IT was an emotional afternoon for naval families today, as they said their goodbyes to loved ones setting sail on board HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The Royal Navy’s 65,000-tonne carrier left Portsmouth Harbour just after 12.30pm today ahead of another round of sea trials.
The £3.1bn carrier is due to return to Portsmouth in five weeks’ time before a second phase of flight tests with the F-35B jets.
At the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth, families gathered to say their goodbyes.
Well-wisher Louise Fullwood, 34, watched with her children 11-year-old Sophie Campbell and Thomas, seven, as her partner Neil Campbell left Portsmouth.
She said: ‘It’s the first time Neil has been away on the carrier and the first time he’s been away in six years.
‘He only joined the ship’s company two weeks ago.
‘We all went to Chessington the weekend before last and just filled the family days before he went away.
‘All of us are going to miss him – I think the first week will be okay but it will feel longer and longer towards the end.’
Neil’s daughter Sophie said: ‘I’m going to really miss him – but I’m going on a school residential so he’ll be home when I get back from that.’
Lottie Harland, 22 from Old Marston, Oxford, waved goodbye to her boyfriend, who was also sailing on the carrier for the first time.
She said: ‘My boyfriend is a Trail Officer on the ship, he's off for a week and it’s the first time he's gone away on the ship while we've been together.
‘I thought I would come down and wave him off.’
Linda White and her son Marcus were also at the top of the Round Tower.
She said: ‘His cousin is on the ship so we regularly come to see him off and always bring a Union Jack with us.
‘He joined the navy when he was 17 and is 22 now, he loves his job.’
Navy supporter Carl Davaes, 52, from Leeds, said his family has a strong connection to the service.
‘My sons are in the navy, serving on HMS Duncan and HMS Daring,’ he said.
‘I’ve seen the destroyers leaving but never the QE carrier, so that’s quite special to watch.’