V for me is for Vikrant, the one time pride of the Indian Navy which has now been towed away to a scrap yard. INS Vikrant started life as the Royal Navy’s HMS Hercules and was launched in September 1945. She was sold to India in 1957 and formally joined the Indian Navy in 1961. She was then the pride of the Indian Navy. My maternal uncle was one amongst the many who served aboard her during her prime.
Though she didn’t play any role in the 1965 War against Pakistan as she was laid down for modifications in a dry dock, she did play a prominent role in the next War with Pakistan in 1971. Sea Hawk aircraft took off from the Vikrant to bombard Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong, which are now in Bangla Desh.
For the next two decades she was India’s flag-ship being her only aircraft carrier. The time to decommission her came in January 1997. She was then made into a Museum Ship and anchored off Mumbai. Many a visitor saw her and came away impressed with the capabilities of the Indian Navy and proud of her past glory.
There was a huge debate when it was decided to scrap her. Many felt she had to be preserved despite the costs but more pragmatic heads felt that the only place for her now was the scrapyard. To the dismay of many Indian Navy veterans who served aboard the Vikrant and indeed many others as well, January 2014 saw her being sold off to the highest bidder to be reduced to scrap at the Alang shipbreaking yards.
She lies there now and I often wonder as the workers go about pulling her down and making scrap out of her what the old ship must be thinking as she carries with her the memories of decades of loyal service to the Indian Navy.