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Campaigners trying to save HMS President 1918

By Nicola Jordan

A First World War ship which has fallen into disrepair at Chatham Docks for the last two years could be destined for the scrapyard.

The Royal Navy submarine hunter HMS President 1918 was moved to the mooring from London while Thames sewage tunnel work was carried out.

But now the project is complete, its owner HMS President Preservation Trust, is in a bitter wrangle over planning permission for a walkway from the ship at a berth near London Bridge.

Members of the HMS President Preservation Trust with the ship, currently berthed in Chatham

The gangway would need to be attached to a private property owned by the former Express newspaper publisher Richard Desmond.

But he has refused and without his agreement the owners cannot get hold of the £2 million which has been raised in donations to pay for repairs and bills.

Trust director Paul Williams said: “We have not been given a reason. It is ridiculous and very frustrating. She is a national treasure.

"We have spent all this time securing a berth and have had backing from MPs, the ports authority and the city and we cannot budge.

"This is the only thing stopping her from being destroyed.”

Members of the HMS President Preservation Trust with the ship, currently berthed in Chatham

Maritime enthusiasts in Medway also fear unless the situation is resolved soon, the ship, which played a vital role in the conflict,is doomed.

"It is ridiculous and very frustrating... she is a national treasure" - Paul Williams

They have launched a campaign to save the ship, which destroyed enemy U-boats, in what is her centenary year.

With her striking livery, she arrived on the Medway towed by several tugs from the Chatham-based marine company GPS.

For former chief petty officer George Creasey, the ship has fond memories.

The 84-year-old Strood resident said: “It is very sad. She is part of our history.”

Wife Ann, 78, said: “She should be moved to Chatham Historic Dockyard alongside HMS Gannet and Cavalier.”

A trust spokesman said: “She was a very successful venue for weddings and functions.

"We want her back on the Thames where she has been for more than 90 years.

"We recognise her history and the part she has played in the past but at the same time we are running a business.”

The historic warship is the last of three from the First World War.

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