A group of old servicemen who sailed on the aircraft carrier that symbolised Hong Kong's liberation at the end of the second world war have won a battle to save the ship's wheel from the breaker's yard. After a campaign lasting more than a year, some of the men who sailed into Hong Kong on board the HMS Vengeance in 1945 to take the Japanese surrender succeeded in having the ship's wheel returned to them in Britain. Fifteen of the original crew from the Hong Kong mission - now all aged about 80 - were present at the HMS Vengeance Association's annual reunion where the wheel, won back from Rio de Janeiro where the ship was last year sold for scrap, took pride of place. HMS Vengeance steamed into Hong Kong with 1,400 troops on board in 1945 and served as a base for the allied soldiers during the city's post-war rebuilding. It was the aircraft carrier's maiden voyage, and the 16,000-tonne ship remained with the British navy until 1956, when it was sold to the Brazilian navy, which kept it in active service until it was decommissioned 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 served in Hong Kong aboard HMS Vengeance. But they were unable to raise the money to buy and maintain it. However, as the ship began its last journey to a breaker's yard in India, they lobbied hard to have the wheel preserved and returned to them and made ship broker Philip Bush, who handled the sale of the Vengeance, promise to keep it for them. Reg Warner, 81, a torpedo operator on board the vessel when it sailed into Hong Kong in 1945, said: 'It meant a lot for us to get the wheel back. It's a symbolic thing for us and it gives us a focus, because we were all very sad about the ship being broken up.' Mr Warner will return to Hong Kong, for the first time since the war, in September on a visit funded by a government programme called Heroes Return. He plans to visit the Yacht Club, which has a life belt from the HMS Vengeance on its bar wall and to visit the grave of a friend who died of malaria during the war mission 60 years ago. Mr Bush said: 'Of course, I remain very sad at the outcome of the vessel and not a small amount bitter that I could not find anyone willing to help save the old girl. 'The word unique is overused but the condition of this vessel was truly unique and she would have been a brilliant museum piece. Sadly it wasn't to be.'