It’s been a difficult time for the Royal Navy.
Defence spending cuts have hit our armed forces hard but the navy has surely felt the axe more than others with the sudden loss of its prestigious HMS Ark Royal.
It was a devastating blow to the navy as a whole and to Portsmouth. As a city we have always been so proud of the strong ties we’ve been lucky enough to share with this particular aircraft carrier, so we share the navy’s sadness.
As a favourite with the royal family and with her valiant history – seeing active service in the Balkans conflict and the second Gulf War – Ark Royal is a ship loved by many.
You only had to see the turnout as she arrived in Portsmouth for the last time to understand the strength of feeling surrounding her decommissioning.
Tomorrow’s parade could be seen by some as a chance to show the government how angry they feel about its plan to take this mighty ship out of service when she still has many years left in her yet.
But it’s a much better opportunity to lift our heads high, to feel pride for all the hard work she’s done in the past, and to show the men and women who have served on her how we value what they have done.
Saturday’s events will be a chance to celebrate all that Ark Royal has achieved and we sincerely hope that as many people as possible can attend the parade.
There will also be a fantastic opportunity to have a look around the ship and we are certain that many will take part in that.
Everyone from the dockyard to the city council, Royal Navy and the football club, have got together to make this weekend’s events really something special.
The nature of the occasion means that there will be some sadness. We are losing a valuable part of our history and the Royal Navy will undoubtedly miss the flagship of its fleet.
Yet despite the emotions, we hope that this weekend gives people the chance to see her up close to really appreciate all that she has done.
Let this be a fond farewell.