Queen bids farewell to carrier Ark Royal

image captionHMS Ark Royal has served the Royal Navy for 25 years

The Queen has said farewell to the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal.

The fleet flagship is being axed after 25 years' service as part of the government's defence review, along with the retirement of the Harrier jets.

The Queen attended a commemoration service to mark the carrier's silver jubilee before joining members of the crew and their families at a lunch reception.

She took a royal salute and inspected a guard of honour before going on board.

A planned flypast had to be scaled down due to low-hanging cloud.

The Queen had travelled to the naval base from London Waterloo by standard passenger train which arrived late.

She cut a cake, signed the visitors' book, and received a posy, before departing mid-afternoon.

Very sad

The decision to axe the aircraft carrier will leave the navy without the capability of launching fixed-wing aircraft from a carrier.

It will be up to a decade before replacement ships and aircraft come into service.

Ark Royal's former commanding officer, Rear Adm Terry Loughran, said the scrapping of the Harriers gave him the greatest concern and highlighted that the review was far from strategic.

"Ark Royal is the best known ship's name to the nation and it's very sad to see the pride of the fleet go this way.

"But the ship itself is only steel and its heart is the people in it and that support will live on."

The decision to retire the Ark Royal has been accepted by some experts as "an acceptable price" for the replacement carriers but the decision to lose the Harriers has been heavily criticised.

Ark Royal was built at the Swan Hunter yard at Wallsend in December 1978 and was launched by the Queen Mother.

She also accepted it into service in July 1985 and it was commissioned in November of that year.