In December 2000 the last two operational SRN4 cross channel hovercraft arrived at the Hovercraft Museum site (HMS Daedulus), Lee on Solent, following withdrawal from the Dover-Calais Hoverspeed service a few weeks earlier.

S1604-08 The Princess Anne arriving Lee on Solent Dec 2000 Andrew Cooke

The Princess Anne (above) arrived first and was positioned between buildings outside of where the Hovercraft Museum is located. The Princess Margaret arrived a few days later and has looked out over the site’s seafront entrance ever since. Both Cowes, Isle of Wight, built craft have featured in Hovercraft Museum open days in the past, but were never owned by the museum.

For sixteen years the future of the SRN4’s has been uncertain and the Hovercraft Museum also dismantled its own SRN4, Swift, in 2004 due to the cost of the ground rent. The two remaining SRN4s were sold to a buyer who simply wanted their Rolls Royce Proteus engines for another project. These engines were removed from the craft over the Christmas 2015 period. Plans to redevelop much of the former HMS Daedulus site mean that the SRN4s are in the way, particularly The Princess Margaret.

As of 10am on 29th January the land owners of the site, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), issued a press statement that they were pushing ahead with the disposal of the SRN4 Hovercraft. The craft are now in the possession of the HCA in lieu of thousands of pounds of unpaid rent by their previous owner. A plea to save at least one craft resulted in thousands and thousands of signatures on an online petition, letters to MPs, media coverage across the country and more. The 250-ton SRN4 hovercraft are the last of their kind and the fight to save at least one has been overwhelming to those involved.

The Princess Margaret is in a worse condition than the Princess Anne so will most likely be broken up in order to save her sister, assuming the campaign is successful. Ironically the Hovercraft Museum only reopened in January 2016 after 2 years of repair works to the main hangers.

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