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Liverpool could yet host WWII warship memorial

by Nick Webster. Published Mon 15 Feb 2010 12:20, last updated: 17/02/10
Historic HMS Whimbrel - deadlocked in Eygypt
Historic HMS Whimbrel - deadlocked in Eygypt

A British warship, that is the last surviving relic of the bloody WWII Battle of the Atlantic is at the centre of a diplomatic stand-off between Eygpt and the UK.

Surplus to requirements HMS Whimbrel was sold in 1949 to the Eygyptian navy and later renamed "ENS Tariq".

The historic Black Swan Class vessel was built in 1943 in Glasgow and saw active service as a North Atlantic convoy escort.

HMS Whimbrel is now languishing in a naval dockyard in Alexandria as a wrangle continues over the asking price for her demanded by the Eygyptians.

HMS Whimbrel Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Project thought they had a deal to buy the 1140 ton vessel for £250,000.

But as fund-raisers worked to raise the cash and to organise her return "home" to Liverpool, the price of scrap steel escalated.

In 2007 Egyptian Defence Minister, Field Marshal Tantawi quadrupled the asking price for the vessel to £1million and since then the negotiations have remained in stalemate.

HMS Whimbrel would be the only vessel to form a memorial to the Battle of the Atlantic, but the the UK Heritage Lottery Fund - a key element of the funding - can refuse to back a project if payments are deemed "excessive".

Now the daughter of wartime navy commander Lord Mountbatten has made a personal appeal to Egyptian President Mubarak to end the price wrangle.

Countess Patricia Mountbatten has asked President Mubarak to step-in and bring to a conclusion the negotiations for the sale of HMS Whimbrel.

She was alerted to the vessel's plight by Liverpool-based campaigners who aim to preserve the last survivor of Capt Johnny Walker's fabled Second Escort Group.

Lady Mountbatten described the possible loss of Whimbrel as "appalling".

Her late father, former First Sea Lord Louis Mountbatten failed in 1966 to save HMS Starling, which was Capt Walker's flagship and HMS Whimbrel's sister ship.

Lady Mountbatten, 85, said: "I'm very happy to do what I can for this campaign.

"The Battle of the Atlantic was of paramount importance to our final victory in the Second World War. Ships like HMS Whimbrel were vital to that success.

"If Whimbrel is broken up it will cause immense distress to the remaining sailors of that generation and we will lose a link with those who sacrificed so much for us."

In her letter to President Mubarak, she wrote: "As the daughter of Lord Mountbatten, nothing would give me greater happiness than to know this gallant little warship will return to her home port of Liverpool."

She highlighted the "long history of shared naval traditions" between Britain and Egypt and added: "Every effort would be made to guarantee the memory of Egypt's courageous sailors and the sacrifice they made for Britain and the Allies will never be forgotten."

Lady Mountbatten also wrote to the Egyptian Ambassador to Britain, Hatem Seif El Nasr, explaining the problem and asking him to direct her letter to President Mubarak.

President of the HMS Whimbrel Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Project, John Livingstone said: "It's very ancouraging that that Lady Mountbatten agreed to take a personal interest in the fate of HMS Whimbrel and to approach President Mubarak.

"We have tried very many routes, including an approach to Gordon Brown, in the hope that we can break the deadlock in these negotiations but it is an uphill task.

"Perhaps now the matter has been raised at the top by such an influential person there is a chance that the stalemate can be broken.

"Whimbrel is the last of her kind and we are determined to do everything possible to bring her home to Liverpool.

"She would form a magnificent memorial those who gave their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic which played a pivotal role in the Allied victory in World War II."



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"Now there is a new regime in Egypt could negotiations stand a better chance of success?" john Edwards, bournemouth around 2 years, 10 months ago

"Is the Whimbrel still in one piece; is the project still alive? British WWII-era ships are too few; Egyptian intransigence must be overcome." Chris Buhagiar, Beverley, Western Australia around 3 years, 9 months ago

" As per the previous posting, who are the Liverpool campaigners. I note that the original HMS Whimbrel campaign website is no longer online" Andy Cleary, Liverpool around 4 years ago

"It is important that this opportunity is not lost to Liverpool & the UK. What contacts do you have for the Liverpool campaigners?" Peter Ramsey, Skelmersdale around 4 years, 1 month ago

 
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