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NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011


Out of the gloom and swirling mist, which rose and fell with the bitter December breeze, a tug guides a great ship of the line for the final time. And like the Fighting Temeraire 170 years before her, the passing of Her Majesty’s Ship Ark Royal draws a line under an era. For the fi rst time in 97 years there is


O


NLY the falling sun, tinting the horizon an orangey- red was missing.


no ship named Ark Royal on the order books, in build, in refi t, or on the high seas.


Royal Navy,


For the fi rst time in a century, the creator


of the aircraft


carrier, pioneer of wings over the sea from Cuxhaven to the catapult, from the Sopwith Pup and Sea Vampire to the Sea Harrier, has no fixed-wing aircraft from which to project the nation’s influence wherever it desires. Nor was there a fixed-wing farewell for Ark on her final entry into Portsmouth.


The weather kiboshed the Harrier


fl ypast. It put a stop to the anticipated thousands of well-wishers descending on the seafronts of Portsmouth and Gosport.


Instead a handful of hardy souls stood on the wall at Fort Blockhouse. A few hundred lined Portsmouth’s ancient ramparts from the Round to Square Tower and the Hot Walls (surely a misnomer in this weather); council workmen were still shovelling away the snow and sprinkling buckets of


sand over the stones as well-wishers arrived.


A police launch faded in and out of the mist eddies hugging the Solent. Somewhere in the distance the strain


of bagpipes, the sound unmistakeable, the tune indistinguishable.


And the high-pitched whine of engines.


standing atop.


crowned with the snow which blanketed the country, carefully shepherded the carrier, fl anked by launches, their lights fl ashing a brilliant blue amid the grey. How different from Ark Royal’s fi nest


In the murk the barely-definable outline of something solid, slowly becoming increasingly distinct. A ski ramp. And six silhouettes  Continued on page ii


hour, her departure for the Gulf in 2003, a brilliant January day fi lled with all the pomp, ceremony and emotion the occasion warranted.


The mist began to part. Two tugs, their upper decks still


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