Photo Gallery: Treasures rescued from a ship once commanded by Prince Charles go on display in West Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 13:51 12 December 2012 | UPDATED: 14:25 12 December 2012

Mike Smith at the Marshland Maritime Museum. Picture: Ian Burt

Mike Smith at the Marshland Maritime Museum. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

Artefacts salvaged from a ship once commanded by Prince Charles have gone on show at a quirky West Norfolk museum dedicated to Britain’s naval past.

Minesweeping equipment from HMS Bronington is being displayed at the Marshland Maritime Museum in Clenchwarton alongside other treasures including the vessel’s funnel badge, a lifebuoy and a visitors book signed by Prince Philip.

Museum owners Mike and Jo Smith have spent more than 30 years collecting thousands of pieces of memorabilia and opened the museum in their back garden about eight years ago to share their passion.

The couple have invited the Prince of Wales to take a trip down memory lane and see the latest display for himself when he visits Sandringham House this Christmas.

“We are thrilled to have the exhibits here,” Mrs Smith said. “They could all have been lost.”

HMS Bronington, a Ton Class minesweeper, was launched in 1953 and saw more than 30 years service in various squadrons, with the prince taking command from February to December in 1976.

The Ton Class minesweepers, sometimes known as “wooden walls” because of their wooden hulls, were built for the Royal Navy in the 1950s and named after British towns and villages ending in “ton”.

They were intended to meet the threat of seabed mines laid in shallow coastal waters, rivers, ports and harbours and some, including HMS Bronington, were converted into minehunters in the 1960s.

HMS Bronington retired to Portsmouth in June 1988 and later went on display to the public, with Prince Charles and Prince Philip both making visits.

But after a long and distinguished career, she is in a sorry state and languishing in the Vittoria Dock in Birkenhead.

The rescued artefacts needed a great deal of care and Mrs Smith said the rest of the ship was deteriorating rapidly.

“We went to see HMS Bronington in Liverpool some years ago and saw Prince Charles’ day cabin,” she said. “It would be a very sad sight today.

“These are some of the last surviving mementoes.”

Members of the Ton Class Association, with the support of Wirral Borough Council and Peel Ports, arranged for the artefacts to be transported from Birkenhead to Norfolk.

Sea Cadets from TS Vancouver King’s Lynn and year six pupils from Clenchwarton Primary School have since visited.

To visit the museum call 01553 765530 or email to arrange a time.

Entry is free.

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