BELFAST’S NEW FLOATING MUSEUM “IS A WORLD CLASS HERITAGE ASSET”

 
 
HMS Caroline, the only WW1 Battle of Jutland ship still afloat promises to capture hearts and minds of all those who visit.
 
Thousands of visitors are expected to board one of the most hotly anticipated First World War museums in the world, the HMS Caroline, in Belfast on June 1.  The 122 metre-long light cruiser built in 1914 has been restored to its full glory with new decking, guns and a total refurbishment from bridge to engine rooms. The massive project was made possible by £12.5m backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
 
Visitors are being offered a unique experience to journey back 100 years to a dangerous life at sea during the First World War. The light cruiser saw action in the infamous Battle of Jutland on May 31 1916 in which more than 7,000 lives were lost and will be the focus of international commemorations of the battle on May 31 this year. 
 
The sleek 4,000 tonne HMS Caroline is moored in Belfast’s Alexandra Dock beside the Science Park in Titanic Quarter where visitors will come face to face with torpedoes and an array of four-inch and six-inch recreated guns reproduced to a very high degree of detail.
 
The living quarters of the captain, officers and ratings as well as the signal school, engine room, sick bay and galley will all be open to the public. These hugely atmospheric areas of the ship are largely intact from the day the ship was completed in 1914. In addition, state-of the art multi-screen video experiences reproducing the sounds and drama of the biggest naval battle ever fought, interactive installations, education suites and spaces for conferences and meetings will be open to the public for the first time in 100 years. Owners and developers of the ship’s restoration programme, the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) says no other museum in the world can offer this kind of accessibility and attention to detail.
 
NMRN Chief of Staff Captain John Rees OBE has been in charge of the complex restoration and says HMS Caroline stands shoulder to shoulder with the world’s most historically significant ships including Lord Nelson’s Victory and Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, both on display in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. 
 
“HMS Caroline is a living legend. This is a world class heritage asset and the only ship remaining from the Grand and High Seas Fleet of some 250 vessels,” says Captain Rees. “We must not underestimate the value of this ship and the resonance of its history and position in Northern Ireland, so it is a matter of pride for us as well as a contribution to local communities that the ship is brought back to life as a museum and  visitor attraction. Naval historians and the general public around the world will be fascinated by this wonderful ship and delighted that at last, they can come on board and see it for themselves.” 
 
Moored in Belfast since 1924 the ship has been restored and fitted out with exhibition areas and exciting interactive suites to provide the visitor with a stark sense of what it was like to be in the middle of a naval battle against the mightiest floating army in the world, the German Imperial Fleet.
 
Restoration and exhibition fit-out was supported by the award of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £12.5m and a further investment by Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy.
 
First Minister Arlene Foster has supported the project from the beginning and says: “As a strong advocate and supporter of HMS Caroline, today is a day that I have looked forward to for some time.
 “HMS Caroline immeasurably adds to the tourism offering for both Belfast and Northern Ireland. She is a natural addition to the impressive list of attractions in the Titanic Quarter.
 “Just as she survived the Battle of Jutland 100 years ago, Caroline is now embarking on a new and important chapter in her history. This fabulous ship is a jewel in the crown of maritime history and today is the result of a tremendous collective effort. 
 “I commend all those who have worked tirelessly to restore Caroline to her former glory.”
 
Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund Sir Peter Luff says: "It is immensely gratifying to see HMS Caroline open to the public.  This is only possible thanks to £12.2m grant from National Lottery players - the largest the Heritage Lottery Fund has ever made in Northern Ireland.  HMS Caroline is a ship of huge significance to Belfast and internationally too. Skilfully restored, she will now add significantly to the wealth of HLF-supported heritage attractions in Titanic Quarter." 
 
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton says: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the restoration of HMS Caroline. The ship is a credit to all those who have worked on restoring her to her former glory and helping to bring her back to such a high standard. HMS Caroline is of huge benefit to the tourism offering for both Belfast and Northern Ireland further increasing the number of attractions in the Titanic Quarter. Tourism is now recognised as a key economic driver in Northern Ireland, with recent statistics showing, 4.5m people visited last year generating total revenue of £760m for our economy.  The next phases of this project, adding a visitor centre and exhibition spaces, will further help give both visitors and local people the opportunity to see and explore the ship reconnecting with this important part of our maritime history.” 
 
The ship opens to the public at 10am June 1 and will be open seven days a week until 6pm. Check www.hmscaroline.co.uk for more information and ticket prices.
 

HMS Caroline 1916