SHE is one of Hampshire’s most valuable pieces of maritime heritage but she’s falling to bits and needs a lifeline.

In her hey day during the 1930s the tug tender Calshot towed all the great liners into Southampton and during the war she played a vital role in the D-Day landings but her last voyage could be to the scrapyard if help cannot be found to restore her.

The future of the vessel, one of only 200 ships in the National Historic Fleet, is in serious doubt.

Her wooden decks are rotting and with the planned redevelopment of her mooring at 50 Berth, to accommodate Red Funnel’s new ferry terminal, looming she could soon be homeless.

The efforts of the Tug Tender Calshot Trust and its retiring chairman, Terry Yarwood, to secure funding for the ship’s rescue have been unsuccessful.

An application for a Heritage Lottery Grant foundered because the trust could not provide a sustainable business plan because it had no guarantee of a long-term berth for the ship, where it could be viewed by the public.

Now the trust is appealing to the business community to come the aid of the Calshot, which was built by Thorncroft in Woolston in 1929.

President of The Tug Tender Calshot Trust Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold said: “Our most pressing need is to find both a committed chairman and assorted board members to put the trust and its restoration project on a business-like footing.”

Alan Jones, of the Solent Sky Museum, who has been involved with the trust for many years, said that trust were due to hold talks with port owners ABP in the new year to discuss the future of the Calshot.

However Mr Jones said the trust would have little to bring to the table as they had no new home for the ship and no financial backing for repairs.

“Are there any business out there who believe this ship is worth saving?” asked Mr Jones.

“She was a command ship at D-Day, she was built at Woolston and to see her cut up for scrap would be a tragedy and would leave the city with nothing of its maritime heritage left afloat.”

Mr Jones said he would like to see the Calshot become part of the new Royal Pier development.

He said £400,000 was needed to restore the ship, which has been condemned as unseaworthy by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

However the Calshot’s engines - diesel replacement for her original steam-powered engines - are still in working order and her her beautifully panelled first class saloon and dining room, are more or less as they were when she first came into service.

As a tug tender the 48m long Calshot did much more than tow ships - she also ferried passengers, their baggage and mail to and from the liners when they moored out in the Solent, and was licensed to carry 566 passengers.

During the Second World War the Calshot was requisitioned by the Admiralty to act as a tender at the naval base in Scapa Flow.

In 1944 she returned to Southampton to help with the preparation for the Normandy landings.

She took parts of the massive concrete Mulberry harbours to France and served as a Non-Assault HQ ship during the Canadian and British landings on Juno Beach.

The ship saw service with Red Funnel up until 1964 when she was sold to the Holland America Line which used her as a tender in Galway.

In 1985 Southampton City Council bought the Calshot with the intention of making her the centrepiece of a proposed maritime museum in Ocean Village which never got off the drawing board.

In 1996 the trust was formed and they took ownership of the Calshot from the council in 2005.

Nik Boulting of RWDP Museum and Exhibition Design Consultants, who has been helping the trust, said the organisation needed business backing.

“The trust needs reconstructing with a with a business which would allow it to put forward a more compelling case for funding,” he told the Echo.

Mr Boulting said ABP - which he said had been “terribly generous” in providing a free berth for so long - would be more likely to help the trust if it could first help itself.

The trust has recently been joined by the Southampton-based marine surveyor and historic ship specialist Rupert Keyzar, who was part of the team instrumental in salvaging the SS Nomadic, Titanic’s Cherbourg tender, and returning her to Belfast from the Seine in Paris for restoration.

Reporting to a newly recruited board, Mr Keyzar will provide the practical skills required to restore Calshot.

He is at present drafting a schedule of works and recruiting a team of skilled and unskilled volunteers.

Alastair Welch, ABP Director, Southampton, said: “The Port of Southampton has supported the Tug Tender Calshotfor many years. Now, given the various challenges she faces, we are working with the team to explore what the options are for her.”

Simon Letts Southampton City Council leader said the authority had no waterfront property where the ship could be moored and it might have to be moved to another port.

“I would prefer Calshot to go elsewhere and be preserved rather than rotting and sinking in Southampton,” he said.

he added that he would be willing to meet the trust to talk about any proposals they might have.