‘WE ARE ready and we are excited for the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth.’
That’s the message today that’s been sent out by the commander of Portsmouth Naval Base, Commodore Jeremy Rigby.
It comes as a countdown begins on the much-anticipated homecoming of 65,000-tonne floating fortress to Portsmouth.
The mighty new aircraft carrier has been given a window between Thursday and next Monday for the historic moment to happen.
The News understands that preparations are being made for an arrival on Friday – but this is not fixed in stone as poor weather could postpone the homecoming until later on in the window.
Cdre Rigby, who has been overseeing a major £100m overhaul of the city’s naval base ahead of the arrival, said his team is ready to go.
‘There’s a palpable sense of excitement around the naval base,’ he said. ‘It started when we first heard the ship was going to be based here.
‘Portsmouth Naval Base knows it’s got a future until the end of the century as a hub for maritime skills and job security, the supply chain in the area – everybody now knows that they’ve got a part to play.
‘Just thinking that we’re going to be the launch pad for the Royal Navy, travelling around the world for UK security and influence for the next 50 years, is a great feeling.’
Yesterday the aircraft carrier was sailing past Northern Ireland towards Portsmouth.
To get ready for the major milestone of her arrival, the naval base has undergone one of the most extensive refits in almost a century.
Cdre Rigby added: ‘I don’t think there’s one part of the naval base that hasn’t been touched by it, from the accommodation, getting the jetties ready, sorting out the navigation, the guys trying to work out the skills set that they’re going to need, getting the workshops up and running – fixing all the roads.
‘You can’t see one part of the naval base that hasn’t had to lift its game and I think we will all be feeling quite an emotional moment when the ship comes alongside.’