Classic WW1 Warship Under Threat – Preservation Trust Raising Funds

HMS President was painted by Tobias Rehberger in 2014 to commemorate the use of dazzle camouflage in World War 1. Wikimedia Commons / DieSwartzPunkt / CC BY-SA 3.0

The HMS President, a British warship from WWI, has been docked on the Victoria Embankment for over 90 years. She was moved to allow for work on the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

The ship has been refused a £330,000 Heritage Lottery funding and may not be able to moor in London anymore.

The chairman of the HMS President, Gawain Cooper, said, “Our trustees are bitterly disappointed that with all the public support we have, and after having been encouraged by a senior director of the Heritage Lottery to reapply for the £330,000, that again we were refused support.” He added that without this funding the President would almost certainly be condemned to the scrapyard.

The charity was hoping to refurbish the hull and return her to the City, near the London Bridge.

The President is a Q-ship, originally named HMS Saxifrage during her service. Q-ships were heavily armed merchant ships that were fitted with hidden weapons. Their goal was to lure submarines to the surface for an attack on the apparently defenseless vessel, at which point Q-ship would open fire and sink the subs. This particular ship engaged nine U-boats in 1918 while escorting convoys in UK waters.

The ship has been permanently moored in the Thames since 1922 near Blackfriars. That’s where she had served as a Royal Naval Reserve drill ship until the late 80s.

Flower-class ships such as the President were decorated with dazzle camouflage to confuse the WWI submarines range-finders.

During WWII, she protected St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Luftwaffe and acted as a base for the French Resistance. More recently, she has been used as a space for events and office space.

She was the last Royal Navy warship to have the Victorian battleship livery – sporting a black hull, white superstructure, and buff yellow funnel and masts.

The HMS President Preservation Trust is making an appeal to British Chancellor Philip Hammond to step in. They also have a JustGiving fundraising page for people to donate to the cause.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE