Ark Royal leaves Portsmouth for scrap yard

The BBC's Steve Humphrey speaks to former Lieutenant Commander Nick Bradshaw as the Ark Royal sails from Portsmouth

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Large crowds have watched aircraft carrier Ark Royal leave Portsmouth for the final time.

The Royal Navy's former flagship was decommissioned early following the 2010 defence review and is being towed to Turkey for scrap.

As part of a £2.9m deal Ark Royal will go to the same yard that took its sister ship Invincible.

The Invincible Class aircraft carrier saw active service in Bosnia and during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

From the Scene

Moving gracefully out of the harbour entrance, Ark Royal is looking majestic.

It is still looking a very modern and sleek-lined ship. But the flight decks where helicopters once stood are empty.

It's a very sad and poignant sight for many of the former ship's company gathered up here on the Round Tower.

Former petty officer Steve Higgins admitted to being quite emotional as he told me "the one that isn't going is the memories".

Formally decommissioned in 2011, the Harrier jets that flew from Ark Royal were sold as spares to the US.

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the move was heavily criticised at the time.

New carriers using the joint strike fighter will not enter service for nearly 10 years.

A bid to sink Ark Royal and turn it into an artificial diving reef off the Devon coast was rejected as were plans for a commercial heliport in London, a nightclub and school in China and a casino in Hong Kong.

The Ministry of Defence said the bids were judged either "not feasible or appropriate", or carried "too much risk".

The former captain of HMS Ark Royal Sir Alan Massey said the scrapping of the ship was very sad.

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