London's Mail on line published Friday what it describes as sad pictures showing the HMS Intrepid, one of the mainstays of the Falklands Task Force, being torn apart in Britain's biggest ever recycling operation.
Almost 96% of the ship - or 11,000 tons of steel, iron and copper - will be converted into reusable goods by May, the Liverpool-based demolition team plans. The ambitious project began in December last year and already half the aft section has been removed. But the latest images will be a blow to many ex-servicemen, who see the operation as an unnecessary destruction of a national symbol, writes Cher Thornhill. The Falklands warship, once the HQ for the Royal Navy's commandos, is seen in the pictures literally as a shell of its former shelf. The veteran ship once housed almost 1,000 crack troops, 15 tanks and up to four Lynx helicopters. But the UK Ministry of Defense committed itself to sustainable decommissioning in 2007 following an environmental scandal in 2000, when the Royal Navy sold two vessels to a German ship-breaker who then exported them to India. "The Ministry of Defense announced in December of 2007 that HMS Intrepid was expected to be recycled at a British facility" said Tony Taperell, the managing director of Technical Demolition Services Limited, the company charged with its recycling. The 520-foot warship was delivered to TDS' Liverpool dock-yard at Canada Dock in September last year. It underwent decontamination of all hazardous material such as asbestos before the main recycling work began. "Once identified, the asbestos is removed using qualified and trained personnel and sent for disposal at a licensed local disposal facility in the UK", said Mr Taperell. "The majority of materials from HMS Intrepid are totally recyclable, such as anchor chains, the engines and winches. The plastic chairs from the mess room are sent to our licensed recycling agents". "Even the metal toilets will be recycled to be used as they were designed or sold on as scrap". Thirty highly trained recycling and demolition experts at TDS are working on the record recycling job according to Taperell. Many Falklands' veterans opposed the move, seeing the operation as unnecessary destruction of a national symbol and over 300 former crew members signed a petition for Prime Minister Gordon Brown to convert it into a floating museum. More upsetting to the ex-servicemen and women, the petition still has until February 7 to run. "I know this is all academic now, but it just goes to show that the Government had no intentions of keeping her afloat in the first place" says one angry member of the armed forces on the official HMS Intrepid veterans' website. However, disappointed veterans will get a chance to keep a memento of the HMS Intrepid as 4% of the contents will be spared the meltdown. "Some important items from HMS Intrepid will be purchased by ships veterans as mementoes and others purchased on e-bay" says Mr Taperell. During its long career of service to the Royal Navy, HMS Intrepid helped train new recruits at Dartmouth, extended British force globally and of course in its finest hour helped to liberate the Falklands.