Thousands Turn Out For Ark Royal

21 January 2011, 13:01

Thousands of people turned out at the weekend to say farewell to the crew of the axed aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal as they paraded through Portsmouth.

About 250 sailors marched through Portsmouth, to celebrate the close affiliation between the Royal Navy's flagship, which is being decommissioned as part of the Government's defence review, and its home port.

A Royal Marines band led the parade which finished at the city's Guildhall Square where a special service was held. This was led by Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Paula Riches and ended with prayers by Ark Royal's padre, the Rev Martin Evans.

The ceremony was attended by commanding officer (CO) Captain Jerry Kyd, and leader of Portsmouth City Council councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

Councillor Riches said: "This is a historical and moving moment and I am honoured to be here.

"We will all have fond memories of this impressive flagship and its equally impressive captain and crew."

Capt Kyd said: "It is with equal measure of sadness and a whole lot of pride that I stand here before you as the last CO of Ark Royal.

"On behalf of Ark Royal's men and women, past and present, and for those who have given their lives while of this great ship, we would like to say how much Portsmouth has meant to us.

"There is a very close bond between the Royal Navy and this great maritime city - Portsmouth is the navy and the men and women of Ark Royal are proud to call Portsmouth their home port.

"It's wonderful that so many people have turned out today to say goodbye."

Councillor Vernon-Jackson said that he had written to the Queen and Prince Charles asking for them to consider allowing one of the next generation of carriers, which are due to be named after them, to inherit the Ark Royal name instead.

He said: "I have probably broken every piece of naval etiquette there is.

"The Ark Royal name is so loved and is such a great part of history that it would be great if one of the new ships was to be named after it.''

The event concluded with Capt Kyd presenting councillor Riches with a white ensign from the Ark Royal and it was followed by a reception for the ship's company and their families in the Guildhall. The Ark Royal itself was open to the public over the weekend, with people queuing up to have a last look at the ship.

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