The Royal Navy kicked off the nation’s big Diamond Jubilee party today.
HMS Diamond fired a 21-gun salute as she approached the harbour entrance to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne.
Fort Blockhouse in Gosport returned fire as four naval helicopters performed a dramatic fly-past in a diamond formation overhead, accompanied by two RAF Typhoon jets.
As Diamond passed the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth, her 190 sailors gave a huge ‘three cheers’ to Her Majesty.
The warship was escorted into the harbour by two Royal Navy patrol vessels, HMS Raider and HMS Blazer.
To celebrate HMS Diamond’s official affiliation with the RNLI, the three navy ships were led in by RNLI lifeboat Alfred Albert Williams, named after former sailor Albert Williams of Gosport who served in the navy from 1928 until 1956.
Celebrations will continue today with a ‘street party’ aboard Diamond on the ship’s flight deck at Portsmouth Naval Base.
Visitors from the ship’s affiliate cities of Coventry and Aberdeen will be among the guests at the party.
Other guests include representatives from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, which is raising money from the release a new Diamond Jubilee CD by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth.
Diamond’s commanding officer Commander Ian Clarke said: ‘What a great way for this maritime nation to celebrate 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
‘It’s a huge honour to salute Her Majesty to recognise her devotion to duty to the nation and as head of UK head of Armed Forces for the last 60 years.
‘I think that sense of duty is something we can all recognise as sailors.’
Medical Assistant Gemma Chapman, 21, said: ‘I’ve been with the ship since last December. It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s all over the news.
‘It’s something to be proud of, especially knowing the whole of the UK is watching HMS Diamond.’
Able Seaman Sharlotte (corr) Pape, 21, said: ‘It’s a proud day. We are getting ready for deployment at the moment, it’s been a really busy time.
‘It won’t happen again in my career, so it’s a great thing to be a part of.’
HMS Diamond is due to sail from Portsmouth for her maiden operational deployment to the Gulf within the next fortnight.
Crowds gathered at Old Portsmouth to watch the saulte.
Onlookers included Petty Officer Marine Engineer Stuart Moore, 37, from Southsea, who said: ‘It just seemed right to be here today because it’s a massive celebration and it’s a huge part of history. It’s great to see that so many people have turned out. All along the Hot Walls it’s packed with people. Firing a gun salute is a massive mark of respect.’
Sarah Proctor, 37, whose husband Jason is a chief petty officer in Diamond, was there with their daughter Libby, 4. Sarah said: ‘I love to see the ships come in and today is extra special because it’s the Jubilee. When Jason is away his daughter misses him terribly.
Libby loved the gun salute. She didn’t find it too noisy because she loves fireworks.’
Peter Stewart, 60, of Southsea, said: ‘It was seriously impressive and well-timed. I like seeing the guys on the ship, what makes it even more impressive is the amount of people who’ve turned out to show their support. This weekend is all about showing our pride for the Royal Family and showing that we’re proud to be British.’
And retired Petty Officer Engineering Mechanic Clive Brown said: ‘It’s all brilliant stuff, there’s nothing else quite like it. I can’t wait to see the rest of the Jubilee celebrations this coming weekend.’