The Falklands task force flagship HMS Hermes docks at Portsmouth
Hopes are high that Falklands flagship HMS Hermes can be brought back to Britain as a museum and visitor attraction.
The aircraft carrier was sold to the Indian government in 1987 and renamed INS Viraat. It served in the Indian Navy until it was again decommissioned in 2017.
The Indian government had put it up for auction for scrap which was due to take place days after the general election in Britain.
In a late bid to stop it going to scrap a letter was sent to Boris Johnson in the last week of the election by former Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman begging him to intervene.
The bid took place but was then cancelled while the old ship, which was launched in 1953, was given a stay of execution.
The decision by the Indian government took place not long after a planned phone call from Mr Johnson to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the Tory election victory and continued relations between the countries.
Downing Street has declined to comment on whether Mr Johnson raised the issue in the conversation which is mostly kept private.
HMS Hermes, circa 1950
But Mr Campbell Bannerman, who has helped lead the campaign along with Falklands veteran Andy Trish, said: “We believe Boris intervened but haven’t been able to have it confirmed.
“It is good news though that for whatever reason HMS Hermes can still be saved.
“We can raise more money from private backers than the Indian government would receive for turning it into scrap. It is very important that we keep some of our naval heritage and history for future generations to see.”
The ship is still seaworthy and the original plan had been to find it a home near HMS Belfast on the Thames in London.
However, it is understood that the harbour at Liverpool is now preferred because it has greater space and can be linked to the Albert Dock which has a number of tourism destinations including The Beatles Story museum.
The harbour at Liverpool has greater space to house the HMS Hermes
Mr Campbell Bannerman, who is also working on the project with the Hermes Association, said: “Liverpool and the Mersey have a great maritime history and also has strong associations with the Battle of the Atlantic.”
He said that the plan was that the ship’s purchase and turning it into a visitor attraction would mostly be funded by private donations and not public money outside some lottery grants for specific events.
Because changes required to the ship are minimal it is thought the total cost would not exceed £10million including £5million to purchase it from the Indian government.
The ship would also host corporate events.
The plan is also to have changing displays linked to the ship’s heritage during the year including marking the anniversary of the Falklands conflict between April 2 and June 14, Armistice in November as well as Indian festivals such as independence and Dewali.