Icing on the cake for HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth raises ensign in ceremony at Royal Navy dockyard in historic Portsmouth
The Queen features in icing form on one of the celebratory cakes created for yesterday’s commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s newest and biggest warship. While the centrepiece was an 8ft edible replica of the carrier, these confectionery characters signalled a more personal approach. The Queen told guests: ‘I will always value my special link with HMS Queen Elizabeth.’
FOR each member of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s 700-strong crew, her commissioning as the Royal Navy’s most powerful warship was a moment of intense pride.
But for AB Oscar Russell that pride at manning a 65,000-ton aircraft carrier described by the Queen as the best of British was heightened by a family connection.
The 21-year-old is not the first of his family to serve on HMS Queen Elizabeth, because Archer Thomas Russell, his great grandfather, served in 1921 on the battleship that last bore the name.
Thousands of sailors, VIPS, relatives and guests yesterday gathered in the latest vessel’s cavernous aircraft hangar, as the white ensign was raised over her vast four-acre flight deck in a ceremony that formally welcomed the new ship into the fleet. “We’re so incredibly proud of Oscar,” his father said. “He is probably the only person serving on the ship now to have a relative who was on the last HMS Queen Elizabeth.”
The ceremony held at the Royal Navy base in Portsmouth marked another step towards Britain regaining a working aircraft carrier after the defence cuts of 2010.
The Queen told those attending: “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 Vic- tory, 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 also paid personal tribute to the sailors such as AB Russell who will crew the warship for its estimated 50-year lifespan. She said: “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 First Sea Lord admitted Britain had faced a military gap after its last generation of carriers and their Harrier jump jets were scrapped after the 2010 cost-cutting defence review.
Adml Sir Philip Jones said: “We definitely missed it – and if we wanted an indication of that, within a year of losing it the UK was involved in a coalition working in Libya where most of our partners, the French and the Italians were using carriers and we could not.”
The commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth marked a “great day for the Royal Navy”, he said. The vessel left Rosyth dockyard earlier this year and has since carried out extensive sea trials. In the spring commanders will begin flight trials of helicopters and in the autumn of 2018 she is expected to sail to the east coast of the US to begin flight trials with the F-35B jump jets that will one day fill her hangar.
The warship is not planned to undertake her first mission until 2021, when she is expected to carry a joint fleet of British and US Marine F-35BS. Royal Navy leaders turned out to mark the commissioning as the service faces more cuts alongside the Army and RAF and amid concerns that the strain of manning and escorting the carrier will suck resources from elsewhere.
Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, who is due next week to have a critical meeting with the Chancellor and Prime Minister over military funding, said the carrier would give Britain the ability to reach all parts of the globe.
He said: “This is a great moment of national pride, the launch of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her becoming a Royal Navy ship, and it’s going to give us the ability to do so much more as a country. We talk about global Britain. This is an epitome of what global Britain is all about.”
Planning for the vessel began almost two decades ago, while the first steel in the huge blocks which formed the basis of her structure was cut in 2009.
Steel plates bearing the names of the thousands of men and women who have worked on the ship’s design and construction hang inside the ship.
During the hangar ceremony, carried out away from the driving rain of a December Portsmouth day, the Queen and the Princess Royal inspected an honour guard made up of the ship’s company.
The proceedings ended with an 8ft cake replica of the warship being cut with a sword by the youngest sailor on board and Karen Kyd, the wife of Capt Jerry Kyd, the ship’s commander.
Steward Callum Hui from Lynton, Devon, only began his basic training in March and joined the nation’s future flagship in October. The 17-year-old said before the ceremony that the honour of cutting the cake was the highlight of his brief naval career so far and would “probably be one of the stories you tell your kids”. He said: “I am excited to say the least. This is my first ship, straight out of training, and just to have the honour of cutting the cake on commissioning day – it is exciting stuff.”
As well as the highly realistic cake replica of the warship cut at the end of the ceremony, there were other baked tributes to the occasion on display. Another cake depicted Her Majesty and sailors on parade, including one unfortunate seaman face down after apparently fainting.
Capt Kyd said the commissioning marked the “culmination of over a decade of work” and he paid tribute to the thousands involved, which he said reflected the “truly national nature of this endeavour”.
The nation did not wait until Bake Off before it began expressing itself in the language of cake. Cake marks life’s solemn moments, like weddings, and its annual milestones of birthdays and Christmas. So it was right that a great big cake should accompany the commissioning into the Royal Navy by the Queen yesterday of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the £3 billion aircraft carrier. Indeed there were two: one depicted the ship’s company on deck, with an icing sailor holding a placard that read “HMS” and an icing figure in a pink dress with another reading “Me”. Perhaps it should have said “One”. But an 8ft-long battleship-grey cake stole the scene. In every detail it was the cakey double of the ship. The Queen looked pleased. Only in one way did the cake differ from reality: it had a dozen icing aircraft drawn up on its icing deck.
The Queen inspects crew members, top. Above left, the warship berthed in Portsmouth. Above right, three cheers for Her Majesty. Left, Katherine Jenkins sings with the Royal Marine band. Right, talking to the captain