Ship boat

Millennium Falcon exhibition opens in Welsh town where ship was built | Wales

It’s perhaps the most recognizable and beloved starship in movie history – an old battered warrior from a ship that brought out Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the rest of the Star Wars crew. from a series of sci-fi scratches.

What is not so well known is that the Millennium Falcon, or at least a full-size model of it, was the last large ship to be built at a shipyard in the southwest of the Land of Wales.

A new permanent exhibit launched at the Pembroke Dock Heritage Center on Friday telling the story of how the Falcon was secretly assembled in the late 1970s in a hangar previously used to build seaplanes.

“We’re very excited,” said Mark Williams, a local Star Wars expert who has overseen the project for seven years. “It’s amazing to think that the original Millennium Falcon for The Empire Strikes Back was made by shipbuilders here.”

Workers take a break in front of the Millennium Falcon in the Western Sunderland hangar at Pembroke Dock. Photograph: John Clarke/Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust

The Falcon appeared in the 1977 Star Wars film, with Luke Skywalker initially dismissing Han Solo’s craft as “a piece of junk”. Williams explained that after the film’s success, the decision was made to build a life-size version for the second film, which was first screened in 1980.

The folks at George Lucas turned to South West Wales because the shipbuilders at Pembroke Dock had the expertise and the room for such an ambitious undertaking. There was also a connection to Hollywood: local craftsmen had already built one of the sets used in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Falcon workers were sworn to secrecy when the craft took shape in the Western Sunderland shed, referring to it by a code name, the magic roundabout. But rumors soon began to circulate that a “flying saucer” was being built.

Williams said: “One of the workers finally cracked under the pressure when his sons overheard him talking about it with his wife. He said he would tell them but they had to promise not to tell anyone. The boys dutifully promised, then told the whole school the next day. The cat was out of the bag.

The set for the Millennium Falcon, used in star wars, the empire strikes back, under construction at Pembroke Dock
The Millennium Falcon. After filming, the Star Wars ship was dismantled. Photography: Martin Cavaney

The craft was constructed of steel and marine plywood and had a compressed air system that could lift it off the ground a few inches, allowing it to move more easily. When completed, the 23-tonne model was broken into 16 pieces and trucked to Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, where it was reassembled. Unfortunately, after the shooting, the wood was burned and the metal sold for scrap.

The new exhibit, supported by National Lottery money, uses models, photos, videos and testimony from some of the men who worked on the ship.

Pam George, a city councilwoman, was among those present at the launch event on Friday, alongside a Darth Vader and stormtroopers. “I think it’s wonderful that we’re showing a hidden part of our city,” she said.

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George’s husband, Raymond, worked on the docks at the time. “There were all these rumors going around and then this ship that was created here was there on the big screen,” he said.

George said she hopes Star Wars fans will travel from all over the world to see the exhibit. “As everywhere, we feel the pinch. We hope this will bring a great economic boost to the city. We are very proud of our connection to Star Wars.

The exhibit, The Millennium Falcon – The Last Ship Built in the Royal Pembroke Dockyard, opens to the public on Monday.