The only surviving warship that fought in the 1916 Battle of Jutland, HMS Caroline, continues to reveal secrets about her past as a multi-million pound restoration project is carried out on the quayside in Belfast where she resides. The most recent revelation may seem an insignificant one to the ordinary person on the street but to naval historians it answers one important question – what colour was she?
It might seem odd but delving in to the ship’s history reveals that the vessel was repainted a number of times in various camouflage schemes during the First World War. With no colour photographs available the question has caused debate among historians and enthusiasts for over a century and it gained special importance as the restoration project began.
But now Jeff Meyton believes he has put the debate to bed following the taking of samples from the hull that still contains traces of the original paint scheme and indeed all the paint schemes since the ship was commissioned in 1914. It allows the restoration team the ability to create a chronology of paint schemes of the historic vessel. Meyton likened the discovery to a palaeontologist discovering exactly what colour a dinosaur was.
HMS Caroline is a C-class light cruiser and following her war service she was relegated to an administrative role by the Second World War; housing administrative staff and serving as a drill training ship. She continued in this role until 2011 and at the time of her decommissioning she was the second-oldest ship in Royal Navy service, after HMS Victory. The ship was destined for scrapping but was saved by a campaign to turn her in to a museum ship. It’s hoped the restoration will be complete by the time of the 100th anniversary of the battle next year.