IT’S an honour usually reserved for the navy’s top brass.
But when shipbuilders in Portsmouth started work on the next section of HMS Prince of Wales today, it was an apprentice who got to push the button and cut the steel.
Shaun Collins, 21, a BAE Systems apprentice from Portsmouth, was given the honour of starting off the lasers on the second block of the Royal Navy’s HMS Prince of Wales.
Shaun said: ‘It’s a big moment and I feel really honoured.
‘I was quite shocked when they asked me and I never expected it. I feel quite proud.’
As reported in The News, Shaun was recently given a Personal Achievement Award at the BAE Systems Apprentice Awards.
Dozens of workers gathered at the production hall in Portsmouth Naval Base today to watch the steel cutting ceremony.
It comes two weeks after they waved goodbye to the last piece of HMS Queen Elizabeth to have been built in the city.
The new steel will be used to make up a section known as Centre Block 02, which will contain accommodation, recreational facilities, a laundry, a bakery and parts of the aircraft hangar.
It will sit on top of another section, Lower Block 02, which is being built in the shipbuilding shed nearby.
Paul Bowsher is the Queen Elizabeth-class project leader for BAE Systems in Portsmouth.
He said: ‘Because we’re building the section that will go underneath this one as well, it’s the first time we have built from keel to flight deck.
‘This is the next big milestone for us.’
The Portsmouth shipyard will also build both of HMS Prince of Wales’ islands, and a block at the stern of the ship.
Angus Holt, the project director at BAE Systems, said: ‘These ships will be working for the next 50 years out of Portsmouth, so it’s a significant addition to the Royal Navy’s fleet and it begins here.
‘Having Shaun press the button was great because it’s nice to promote the work our apprentices do.’
The first steel ever cut for HMS Prince of Wales was started off by Admiral Sir George Zambellas, who will soon become First Sea Lord.