Former primary school pals reunite for the first time in almost 30 years on HMS Queen Elizabeth
TWO Royal Navy sailors have been reunited after nearly thirty years on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s global deployment.
Lieutenant Commanders Alex Harris and Jeremy Olver were classmates at Newbridge Junior School in Bath but since leaving in 1994 had not seen each other.
The pair of Portsmouth-based sailors joined the Senior Service more than 15 years ago, one as a full time officer, the other as a reservist, but this is the first time they have served together.
HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth in May for her first operational deployment, which has seen the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier lead a 10-strong flotilla through the Mediterranean for operations and exercises with Nato allies.
Earlier this month, they passed through the Suez Canal and are now heading across the Indian Ocean to east Asia, to visit South Korea and Japan.
The task of organising the programme of diplomatic visits and events falls to Alex.
She said: ‘While the main focus of carrier strike is about maritime power, HMS Queen Elizabeth offers much more. She supports not just defence and security, but diplomacy, trade and prosperity.
‘The ship is only a few years old, but is already something of an icon, attracting interest wherever she goes.’
The final few days before HMS Queen Elizabeth’s departure from her home port of Portsmouth saw back-to-back visits by military VIPs, the prime minister and the Queen.
Alex added: ‘It has to be the highlight of my career to date. It was an honour to organise the visit of the Queen, but to then have the opportunity to actually meet her was really memorable and an absolute pleasure.’
Alex joined the Royal Navy in 2008 as a warfare officer. Her early experience included serving on the frigate HMS Sutherland during the Libya crisis and serving with Nato in Portugal.
She also served in the offshore patrol vessel HMS Mersey for a period of counter narcotic and disaster relief duties in the Caribbean, before relocating to the Aegean during the migrant crisis.
Jeremy joined the Royal Navy as a reservist in 2005, and has subsequently juggled a career as a press officer and speechwriter in the civil service with four periods of operational service.
Specialising in media operations, he is able to bring the skills from his civilian job into the navy, to help coordinate visits to the strike group from journalists, as well as managing a team of photographers.
He said: ‘A few years back I spent three years as speechwriter to the head of the navy. The carriers were still being built and I must have written about them every single day, so it’s hugely fulfilling to be part of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first operational deployment and see it all become a reality.
‘Standing with journalists on the flight deck as the jets launch one-by-one is an extraordinary experience.’
Jeremy’s career has included conducting counter-piracy operations in the Somali basin from a Turkish warship as well as two deployments working alongside the Royal Marines on amphibious assault ship HMS Albion.
‘Joining the Royal Navy as a reservist is one of the best decisions I’ve made,’ he added.