Appeal Launched to Save H.M.S. President
A public appeal has been launched to try to save the First World War Royal Navy “Q Ship” and Royal Naval Reserve drill ship H.M.S. President, which was required to leave the mooring at Blackfriars that she had occupied since 1922 due to works relating to the construction of the new Thames Tideway Tunnel.
Built as the Anchusa Class sloop H.M.S. Saxifrage in 1918 she was converted on the stocks into a “Q Ship” with her guns concealed to make her look like a merchant ship to passing German U-boats. In 1922 she was moored permanently on the Thames at Blackfriars as the Royal Naval Reserve drill ship and renamed H.M.S. President, remaining in that role until being decommissioned and sold into private hands in 1988 when the R.N.R. moved ashore to a building in St. Katherine’s Dock. Since that point the ship has served as a venue for conferences and other functions as well as providing office space.
As one of Britain’s last remaining ships to see service during the First World War, H.M.S. President was chosen by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s 14-18 NOW art project to become one its most significant and visible art installations for the centenary commemorations, and was painted by German artist Tobias Rehberger with a representation of the famous “dazzle” pattern camouflage that was applied to many ships during that war.
With the commencement of work at Blackfriars on the Thames Tideway Tunnel in February 2016, H.M.S. President was towed to Chatham where she remains, without a permanent home, closed to the public and thus unable to earn the funds for an urgently required refit. Now in the hands of a charitable trust, efforts are underway to attempt to secure a new, permanent berth in central London in order to reopen the ship to the public for 2018, combining a greater emphasis on the ship’s heritage and history through learning and educational spaces, with her former role as a corporate venue. These efforts are being accompanied by a public appeal for funds and a new look website.