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11 March 2011, 14:35
It was an emotional goodbye for the crew of HMS Ark Royal as they stood proudly on deck to watch the ensign lowered for the final time today(11th March).
The warship was taken out of service as part of the Government's defence review last year.
The ceremony on the ship's flight deck marked the decommissioning of the aircraft carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base.
The songs For Those in Peril on the Sea and Auld Lang Syne rose from the decks as people remembered her great history.
The Navy will not have the capability to fly fixed-wing aircraft from sea for about 10 years until the first of the next generation of aircraft carriers come into service.
Captain Jerry Kyd, the last commanding officer of HMS Ark Royal, said:
"It's hugely emotional, but I'm also very, very proud to be here today representing my ship's company.
"This ship has been at service now for 25 years, both at peace and at war, she is part of the fabric of the Royal Navy and she's probably the most iconic and famous name the Royal Navy has.
"Everyone knows the Ark Royal so today is very poignant and there's a tinge of sadness of course, but also a real sense of pride about what this ship has achieved over 25 years.
"We could all, the whole British public, be tremendously proud of this ship, crew and what she's done for the country."
The ship's last remaining 150 sailors marched onto the flight deck to the sound of the ship's band.
The sailors were inspected by the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope in front of about 900 guests including families and former commanding officers. Most of the Ark Royal's crew will now go on to other ships and different air squadrons but today they fought back the tears as the watched the ship's flag lowered.
Cpt Kyd said:
"They're all quite sad in their own way. When you live in a community like an aircraft carrier, a thousand people, you're quite close, you know each other all very well and today marks the end of that village life if you like."
Ark's operations have included playing a pivotal part of the Nato campaign during the Bosnia conflict and, in early 2003, leading the UK's naval forces during Operation Telic - the invasion of Iraq, with a fleet of helicopters embarked.
Speaking of the decision to decommission the ship, Cpt Kyd added:
"Tough decisions have to be taken when tough times are upon us and what current events prove is of course you can never accurately predict the future.
"Things always come up where you say, well isn't hindsight a wonderful thing.
"The important thing here is that the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to our new aircraft carriers - the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales - so we can keep this capability going where we can take aircraft carriers around the world and project British power, in a military sense, wherever it is needed."
Last November, the Queen visited the ship in Portsmouth as part of Ark Royal's 25th anniversary celebrations.
During its service, Ark Royal clocked up 621,551 nautical miles and made its final entry to Portsmouth on December 3 last year.