QUESTIONS have been asked about a warship with Chester links, by the city's MP amid fears for its future.

Samantha Dixon MP has written to the Secretary of State for Defence, The Rt Hon Grant Shapps, seeking clarification about rumours of early mothballing of the HMS Albion, a navy ship affiliated to Chester. 

HMS Albion is a landing platform dock of the Royal Navy, the first of the two-ship Albion class and was launched in March 2001 by the Princess Royal. 

In her letter to the Secretary to State, Samantha states: “I am writing to seek urgent clarification from you about the future of the Royal Navy’s two amphibious warships, HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion. I am proud to represent Chester and you will know that Chester has a proud affiliation with HMS Albion, Chester’s warship. 

"I am concerned that rumours about the future of HMS Albion and her sister ship HMS Bulwark have surfaced again. At Defence Questions recently, you told the Commons that “no final decisions have been made” about whether to mothball these two important Royal Navy warships.”

The ship has strong links to Chester and not just on paper. 

Samantha added: “HMS Albion was granted the freedom of the city of Chester in 2003.

"The ship’s affiliation with Chester is not just a paper or ceremonial exercise and is known to every member of the crew as the two main corridors on HMS Albion are named after streets in Chester, with Chester street signs proudly displayed onboard. 

"Chester is a proud military city, and we take our affiliations to units and ships of the UK armed forces seriously.

"On behalf of those from Chester who have served in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines can I ask whether you plan to mothball HMS Albion? What is the timeframe for your decision? Whether, if mothballed, you ever expect HMS Albion to put to sea on active service again? 

Chester and District Standard: Samantha Dixon MPSamantha Dixon MP

"What happens to the ship and crew of HMS Albion matters not only to Plymouth, where she is based, but also to Chester.

"A cross-party campaign forced a U-turn five years ago when the Ministry of Defence tried to scrap or sell off HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.

"I hope you will recognise the strength of feeling against your plan to mothball these ships that has emerged in recent weeks.

"With the threat posed by Russia to the UK and our NATO allies growing, losing these two important, capable, and credible warships seems a backward step for our national defence.”

Speaking about the issue after writing the letter, Samantha added:  “Chester has a strong military community and proud military connections and history.

"The HMS Albion is part of this history and community. Early mothballing of the Albion and her sistership should seriously be reconsidered and I have therefore written to the Secretary of State for immediate clarification”.