In 1998, 27 years after decommissioning by the Royal Navy, the former HMS CAVALIER lay in drydock in Hebburn, South Tyneside. She had been brought to the Tyne in 1987 to form the centrepiece of a national shipbuilding exhibition centre planned by South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council (STMBC) in the former shipyard of Hawthorn, Leslie and Company, builders of a whole series of similar destroyers including the immortal HMS KELLY. Unfortunately the ambitious plans for the museum came to nought and STMBC, faced with continuing maintenance costs and a hardening of public opinion against unnecessary expenditure, resolved to sell the ship and wind up the venture. The ship was bought by the Historic Dockyard, Chatham for display in their No. 2 drydock. The Hawthorn, Leslie & Company shipyard and drydock, having been bought by Cammell Laird (Tyneside), are now back in use for commercial ship repair and conversion. Unfortunately, this was short lived due to financial problems elsewhere and at the time of writing the whole complex is now on the market again. This paper gives an account of the work done to move the ship from the Tyne to the Medway and discusses the problems and options for the long term preservation of steel warships.

DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY OF THE SHIP  CAVALIER is the only surviving Royal Navy destroyer dating from World War II. Apart from her intrinsic interest, a prime objective in her preservation over the past 30 years is that she should be a fitting memorial to the 155 destroyers and 30,000 crew members of the Royal Navy lost in that conflict. This objective has still to be satisfactorily achieved. CAVALIER was one of 8 ships ordered in 1943 as the "Ca" class. The contract to build her went to the J Samuel White yard at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England. She was laid down on 28 February 1943, launched on 7 April 1944 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 22 November 1944.
She subsequently served in the Arctic and the Atlantic and was being prepared for the Far East when the war with Japan ended. She did have a short spell in Indonesian waters, but was back in the UK in June 1946 and put into reserve. She was reactivated in 1957 after a two year modernisation. During this modernisation her torpedo tubes were replaced by a deckhouse with two SQUID anti-submarines mortars and a twin Bofors anti-aircraft gun. After further time in the Far East, she was taken in hand in 1964 for further modernisation. This time she had a quadruple SEACAT guided missile system fitted in place of one of the after 4.7" guns. So she continued till 1970 while her contemporaries faded away. Her machinery and hull form had not been significantly altered over the years and, indeed, the same hull and 40,000 SHP propulsion plant had been used for later ships. Thus the challenge to a race for the fastest ship in the fleet was received from HMS RAPID in 1970, The course was in the North Sea and there was little in it after 64 miles. CAVALIER just beat RAPID, both ships achieving an average speed of 31.8 knots. CAVALIER arrived in Chatham on 5 July 1972 for decommissioning prior to disposal. Her active career had lasted a few months short of 26 years. By most standards, this is a long life for a ship.
She was by now a unique survivor, and a campaign led by Lord Louis Mountbatten (of HMS KELLY fame) to preserve the ship as a memorial was ultimately successful. It took five years. The ship was bought by the CAVALIER Trust for 65,000 and handed over on Trafalgar Day 1977 in Portsmouth. She was finally opened to the public in Southampton as a museum and memorial ship in August 1982.
Although by selling the ship to the Trust, the UK Government and the Royal Navy severed all formal connection and responsibility for the ship, a special warrant was issued that allows her to retain the title "HMS" (Her Majesty's Ship) and fly the White Ensign, a privilege normally only enjoyed by service ships in the Royal Navy.
The venture in Southampton was not as successful in attracting visitors as the sponsors had hoped. Within a year she had been moved to Brighton, just along the South Coast, where she formed the centre piece of a newly built yacht marina.
In the meantime, all was not well in the heartland of England's ship building industry - the River Tyne. Warship construction continued at Swan Hunter Shipbuilders, but all the other yards had closed down. Among these was the yard of Hawthorn Leslie and Company at Hebburn on the south bank of the river. Hebburn, and its neighbour Jarrow, had always been synonymous with the boom and bust of shipbuilding and the associated unemployment and social misery. The march of the unemployed shipbuilding and steel workers to London in the 1930's is the symbol of the times. By the 1980's, unemployment was rife again in these parts.
Hebburn and Jarrow form, with South Shields, the local government area of the South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council (STMBC). The Council were looking for ways to bring new life to the area, without forgetting its past, and the idea of a Shipbuilding Museum was conceived. Development grants for the project might be available and where better to have the Museum then in the old, now rather derelict, shipyard of Hawthorn Leslie. This was the yard that had built HMS KELLY, the destroyer commanded by Mountbatten in 1941 and immortalised in the film "In Which We Serve". After being severely damaged in an action in the North Sea, HMS KELLY was brought back to the Tyne against all the odds, and rebuilt by Hawthorn Leslie. Not long afterwards she was lost off Crete. Work started on the Shipbuilding Museum idea and some machinery was collected. What was needed was a ship. HMS KELLY was no longer available, but CAVALIER was, the attraction in Brighton having also proved to be disappointing in its patronage by the public.
So, in 1987, STMBC bought the CAVALIER, and she was towed north to be berthed in the river on the outfitting quay of the Hawthorn Leslie Yard. She was opened to the public while work continued on developing plans for the shipyard site and submission of grant applications.
Alas, the plans were too ambitious and no grants were received. The whole project became a failure, but the visitors to the ship continued to trickle in. One day this, too, changed. The ship in her river berth had taken on a sharp list. She was hastily put into the adjacent, unused, drydock. In spite of difficulties with the semi-derelict gate and dock machinery, the move was successfully made. New gangways were made for the ship in her new location and she continued to be open to the public, but fewer and fewer people came to see her. Eventually STMBC gave up and only allowed organised groups to visit. They had done their best to maintain the ship, applying the occasional coat of paint, and laying doubling plates on the decks where leaks due to corrosion were allowing water into the interior. Ships always cost money and STMBC were spending 30,000 annually on basic maintenance. They were coming under pressure from ratepayers and the local press to stop "this waste of public money". In 1996 they announced the ship was for sale.
This did not produce a rush of customers to their door. The only serious bid was from a Malaysian consortium who proposed to take the ship to Port Kelang to form the centre piece of a development there. It was reported that their technical representatives had spent more than a month inspecting the ship but the deal eventually fell through. This was not before an export licence had been issued. The ship by now had an apparent value of 750,000. Scrapping in situ became a serious possibility. In the meantime, the local community did produce candidates to start the process, concentrating on the non-ferrous elements. Security became a major headache.
The thought that the ship might be scrapped produced a fair amount of noise. The CAVALIER Trust was revived, and a CAVALIER Association was formed to lobby for the ship's continued survival. She even became subject of debate in a Parliamentary Committee. In the true British style, a committee had been formed to nominate what British ships were deemed to be "historic", and thus worthy of support but took a number of years to work out the answers. They did include CAVALIER.
The foregoing rather sorry tale has referred to CAVALIER as being "unique". She is the only WWII destroyer surviving from the Royal Navy. However, she is not the only destroyer built by J White to survive. In the thirties, two destroyers were ordered from J Samuel by the Polish government. They were completed in 1936. One did not survive the war, but the other, "BLYSKAWICA" did. She played a full part in the hostilities and was in Samuel White's yard for refit in the spring of 1942 when the Luftwaffe struck and did extensive damage to the yard. But all systems on "BLYSKAWICA" were up and running and she is credited with limiting the damage by her very vigorous assault on the attacking aircraft. BLYSKAWICA is preserved afloat today by the Polish Navy in Gdynia. She combines a role as a visitor attraction with that of a formal flagship of the Polish Navy and is in very good order. If ship's had feelings, CAVALIER would be very jealous of her older sister.
In the meantime the Historic Dockyard at Chatham, had not been receiving the visitor numbers such a place should have expected. It is a fabulous site, being the old dockyard where VICTORY was built and containing many 17th and 18th century buildings. It has three drydocks, two were in use by a commercial shiprepair, one was occupied by GANNET a 19th century sloop undergoing extensive reconstruction but at a very slow pace due to lack of money. What the dockyard did not have, and was a major handicap in presenting itself as a visitor attraction, was any ships other than GANNET. They did have OCELOT, the last submarine to be built at Chatham, but, due to lack of space, she was berthed afloat a mile away in another part of the former dockyard complex which was now being converted to upmarket housing.
All this changed with the demise of the ship repair company. Their two drydocks could be reclaimed by the Historic Dockyard. Together the three old drydocks could display CAVALIER, GANNET and OCELOT side by side.
The Historic Dockyard entered into discussions with STMBC and applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to finance the preliminary work necessary to make application for the major grant required to purchase the ship, get her down to Chatham, and to carry out the essential repairs to allow the ship to make the transit, prepare her for exhibition, and to modify the drydock to enable it to be used to keep the ship either afloat or in the dry.
This preliminary grant was made available in April 1998, and Three Quays Marine Services were appointed to make the preliminary survey and to assist KPMG with developing the Historic Dockyard's business plan. The first move was a survey of the ship in May 1998.
One aspect of the ship survey that was unusual, and quite a challenge, was that the drydock gate and machinery were included. The draft contract with STMBC was that the buyer was responsible for collecting the ship from the dock, and would he please shut the dock gate behind him as he left.
The ship was surveyed as far as possible as she lay in the dock at Hebburn. The phrase "as far as possible" is used because there were a number of unusual constraints. The ship was properly docked and the hull well supported, but access was more difficult than usual. The dock had been regularly freed of leakage and rain water but was covered in silt. Four pits had been dug in the dock bottom for some job in the past and they were a substantial trap for the unwary. Much of the infrastructure of the old Hawthorn Leslie yard had been demolished, leaving easy access to the ship by those whose prime interest was not her preservation. A chain link fence had been erected on the west side, but had quickly been breached by the local entrepreneurs; the listed building on this side of the dock was set on fire and subsequently had to be demolished. The more sophisticated of these, of course, simply arrived at the dockhead by boat and walked in. Compared with what might have been, not a great deal of damage had been done, but about 30% of the scuttle glasses had been taken, presumably for the small amount of bronze in the frame, and some copper pipes had been fairly roughly torn down from the deckhead in some of the mess decks. From the point of view of surveying the ship, these activities had resulted in every hatch and door giving access to the interior, being welded up bar two, and thus limiting our work. As we learned more about the ship, alternative ways into most compartments were found, but some required the maximum agility from people around retirement age!
The other factor that limited access at this stage was that the eight main fuel tanks had never been cleaned and still contained the unpumpable dregs of fuel from the ships final commission. Where corrosion had occurred in other compartments, e.g. the stern gland spaces, there was, of course uncertainty about the level of oxygen in the atmosphere. At this stage, therefore, the main approach was concentrated on the outside of the steel work and an ultra-sonic survey.
We did have a shell expansion drawing available to us. This of course, defined plate thickness in the old style, e.g. 7lb plate. However, if one remembers that a 40 lb plate is 1" thick, it is quite easy to work out the thickness of the plating.
The ship is generally of rivetted construction, though Whites were moving to welded work at the time she was built. Yard number 1930 was all welded and CAVALIER was yard number 1928. The rebuilt bow is all welded. The top sides had been cosmetically painted over the years in preservation but these coats had been applied over a fairly sound coat of red lead. One area where the plate was well perforated was the transom. The underwater parts were less good and were heavily scaled in many places. The ship had many welded patches, perhaps dating from her service days. Perforations in her museum days had been patched with light plate secured with self-tapping screws. Perhaps not marine style, but this was a non-seagoing museum ship with a severe cash-flow problem. The ship had suffered contact damage in some of her moves and at least one of these had been patched with light plate welded on three sides, but not the lower edge. Presumably this had been done afloat and it was not possible to weld the lower edge. I make no criticism of these patches - they illustrate the problems of preserving a ship in difficult circumstances.
When the ship was first prepared for her museum role, the underwater intakes and discharges had been plated over. The main propulsion plant condensers are scoop circulated and these ducts have fairly substantial openings. By the time we came to inspect the ship, these plates were corroded through and no longer effective.
Each plate on the external shell was gauged for thickness using a modern ultra-sonic meter. Access was by a large cherry-picker which enabled us to reach all parts. In fact, we were also able to measure the dock gate inside and out, at low tide. The ship results showed some wastage, of course, but no thickness was less than 4mm (5/32 in). The real problem was that the corrosion was localised, rather than general, and perforated areas were surrounded by sound material, but all in the same plate. There was no sign of sacrificial anodes but the bronze propellers had long since been removed. Wastage was, of course, more severe below overboard scuppers and discharges, of which there are many on a small ship with a large crew. On most plating, matching internal corrosion was not a problem, but there were some areas where it certainly was - a casual bang with a hammer on the keel plate forward produced a substantial stream of water from an internal tank. The fine fore foot of a destroyer bow totally precludes access to the void internal spaces. In the machinery spaces, internal corrosion of the shell plating seemed to be minimal, with the exception of parts around shipside valves.
Some compartments, such as both propeller shaft gland spaces, had been left flooded for lengthy periods and were very much the worse for wear.
The forecastle and main decks had suffered a great deal of corrosion and there had been extensive use of doubling plates to keep the interior free of water. Since water proofing the deck was all that was required, these doublers had simply been dropped into place and seal welded round the edges. About 40% of the deck area had been dealt with like this. One doubling plate may have dated from service days, since it was the only one plug welded.
The superstructure of the ship had been extended at the two major refits and a great deal of aluminium had been used. The steel/aluminium joint had been done well and we did not appear to have any major problems here. However, much of the light steel plating had suffered heavily and there were many perforations, particularly just above the foundation bar. It was possible to stand in the Captain's bathroom and see a line of daylight along the lower edge of the house plating! Space is always at a premium in a destroyer, and there were many places where, once corrosion had taken hold, it was impossible to get at it to deal with it. Such items as ventilating ducting, exhaust heads and cable trays had suffered heavily. Even the decks had substantial corrosion where water had lain for long periods as a result of blocked drain pipes. Internal fitting of deck scuppers from house tops seems strange. All right in the short term, but difficult to deal with if blocked, and disastrous if the internal section corrodes through over time. A leak into the wardroom was causing extensive damage.
The machinery spaces (forward boiler room, after boiler room, turbine room, gearing room and steering gear flat) were largely intact, but severely neglected. Removal of the asbestos lagging had been a fairly brutal affair which had resulted in the distortion and displacement of the smaller bore copper pipes. Where the insulation had been applied over steel, such as the castings of the turbine casings or steel steam lines, corrosion had got hold of the exposed surfaces and the whole is a rather sorry sight. Corrosion, of course, cannot be kept away indefinitely and much of the light gauge material such as vent ducts and outlets, cable trays, light fittings, had suffered. If any vandalism, or souvenir hunting, had occurred, it was not immediately obvious. The builders plate is still there, and the gauge glasses are intact. None of the rotating machinery has been turned for 30 years. The charge of luboil for the main propulsion turbines and gearing has been taken out so it would not be possible to circulate the bearings. The turning gear for the turbine/gearing/propeller shaft assemblies is hand operated from a drive system on the gear boxes. It was probably quite hard work!
There are two 5 cylinder Paxman - Ricardo generator sets, one in each boiler room. A quick look at the cylinder heads and camshafts of these suggested that the engines might still be in good order. The engine driven water pumps were decidedly corroded with the result that the engines could not be turned by hand. The electrical ends gave hope that they could be persuaded to make electricity. Since a source of 220v DC current is not easy to come by and at the time of the repair work in Hebburn it was thought that the ship would be held afloat, the overboard suction and discharge valves for one engine were overhauled and not blanked. It should be possible to run one of these engines and power the main board one day. The smaller diesel genset in the gearing room might have been the best choice for this. From inboard, it looked quite good. Once crawled over, (and none of these machines are of easy access), it was easy to see a crankcase door off and a piston in decidedly the wrong place. Whether this happened during her final days in the RN, or subsequently, would be interesting to know.
Most of the auxiliary centrifugal pumps are steam driven and their internal condition could not be assessed. The reciprocating pumps (in general by G&J Weir) were not too bad, but little electric bilge pumps, supplied by Megator, did not look fit for any further service.
The main boiler looked very tidy from the firing area. In fact, it later transpired that the furnace refractory had been lined with newspaper and varnished at lay-up in 1972 and this was all still there. The fuel burning equipment was all in place. Each boiler room has two W H Allen turbine driven forced draft fans. In one example, the casing had been cut back to allow the public to see it through the windows that had been installed in place of the air intake louvres. Alas, this encouraging situation was not reflected on top of the boilers. Unlike merchant ships, Royal Naval destroyers do not have exhaust piping within the funnel. The funnel, split by an athwartship diaphragm plate, is the uptake. Consequently, once the canvas funnel cover had failed, as it had done some years prior to our inspection, rain water came straight down on to the steam drum and the main generating tubes. In spite of being cleaned at layup, there was still enough sulphur around to have a bad effect particularly on the tubes.
One boiler room contains a small vertical boiler generating steam at 30 psi. This was dated 1951 and presumably was fitted for domestic heating when the main boiler was shut down. The exhaust pipes for this and the diesel generator engines are in the funnel, surrounded by main boiler exhaust gas when the ship is steaming.
The main switchboard room is nested into the gearing room. The board itself had suffered from thieves tempted by the copper. Not all had gone, and something could be made of this board. It was clear that some of the original lighting circuits were still usable and, indeed, one mysterious bunk light was found on, and working, in the forward lower mess deck. The cabling is lead covered and, by now, it must be assumed that the lead is brittle. Provided it is strictly untouched, it will still serve to conduct 220 volt DC, or AC if necessary. The accommodation ventilating fans were examined, together with their wiring, and it was thought that they could be returned to service without a great deal of work. Of course, it is essential that leakage to earth from these circuits is strictly monitored, particularly if the ship is afloat. Experience elsewhere has shown the dangers of rapid electrolytic corrosion to the hull if earth leakage is occurring. There is also a switchboard forward in the lower power room. This, too, had the attention of copper thieves but much remained. There are many motor generators in this area, all looking quite sound, and even the NIFE battery bank gave an external appearance of reasonable condition.
Many of these, from the wardroom and captain's quarters down, had been open to the public over the years and were in reasonable order. However, only the crews and domestic offices in the forward part of the ship were in this condition. Of course they were neglected but, just before the ship left the Tyne, many of these spaces were given a good going over by a gang of cleaning ladies. We had to call them in because, in spite of the obvious condition of the dead ship, several of the toilet facilities on board had been used by workmen. It seemed that these ladies only come in a gang and for a minimum period of one day so they had spare time available on the contract after dealing with the main problem. They did a great job, and really showed us how the ship could look with not a great many man (or woman) hours of effort. They thoroughly put their men folk to shame. After the attentions to the wardroom, including polishing the table, it looked ready for further use if we could only find the source of the water leak above the ceiling. This was eventually traced some distance to a corroded deck under gratings after the ship arrived at Chatham.
The aft crew accommodation was a different matter. When the ship was modernised in the fifties or sixties, the crew sleeping arrangements had been switched from hammocks to bunks of the fold-down variety. (This ship had a crew capacity of over 200). Some hammock bars had been left and, we believe, had been used when the ship was full. At some time in her museum career a decision had been made to revert the aft accommodation to the messing arrangements when hammocks were the norm and every RN sailor carried his hammock with him from ship to ship. All the more modern fittings had been stripped out, but the project had got no further, leaving large, empty and featureless spaces. The galley, galley extension, sick bay and many officers cabins were in good order as were the cold stores low down in the forward part of the ship. It is not likely that the freezer plant will see further service. The bathrooms and W.C. stalls were also in reasonable order, but many mirrors, with their characteristic "anchor" motif, had gone.
The fighting outfit in the ship, together with its control systems, were a mixed bag. The three remaining guns had suffered from corrosion and, perhaps, abuse. The breech mechanisms, elevating and transversing gear, seats, indicators, alarms, bells etc were severely deteriorated. This was obvious when the conditions of the three guns still on board were compared with the fourth gun. This had been removed to allow the installation of more modern weapons and had been used at a shore establishment as a training gun. It had now been returned to the ship and was stored in an adjacent shed. Unfortunately, the full length of the barrel was inconvenient for indoor training, and it had been cut short. Nothing is easy!
The anti submarine mortars at the aft end were intact and all present, but much of this equipment is steel fabrications with sharp corners and edges which are not easily maintained. It will take a lot of work to get rid of the corrosion and return the units to a reasonable appearance and condition. The original tompions from the barrels, with their ship's crests, had long since been "acquired" and even the replacements, made in cast resin by a local lover of the ship, were mostly missing. The launchers of the guided weapon system had also suffered greatly by exposure to the elements over the decades. It may be possible to get replacements, but it will be difficult to restore them to an apparent working order. The same is the case for the light anti-aircraft guns in the area of the mast and bridge. The bridge itself was reasonably good. Not all the gauges had had their glasses smashed, but the laminated glass in the windscreen had deteriorated with time and presented a poor appearance. Internally, many of the compartments packed with electronic equipment were in reasonably good order. In some, there was evidence that equipment had been taken out by the Navy before the ship was sold, but what was left was reasonably complete and undamaged. The T.S. Station was a bit battered, but it can be fixed up. A compartment that was in remarkably good order was the internal equipment of the sonar dome. This looked as though it could be worked if only we some D.C electricity! Being low down in the forward part of the ship, it was very difficult to get in to - probably a major factor in its good order. Externally, the lower half of the dome had been crudely hacked away, exposing the transponder units. Before the ship was floated at Hebburn, this external space was plated in and sprayed with Magnakote. Hopefully, it will not have deteriorated further by the time somebody decides that they can do something with it.
There are some items of machinery and equipment on deck. The anchors are handled by two vertical shaft cable lifters driven by a small reciprocating steam engine on the forecastle head. Nothing had moved here for years and it showed. But under the somewhat deteriorated steel cover, was a lovely little engine all bright and oily! The brake linings and drums, where visible, were heavily corroded. Inspection of the chain lockers showed chain in good order but, on the starboard side, three lengths of cable disappearing into the spurling pipe.
On the iron deck, a heavy cover concealed the diesel driven emergency fire and salvage pump. It looked OK and when it was taken to the fitter's shop, they soon had it running. The two boats, a motor whaler to port and a pinnace to starboard, had been well neglected, though someone had had a go at dismantling the engines. The whaler, in particular, gave the impression that the plug may have been left in, and sufficient water had gathered to break its back. All around were light gauge components, like exhaust ducts and ventilator heads which had perforated. Quite a few of these had been installed in a position where access made satisfactory preparation for painting impossible.
There is not a great deal of wood on a wartime built destroyer. All the decks were painted steel but running round the edge of the weather decks is a "spurn-water coaming". This is a 1" square wood batten, held to the deck by studs and plugs. At intervals, there is a gap filled by a pivoted rubber chute. The idea of this is that rain water, or light spray on deck, is shot over the side clear of the hull, and doesn't run down the side to make unsightly stains. This wood was substantially rotted.
The bridge and adjacent working areas have timber covered platforms to raise the working levels, yet allow for lower areas at deck level for chart work, or even keeping out of the cold. Indeed, there are steam heating coils under some positions here. Whatever had originally been there had long since failed, and been replaced by some cheap marine ply. This in turn was beyond further service, apart from being totally unsuited to its function.
Other wooden fittings, like ensign and jack staffs, boat booms, accommodation ladders, were in the deteriorated condition one might expect from long term neglect.
There have been quite a few publications describing the Ca class, to which CAVALIER belongs. Much use was made of the Profile publication "HMS CAVALIER". This give quite a reasonable history of the ship and what changes were made to her over the years.
After 30 years in preservation, the ship herself had been picked very clean, and no drawings, instruction books or records were found on board. South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council had a fair number of drawings in their store. These were eagerly examined but proved disappointing. They were almost entirely shipbuilders "engine" drawings, i.e. details of pipe fittings, pipe systems etc. There were no hull drawings or drawings of major engineering items such as propulsion turbines or boilers. The search turned to sources such as the National Maritime Museum. Here there was some material relating to the ship, including a folder labelled "Inclining Experiment 1953". Alas, it was empty. This was information that would have been of great value, particularly in relation to the stability situation when we floated the ship up prior to departure. Fortunately, we did have a shell expansion and a docking plan plus the General Arrangement drawings, but this was all that was of help in getting the ship down to Chatham. No information was available from those who had docked the ship in Hebburn. Perhaps, in view of the reasons for the hasty docking, the actual drafts at the time would not have been relevant. One unexpected source of data on drafts, trims and stability was the Salvage Association. They had had to approve the conditions for the previous tow (as they had to on this occasion) and they made their records available to us.
In choosing the work to be done on the ship in the first phase, a number of factors were considered:-
- Time: The ship was needed in the Historic Dockyard at the start of the season.
- Money: The funds available from the Heritage Lottery Fund were sufficient to get the ship fit for the tow and for external preservation but no more.
- Labour: The Tyne has been undergoing quite a revival of ship repair work in the past few years. As a result there was available a pool of labour skilled in ship work, and an infrastructure to support ship repair work.
- Location: The Hebburn drydock site has been encroached by new upmarket housing but this was still sufficiently distant for a comprehensive shot blasting and coating programme to be undertaken without too much fear of trouble from the "neighbours".
By contrast, although the Medway had retained some ship repair capability until shortly before the project began, this had ceased with the last contractor going into liquidation. In fact it was this unfortunate event which released the dry-docks for CAVALIER and OCELOT.
Undoubtedly ship repair skills still exist on the Medway, and this is evidenced by the number of volunteers coming forward to work on the ship, but there is no competitive infra-structure for ship repair work.
As a result, it was quickly realised that as much of the renovation work as possible should be carried out on the Tyne and the ship should arrive in a condition ready for display. This also maximised the impact of her arrival in terms of stimulating the public to visit the dockyard.
The principal task headings may be given as:-
- Cleaning
- Preparation for, and carrying out of steelwork repairs.
- Steelwork preservation.
- Preparation work for tow.
- Extras
The ship has a capacity for 588 tons of heavy fuel in 8 tanks. These are in two groups of 4 at L from each end. Access and sounding is from the mess decks immediately over the tanks. 27 tons of diesel fuel were carried in a separate tank nested in the aft group. These tanks had been pumped out at decommissioning and then left.
Over the 30 years since decommissioning, some water had got into most tanks and this water bottom had, in general, a 3" layer of fuel oil on top. One of the tanks had a mixture of 70 tons of oil and water in it.
We believed that it was necessary to get into these tanks to inspect them. We also wanted to be able to ballast the ship if required for stability and, if she was to be displayed afloat, the ability to float her at a realistic water line was desirable. Finally, there was a risk that she would sink during the tow. To cause even a minor amount of pollution was not a good idea in such a high profile ship. Tank cleaning contractors are readily available on the Tyne, so the work was put in hand at the cost of 14,000.
No other significant oil was found in the ship. The steering gear system was still filled with oil but the turbine and gearing lubricating oil had been removed. This was a pity, since it would have been nice to have been able to turn the shaft assemblies to spread the oil and preserve the journals and gears. The Royal Navy may have taken it for use elsewhere.
South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council had decided some years earlier to strip asbestos out of the ship completely. A contract had been let to an approved contractor and the work was supervised by a local consultancy group. A Royal Navy ship is particularly difficult to effect a total clearance of asbestos. The obvious areas - steam lines and plant in the machinery spaces - are easily dealt with but asbestos insulation had been used throughout the ship. Steam heating and hot water lines in all the living spaces were lagged with asbestos rope. For example, there are steam lines to the windlass through the mess-decks and the accommodation was heated throughout by steam radiators. Some internal doors were panelled in asbestos based materials.
The work had been done by the contractor at a cost to STMBC of 80,000 and signed off by the consultant. No certificates guaranteeing an asbestos free ship were forthcoming and a first inspection quickly revealed many places where asbestos containing material was plainly visible. These were mainly on smaller pipes to radiators and the like, but one of the most obvious was on a 6" steam line over the port Iow pressure turbine. The pipe hangers had originally been fitted over the insulation. The contractors had neatly cut the insulation either side of the hanger, leaving a ring of insulation in place under the hanger. While such an example should never have got past a final inspection, it is chastening to realize that the odd piece of asbestos is still being found in spite of our own inspections.
It was necessary to have further professional asbestos surveys and another specialist contractor to deal with the resultant discoveries. This involved stopping all other work on the ship, having the working areas sealed off and using filtered ventilation systems. Where the asbestos could easily be removed, it was. Where it couldn't, it was encapsulated.
Illness due to inhaling asbestos fibres and dust has to be taken very seriously, but in terms of preservation of the ship, total removal of the material may not always be the best answer. In the case of CAVALIER, it has resulted in many soft copper pipes being distorted and looking unsightly in display areas. In the machinery spaces, all the steel components e.g. turbine casings, were left unprotected and are now rusted. From a technical standpoint, encapsulation would have been better. On the other hand, the ship is to be opened to the public. It is only too easy to imagine what an uninformed newspaper headline "This ship is full of asbestos" would do to ticket sales. Removal probably was the best option overall, but it has left quite a mess and, ultimately, will make it difficult to give a realistic impression of the machinery spaces.
It cannot be said that the ship was not clean at the time she was handed over, but she was certainly untidy. People with no good will to the ship had been on board rummaging for saleable material, particularly non-ferrous metals. The ship had an amazing collection of spare motors, which were complete, plus spare rotors which had been stowed in standard spares' boxes. These had been well picked over. Quite a few compartments had been simply used as dumping areas during the ship's museum years. These had to be cleared, if only to get at the steelwork behind. A team of four from the Dockyard spent a hard week on board sorting this material out.
Even a cursory glance at the hull showed that there were a fair number of perforations. The problem was going to be to identify them all. At this point one option being seriously considered was that the ship normally would be afloat in her drydock at Chatham. We might be able to live with a few leaks on the way down, but not on a permanent basis.
The holes in the shell plating were local and random. No underwater plate was sufficiently wasted generally as to require renewal, but there were rashes of severe wastage here and there below the light water line. These were to be dealt with by applying doubler plates. Above the light water line there were fewer penetrations, except on the transom, where at least one plate was severely corroded. Presumably this plating, normally above the waterline, suffered severely from the wake when running at full power. The most damaged plate was certainly not an original from 1944. The intention was that this plate, and any other requiring renewal, would be cut out and the replacement rivetted in. In the end we had to settle for a welded plate with rivet heads added by an artist with a welding rod.
Each shell plate had, of course, been gauged the year before with an ultra-sonic meter. These readings had shown that at least one spot on each plate had most of the metal still present. As a first attempt at a deeper assessment, staging access was provided to a heavily scaled plate on either side of the ship and the plate was heartily assaulted with hammers. Large quantities of scale fell off, but the plate itself survived without problems. The flat keel plates forward were corroded from the inside. Fortunately, there wasn't much of this or many wet spots internally.
The hammer assault on the side plating showed that the whole paint system had failed underwater and would have to come off. Above water, on the topsides, the coating seemed to be basically sound below the top layers which had been applied mainly for cosmetic reasons. A test with a high pressure water wash quickly revealed an intact red lead primer coat. Red lead is an excellent primer but is a health hazard if removed. If the primer were removed by shot-blasting for example, the resultant debris would have required special disposal arrangements at considerable cost. It was decided to shot blast the underwater part of the hull to as best a result as we could get, but not expecting more than SA2, and to remove the top coats from the top sides but leave the red lead prime intact. This was achieved by means of a high pressure water wash using a pump capable of generating 15,000 psi.
In the event, a very good standard of blast was achieved. In most areas the result was SA 2. A holding primer was applied to the blasted area at the end of each day. Although the work was done in March, we were fortunate to hit a spell of good weather.
The topsides, decks and superstructure were prepared using the high pressure water system. Where the primer was sound, the top coats were removed leaving the primer. Where there was general corrosion, frequently accompanied by perforation, the water treatment was given longer to give as good a surface as possible for the coating. As a result of this work, many holes were found in the lower part of the superstructure bulkheads and some items such as cable trays and light brackets had simply to be removed. The high pressure water wash was remarkably effective, but could be slow since we didn't have a water supply near the ship. Holes in the superstructure were filled with a 2 part epoxy mix before overcoating.
The paint systems applied were:-Underwater Hull : Intertuf 203/Interviron Black (Boot Top)
Topsides : Intergard 740 Admiralty Grey Deck : Interbond 801/Intergard 740 Olive Green Superstructure : Interlac 665 Admiralty Grey
Internally, some compartments which had suffered from long term immersion in water would have been very difficult to prepare for conventional painting and were coated with a non-setting grease type paint.
The work to prepare the ship for the tow fell into two categories:-
a) To ensure water could not get in
b) To meet the needs of the M-notice
External watertight doors and hatches had been neglected. In general hinges and dogs were seized and these were made operable, but the existing rubbers and seals were adequate for the task.
The ship side scuttles that had been stolen were quite easy to replace through the expense was annoying. Through the Historic Ships Association, we were soon given the name of Tom Utley in St Helens. Utleys have taken over the original supplier's business and were able to make replacements. Because the Admiralty had scrapped the patterns long since, we had to supply samples from the ship. Unfortunately, the replacements were not available in time and the main hull openings were fitted with plywood blanks.
Canvas covers were obtained for most of the exposed vent heads. The top of the funnel was also given a new cover, the old one having become ineffective long since. It was not anticipated that we would take seas down the funnel, but rain had been falling straight down to the boiler steam drums and corroding the insulation cladding and the tubes.
For the first few years on the Tyne, CAVALIER lay in the river at the fitting out berth in the old Hawthorn Leslie shipyard. This berth is on the inside of a northward loop in the river and was thus subject to silting. To keep her afloat, the ship was held off the quay on pontoons hinged to the quay.
One day, the ship developed a sharp list to starboard. She had now been afloat for 20 years and there was natural concern about her watertight integrity. She was promptly placed in the adjacent drydock and taken out of the water.
The Hawthorn Leslie drydock was built in 1866 and modernised in 1930. The dock gate and associated equipment is unusual and was fully described in 1931 in a paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers by James Mitchell M.Inst.C.E. The dock gate is hinged on the bottom edge and folds outwards in to the bed of the river. Ships were floated over the top of it. The arrangement is like that on the stern door of a modern car ferry. The gate is hauled upright by 5" circumference wire strops, one each side, actuated by a pair of jigger winches in vertical shafts on either side of the dock. The load is reduced by buoyancy compartments in the gate. In the open position, the door was designed to rest on a supporting post in the river bed.
The dock is filled through a culvert on the upstream side of the entrance. A full depth cylinder resting on a seat at dock bottom level sealed the culvert. To open and fill the dock, the whole cylinder is lifted by turning a capstan by hand. Since the cylinder weight is balanced by cast iron blocks on a chain system, the operating force required is minimal. If this valve could not be opened, a backup system of sluice valves through the gate was included in the original design.
The dock is emptied by two vertical electrically driven centrifugal pumps drawing from a channel across the dock bottom and discharging through non-return valves to pipes laid in the river bed with their open ends out towards the main channel.
The dock machinery had of course, suffered years of neglect. The gate skin was perforated in a number of places on the river side. On the dock side, one hole resulted in a jet of water into the dock but this was high enough in the gate only to occur at high water. The whole surface was heavily scaled and looked more alarming than it probably was. At least some of the compartments which were intended to be airtight, and thus buoyant, were not and so the load to lift the gate would be greater than designed. Fortunately, the joint between the gate and the greenheart lined cills was very good. Cynics claimed that this was due to the silt on the river side acting as a seal.
The balance weight chains and the thread of the operating screw of the filling valve were so severely corroded as to be immovable. It was also feared that the soft seal at the base could not be made watertight again if it was disturbed. Moving this valve could be a very serious error.
One of the dewatering pumps had had half the stater casing removed to expose the impeller. Although a good quality pump, manufactured by Weirs, the bearings, glands and wearing rings all required attention. The other pump was complete and had reportedly run not many months earlier, but both motor insulation resistances were down to zero. The stripping pump was clearly faulty and had not been serviceable for many years. Routine draining of rain and leakage into the dock was effected by dropping a portable submersible pump into the dock bottom near the gate. The non-return valves and discharge valves on the de-watering pumps appeared to be tight. There was no leakage, for example, through the casing of the open pump. Checking if they were seized shut didn't seem to be too wise while work continued on the ship.
The gate lifting wires were corroded where they ran over pulleys at ground level. Elsewhere they were still oily and good but were displaced from the triple sheaves on the jigger winch rams. When the gate is shut, these are fully extended and, in this position, they could be held up by latches. These had not been inserted after the last occasion the gate was moved and so, as loss of hydraulic pressure through leaking seals occurred, the upper sheave and ram dropped, leaving the hoisting wire in a tangle. The rams consisted of bronze pistons in cast iron cylinders, of 15" diameter and about 8 feet stroke. There was little scoring on the rams and the whole assembly could easily be made to work again. Hydraulic pressure was supplied by a MacTaggart Scott multicylinder pump driven by an electric motor. This appeared to be in good order, fully charged with oil, but the condition of the flow and return pipes, buried in the ground, had to be suspect.
Little information was available about the hasty docking of the ship. The ship's drafts were not recorded anywhere that we could ascertain. The method that had been used to flood the dock was not forthcoming. It was reported that the gate had been lowered and lifted by two 80 tonne mobile cranes. These had pulled directly on the gate. Due to the layout, the pull could not be vertical, as a crane is designed to do, nor could the cranes pull the gate fully home against the cills. It was reported that the final nudge into position had been from the stern of a river tug. In view of the corroded state of the gate structure, this was a bold move.
The only piece of drydock equipment that had some prospect of working on our timescale was one of the main dewatering pumps. The motor was dried out in the normal way using electric heaters and a satisfactory resistance was achieved.
When enough water was available in the dock to test it, this pump blew the plug of silt out of the discharge pipe with a satisfying burp.
In order to flood the dock, four gate valves were attached to plates on the inner face of the dock gate. It was also found that it was possible to open the original internal valves in the gate. It was thus possible to flood the dock through the gate and to be able to do this fast enough to float the ship in a reasonable time.
Since the gate operating wires and bottom sheaves were in a reasonable condition, it was decided to scrap the outer end of the wire and fit a new lug to connect with the gate. The inner (i.e. jigger winch) end of the wire was taken round a bottom sheave in the winch pit so that it was offered vertically to the hook of a mobile crane. The pull from the 100t mobile crane was thus vertical and in a constant line.
The initial movement of the gate when opening was by two small push off jacks. These also acted as shock absorbers when the gate was coming back into the closed position. Once started, the gate is designed to fall outward under its own weight. The rams of the push off jacks were too corroded for use, as was their pipe supply from the pump house. The rams were removed, and a temporary system using portable jacks with an air driven pump was used.
Security to ensure the gate was held closed was provided by a couple of 2 feet long, 2" square steel and wood pegs at either side. They appeared to be seized in position, but, in the event, were easily lifted out by hand when the cranes put a little closing tension on the gate.
On the day, the temporary system worked perfectly. The pegs were removed, the jacks pushed off the gate which then fell smoothly to the river bed under control of the cranes. There was no opportunity for a trial run. It worked when we needed it, in the minutes before the ship was pulled out into the river. Once the ship was clear, the cranes hauled the gate up and it came easily back into the closed position. In fact the only problem we had with the two 100 tonne cranes was simple. One turned up with its hoisting wires arranged for a 45 tonne lift. The full 100 tonne could only be achieved by re-rigging at the depot. Instead Ainscough sent us down a 160 tonne crane from Aberdeen overnight. When you specify a 100 tonne crane it seems to be unwise to assume that that's what you'll get. In the end, the maximum pull recorded in the crane cabs was 30 tonne, but we didn't know that in advance! Once the gate was back in position, the dock was pumped out leaving a fine silt over everything. Cammell Laird used the dock once again, for work on a barge for the Millennium fireworks on the Thames, before fabricating a new gate and re-instating the original hydraulic system. A new cylinder was rolled for the filling valve and the dock is fully operational again. New management, new working practices and new attitudes have brought life to the Tyne's ship industries. Resumption of shipbuilding seemed to be a strong possibility, but Cammell Lairds woes on a major passenger ship conversion have brought it all to a standstill.
We always had some concern about the stability of the ship when she was floated up and for the tow to Chatham. This was primarily due to lack of information on previous inclining experiments and absence of what is known in a merchant ship as the "Stability Booklet". We had noted a reference in one document to "the contents of the fuel tanks should never be less than 75 tonnes", and were concerned that the ship was not stable when fully empty.
Since we intended to have the fuel tanks cleaned and empty, and there were to be no other fluids in the ship, we thought it possible that there might be no GM available in this condition and so decided to play safe by filling four of the fuel tanks with fresh water. Since the fuel tanks were in two groups of four forward and aft, with a centre line bulkhead, four was the minimum number we could fill to keep the ship evenly trimmed without heel. Since we planned to conduct an inclining experiment as soon as she was afloat, we had intended to fill the tanks completely and so avoid free surface. We did not have any sounding tables for the tanks, though we did know their 100% capacity. Since we were also reluctant to put this weight into the ship (300 tonnes) when she was sitting on the blocks, the operation had to be tied in with partial flooding of the dry dock. Filling the tanks was no easy operation, since the Hebburn drydock was completely without services and water had to be supplied through mile of hoses from the parent yard downstream.
This plan did not succeed. In spite of overcoming all the supply problems, our assumption that the fuel tanks were watertight turned out to be seriously in error. We had assumed that the internal coating of fuel oil in the tanks would have preserved the steel, including in the ullage space, but this was not so. As the chosen tanks became full, it was clear that we had serious leakages not only into adjacent tanks, but also through the shell plating. For a couple of days, attempts were made to cure the leaks, initially by patching with welded plate after dropping the water level, finally using cement boxes as we ran out of time towards the tow-away deadline. We never succeeded in getting the tanks tight and finally gave up. The yard were instructed to pump all the tanks dry. This was finally completed on the Friday morning, leaving just enough time for the inclining experiment before the dock gate was due to be opened at 1.30 pm.
To our relief, the ship was found to be stable in the dry condition. She was towed into the river while the naval architects were taking their final draft and water density readings!
Although the ultra-sonic thickness gauge readings had shown a reasonable remaining thickness in the shell plating, the work required to deal with local penetrations was substantial. These holes were small and not easy to find.
Close inspection of the shell plating after blasting revealed over 150 holes. Only in one or two places, notably part of the transom plating above the water line, and the keel plate forward, was the wastage general enough to justify renewal of the plate or doubling of the existing plate. The keel plate, forward from the sonar dome and for about 15 inches up on each side was doubled - a straight forward job. The transom plate was renewed. Strangely enough, the corroded plate appeared to be an earlier renewal. The original intention was to renew the rivets with this plate, but pressures of time, and the absence of a rivetting squad, resulted in the plate being welded in, with the rivet heads simulated by a bit of skilled weld metal deposit.
The original unsightly doubling plates, and the light patches secured with self-tapping screws were, of course, replaced.
In spite of all this work, hose testing revealed further leaks which were then dealt with. When the dock was eventually flooded, but without floating the ship, yet more leaks were found, and the dock had to be pumped again out to deal with these. At the final float-up, one or two more leaks appeared. Combined with the leaks in the fuel tanks, a cement mixing team had to set up shop on the dockside!
The starboard shaft gland space was flooded when we received the ship and we concluded that this was due to water seeping through the gland.
The situation was the same on the port side and both compartments were pumped out. After being flooded for a considerable number of years, internal conditions were not good, with little left of light steel structure, and the whole covered in a mixture of oily slime and rust. It is a pity that these compartments were not drained immediately after the ship was put in drydock. A hand drill on the shell plating would have sufficed.
Both shaft glands were repacked without difficulty but we did not think this sufficient if the ship was to be held afloat in the drydock at Chatham which was the plan at that time. Accordingly, the outer ends of the shafts were sealed with rubber O-rings, clamped between shaft and boss by the existing bronze outer plates of the sterntube. This means that the shafts cannot be turned until these are released, to the disappointment of our Historic Lottery Fund monitor, but it should ensure that there is no seepage of water into the ship along the shaft.
This does not explain why the ship took a sudden list overnight during her time as a museum ship on the Tyne. Once some cleaning had been done in gland compartments and the adjacent fuel tanks, it was possible to make an inspection and a split was found on the common thwartship bulkhead on the starboard side. This was close to the deck head, and the sudden flow of water along the shaft, then through the bulkhead split into the fuel tank is thought to be the cause of the ship listing.
In order that she could leave the Tyne, the ship required two certificates.
1. A Load Line Exemption Certificate issued by the MCA.
2. A "Fit to Tow" statement issued by the Salvage Association.
The MCA (the Maritime and Coastguard Agency) is the arm of the UK Government responsible for administering all statutory legislation for UK shipping. In this case, the MCA Surveyor had also been tasked by the Harbour Master to advise him if the ship was fit to be allowed out of the dock and make passage down the river to the open sea.
The Salvage Association is a commercial body whose prime function is to ascertain that the condition of the risks the Insurer has agreed to underwrite are being met. Although the insurance premium had been waived, the formalities still had to be observed.
The UK Government, through its M-notice No 1406, lays down the requirements that a dead ship under tow has to observe. Apart from the obvious, such as lights and other signals, the Surveyor had to satisfy himself that the ship was likely to keep water out and would be stable. There is a requirement that the vessel can be anchored, and that there are some means of pumping out water from the interior. For this reason we had overhauled the anchors, cables and cable lifters, paying particular attention to the brakes. We also placed on board an air compressor and two air operated diaphragm pumps to deal with any water ingress. This would have required stopping the tow and putting personnel on board. The reasoning of the Surveyor who also wanted doors and hatches welded closed to prevent unauthorised access to the ship was thought to be strange. Since we had an aircompressor, it was satisfying to pipe it up to the sirenettes on the funnel. Although not quite the sound made by steam operation, it was quite satisfying to go "whoop, whoop" as we went down the Tyne.
The Load-line Exemption certificate was issued only minutes before the ship entered the river. The "Fitness to Tow" shortly before sailing.
The need to have the ship in dock in Chatham for the well advertised Navy Days over the weekend of 29th/31st May, meant that she had to arrive in the Medway on Sunday 23rd May to take advantage of the correct tide for docking during the preceding week. This meant she had to leave the Tyne on Friday 21st May. This schedule allowed no margins for delays or problems.
From the foregoing sections, the reader will realize that there were many problems and set backs right up to the last minute. Some were hardly unexpected - just another leak, for instance! but others were more unusual. Museum ships have no crew and no mooring ropes. Had some one in the past made use of the old saying "money for old rope"? Whatever the reason, second-hand mooring ropes had to be sought out and purchased. Riggers to handle the ropes are easily hired on the Tyne, but having undocked the ship in the afternoon, they thought their work was done and they had to be fetched back from the pub for the evening departure. The ship had been on the Tyne for 12 years and her departure was now a major event, live interviews on local radio were requested, TV cameras abounded and constant queries as to when the ship was leaving were received. In the end, she left the river berth at Cammell Laird's about 8 p.m. after the last minute checks on her watertight integrity, loading of bits and pieces for transfer to Chatham, and connecting of the primary and back up towing arrangements to the anchor cables on the forecastle. The jack staff had to be removed to the towing wire through the forward fairlead but a White Ensign was hoisted on the main mast. There were surprisingly large crowds on both sides of the river and berthed ships dipped their ensigns in salute. We couldn't reply with ours, but we did give a good response with our air operated sirenette. The South Shields Sea Cadets were on parade, complete with bugle calls as she slipped past. As the sun set, the harbour tug dropped away from her stern, and the SUN LONDON took her through the pier heads into the gloaming, navigation lights just showing in the darkness. It was quite a send-off.
Nothing left now, except to settle the bill and come to terms with all the costs of that final hectic week.
The 300 mile tow to the Medway gave no problems with speeds up to 10 knots achieved. The long, slim shape of a destroyer, without her propellers, tows very easily. The ship was off the Medway early on Sunday morning and made another triumphal trip upstream to be berthed in the commercial docks by 1 p.m. With some relief, it was noted that the white line tell-tales painted at bow and stern were still above the water line. Big crowds watched her arrival, which augured well for the Navy Days weekend. During the week, the ship was put into the planned drydock. This was pumped out to allow the caisson (dock gate) hold backs to be fitted. She was then floated up again and prepared for exhibition. The gangways from the Tyne were re-used as a temporary measure, but gave difficulty as the ship moved continually on her moorings. While thought was given to a better system for securing the ship, she was again landed on the blocks and kept dry.
The Arrival in Chatham
Work on the interior has been carried out by teams of volunteers, mainly repainting of the forward mess decks. The public are taken on conducted tours of the open deck and superstructures, but the ship is not yet ready internally for public access.


Given the extent of the work required and the timescale with its major, unmissable deadline of the Chatham Navy Days weekend, there was no alternative to giving all the work to a commercial ship repair organisation. Accordingly a conventional ship repair specification was drawn up and tenders invited. We were in the slightly unusual position that the repair contractor would have to come to the ship, rather than us deliver the ship to him. It was probably this aspect that resulted in only two bids being received. One was from the company already on site, whose principal activity was steelwork fabrication with some ship repair work, and the other from the neighbouring repair yard, formerly Tyne Shiprepairers, but recently taken over by Cammell Laird, the Birkenhead based ship conversion and repair company then engaged on a substantial expansion programme. They also owned two yards in South Shields and one on the Wear at Sunderland and were having a very successful run with major conversion work for offshore vessels, ship conversions and routine overhauls for such demanding clients as the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. But the pressure was on the South Shields facilities, which were becoming increasingly hemmed in by new up-market housing with consequent impact on shot blasting and spray painting, and the space and facilities at Hebburn, contiguous with their main yard, were attracting their attention. The price bids of the two contenders were comparable within the fixed price part of the work. But we felt that the bigger yard had much more resources in the way of man power and equipment to deal with the inevitable emergent work quickly and effectively. It was in their interests to see the departure of CAVALIER as early as possible. Accordingly the contract was awarded to Cammell Laird. It took a little while for the work to get authorised and formally commissioned. Historic museums have a slightly different approach to these matters compared with a conventional shipowner! The fixed price part of the contract was 206,000. This included all work in the original repair specification. Emergent work was bound to occur given the difficulties of getting at the ship to survey it, the absence of a crew used to the ship, and the steep learning curve for both consultant and contractor in dealing with a 55 year old destroyer, the total cost of the emergent work, as a factor of the quoted fixed cost, should not have been a surprise. It was 176,000, 85% of the base price. In addition to the work on the ship, there was also the work on the gate. The dredging and the cleaning of the gate cill by divers totalled 37,000. Work on the pumping equipment came to 5,500 and for fitting the filling valves to the gate, 9,000. The work on the gate hoisting cable and securing pins was a further 5,400. Actually opening the gate, closing it after the ship had gone and pumping out the dock cost 7,000. But we had had delays and abortive attempts at floating up, so extra costs of 7,700 were incurred for additional filling and pumping and extended hire of the cranes. Overall, the yard charge came to 495,404. This compares with the original Three Quays estimate of 492,000. Could we have done it for less money? Yes, of course, if more time had been available to get every item specified in detail. But even then, life is not that simple, and many costs only emerge once the work has begun. By then, he who is responsible for the ship is in the hands of the repair yard estimators - a position many shipowners have reached to their cost! But Cammell Laird is not a philanthropic institution, they are in business for profit, and to generate sufficient income to keep investment going in their yards. Museum ships have little commercial clout - we don't have the rest of the fleet to dock this year, and this ship due back in two years time. At yard level, they have their role to perform. It is only at very senior level that pleas for mercy may be heard with sympathy. The funding for this work was received in two stages from the National Lottery. A first grant of around 60,000 was received by the Historic Dockyard to fund the surveys and assessment work on the viability of the project to bring CAVALIER to Chatham. This enabled an application for a grant for the actual work on the ship to be prepared. This was for 1.6 million and it came from the Heritage Memorial Fund.
The ship was decommissioned in 1971, after 27 years service in the Royal Navy. This year (2001) sees her complete 30 years as a museum ship. She has spent more time in preservation than she did in service. Yet her service time was unusually long for a Royal Naval vessel of her type. Her designers did not plan for 27 years life, let alone 56 and continuing. Nor did her designers give a great deal of thought to maintaining the hull. In the design balance it was more important to pack as much into as light a hull as possible.
The great, if not the only, enemy of a steel hull in salt water is corrosion. Light scantlings, particularly on the above deck structures means that, once paint has failed locally, it doesn't take long for penetration to occur. Even so, the designers didn't give much thought to ensuring access for all painted surfaces or avoiding sharp edges and building in weak spots in the paint coatings. In a few places, there are features, (which are very strange to the non-naval eye) e.g. scupper pipes, from house tops which are led down within the house to emerge, via a right angle bend, on the house side just above the deck. With a crew of 220, there was ample human resources to deal with such things. For a maintenance crew of 1 man and a boy, it is an impossible task. As the National Trust also knows only too well, the wear and tear caused by those who visit the ship must also be controlled.
In some aspects, the war time construction of CAVALIER is a help. For example, she has no wooden sheathed decks.
The ship was given a good grounding in Hebburn before departure with a high quality paint coating applied over well prepared surfaces. For the immediate future, the only solution is to continue to apply conventional paint over as well prepared surfaces as can be achieved by fresh water hosing and hand scraping.
Fortunately, CAVALIER now resides in an area where there are a large number of former Royal Navy people and many others who are keen to involve themselves with looking after the ship. At a working weekend in August 2000, about 70 volunteers turned up and tackled the forward upper mess-deck. Long may their enthusiasm continue, but the problem lies with directing their enthusiasm tactfully, and firmly, in the right direction. It is a little frustrating to find a beautifully painted deckhead above a deck liberally spotted with drips of the same paint! The staff at the Historic Dockyard are aware of this problem and went to some lengths to ensure that this paint-out session was tackled, methodically, soundly and safely.
The ship is fortunate that she has a dry dock available to her where she can permanently remain.
Aesthetically, should the ship be shown afloat, looking like an active warship all ready to go? Or is it better to have her high and dry so that the full appearance of the hull can be seen and admired? Opinion may be equally divided on this, though the dry option is slightly spoilt by not having the propellers fitted. In fact, only one propeller is now available to the ship.
Technically, the afloat option has the advantage that the light hull structure is better supported, i.e. no point loads in way of keel blocks, sten struts and shores. The ship will move a bit, and this will help to disperse rain water which accumulates in fixed positions on the deck and upper works. The corrosion state of the hull can be monitored and controlled by an impressed current system. It was these considerations that led us initially to propose that the ship be held afloat in the dry dock.
There are, of course, disadvantages. The movement that helps with drainage leads to wear and tear on access gangways. A mooring system is required, and this must be monitored and maintained. Leakage into the ship must be allowed for so compartments must be inspected and sounded. Provision should also be made for a sharp increase in draft, probably accompanied by a heel or change of trim. If the ship is going to dock itself in this fashion, she must be always well centred on the blocks. With fibre or even wire ropes, this is not easy to achieve. The ship may also have a forced docking by loss of water in the drydock. At Chatham the docks are closed by caissons which are not designed to cope with an outward load on the gate form a higher head within the dock. At low tide this is the situation and mechanical hold backs have been fitted to connect the caisson to the dock floor. Another factor is the condition of the water. The stagnant water round the ship will require renewal, or inhibition, to ensure that it does not become unsightly and unsavoury.
At present the ship is held in the drydock in the dry. In the short term, it is the least expensive option.
The public are not currently admitted to the inside of the ship. There was a fixed route round some parts in her previous museum roles and this will be resumed at Chatham in due course. Prior to this happening, it is necessary to sort out such things as fire detection, emergency lighting and escape routes. One day, it may be possible to admit the public to the machinery spaces but access at present is by vertical ladder and the compartments are very congested. How to do it without destroying the true condition? Even the BRITANNIA's idea of cutting a viewing gallery into the ships side doesn't seem to be an option in these tight compartments.

Three Quays Marine Services are no longer connected with the ship, and can only give those who have to resolve these problems our encouragement and good wishes. We tried to give them a good start