26th August 2017. The Duty Watchkeepers at the Gosport National Coastwatch Station had a grandstand view of the Royal Navy’s newest warship as she arrived in her home port of Portsmouth for the very first time on 16th August.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy and weighs in at a colossal 65,000 tons. A massive amount of dredging work has been undertaken to enable Portsmouth to welcome and accommodate this vessel but even then, she only just managed to squeeze through the gap between the ancient fortifications that guard the harbour entrance. The Gosport NCI Station, which is positioned on top of the walls overlooking the harbour entrance, had mounted a special extra watch from 0615 that morning to log the arrival of this ground-breaking vessel and after months of preparation by the dockyard authorities, everything happily went without a hitch. After gently edging her way in through the newly dredged approach channel under the guidance of an Admiralty Pilot and escorted by six tugs, Queen Elizabeth entered harbour almost exactly on time at 0705. She was still flying the Blue Ensign of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary at this stage, as she will not be allowed to fly the Royal Navy’s White Ensign until after her formal Commissioning Ceremony in a few weeks’ time. Queen Elizabeth’s grand first arrival in Portsmouth was also marked with a fly-past by a formation made up of all the different helicopter types currently used by the Royal Navy.
This particular Queen Elizabeth is not the first ship in the British Navy to bear this name, her predecessor was a Super-Dreadnought Battleship that played a leading role in the Dardanelles Campaign during the First World War and survived several major incidents in World War II as well.
Queen Elizabeth will eventually be joined in a couple of years’ time by her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales once she is completed. These new aircraft carriers have been designed to restore the Royal Navy’s fast jet capability with the advent of the new V/STOL version of the American built Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning aircraft. A number of development issues with these aircraft have meant they will not be fully available for squadron deployment for a couple of years. In the meantime, Queen Elizabeth will continue to operate helicopters, including the highly capable British-built Merlin (shown ranged on deck as she entered Portsmouth). Apache Gunships and twin rotor Chinooks crewed by the Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force respectively, may also be embarked depending on the tasking at the time.
Photograph by David Russell (PR Officer NCI Gosport)