Replica cruise liner nearly destroyed in Blitz to go back on display

A replica cruise ship which has been in storage since it was almost destroyed in the Blitz is being restored and prepared to go on display to the public.

The three-and-a-half-metre model of the Arandora Star, originally used by travel agents trying to sell a luxury holiday on the liner, has been in storage since it was among the Liverpool museum exhibits damaged in 1941 when a bomb hit the neighbouring library.

But, after more than 400 hours work to restore it to its original glory, the replica is due to go on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in 2020 as part of the Life On Board exhibition.

Arandora Star cruise liner model restoration
A 1929 model of the Arandora Star cruise liner (Peter Byrne/PA)

The model includes tiny figures enjoying the top-of-the-range leisure facilities on the ship, which was one of the Blue Star line’s “Luxury Five” sister vessels.

Assistant curator of maritime history Jen Robertson said the model was donated to the museum by Blue Star shortly after the real Arandora Star was torpedoed in 1940 while carrying prisoners of war to Canada, after it was requisitioned for the Second World War.

She said: “We had her on display during wartime in the shipping gallery of the Liverpool Museum.

Arandora Star cruise liner model restoration
A view from the stern (Peter Byrne/PA)

“We have a letter in the file which thanks Blue Star for the donation and says they have put her out on display while the sinking was still quite fresh in people’s minds.

“It was a popular exhibit, drawing crowds of two or three people deep around it, so we hope it proves as popular again.”

On May 3 1941 the replica was almost destroyed when an incendiary bomb hit Liverpool’s Central Library, next door to what is now the World Museum, and fire swept through the collections, destroying some exhibits.

Arandora Star cruise liner model restoration
The top deck is inspected (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ms Robertson said: “The shipping gallery was a bit more fortunate and the fire didn’t really get to it, but the damage was caused by water from the fire hoses.

“She’s been in store and it wasn’t until quite recently we realised what her history was, when we got her out for the exhibition.

“We didn’t think she’d ever been on display. There’s nothing on our electronic database but obviously it doesn’t go back to 1941 so we had to dig back through paper files and find the letters to see what had happened.”

Arandora Star cruise liner model restoration
David Parsons works on a detail of the model which will be displayed at Merseyside Maritime Museum early next year, for the first time in 80 years (Peter Byrne/PA)

Conservator David Parsons has been carrying out detailed restoration work on the model since February.

As well as repairing water damage, which was noticeable on areas such as the ship’s decking, he has carried out improvements to original conservation work including removing discoloured varnish and returning the replica lifeboats at the side of the ship to their original colour.

The model will go on display next spring as part of the exhibition which will reflect seafarers’ lives and experiences over the past few hundred years.

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