Queen wel­comes ‘Navy’s flag­ship for 21st cen­tury’

Western Mail - - NEWS - Ben Mitchell and Ge­orgina Stubbs news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

THE Queen has wel­comed the UK’s new £3.1bn air­craft car­rier into the Royal Navy fleet and de­clared it the “best of Bri­tish”.

Ac­com­pa­nied by the Princess Royal, the Queen ar­rived on board HMS Queen El­iz­a­beth at Portsmouth Naval Base us­ing a spe­cially in­stalled lift to bring her up to the hangar for the oc­ca­sion.

Wear­ing a pur­ple out­fit, she was led on­board by the ship’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer Cap­tain Jerry Kyd.

De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson also at­tended to wit­ness the 65,000 tonne ves­sel join­ing the fleet.

At 280 me­tres long and with an es­ti­mated half a cen­tury work­ing life, the be­he­moth war­ship is the big­gest and most pow­er­ful ever built by the UK.

A to­tal of 3,700 guests in­clud­ing fam­i­lies and VIPs gath­ered in the ship’s gi­ant hall for the cer­e­mony.

In a speech, the Queen said: “We are gath­ered here in Portsmouth to­day just a short dis­tance from HMS Vic­tory, a flag­ship of our sea­far­ing past and a re­minder of the debt we owe to the Royal Navy which for more than 500 years has pro­tected the peo­ple of this coun­try and our in­ter­ests around the world.

“Like HMS Vic­tory, HMS Queen El­iz­a­beth em­bod­ies the best of Bri­tish tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, a true flag­ship for the 21st cen­tury.

“The most pow­er­ful and ca­pa­ble ship ever to raise the White En­sign, she will in the years and decades ahead rep­re­sent the coun­try’s re­solve on the global stage.”

She praised the ser­vice per­son­nel who will crew the car­rier and added: “As the daugh­ter, wife and mother of naval of­fi­cers, I recog­nise the unique de­mands our nation asks of you and I will al­ways value my spe­cial link with HMS Queen El­iz­a­beth, her ship’s com­pany and their fam­i­lies.”

The cer­e­mony was or­gan­ised to com­mis­sion the car­rier into the fleet but the Air­craft Car­rier Al­liance con­firmed that the Royal Navy had for­mally ac­cepted the ship on Thurs­day, mean­ing it had been fully handed over to the Min­istry of De­fence.

Mr Wil­liamson said the com­mis­sion­ing cer­e­mony “marks the start of a hugely sig­nif­i­cant chap­ter for the Royal Navy”.

He added: “Our new air­craft car­rier is the epit­ome of Bri­tish de­sign and dex­ter­ity, at the core of our ef­forts to build an Armed Forces fit for the fu­ture.

“For the next half a cen­tury both car­ri­ers (work is con­tin­u­ing on HMS Prince of Wales) will ad­vance our in­ter­ests around the globe, pro­vid­ing the most vis­i­ble sym­bol of in­tent and com­mit­ment to pro­tect the UK from in­ten­si­fy­ing threats, wher­ever they may come.”

Cpt Kyd said it was an his­toric day that marked the “cul­mi­na­tion of over a decade of work” and paid trib­ute to the thou­sands in­volved in the cre­ation of the air­craft car­rier, which he said re­flected the “truly na­tional na­ture of this en­deav­our”.

On the Queen’s ar­rival, the na­tional an­them was played be­fore she, along with Anne, in­spected a guard on pa­rade.

The Queen then re­ceived the royal salute as the en­sign was raised for the first time on the flight deck, broad­cast into the hangar on large screens.

An au­di­ble sigh of re­lief could be heard from the ship’s com­pany as the en­sign, ini­tially slightly en­tan­gled, opened out fully and flew freely in the wind.

> The Queen walks with ship’s cap­tain Com­modore Jerry Kyd as she ar­rives for the com­mis­sion­ing cer­e­mony of Bri­tain’s big­gest and most pow­er­ful war­ship

> HMS Queen El­iz­a­beth at Portsmouth Naval Base

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