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FAREWELL ARK ROYAL, NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011


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’s company fall in for Procedure Alpha as the carrier leaves the Tyne


her, tremble on the waves that part at her gliding.’


experienced scenes (and perhaps temperatures) like it.


“I knew of the links between the Ark and Newcastle, but nothing prepares you for seeing the strength of local feeling at first hand.”


AB(CIS) Marcus Stewart added: “It was comforting to learn that other people share our sadness at the demise of this fine ship – the strength of local support was overwhelming.”


ship’s berth baked the crew (well some of them) a cake.


Professional sporting clubs offered free tickets, amateurs challenged the football, rugby and golf teams to matches, and the lady who ran a burger van next to the


It was on this river on December 14 1978 – the middle of the ‘winter of discontent’ – that Ark Royal V was laid down on the slipway at the Swan Hunter yard. It was on this river on June 2 1981 – as those in the Corridors of Power were finalising the White Paper The Way Forward, which would scythe through the Fleet – that the Queen Mother launched the ship. And it was from this river in June 1985 – as the nation geared up for the age-defining Live Aid concert – that Ark Royal sailed for her future home for the first time. And as she sailed from the


Tyne for the final time – in pretty foul conditions – the banks of the north and south side of the river were lined with spectators and traffic slowed to watch the unique spectacle.


Some 40 miles off Newcastle Indeed it was.


the chapter was closed on another piece of Ark Royal history: her association with the Harrier as four RAF and RN jets departed – the last opportunity to witness a jump jet operate from the decks of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier. 800 Naval Air Squadron and RAF 1(F) Sqn – both victims, like Ark Royal, of October’s Strategic Defence and Security Review – brought aboard Harrier flown by naval and Air Force aviators. Each squadron embarked two


GR9s – the final variant of the Ground Reconnaissance 1 which entered service in 1969 – painting the tails of their jets with the respective squadron colours. And one by one they departed


Royal before landing vertically is an experience I will miss immensely.”


at 9am on Wednesday November 24 2010: Capt Mike Carty RM, Lt Matt Fooks-Bale and Flt Lt Em Rickards. The honour of flying the very last Harrier to rise up the ski ramp and lumber skywards – a sight which never fails to impress (and deafen) – fell to Lt Cdr James Blackmore, a naval aviator flying for the RAF. He’s a veteran, like most of Joint Force Harrier, of operations in Afghanistan, as well as 90 sorties from Ark Royal. The jump jet may have a 50-year heritage but, says the officer, “the aircraft’s capability still astounds me”. He continued:


witnessing a Harrier in the hover when I was just eight and since then I’ve wanted to do nothing else.


“I remember


“I’ve flown Harriers for more than ten years, the training in complex, but the added challenge and excitement of hovering a Harrier off the port side of Ark


After launching, they fl ew overhead in a spectacular fl ypast to wave goodbye, and to allow the ship’s company to do likewise to another icon of British industry. For the jets there was an air combat exercise to perform before returning to RAF Cottesmore, directed by a Bagger Sea King of 849 NAS – guiding Harrier operations for the final time, and thus breaking a chain which began nearly three decades ago. While the Harriers and Sea King waged mock war, Ark made her way across the North Sea and the city which was both her first and final foreign port of call. The carrier spent fi ve days in Hamburg berthed on the edge of


(and 15 minutes’ walk from the Reeperbahn...), a fi nal run ashore to reward the ship’s company for their unstinting service.


the Hanseatic city’s centre


As well as enjoying Hamburg’s hospitality for the sixth time in her 25-year career – the city’s principal organ, the Hamburger Abendblatt hailed Ark Royal “Hamburg’s most loyal grey ship in all the navies of the world” – there was a last offi cial reception on board. As well as Britain’s honorary consul in Hamburg, Claus Budelmann, and Ambassador to Germany, Simon McDonald, civic dignitaries were invited aboard. The latter were apparently impressed by Capt Kyd and his “sea-dog charm” and that he was “remarkably well informed about city politics”.


the fi fty miles of the Elbe to its  Continued on page iv


e Baggers... A Sea King Mk7 of 849 NAS watches as a Harrier prepares for take-off As for his ship, after negotiating ● Farewell to Hamburg... Tugs assist Ark Royal as she leaves her berth to make her way up the Elbe


● Last chance to see... Two Harrier GR9s stage a fl y-past before leaving Ark for good


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