Can it really be 13 years since thousands of people turned out to welcome HMS Ark Royal back to Portsmouth at the end of the second Gulf War?
That was in May 2003 and, of course, she was to make her final, poignant entrance into Portsmouth Harbour seven years later in December 2010 when her service controversially ended.
More than 850 servicemen and women, the combined ships’ companies of Ark Royal and her escort the Type 42 destroyer HMS York, returned home on that wet and windy day – the first surface warships to return to the UK from Iraq.
Ark Royal’s commanding officer, Captain Alan Massey, said: ‘It was a tough job and I am immensely proud that my crew pulled it off. I do not think the public understand what the navy has achieved.’
Ark Royal sailed from Portsmouth on January 11, 2003, leading Britain’s largest maritime task force since the 1982 Falklands War.