Pride of the fleet: glory days of The Mighty Ark

Looking down London Road circa 1903. The Horndean Light Railway tracks are on the right.  Picture: Barry Cox Collection

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Today we dip into our files for a nostalgic look back at The Mighty Ark – the former flagship of the Royal Navy which left Portsmouth for the last time earlier this week.

HMS Ark Royal, the fifth Royal navy ship to have borne the name, is on her way to Turkey to be scrapped.

HMS Ark Royal returns to Portsmouth on 17 May, 2003, escorted by a flotilla of small craft.

HMS Ark Royal returns to Portsmouth on 17 May, 2003, escorted by a flotilla of small craft.

But she leaves behind more than 25 years of fond memories for Portsmouth area people.

The 22,000-tonne light aircraft carrier was sold as part of a £2.9m deal following the 2010 strategic defence review which led to the ship facing the axe five years early and her Harrier jets being sold for spares to the USA.

The decision to scrap the Ark has left the UK without a fully-functioning aircraft carrier for a total of nearly 10 years until the next generation of carriers comes into service.

The Ark was named by the Queen Mother and entered service in 1981.

Our main picture was taken in May, 2003, and shows HMS Ark Royal given a heroine’s welcome as she returns home from the second Gulf War past a semi-built Spinnaker Tower.

Click here for more pictures of HMS Ark Royal