‘A symbol of maritime might in the navy for the next 50 years’

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Dawn has broken on a new era in naval power – and the latest chapter in Portsmouth’s illustrious maritime history.

It comes after an uncertain few years for the navy and for the city’s naval base, which had been under threat of closure at the start of the decade.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK's newest aircraft carrier, as the ship arrives in Portsmouth Picture: POPHOT Ian Simpson/Royal Navy/PA Wire

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK's newest aircraft carrier, as the ship arrives in Portsmouth Picture: POPHOT Ian Simpson/Royal Navy/PA Wire

Manpower woes have been widely reported – and criticisms of a shrinking Senior Service have previously cast doubts on the future capability of the navy.

But the arrival of the largest and most powerful warship ever built by Britain – the first of two to call the city home – looks set to sweep these aside.

The 65,000-tonne behemoth will be a symbol of British maritime might and engineering prowess for the next 50 years.

More importantly, she and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales will be the cornerstone of UK’s own carrier strike group – something the nation hasn’t had for years.

And for Portsmouth, this means a boom in jobs and surge in city coffers to the tune of £1bn over 50 years.

City council leader Donna Jones is adamant the two new aircraft carriers will create up to 2,000 jobs in the vast network of suppliers supporting the warships.

Many of these jobs, she says, will be based in the Portsmouth area, creating a surge in spending in the city.

Ultimately, Queen Elizabeth’s arrival yesterday will be something that will live on in the memories of all those who witnessed it.

And with the eyes of the globe’s media fixed firmly on Portsmouth, the city and the navy did not disappoint.

The island – alongside communities across the water in Gosport – rallied to give the supercarrier a warm greeting.

Thousands of people lined the Portsmouth seafront, as the leviathan cruised through the city’s harbour entrance.

Visitors were treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters, the first featuring a Sea King, two MK2 Merlins and two MK3 Merlins, which were then joined by two Hawk jets for the second.

A flotilla of craft followed the behemoth as she sailed into the Solent before heading into the harbour.

With boots polished and caps perfectly placed, all the ship’s available company stood at the edge of the vessel as she arrived in the harbour and naval base.

As eager crowds waved and welcomed her in, Commander Darren Houston could be heard saying over the tannoy to those on the shore: ‘Good morning, Portsmouth.’

In response, passenger ferries blasted their horns to salute the new Queen of the seas, with locals in Old Portsmouth setting off fireworks.

Some of the keen well-wishers had camped out over on the Round Tower, the traditional spot in Old Portsmouth to view navy ships leaving and arriving at the base, in order to get a good view.

While families of the ship’s 700-strong crew gathered on the naval base to cheer home their loved ones.

Armed with banners and signs, the waved flags and clapped as the mighty new warship past Portsmouth’s famed Spinnaker Tower.

Among them was Yhamel Osborne, of Portchester.

The 41-year-old was waiting to wave in her husband Andrew, who is a Leading Hand in Queen Elizabeth’s aviation department.

She said: ‘I’m going to be 42 on Monday so this is my birthday wish come true. We have been married 16 years but he has only ever made our anniversary once because he has been away. He will make our 16th anniversary so it’s amazing. I’m so happy.’

Caroline Robinson, 50, who was waiting for her son Joshua Robinson with her husband Geoff and Joshua’s girlfriend, Heather Bisby.

She said: ‘Today has been amazing. We’re so proud of him.

‘We haven’t seen him since May and it was his 24th birthday on Sunday so we’re looking forward to celebrating that.’