'It is very sad' – Final part of landmark HMS Ganges mast taken down

The final section of the HMS Ganges mast on Shotley peninsula being removed by crane

The final section of the HMS Ganges mast on Shotley peninsula being removed by crane - Credit: SONYA DUNCAN

The historic landmark HMS Ganges mast was removed during a special ceremony as former Royal Navy seamen, museum trustees and Royal British Legion representatives looked on. 

Restoration work will be taking place to return the 142ft high structure on Shotley peninsula to its former glory as part of a Wavensmere Homes development, but on Monday the final section of the mast was dismantled, leaving just the lower steel section and platform. 

Although many of the onlookers were sad to see a familiar sight being taken away temporarily, there was also optimism that the renovation work would preserve the mast’s long-term future, as the metal work had become rusted and dilapidated.

The HMS Ganges mast is prepared for removal

The HMS Ganges mast is prepared for removal - Credit: SONYA DUNCAN

Phil Bridge, 72, from Chelmsford, was a junior seaman in the Royal Navy and trained on the mast, but never went to the top. 

He recalled the rigorous and disciplined training he received at the naval training facility, along with 160,000 other boys, which included 5.30am starts when the sailors learned how to wash and look after their kit and underwear. 

The final section of the HMS Ganges mast on Shotley peninsula being removed by crane

The final section of the HMS Ganges mast on Shotley peninsula being removed by crane - Credit: SONYA DUNCAN

They also received educational training in English, maths and history, when they learned about the navy’s traditions. 

He added: “It is very sad. The mast is the most important part of Ganges. There were 160,000 boys here and most of them went to the top. It is a sad day because it means so much to us that mast.” 

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John Adams, 79, who was in the Royal Naval Reserve, said: “Because it has deteriorated so much, I am glad to see it taken down because I used to hate looking at it as I was driving past, in the state that it was in.” 

The Royal Navy training facility closed in 1976

The Royal Navy training facility closed in 1976 - Credit: SONYA DUNCAN

June Lawford-Randall, secretary of HMS Ganges Museum, said: “Wavensmere are taking proper care. They are very proud of their work with us and there are a lot of people who are looking forward now to the actual restoration.” 

Onlookers applauded as the final section of the mast was removed.

Onlookers applauded as the final section of the mast was removed. - Credit: SONYA DUNCAN

A marching band performed prior to the ceremony, which began with a speech by Wavensmere Homes managing director James Dickens who announced that their aim was to have the whole development completed by early 2025, with the first residents arriving in July or August next year. 

The HMS Ganges mast during its heyday when it was used to train naval recruits

The HMS Ganges mast during its heyday when it was used to train naval recruits - Credit: DAVE KINDRED

He said: “It is 46 years ago to the day that the Royal Navy training establishment closed here. Over 160,000 boys were trained here. Wavensmere were quite late to the party, but what we have really enjoyed is learning about the history of the site and the boys who served here.” 

Plans for the land, known as Barrelmans Point, have been approved by Babergh District Council and include 285 homes, a 60-bed nursing home, retail and sports facilities, a doctor’s surgery, office space, a hotel and a café. 

The mast of HMS Ganges is removed for restoration during a ceremony in Shotley Marina.
Byline: Sonya

The mast of HMS Ganges is removed for restoration during a ceremony in Shotley Marina. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The mast of HMS Ganges is removed for restoration during a ceremony in Shotley Marina.Byline: Sonya

A marching band plays before the mast of HMS Ganges is removed for restoration. - Credit: Sonya Duncan