich maritime history and interest in HMS Caroline, as the last floating survivor of the Battle of Jutland, means that she will be a valuable addition to our tourism offering. I look forward to seeing further progress on the restoration ahead of the planned opening date in May, 2016."


The vessel is the last remaining floating survivor of the 1916 Battle of Jutland. It has been based in Northern Ireland for over 90 years and has undergone the first stages of restoration which will eventually see it opened to the public as a world class museum and heritage visitor attraction. The opening date is due to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of Jutland on May 31 2016.




A retired senior ranking American war veteran has joined a Northern Ireland appeal for anyone on the island of Ireland connected to the World War One light cruiser HMS Caroline to come forward with tales of relatives, friends and family who might have served on board the historic vessel.


On a recent visit to Belfast, Captain Nelson P Jackson, US Navy (retired) who saw action in Vietnam said the need for people to come forward and take part in the HMS Caroline project is critical.


"The significance of this ship goes beyond remembrance. It provides a shared space for all Irish and Ulster communities to meet and collectively mark their history and people here should take great pride in being able to work together on such an important project. I hope people will come forward with stories of grand parents and relatives who were connected to the HMS Caroline during her one hundred years," says Captain Jackson.


The vessel is the last remaining floating survivor of the 1916 Battle of Jutland. It has been based in Northern Ireland for over 90 years and is undergoing the first stages of restoration which will eventually see it opened to the public as a world class museum and heritage visitor attraction. The opening date is due to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of Jutland on May 31 2016.


NMRN Chief of Staff Captain John Rees has been leading the complex funding and restoration programme. He says: “HMS Caroline is a living legend. We want to breathe new life into what is an internationally significant piece of world history.  We need to do this by telling the personal stories of all those who have either served on or been connected to HMS Caroline during her exceptionally long life.”


NMRN in a joint venture with Northern Ireland’s Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment has secured about £2m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund  to safeguard the ship and develop a HLF Round 2 submission for a project of over £14m.


DETI Minister responsible for tourism, Arlene Foster, says: “HMS Caroline is a strong and distinctive part of Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and it is important that the full story is told. So many people from different walks of life will have had a connection with the ship, whether themselves or through a family member, during the 99 years of its life. If these memories can be recorded, they will add to what is already a rich tapestry of maritime history in Northern Ireland.”


Captain Jackson says: “I am delighted that NI is working to save this truly iconic ship. HMS Caroline is an exceptional vessel. America has the USS Texas and Belfast has HMS Caroline, two of the last remaining big ships on this planet that fought in World War One.


“The best way to keep these old ships relevant to society is to make them accessible and also to retell the stories of those who were connected to them. So I fully endorse this appeal for people to come forward with any stories they might have concerning family members or other connections with HMS Caroline.”


Anyone with any relevant information is invited to email Rory Miskelly, HMS Caroline Project Manager on

Lord West, the former first Sea Lord, visited HMS Caroline in Belfast recently to record an episode of his World War One series for BBC Radio 4. 
"I was particularly delighted to get down into the tiller flat which remains in pristine condition one hundred years after the ship's construction," said Lord West.
First stages of preservation work on HMS Caroline are expected to start later this month (August 2014).
If you have any stories about HMS Caroline please let us know by contacting
Lord West on board HMS Caroline






A retired customs officer from Liverpool, Thomas Weddick, 92, has just fulfilled a life-long promise to visit Belfast-based HMS Caroline, on which his father James was the chief gunner during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

The HMS Caroline which is deteriorating rapidly in Belfast’s Alexandra Dock near the Titanic Centre saw action in the greatest naval battle of the 20th century, the Battle of Jutland, when the Imperial German Navy was beaten in the North Sea by the Royal Navy. Mr Weddick says he was anxious to see the ship before it starts a three-year restoration project being undertaken by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

“My father was a Limerick man who joined the navy at the age of 16,” says Thomas. “That was in 1899 – technically, three centuries ago!”

“To see the vessel, and the parts of it which remain as my dad would have known them, is a very moving experience.

“My father was a brave man who suffered partial deafness as he corrected a jammed gun during the Battle of Jutland but in his later years he said he loathed war. Nevertheless, he spent 21 years in the navy and was very proud of his role.

“He also said he would have liked to have known more about the German gunnery as he believed they were superior to ours!”

HMS Caroline is currently awaiting a final decision over whether or not it will secure £14m for preservation and restoration work.

Richard Black, chairman of the Friends of Caroline, who showed Thomas around the ship, says he welcomes more stories from families and friends of those who served on board the ship.

“The National Museum of the Royal Navy is undertaking a major restoration project to return Caroline to its former glory but we also want to hear about people who were linked to the ship,” says Mr Black. “Anyone with any such stories should make contact with the Friends of Caroline by emailing National Museum of the Royal Navy at”

In the mean time, Thomas says he hopes to live long enough to see the fully restored Caroline open to the public in May 2016 to mark the Battle of Jutland.

Thomas Weddick on board HMS Caroline

(Above) Thomas Weddick, 92, whose father James, was chief gunner on Caroline during the Battle of Jutland, is due to revisit HMS Caroline this summer (June 2014)



Nick Jellicoe, grandson of the admiral who commanded the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet in 1916, says the complete restoration of HMS Caroline in Belfast would create one of the most significant World War One commemoration projects in the world.

The fast light cruiser played a lead role in the 1916 Battle of Jutland in which the Royal Navy forced the German Imperial Navy to retreat to port.

Jellicoe, who made his first visit to Belfast to see the Caroline before restoration work begins, now lives in Switzerland. He says he was deeply moved to step on board the historic fighting ship which is moored in Alexandra Dock.

“If Caroline can help tell the story of just why Jutland was so important in the first place and tell it in a way that engages a younger generation and sparks new interest, then she will have served a very much higher cause.

“We have a chance to re-tell some chapters of history, not only of the battle but through her later role in the Royal Navy Reserves. It is absolutely essential that a strong communications role be developed for Caroline in the upcoming World War One centenary commemorations and that she contributes and pays her way to helping the rebirth of Belfast through educational tourism.” 

The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), which is now responsible for the decommissioned Caroline, has secured a National Heritage Memorial Fund grant of £1.1m to pay for repairs to prevent any further deterioration.

A joint application by NMRN and the Northern Ireland Department for Enterprise Trade and Investment for a major grant was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund late last year. This has resulted in a further £845,000 being made available as a Round One grant to develop the plans further. The successful outcome of the Round Two application would see £14m being used to fully preserve, restore and open the ship to the public in time for the Jutland centenary on May 31 2016. 

“I am very happy indeed that Caroline may be the way through which a whole generation can re-discover their history. Caroline played a significant part in a very significant battle but has also had a long, honourable relationship with Belfast so it is fitting that she remains there,” says Jellicoe.

Jellicoe is currently writing a book about the Battle of Jutland. His grandfather, Admiral of the Fleet, John Rushworth Jellicoe, the First Earl Jellicoe, commanded the Grand Fleet at the battle.

Nick Jellicoe on his visit to HMS Caroline

(Above) Nick Jellicoe, grandson of Admiral John Jellicoe who commanded the Grand Fleet in 1916 at the battle of Jutland, recently visited the HMS Caroline during his research for a book on the battle.

HMS Caroline