The first aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy, INS Vikrant was originally commissioned as HMS Hercules by the Royal Navy during World War II but construction was put on hold after the War’s end and she never entered British Service. India purchased the incomplete carrier from the UK in 1957 and construction was completed at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast shipyard in 1961.
The ship was decommissioned in January 1997 and from 1997-2012 was preserved as a museum ship in Mumbai until it closed due to safety concerns. Eventually sold through an online auction and scrapped in 2014, circa 2 tonnes of the scrap was purchased by Commodore Medioma Bhada (Retired), ex-Sea Hawk Pilot, INS Vikrant, and has been transformed into a memorial for INS Vikrant on a main traffic island in the city of Mumbai, opposite the Lion Gate at the Naval Dockyard.
The memorial was jointly unveiled by VAdm SPS Cheema, FOC-in-C West and Shri Ajoy Nehta, Municipal Commissioner, MCGM, on Friday 25 January 2016. The dedication on the plaque reads:
Lest We Forget
This Memorial is a living testimony of deep gratitude to a majestic ship, which chartered a glorious innings in the service of our nation, from those to whom her deck was a haven of warmth and safety, those who took forward her immeasurable legacy as pioneers of Indian Navy’s embarked aviation cadres. She played a vital role in the early victory of the 1971 War, representing India’s multi-dimensional Sea Power. We, her shipmates, offer this little monument to the iconic Aircraft Carrier, Indian Naval Ship VIKRANT, fabricated from her recovered memorabilia, as an offering of our everlasting tribute.
Two new Vikrant-class aircraft carriers are under construction in Cochin Shipyard for the Indian Navy and the lead vessel will be named INS Vikrant in keeping with the tradition of naming ships of the same category after those that have been decommissioned. When she is commissioned INS Vikrant will be presented with a momento (see image below) which is part of the flight deck of the old Vikrant and reads:
Lest We Forget
A part of the Old, in the New. Presented by The Vikrant Memorial Forum on behalf of all those who sailed in her.
H&W would like to thank Commodore Bhada I.N (Retired) for sending these images and sharing the story.