First Sea Lord champions Portsmouth as HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves for her maiden mission
THE head of the Royal Navy has championed the people of Portsmouth for their unstinting support and said the deployment of the UK’s new carrier strike group was a ‘superb moment’ for the city.
Admiral Tony Radakin lavished praise on the island ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden mission to the Far East last night.
‘This is a superb moment for Portsmouth ’ the First Sea Lord told The News. ‘I was fortunate enough a few years ago to be the naval base commander where the big worry was building the jetty, ready for these brilliant ships.
‘I remember observing then, that when you put both aircraft carriers in, we start to get back to the enormous tonnage that Portsmouth last saw in the 1950s.
‘What that actually means is jobs, money for the local economy and supports the whole fabric of Portsmouth and I’m delighted with the help that we have had from all of the Portsmouth community to get us this far and I know the whole of Portsmouth will be supporting this deployment as it goes on its way heading east.’
HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail from Portsmouth at 9.30pm on Saturday to begin her 28-week deployment to the Far East.
Crowds gathered across the city’s coastline and over the harbour in Gosport to witness the historic deployment.
Commodore Jeremy Bailey, commander of Portsmouth Naval Base, said the deployment of the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier was a massive moment for both the navy and the city.
He said: ‘This is a really proud moment for Portsmouth and should be a really proud moment for the nation.
‘This is the culmination of a remarkable journey for the naval base – not just building the physical infrastructure but building the team, with the people, processes and capacity to be able to do things like we’re doing today.’
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, head of the UK carrier strike group, said the milestone deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth from Portsmouth would signal a new era in British maritime might.
He added the carrier was ‘ready for anything’ from high-end operations, to disaster relief, humanitarian missions and diplomatic trade missions.
‘This is the most potent force we have deployed in a long time,’ he said. ‘It’s my responsibility and the group’s to test it and put it through its paces.
‘My first ever deployment as a young Lieutenant was in a group of a similar size in 1997 for a handover in Hong Kong.
‘So this is now the navy full circle, back on the global stage and really ready to demonstrate. It’s been 20 years in the making and so it’s absolutely wonderful to be on the start line and be part of it.’
More than 3,700 military personnel will be involved in the deployment, including 1,700 people on HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Among those on the aircraft carrier is Waterlooville lad Able Seaman Bart Pirie. The 23-year-old is on his first operational deployment, having joined the ship in July, and is working in the stores department.
‘I’m really looking forward to this deployment, it’s going to be one hell of an experience,’ he said before the ship left Portsmouth Naval Base.
‘This trip has been in the making for a long time now so everyone is really buzzing to go. We just want to crack on, get to see some amazing countries and have a really good time.
‘This is an immense moment for me. Having grown up in the city being able to stand on the flight deck and watch Portsmouth as we leave is quite a special moment. It’s amazing.’