HMS Ark Royal Returns Home For Last Time
The commanding officer of HMS Ark Royal said it was a 'sad' day on Friday as the aircraft carrier returned to her home port for the final time.
The Royal Navy fleet flagship arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base on Friday December 3rd following a farewell tour of the UK including Tyneside and Clyde, Scotland, after being axed in the Government's defence review.
Crowds of people braved the cold and ice to wave home the ship, flying a decommissioning pennant the length of the vessel, as it sailed into port for the last time through a thick fog.
Ark Royal's farewell voyage took it around the north of Scotland and on into Newcastle, where it was built by Swan Hunter at Wallsend.
During the trip, it had its ammunition removed and four Harrier GR9 pilots took off from the deck for the last time marking the end of service for the jump jet, which is also being axed.
A flypast by the Harriers on Friday morning was cancelled because of the weather conditions.
Last month, the Queen made a farewell visit to the ship at Portsmouth at an event held to mark the ship's 25th anniversary in service.
Commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd said: "There is no question that there is a certain amount of sadness attached to this final deployment.
"But it is also an opportunity for us to celebrate the silver jubilee of this fine ship and for us to show her off once more.
"She has played a very important role throughout her history and we have always been lucky enough to draw great affection and support from the British public wherever we go.
"For me, personally, I have been exceptionally proud to serve as her captain - my very first job after finishing my initial officer training 25 years ago at Dartmouth was in the then-brand new HMS Ark Royal.
"It is therefore a great honour for me to be able to command her farewell tour as her last captain.
"I am very fortunate to be at the helm of an exceptional crew, whose professional skills will be re-allocated and valued in the wider Royal Naval service, long after the ship herself has been decommissioned - so her work and memory will continue to serve the Royal Navy well.
"I am only too aware that this famous ship and her iconic name mean so much to so many, but although Ark Royal will be decommissioned, the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are vastly more capable and provide the Royal Navy with an exciting future."
The Government decision to decommission the Ark Royal three years early and also cut the Harrier force has been criticised by several retired Royal Navy admirals, including Admiral Lord West of Spithead.