One-man shipbuilder and his HMS Caroline

A Co Antrim man has made a highly detailed six-foot working model of HMS Caroline ... which is capable to travelling further than the real thing.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 7:33 am
Billy Bingham with his model of the HMS Caroline beside the real thing
Billy Bingham with his model of the HMS Caroline beside the real thing

Billy Bingham, a retired engineer from Whiteabbey, spent 18 months building the ship in tribute to the World War One light cruiser which is now a static museum.

The model, which is made of wood coated in fibreglass, has undergone successful sea trials with four fully working propellers and steering controlled remotely.

Mr Bingham said: “I’m particularly happy with it because not only does it feature every detail of HMS Caroline as it would have looked the day it was launched, it also works.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The 74-year-old former engineer has built a number of models, including a seven-foot replica of HMS Hood.

He added: “I had a bit of difficulty getting a plan for it.

“So I had to go up and down to the harbour to get photographs. Then we got in touch with the guys who are actually doing maintenance on it.”

Joris Minne from the National Museum of the Royal Navy said: “He has been building models as a hobby for many years.

“He undertook HMS Caroline because of its historical significance and the fact that it is in Belfast.”

Weighing 3,750 tons and measuring 446ft (136m), HMS Caroline, which was built on Merseyside in 1914, was part of the screening force which sailed out ahead of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet during the battle off Denmark to establish the position of the German battleships.

Both sides suffered heavy casualties in what was the most significant clash between battleships during the First World War. Britain and Germany both claimed victory.

Six years after the war ended, HMS Caroline was moved from Portsmouth to Belfast to become a training vessel for local Royal Navy Reserves. Most of the rest of the fleet was decommissioned and broken up.

HMS Caroline performed its function as a drill ship up until 2011, apart from during the Second World War when it was used as an operations headquarters for the efforts to protect the Atlantic convoys from German U-boats.

The vessel, which is docked in the same shipyards where the Titanic was built, was in danger of rusting away or even being scrapped before moves to save it started to build up steam three years ago.

The ship came dangerously close to sinking during the big freeze that hit Northern Ireland in winter 2010 when pipes and radiators burst.

After being decommissioned in 2011, the ship was restored with the help of Heritage Lottery Fund, Department of the Economy and the Heritage Memorial Fund and opened as a museum in June 2016.