INS Vikrant gets permanent memorial in Mumbai

Mumbai, Jan 25 (IANS) Nearly 15 months after it was scrapped and faded into history, India’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant came alive on Monday in the form of a permanent memorial here on the eve of India’s 67th Republic Day.

The memorial was unveiled by Vice Admiral S.P.S. Cheema, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command, and Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, at a traffic island opposite the Lion Gate near the Naval Dockyard in south Mumbai.

Commodore (retd) Medioma Bhada, who once piloted the ship, said the memorial was a sculpture created with pieces of metal recovered from the shipbreaking yard, designed and fracted by eminent metal sculptor Arzan Khambatta.

The memorial would a living testimony of the deep gratitude to the majestic ship which created a legacy as the pioneer of the Indian Navy’s aviation arm.

“The country’s first aircraft carrier laid a sound foundation of air operations for the Indian Navy. The valuable lessons learnt on her decks are enshrined in the organisation of Indian Navy, enabling it to fluently integrating the recently-inducted aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya,” Vice Admiral Cheema said.

INS Vikrant was commissioned in 1961 and after 36 years of action-packed service displaying India’s sea power, was decommissioned in 1997.

Originally built for the British Royal Navy as HMS Hercules in 1943 and which saw action during the India-Pakistan war in 1971, the ship was finally broken up in November 2014, ending a glorious history of 71 years.

The HMS Hercules, a Majestic-class light fleet aircraft carrier, was built on October 14, 1943, commissioned in the British Royal Navy in 1945 and bought by India in 1957.

At that time, it earned the distinction of being Asia’s first aircraft carrier.

The gigantic vessel with a displacement of 20,000 tonnes, was commissioned in the Indian Navy on February 16, 1959. It saw action during the 1971 India-Pakistan war and was finally decommissioned on January 31, 1997.

It served as a maritime museum till 2004 and since then, bitter legal battles were fought for saving INS Vikrant in the past decade, right up to the Supreme Court.

Many proposals, including converting it into a permanent museum for future generations, failed to materialise due to varied reasons, chiefly due to financial constraints.

Commodore Bhada of the Vikrant Memorial Forum and Mumbai Citizens Group expressed gratitude to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, the Western Naval Command and Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. for their support which finally helped the memorial to come up.

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