The heart of Britain’s maritime conscience

HQS Wellington

Guy Brocklebank describes the many and varied roles played by HQS Wellington – to which is now added that of the Maritime Foundation’s registered office

The historic ship Wellington is an ex Royal Navy Grimsby-class sloop dating back to 1934. She was built at Dartmouth as an Imperial sloop, aimed at supporting the outposts of the Empire and to guard our worldwide Merchant Navy, and throughout the Second World War she saw service as a convoy escort. When she was paid off in 1945, she was most fittingly purchased by the Honourable Company of Master Mariners (HCMM) and converted from her naval role to become their Livery Hall. HMS Wellington became HQS (Headquarters  Ship) Wellington.

Moored alongside the Victoria Embankment in the heart of Maritime London, Wellington is much loved by all who come on board. She was well sponsored when she first came to London by the old Merchant Navy companies, but over the years, as the Merchant Navy changed, it became a struggle to fund the upkeep of the vessel.

As a result, the HCMM decided in 2005 to gift her to a new independent trust, the Wellington Trust, with the aim of preserving the old warship to help remember those who gave their lives at sea during the Second World War, and to provide an education for the nation on the history and customs of the Merchant Navy.

In 2006 the Trust was honoured when HRH The Princess Royal agreed to be our Patron, and she takes a keen interest in what the ship achieves, especially on the education front. In 2010, with generous support from the Sir John Cass Foundation, the Trust started a school learning project, and the Foundation has most kindly sponsored this ever since. The programme has expanded from primary into secondary schools, and is currently starting to help sixth-formers in their A-level science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects – using real-life examples of how their academic studies can be translated into something more practical. The on-board schools learning programmes have encouraged the Trust to restore the ship where practical to her original state, including the open bridge.

HQS Wellington is a unique part of our national maritime heritage, with the Royal Navy hull supporting the Merchant Navy inside her. And in 2018 those ties were further strengthened when the Maritime Foundation was welcomed on board.