As senior Naval officers back First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope's criticisms of the ability of the Navy to fight in
Libya, Commander John
Muxworthy, who sailed to the Falklands with
the Royal Navy Task Force, looks at the ignominious end of a symbol of the
once-mighty British fleet.
Unseemly death of a courageous veteran: Like a tired but noble beast brought down by jackals, HMS Invincible's carcass is picked clean in a Turkish scrapyard
The image is a poignant symbol of
rapid decline as a maritime power. With her metallic carcass exposed, the once
mighty aircraft carrier HMS Invincible languishes in a Turkish port, being
broken up for scrap. Britain
The ship was once the pride of the Royal Navy, a hero of the Falklands War and a veteran of other conflicts from
Iraq to . Yugoslavia
Watery grave: The Invincible is just one of many ships sent to Aligia to be broken down
But now, as
’s naval heritage is
obliterated by an irresponsible Coalition Government, she faces an utterly
degrading end. Britain
What makes the image all the more shaming is how it reflects the profound concerns of First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, who said this week that Britain’s defences will be at risk if the war in Libya drags on, because our naval fleet can operate there for only another 90 days before it has to make serious cuts in firepower elsewhere.
An ignominious end: Workers take a break amid debris from the broken-down HMS Invincible in the
Once Invincible’s 22,000-ton hull has been stripped of all valuable material, she will be melted down by the Turkish firm of Leyal into thousands of one-metre long blocks of steel, which will be recycled and used for building reinforcement, bridge cables, and more mundane objects such as office furniture.
HMS Invincible, launched in 1977, may have been coming to the end of her life, though with a refit she could have stayed in service for years to come.
But her demise is part of a wider pattern of brutal defence cuts that have left
dangerously vulnerable. Britain
When I joined the Navy in 1960, we had 12 aircraft carriers, along with 30 cruisers and 150 frigates and destroyers.
Today, we have just 19 frigates, no major warships, and a single aircraft carrier, Illustrious, which can carry only helicopters and has no deck for fixed wing-aircraft.
Moreover, all 60 Harriers have been withdrawn from naval service, which means that Britain, once the greatest sea power in the world and a pioneer of naval aviation — and still an island nation needing a navy to keep its food and fuel coming in times of conflict — has little real capability in its Fleet Air Arm.
The Government boasts it has ordered two new aircraft carriers, but neither will come into service before 2020, and it is almost certain that one will immediately be mothballed to save money. So, for almost a decade,
will be without an effective carrier, just at a time when other powers such as China, Brazil
are launching a new generation of such vessels. Russia
Final resting place: The once-mighty warship meets its end in
David Cameron is fond of claiming that a government’s first duty is national self-defence but the Coalition has hardly lived up to that rhetoric. In the Navy alone, 5,000 jobs are to go — meaning that personnel will fall below 30,000 for the first time in centuries.
Never in our history has there been a British government with less understanding of our defence needs.
Part of the problem is none of today’s senior politicians has served in the forces — unlike, for example, the Labour government in the Seventies with Jim Callaghan, Denis Healey and Roy Jenkins, who served in World War II.
The result is the chasm between the lofty pretensions of
foreign policy and the reality of the disastrous impact of defence cuts, as
exemplified by the overstretch in Libya
and . Afghanistan
Given the ongoing destruction of the Navy, it is simply not credible that we could mount a
Our operation in 1982 involved about 100 vessels, two-thirds of them naval craft, the rest support vessels like the liner
converted into a troopship, in which I served as a liaison officer. We
have nothing like those resources today. Canberra
HMS Invincible sits in the
I remember feeling a tremendous
sense of comfort from the knowledge that Invincible was at the head of the Task
Weighing 22,000 tons, with a runway 560ft long, a top speed of 28 knots and carrying nine Hawker Harriers and 12 Sea King helicopters — one of them flown by Prince Andrew — the Invincible was a formidable asset.
Without her, the Task Force would have struggled to provide an effective response to the Argentine invasion, not least because our troops would have been deprived of air cover.
End of the journey: HMS Invincible enters the naval dockyard in
Built by the famous engineering giant of Vickers at its Barrow-on-Furness yards, she could cope with any conditions, no matter how wild the seas or how aggressive the Argentine attacks.
The great irony of Invincible’s triumph in the South Atlantic was that, shortly before the Argentine invasion, the government had been negotiating to sell her to
for about £175 million, regarding her as surplus to naval
But that idea was immediately put on hold once the plans for the Task Force were put together, and she went on to play her pivotal role in the recapture of the islands.
After the war, she gave another 2 decades of magnificent service — helping to enforce the no-fly zone in southern
during the late Nineties and serving in Nato’s operations in the Balkans in
Based in the Adriatic, she enabled Harriers to carry out air strikes against
, as well as rescuing Kosovan
refugees. It was not until 2005 that she was decommissioned. Serbia
With her demise, we have lost another part of
glorious naval tradition. Our greatest naval hero, Lord Nelson, would be
weeping at what has happened to his beloved Royal Navy, with centuries of
excellence being ripped apart in a Turkish scrapyard. Britain
Source: Daily Mail. By Commander John Muxworthy. 15 June 2011