Tyne & Wear

Ark Royal bids farewell to River Tyne

Crowds have watched HMS Ark Royal depart at the end of a final visit to the River Tyne.

An estimated 10,000 people visited the aircraft carrier during its stay in North Shields.

The vessel has now set off for Hamburg, before returning to Portsmouth to await the decision on a decommission date.

Work began on the flagship of the Royal Navy at Tyneside's Swan Hunter shipyard in 1978, and it was launched three years later.

Originally an anti-submarine helicopter carrier designed for the Cold War, it played a pivotal part in the Nato campaign during the Bosnia conflict.

In 2003 Ark Royal led the UK's naval forces during the invasion of Iraq, with a fleet of helicopters.

It is being retired early as part of cost-cutting measures announced by the government.

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