Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to Portsmouth with proud relatives of crew among welcoming crowds
THE aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has come into Portsmouth to re-stock before its seven month deployment, with crew members’ relatives praising the support shown by welcoming crowds.
More than a hundred people gathered in the Round Tower and along the walls around Old Portsmouth to show their support for the ship and her crew as she returned to the city at 5.45pm this afternoon.
Among the crowds were proud parents Steve and Christine McLenaghan, who were flying a St George’s Cross flag to show their admiration for their daughter, Jessica, serving onboard as an aircraft engineering technician.
Proud dad Steve said: ‘Knowing she’s onboard, I feel a mixture of pride and concern. But overwhelmingly it’s pride.
‘To live in Portsmouth and watch ships go out and watch your daughter go out on one – it’s surreal.’
Jessica’s grandfather, Gerald, served for 22 years as a welder in the army’s Royal Engineers, and was ‘thrilled’ that his daughter was on the cusp of a round-the-world deployment.
The 76-year-old said: ‘It’s a tremendous thrill that she is following in the tradition of serving in the armed services.
‘I know what a great life I had for 22 years in the army.’
But the veteran recognised the risks and sacrifices those in the services face.
He added: ‘There are concerns, of course. My grandson wanted to join the army during (the Afghanistan war) and I put him off the idea.
‘But I don’t think HMS Queen Elizabeth is putting itself in much danger, and the carrier seems well protected.’
The family said they were proud that Jessica’s twin sister, Amy, was also embarking on a career in the Royal Navy, with the 18-year-old undertaking air engineering technician training at HMS Sultan in Gosport.
Having crowds come out to show the city’s pride for the ship and its crew meant ‘a huge amount’ to families with loved ones onboard, according to Marion Jones, whose son-in-law Steven Thewlis is a chef on HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Marion said: ‘Portsmouth does a great job of supporting families in the Royal Navy.
‘We always see people out.
‘It’s a fantastic site. It’s amazing how it towers over the buildings as it comes in.’
Queen Elizabeth’s return comes after she carried out her final exercise with her carrier strike group ahead of her maiden mission.
Known as Exercise Strike Warrior, the drill involved more than 20 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft from 11 nations.
It is anticipated that Queen Elizabeth will set sail for next week to start the first leg of her 28-week mission, which will see the carrier sailing to the Mediterranean, Gulf and Indo-Pacific region.