THE aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has set sail from Portsmouth, providing an emotional sight for many in the crowds waving goodbye to the Royal Navy's largest warship.
The 65,000-tonne carrier left Portsmouth Harbour, setting sail for the east coast of America, where she will take part in operational tests involving the UK’s F-35B Lightning fighter jets for the first time.
At the Southsea Castle, well-wishers Kate and Adam Wharton, along with their four-year old daughter Evie, came down to wave off their neighbour, Lieutenant Commander Peter Birch.
Southsea resident Adam said: 'We're very proud of our Royal Navy and Peter, and it makes us proud to be a Portsmouth family.
'It's been an impressive sight watching the ship leave.'
Lieutenant Birch will be missed by his wife and two young daughters, Adam said.
He added: 'Everyone on board has to do their bit, and we all wish for their safe return.'
For Jane Welfare, on holiday with her two children and her sister from Eastbourne, the sight of the ship brought back memories of her watching ships return to Plymouth after the Falklands War.
She said: 'Today has been totally different - when the ships came in to Plymouth they were full of holes, and there were all the families waving flags along the harbour.'
The Royal Navy is often ‘taken for granted,’ according to Debbie, a former secretary in the Royal Aircraft Establishment, who came down from Farnborough to watch the ship leave.
The sixty-two year old said: ‘When the USS George HW Bush came in, hundreds and hundreds of people came down - there's not so many people here.
‘We used to have one of the best navies in the world.
‘The government does not do enough to help our navy or our veterans.’
The HMS Queen Elizabeth will conducting tests with seven British F-35B jets during the operation, which is called Westlant 19.
The ship and its 800 strong company are due to return to Portsmouth before Christmas.