HMS Ark Royal Leaves On Farewell Tour

The Royal Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal, which was axed as part of the defence review, set sail today for a farewell tour.

The aircraft carrier is to be retired three years early as part of cost-cutting measures announced by the Government last month.

The ship, which has a crew of about 750, sailed from its home port of Portsmouth Naval Base heading up the west coast of the UK before visiting Clyde Naval Base in Scotland and back down to Newcastle.

Some of the ship's company will make an informal visit to Leeds during the trip as the ship is affiliated with the West Yorkshire city.

The ship will have its ammunition removed during the trip prior to its return to Portsmouth to be decommissioned.

A Royal Navy spokesman said:

"It is a chance for the cities linked to the ship to say farewell prior to the decommissioning.''

The Ark Royal is to return to Portsmouth on December 3 before being taken out of service early in the new year.

Last week the Queen visited the ship in Portsmouth to say farewell and to mark the 25th anniversary of its service.

The decision to axe the Ark Royal, along with the early retirement of the Harrier jets, will leave the Navy without the capability of launching fixed wing aircraft from a carrier until replacement ships and aircraft come into service in up to 10 years.

One member of the ship's company, who did not wish to be named, said that the announcement to axe the Ark Royal had come as a shock to the crew.

He said:

"We've gone through different stages, first of all shock, then worry about our jobs and then resignation to what is happening.''

He said that the crew were still waiting to find out what will happen to them.

Ark Royal was completed at the Swan Hunter shipyard at Wallsend, near Newcastle, in December 1978 and launched by the Queen Mother.

She also accepted the carrier into service on July 1, 1985, and finally commissioned it into service on November 1, 1985.