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● Farewell to the city of Ark’s birth... (Above and right) Ship’s

‘Never more shall sunset lay golden robe on h nor starlight

 Continued from page i

The mood on Friday December 3 2010 was muted. There were few fl ags, no

approached her fi nal berth. On Victory Jetty small groups

placards, no children waving mini Union Jacks. No tape recorders blaring Rule Britannia or other martial tunes. No cheers. Maybe people were numbed by the cold, but most of the well- wishers were more stunned by the decision to axe the fl agship at such short notice. A Royal Navy without an Ark Royal is like Romeo without

without Pollux, Neptune without his trident.

Juliet, Castor

As the carrier approached the harbour entrance the ship’s main broadcast kicked into life. Typically it’s HMS Ark Royal

of hardy families and well-wishers had gathered in the freezing fog a good hour or so before the Ark was due to come alongside. Many took refuge in a draughty

fog as she made her way slowly through the harbour, a police launch ahead of her flashing its blue lights.

marquee, where red, blue and white helium balloons emblazoned with ‘HMS Ark Royal’ and Union Jack flags were handed out as a present from the ship.

ship’s company, ho! Today not an order but an acknowledgment: Thank you to everyone on the Round Tower, Hot Walls and the City of Portsmouth for showing your support. From somewhere on Broad

Street a klaxon sounded a couple of times. From the back of Round Tower a voice boomed.

Royal. Three cheers for HMS Ark

The well-wishers responded. The ship’s company responded (a few broke into an impromptu Mexican Wave, not necessarily permitted during Procedure Alpha, but we’ll let them off...). And then the grey mist devoured Ark once more as she entered the harbour proper, her enormous decommissioning pennant running along the superstructure and fl ight deck, before limply trailing in the water. As

view in Old Portsmouth, so she

● Farewell to the Harrier... Handlers and technicians prepare Naval and RAF jump jets for their fi nal carrier launch

she disappeared from

Others braved the outdoors and stamped their feet to keep some sensation in their toes as they queued for hot drinks and bacon butties at a mobile canteen. Around 1,200 families and friends had been expected in the naval base. On the day snow and ice prevented many from making the journey, but there were still several hundred people on the jetty.

The Royal Marines Band, which had provided some welcome cheer, timed it perfectly. As the Ark inched her way alongside, her decommissioning pennant fluttering in the Arctic wind, they struck up the opening bars of Sailing.

If ever a ship could say they were playing her tune, this was it. There were cheers and shouts from the families and tears wiped from eyes, perhaps from the cold, certainly from the emotion.

The weak sun was attempting, without success, to break through the spectral clouds, but over the sea a thick, grey fog reduced visibility almost down to nothing. Even the large commercial ferries were heard before they were seen, as they departed through the mist, sounding their foghorns.

And at 9am the command ‘Colours’ was heard on HMS Dauntless, berthed further along the jetty, but she was so wreathed in grey fog that her ensign could only be made out dimly as it was hauled up the staff. It was difficult to make out the outline


the Round Tower. Then shouts of “Here she comes” and “That’s our ship!” went up, and the huge outline of her ski-ramp lined with sailors loomed through the grey

until she passed

And so after 50,762 hours at sea and 621,551 miles sailed in a career spanning three decades, Capt Jerry Kyd gave the order no commanding offi cer ever wishes to impart:

farewell tour: fi rst to Scotland and the Glen Mallan ammunition depot where the magazines were emptied of their ordnance, including 1,000lb bombs for the Harrier GR9 jets, Stingray torpedoes used by Lynx and Merlin helicopters, and 20mm rounds for the ship’s guns. Then around the top of Scotland to Newcastle, the city of her birth. Over 12,000 people braved the cold and rain, and queued for hours for the privilege of coming onboard the iconic warship. “It was amazing to see all those people cheering and waving at us,” said ET(WE) Marcelle John, who hails from St Vincent and the Grenadines and has never

● Farewell to the

Ring off main engines. And so ended the carrier’s brief

pictures: mid kieran hatchley, hms blazer, po(phot) ray jones and la(phot) abbie gadd, hms ark royal, and cpl mark dixon, 1(f) sqn raf

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