During a quayside service of commemoration, The Queen inspected a Guard of Honour comprising members of Ark Royal’s 650-strong ship’s company. On board Her Majesty met some of the sailors and pilots and viewed displays illustrating the ship’s recent work.
Following an all-ranks lunch The Queen moved to a marquee on the jetty to meet representatives of some of the ship’s affiliated organisations.
Before departing, The Queen cut a silver jubilee cake, signed the ship’s visitors’ book and received a posy from ten-year-old Imogen Bellfield, daughter of Commander Rob Bellfield, the ship’s second-in-command.
Captain Jerry Kyd, Ark Royal’s Commanding Officer, said:
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of this, the fifth Ark Royal, in such style in the presence of Her Majesty, is truly an honour and a proud day for my ship’s company.
To be the Captain of this ship on this day fills me with immense pride. As we embark on the last chapter in the life of this Ark Royal, her significant achievements of the last quarter of a century, including her battle honours in Bosnia and Iraq, will not be forgotten.
With her sisters, Invincible and Illustrious, the proven delivery of power projection across the globe in a versatile and credible platform emphasises the military and political utility of aircraft carriers, and, indeed, the vital importance of sea power to our island nation.
The current HMS Ark Royal is the fifth to bear the name and the ship has a distinguished history with battle honours dating back to the Armada in 1588 and more recently Al Faw in 2003.
HMS Ark Royal will sail on her last voyage next week when she departs for Scotland. The ship will then be decommissioned in line with decisions taken during the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
She will be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers that will give the UK political and military flexibility in responding to crises. One of these new carriers will routinely have 12 Joint Strike Fighters, plus helicopters embarked for operations.