A group of North East sea cadets were left high and dry after their riverside base was destroyed by flood water.
But the youngsters were on the crest of a wave after becoming the first to see the amazing transformation of Royal Navy training ship HMS Bristol after her multi-million pound upgrade on Tyneside.
The sea and marine cadets from TS (Training Ship) Kelly have been “homeless” since their base at Hebburn suffered severe flooding caused by burst pipes.
So they were thrilled to be invited aboard the 7000 ton warship HMS Bristol at A&P Group’s Tyne ship repair yard, to get a privileged preview of the result of months of improvement work.
The impressive vessel will soon leave the Hebburn yard to sail home to her Portsmouth base – where she receives up to 17,000 visitors a year – but before her departure, the cadets were invited aboard to see just how shipshape the destroyer is after her “makeover”
The work included creating a lecture theatre out of the missile silo and extra sleeping accommodation and an office for the commanding officer inside the funnel. It’s designed to keep many original features, so it still reflects the experience of being aboard a ship that served with the Task Force during the Falklands War.
A&P Tyne Sales and Commercial Director, Neil Jarvis, said: “The lecture theatre looks amazing, with tiered seating for 63 people where the Sea Dart missiles were once housed. It seemed a shame, since the vessel is on Tyneside, for the cadets to miss out on the opportunity to see it.
“It was a pleasure to have them at the yard and see the “new look” HMS Bristol before she leaves.”
The cadets, aged from 10-18, were thrilled by the tour as their normal meeting place, severely flood-damaged in the winter, is out of bounds until May,when the repairs are complete. Civilian instructor Joyce Sinclair added: “We suffered 10 burst pipes, the roof collapsed, the floors lifted, everything was completely ruined. Our cadets come from all over the region, from Hartlepool to Hebburn, and we’ve been trying to arrange outings to keep them interested until we can hold meetings in our own building again.
“We were over the moon when A&P Group invited us to see HMS Bristol. It’s a great opportunity to see such a wonderful ship, especially for our cadets, some of who may go on to join the Navy.”
Cadet Katie Sutherland, 15, from Hebburn, said:”It was brilliant, A&P Tyne is really good and they’ve done a swell job on the ship. We enjoyed seeing everything but for me the best bit was going underneath the ship in dry dock and seeing it looming over us.”
Derek Brown, Chief Petty Officer of TS Kelly, said:”It was a great experience for the cadets going inside the ship and seeing how the sailors lived and worked. I don’t think they realised how cramped the living and work accommodation was. And standing underneath it, with 7000 tons of ship on top of them made a big impression on everyone!”
The Bristol was built on the Tyne and launched from Swan Hunter’s Wallsend yard in 1969. She served in the Falklands War before being withdrawn from active service in 1991 and is now the only static ship in the Royal Navy with 475 berths, where naval and youth organisations like the cadets attend training courses. The recent refurbishment is intended to extend her working life by at least another 10 years.