HUNDREDS of people are expected to gather to say a final farewell to the Royal Navy’s former flagship when she is towed for scrap this month.
HMS Ark Royal is expected to be towed to Turkey in the coming weeks.
The Ministry of Defence says a date has not yet been confirmed, but it is thought the ship could leave Portsmouth for the last time on May 20.
As reported in The News, the former aircraft carrier will be towed more than 2,000 miles on a two-month journey to the breaker’s yard near Izmir, in Turkey.
Hundreds of her former crew members, and people who remember her long history of service, are expected to gather at the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth.
Many onlookers are expected to wear black arm bands to mark the occasion.
HMS Ark Royal’s sister ship, HMS Invincible, has already been taken apart at the same yard in Turkey.
There had been hopes HMS Ark Royal would be spared the same fate.
The decision to axe the famous warship in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review provoked national outrage.
It also saw the sale of the Royal Navy’s 72 Harrier jump jets, which were sold to the United States for around £110m.
Former Royal Navy officer Mike Critchley is the publisher of Warship World magazine.
He said: ‘The early demise of Ark Royal and her aircraft is a national disgrace, leaving the Royal Naval fleet without protective air cover wherever it may be needed to operate at any serious distance away from the UK coast.
‘The time span from the end of fixed-wing flying from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers to the arrival of the two new carriers as operational vessels is heading towards being a massive 10 years,with all the resulting loss of skills.
‘This timespan is simply unacceptable in these uncertain times.
‘We remain an island nation importing well over 90 per cent of our vital imports by sea.
‘Our national life line must be kept open whatever the costs.’
Some suggested Ark Royal could be preserved as a museum ship, but the Ministry of Defence said she was in too poor a condition.
Instead, HMS Illustrious will be preserved when she finishes active service.
Other proposals to reuse HMS Ark Royal included turning her into a commercial heliport, a nightclub and school, or a casino.
But ultimately the government decided to sell the 22,000-tonne carrier to ship-recycling firm Leyal for £2.9m.
During her service, HMS Ark Royal was deployed to the Adriatic during the Bosnian war and was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.