Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Portsmouth bids farewell to warship HMS Ark Royal

Visitors on board HMS Ark Royal
Image caption HMS Ark Royal has clocked up 621,551 nautical miles as part of her service

Some 5,000 people boarded axed aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal after it opened its decks for the final time as part of a farewell send-off.

Sailors marched through the streets of its home port in Portsmouth to mark the passing of the fleet flagship, due to be scrapped as part of government cuts.

The warship, which served in Iraq, will be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carrier.

However it will not come into service until the end of the decade.

Thousands lined the streets waving flags to pay an emotional farewell to the ship and its crew, which have been based in the city for 25 years.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the vessel had a "very special" place in the hearts of the people of the city.

He revealed he had written to the Queen and Prince Charles asking for them to consider allowing one of the next generation of carriers, which are due to be named after them, to inherit the Ark Royal name instead.

"I have probably broken every piece of naval etiquette there is," he added.

"The Ark Royal name is so loved and is such a great part of history that it would be great if one of the new ships was to be named after it."

Spanish Armada

A Royal Marines band led the parade as about 250 sailors marched to the city's Guildhall Square where a special service was held.

Meanwhile hundreds of people were allowed on board the warship for the first time to have a look as part of an open day across the weekend.

Image caption The flagship and its crew have been based in Portsmouth for 25 years

The aircraft carrier's Commanding Officer Captain Jerry Kyd gave a speech and presented the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth with a ship's white ensign.

Capt Kyd, who paid tribute to the crew, told the ceremony: "It is with equal measure of sadness and a whole lot of pride that I stand here before you as the last CO of Ark Royal.

"On behalf of Ark Royal's men and women, past and present, and for those who have given their lives while of this great ship, we would like to say how much Portsmouth has meant to us.

"There is a very close bond between the Royal Navy and this great maritime city - Portsmouth is the navy and the men and women of Ark Royal are proud to call Portsmouth their home port."

In November last year, the Queen made a farewell visit to the ship at an event held to mark the ship's 25th anniversary in service.

This version is the fifth Ark Royal. The first saw battle in 1588 and smashed the Spanish Armada.

During its busy life the ship clocked up 621,551 nautical miles and made her final entry to Portsmouth on 3 December following a farewell tour.

The decision to decommission the Ark Royal three years early and also cut the Harrier force has been criticised by several retired Royal Navy admirals including Admiral Lord West of Spithead, who said losing the ship in "such dangerous times" was "short-sighted".

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Media captionPeople said they were sad to see the ship go

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