HMS Caroline

HMS Caroline is a light cruiser of the “Caroline Class”, built at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, and launched on the 29th September 1914.

HMS Caroline is the only surviving vessel that saw active service at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. After a brief period in the East Indies following the First World War, she was transferred to Belfast and converted for use as the Headquarters of the RNVR Ulster Division, when her guns and boilers were removed and a Drill Hall installed on the main deck. Caroline has remained in Belfast, fulfilling a number of roles with the Royal Navy and undergoing further structural alterations to accommodate the requirements of her changing role. HMS Caroline is included in the National Historic Ships register as certificate no. 430.

In 2011 she was decommissioned after being the longest commissioned ship after HMS Victory in the Royal Navy

In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund confirmed the award of £11.5 million to the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment (DETI) to conserve, interpret and display HMS Caroline in her home port of Belfast, within the historic Titanic Quarter. The restoration was completed in June 2016 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland.

The University of Lincoln were commissioned by Petrichor Associates (who are responsible for the creation of the Interpretation Plan and Exhibition Design) to conduct an analysis of the surviving paint coatings on the vessel, both internally and externally to provide an indication of her appearance throughout her long life. Several paint samples were removed from key areas on board to provide the physical evidence for the historic colour schemes used. This was very challenging, particularly on the external superstructure, which had been largely stripped and repainted on several occasions. However, as work progressed and later interventions removed, areas that had been concealed for decades became accessible, with one area on the Officer’s Heads beneath the Bridge retaining a full chronology of paint schemes applied during the World War One period and beyond. Further detailed analysis on these early layers allowed us to positively define and quantify the “Battleship Greys” used during WW1 enabling a faithful recreation of the precise colour extant on the external superstructure.

Further detailed examination of the interior spaces revealed a theme of predominantly pale green/grey oil paints applied to the bulkheads and waists with a brown skirting border applied at low level, during the WW1 period. Interestingly, we also uncovered evidence that some internal areas were left with just a red lead primer in place, without the application of top-coats, suggesting a rushed launch in 1914.

Relevant colour references were supplied to the Design and Interpretation Team, allowing for a faithful recreation of the appearance of HMS Caroline during her period of active service.