HMS Caroline – Then and Now

HMS Caroline is an extraordinary and unique survivor. She was built in 1914 and has had an exciting career which has spanned across two world wars and a long and active life in Belfast.

Classed as a Light Cruiser, she is one of only three major warships surviving that served with the Royal Navy in the First World War, and the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, arguably the greatest naval battle in history.

Today this significant ship is located in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, her home since 1924 when she served as the floating headquarters for the Ulster Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. She remained in this role until her decommissioning in 2011, earning her the title of the second longest serving Royal Navy ship after HMS Victory. By this stage HMS Caroline had led a long life, leaving her worn out and destined for scrappage. However The National Museum of the Royal Navy noticed the significance of this historic ship and stepped in to save her from the breaker’s yard, successfully restoring this former warship to her original First World War glory.

Before her restoration began, exhaustive research was carried out in order to balance preservation and reconstruction. Many interior spaces have been well preserved, this includes the Engine Rooms, where Caroline’s turbines can be seen exactly as they were found, although the conservation team have spent thousands of hours expertly cleaning every exposed surface by hand. Other than a viewing platform which was installed for visitors, everything in this unique space is original, even the smell of oil that still lingers.

Other internal spaces such as the Captain’s Cabins, Mess Decks and Bridge have also been impressively restored and now visitors are able to see how they would have looked in 1916. Each space is personalised and complete with realistic sound effects so it feels like Caroline’s crew are just over your shoulder.

Unfortunately some of Caroline’s original features such as her armaments were removed when she arrived in Belfast. However, thanks to the restoration, replica guns have been installed to recreate her appearance as a fighting ship, helping visitors to understand her vital role during the First World War.

This incredible restoration project has created a sustainable future for HMS Caroline, saving her for the nation to enjoy. The restoration has been possible due to the help and support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund, Tourism Northern Ireland and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. However, HMS Caroline still needs regular maintenance to ensure her survival and we cannot do this without the help of the public, whether that is buying a ticket to see the ship when we reopen or donating to our charity during the Covid19 pandemic. So please donate to ensure the survival of the nation’s historic fleet including HMS Caroline.

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