A COUNCILLOR is to set sail to investigate if Wellington Town Council should forge closer links with HMS Wellington, a warship which served during the Second World War.

The ship was adopted by the people of Wellington in March, 1942, following a successful Warship Week campaign.

She is the last surviving convoy escort vessel in Britain from the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ having served with distinction escorting 103 convoys in West Africa, Gibraltar, and North Atlantic, sailing nearly 250,000 miles, and saving 281 survivors from four vessels which had fallen victim to German U-boats.

HMS Wellington was also involved in the Dunkirk evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, sailing to St Valery, 30 miles north-east of Le Havre, to save many of the trapped 51st Highlanders.

Now, it is a heritage vessel of national and international historical significance moored in London on the River Thames.

HMS Wellington as she is now, moored on the Victoria Embankment, on the River Thames, London.
HMS Wellington as she is now, moored on the Victoria Embankment, on the River Thames, London. (The Wellington Trust)

Built in Devonport as a 1,200-ton Grimsby Class Sloop in 1934, she was bought after the war by the Honourable Company of Master Mariners (HCMM) and converted to a floating City Livery Hall.

Ownership passed in 2005 to the Wellington Trust, established to maintain the ship as a reminder of the part played by the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy in protecting the country during the war.

But the trust fell on hard times after HCMM moved out, and trustees have written to the town council asking if it can help.

The trust’s Glyn Evans, said: “HMCC left the ship in April last year and took with it many artefacts collected over the years including silverware, medals, original paintings, and ship models.

“The loss of rental income from this departure plus its cancellation of a premises licence has put the trust in a dire financial position from which it is working hard to survive.

“This is not a begging letter, although any donation would be most welcome.

“But we would like to know if the council has any records of the adoption by Wellington of HMS Wellington.

“We are anxious to build-up an archive of the ship’s history once again.

“This might be an opportunity for the council and community to re-connect with the ship, possibly starting with a formal visit on board.”

Town Cllr Keith Wheatley said: “The money involved in maintenance of old warships is eye-watering.

“This is not a sexy warship, it’s been stripped of its guns, the guns are what make old warships fun for visitors.

“I don’t want us to be negative about this and I would be willing to go and see the ship for myself when I’m next up in London.”

Cllr Wheatley said HMS Wellington was not as ‘exciting’ as the better known HMS Belfast moored on the Thames as a museum.

Cllr Mike McGuffie said: “It would be nice if we could have some sort of relationship with HMS Wellington. I think we should get involved.”

Councillors accepted Cllr Wheatley’s offer to go on a fact-finding mission to learn more about HMS Wellington.