HMS Hermes has been one of our longest and most challenging salvage operations, as we had to navigate around all sorts of issues and unprecedented problems. We weren’t going to let this one get away though, having had our eyes on Her for over fifteen years as being the last of Her pedigree.
HMS Hermes was a British aircraft carrier that was commissioned for the Royal Navy and was in service from 1959 until 1984. Famously used as the flagship for the Falklands war in 1982, she was armed with 26 Harrier jump jets and 10 Sea King helicopters. 2 years after that campaign she was sold to India where she was put back into service as INS Viraat. This was a much loved ship by all that served on her and is often referred to as ‘Happy H’; after her service with India she was destined for the shipbreakers, even after a gallant effort from the Hermes veterans who campaigned and raised funds to try and preserve her as a museum and attraction.
We are very passionate about old ships and our Royal Navy as you know, but especially those that were built in the UK during what was the swan-song of British shipbuilding in the 1950’s and early 60’s, as they were the last ships to be built with such a long life at sea in mind. The quality of build from keel to crows nest, and the fixtures and fittings crafted and included therefore, were of the highest spec and most gracious style. The ships of the Royal Navy were the epitome of British shipbuilding and Hermes in particular, the longest serving Warship of the modern era, was proof that we really do not make them like we used to.
We reclaim from all the 50/60’s ships we can find because of the impeccable quality and timeless style but the Hermes also served as an opportunity to salvage special fittings and artefacts from a heroic ship of the Royal Navy and preserve what history we could. We couldn’t stop Her from being scrapped, with all the pollutants and potentially astronomical costs involved in making Her safe enough to be converted into a museum, nobody could, but we are delighted and very proud that we managed to salvage so much from Her, albeit in the most difficult of circumstances.
Having worked with the ship breakers in India for over 25 years, and being the only company to tackle ‘whole ships contents’, we requested and were granted first refusal on all artefacts from Her, the huge problem that we immediately faced were co-vid travel restrictions which meant that we had very brief amount of time to inspect and then had to do nigh on all of the negotiations remotely and also could not oversee most removal which led to us having to take on material that was of a ‘Viraat Vintage’ as well as the ‘True Hermes’.
Having had our eyes on Her for over 15 years we were cursing our luck that She was run up the beach at a time of a pandemic, not to mention record high scrap prices. combined with the last minute gallant attempts to save Her, She will go down as our most costly and most difficult reclamation job.
A ship like this would normally involve four or five trips to the ship breakers to be involved directly in negotiations and quality control, but due to the unprecedented circumstances we were only able to make just a short trip, with the rest of the salvage operation being done remotely via the phone.
The first of four containers worth of material arrived a couple of months ago and the true impact of this difficult way of doing things hit, so many items were in bad order and lots of items that were of a Viraat vintage rather than historically Hermes. Those items we assume to have not served with the Royal Navy are highlighted as such and priced accordingly.
View our the Hermes and Viraat collection now and pop back regularly so you don’t miss new items when the other containers arrive.