Ic­ing on the cake for HMS Queen El­iz­a­beth

HMS Queen El­iz­a­beth raises en­sign in cer­e­mony at Royal Navy dock­yard in his­toric Portsmouth

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Ben Farmer DE­FENCE COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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

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