Princess Anne sees warship refit

Princess Anne during her visit. Picture: LA(Phot) Stephen Johncock
Princess Anne during her visit. Picture: LA(Phot) Stephen Johncock
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PRINCESS Anne made the deep descent to the bottom of a newly-refurbished dock to see the first Royal Navy warship to be refitted there.

The Princess Royal was in the city yesterday in her role as Commodore-in-Chief Portsmouth.

The first port of call was a huge dry dock, where she climbed down 50 giant steps to see beneath HMS Westminster.

The Type 23 frigate is in the middle of a 20-month upgrade being carried out by BAE Systems.

After the lengthy climb back to the top of the dock, Princess Anne went on board to see the work being done on the flight deck, bridge, galley, control centre and 4.5-inch general purpose gun.

Lieutenant Commander Tim Ciaravella, the ship’s senior naval officer, said: ‘The visit by the Princess Royal provided a wonderful opportunity for members of the ship’s company to meet her and talk about the different challenges of working on a ship in upkeep rather than at sea.

‘With the ship in dry dock it was also a great opportunity to take a tour of the dock bottom and see the huge amount of work being undertaken.

‘Once completed it will return HMS Westminster to the fleet in a much-improved state.’

The £6m refurbishment of 15 Dock is part of the relocation of activities within the base to free up space for the imminent arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

After leaving the naval base, the princess headed to nearby Horsea Island, where one of the navy’s fleet diving squadrons is based.

After watching several demonstrations by the divers there, she was given a flavour of the wide-ranging role of the squadron from bomb disposal and maritime counter-terrorism to shallow water diving and harbour clearance.

Commander Chris O’Flaherty, the squadron’s commanding officer, said: ‘Welcoming her Royal Highness was a wonderful honour for the squadron.

‘Having responded to 436 bomb disposal call-outs last year, as well as completing over 150 operational diving tasks around the world during 2014, our divers and support staff have been delighted to have this opportunity to show their off their skills and readiness for future diving missions.’

Acting Leading Diver Ash Mansell, 26, from Fareham, was one of the divers who met the princess.

He said: ‘It was great getting to meet Her Royal Highness and show what the squadron does and the wide variety of skills the units have.’