Former crewmen distraught as mighty aircraft carrier is torn up for scrap metal on an Indian beach Her awesome presence dominated Hong Kong when she sailed into Victoria Harbour at the end of the second world war. Now, the mighty aircraft carrier that came to symbolise the city's liberation is being crudely torn apart, rivet by rivet, by gangs of itinerant labourers. HMS Vengeance is dying a slow and undignified death on a junk-strewn stretch of shoreline in India, to the horror and dismay of elderly servicemen who fought for years to preserve the ship, Britain's last wartime aircraft carrier, as a living museum. After an auction in Rio de Janeiro in February failed to find a buyer prepared to meet the US$6.5 million price tag, the 16,000-tonne vessel was towed to the Alang shipyard where she is being dismantled for scrap metal. Hundreds of tonnes of that scrap metal are expected to pass through Hong Kong on the way to buyers in China later this year - an anonymous final journey through the city Vengeance played a key role in freeing from the Japanese in 1945. Vengeance steamed into Hong Kong with 1,400 troops on board ahead of the Japanese surrender in 1945 and served as a base for the allied troops during the city's post-war rebuilding. It was Vengeance's maiden voyage, and the 16,000-tonne ship stayed with the Royal Navy until 1956, when it was sold to the Brazilian navy, which kept her on active service until her decommissioning in 2001. A campaign to save it as a floating museum to the Pacific Fleet was launched in Britain and reunited scores of former sailors and pilots who had served in Hong Kong aboard Vengeance, but they were unable to raise the money to buy and maintain it. Vengeance arrived in the Alang shipyard - known internationally as the shipping industry's graveyard - in April. The job of breaking her up is being carried out by labourers from the Indian states of Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, who earn around $500 a month. Already, a 10-metre section of the bridge has been sliced off and sits some distance from the rest of the vessel as teams of workers crawl over the ship in a breaking operation that is expected to last 10 months. Former crewman Lew Lewis, 75, said from his home in Derbyshire, England: 'When I saw the pictures of Vengeance in the breakers' yard, I felt quite a lump in my throat. It's diabolical the way she was being carved up and desecrated. 'I served for eight years on Vengeance and she was the happiest ship I ever sailed on. The camaraderie on that ship was like no other. I firmly believe the ship has a soul. She was a living thing, and I hope that her soul can rest in peace now.' Mr Lewis, secretary of the HMS Vengeance Association, said his members were 'bloody furious' at the British government for failing to come forward with the money to preserve the vessel. 'We feel very badly let down,' he said. Ron Davis, whose father served on board Vengeance in Hong Kong and who runs a website dedicated to the ship, said: 'Seeing those pictures has been quite a shock to a lot of us. 'One girl whose father served on board Vengeance wouldn't even show him the pictures - she knew he'd be really upset if he saw them. 'My dad and everyone I've spoken to said it was a very happy ship. Everyone got on with each other and I don't know if that was unique to that class of ship. It is really sad that it has ended this way.' The HMS Vengeance Association is hoping for one memento to remember the ship by - her helm, promised to the former servicemen by shipping tycoon Philip Bush, who owned the vessel before selling her to the scrap merchants. 'Mr Bush was meant to be sending the wheel to us, but we haven't seen any sign of it,' said Mr Davis.