Rough seas halt Ark Royal’s scrapyard journey

SLOW PROGRESS Ark Royal being towed through the Straits of Gibraltar
SLOW PROGRESS Ark Royal being towed through the Straits of Gibraltar

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FOUL weather granted former flagship Ark Royal an unexpected pause in her journey to the scrapyard.

The aircraft carrier, which was axed in the government’s 2010 defence spending review, is being towed to Turkey.

She was taken through the Strait of Gibraltar last week, only to be forced back by gale-force winds and rough seas hours later.

There was speculation among hopeful fans of the much-loved carrier that the ship had been granted a last-minute reprieve from the scrapyard.

But the operations manager for the Greece-based towing company Spanopoulos Group, told the Gibraltar Chronicle it was due to bad weather in the Alboran Sea.

Mike Critchley is a former naval officer and book publisher. He told The News: ‘Weather is very critical when it comes to towing something the size of Ark Royal.

‘I’m sure it gave the people of Gibraltar one last chance to look at her.

‘There were some people in Gibraltar who wanted to buy her so I’m sure that caused some speculation.’

The 22,000-tonne ship is being towed to the Leyal shipyard near Izmir in Turkey, after being sold in a £2.9m deal. Once there she will be chopped into scrap metal.

Ark Royal’s sister ship, Invincible, has already been taken apart at the same yard.

Hundreds of people lined the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth and the waterfront in Gosport on May 20 to watch the carrier leave the city for the last time.

During her service, HMS Ark Royal was deployed to the Adriatic during the Bosnian war and was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After she returned home in 2010, the ship’s company marched through Portsmouth one last time.

The following year, thousands of people queued up one weekend for the last chance to see her.