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Harry Roddis presenting ex-Treasurer Tiny Ashton with an engraved pocket watch for overseeing the association's finances. Thank you Tiny

Assault ship HMS Bulwark was to replace her sister ship this year, however, it has now been revealed that the vessel will be “maintained so that she can be ready to deliver defence outputs if required“.

The information came to light in a statement from James Cartlidge, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, when asked about the future of the vessel.

“I can confirm HMS BULWARK will be regenerated from extended readiness and maintained so that she can be ready to deliver defence outputs if required.”

However, the Ministry of Defence had previously promised “HMS Bulwark will remain in dock to complete phase 2 ahead of her final phase 3 recertification package, before returning to fleet in the summer of 2023.”

This commitment outlined a clear timeline and specific steps for the maintenance and upgrade of HMS Bulwark, with the anticipation of the ship returning to operational service.

The latest statement from James Cartlidge, however, suggests a very different approach to HMS Bulwark’s operational status. By stating that HMS Bulwark will be “regenerated from extended readiness and maintained so that she can be ready to deliver defence outputs if required,” it introduces a conditional element to the ship’s return to service. This phrase implies that the ship’s future deployment is not as straightforward or guaranteed as previously communicated.

Instead of a firm commitment to reintegrate HMS Bulwark into the fleet by a specific date, the emphasis is now on maintaining the vessel in a state of readiness, contingent upon the need for its deployment.

An anonymous source within the Royal Navy told me:

“What we’re actually seeing with HMS Bulwark is extended readiness, just under a different name. Despite previous announcements about returning to service, I think most people knew that was unlikely. The reality is that the ship is unlikely to be deployed for any significant operations. The notion of being ready ‘if required’ subtly but unmistakably points to this being the case.”

Both HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark made headlines when leaked plans suggested the one or both of the ships would be axed but after a period of outrage from within defence, the media and the public, it was announced that both vessels would be kept, although one would have assumed, operational.

In short, HMS Bulwark’s return to sea is contingent upon an apparent necessity, indicating that the vessel will be maintained in port in a state of readiness without a definitive plan for regular deployment.

Association President, Commodore Jerry Stanford, accepting a Life Membership award from Chairman Jim Ure. Steve Foster, Vice Chair, (left), & Harry Roddis, Membership Sec., (right), looking on.

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