Royal Navy: Families speak of pride as they wave goodbye to loved ones aboard HMS Prince of Wales

Hundreds of well-wishers, including families of those onboard HMS Prince of Wales, came from far and wide to wave off the crew as she left Portsmouth.

Thrilled families waved navy flags in high spirits as they lined the Round Tower and Hot Walls in preparation for her sailing to the North Sea after the ship’s deployment was delayed by a day. Children splayed atop the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth smiling and giggling in anticipation of the ship’s departure from the Princess Royal Jetty, waiting to say goodbye to their siblings aboard the ship. Others hailed from Andover, Bracknell, Arundel and much further afield to spectate.

HMS Prince of Wales left HMNB Portsmouth on Nato’s biggest mission since The Cold War – Exercise Steadfast Defender. She replaced HMS Queen Elizabeth after a fault to her propeller shaft coupling was discovered during pre-sailing checks. Among the crew onboard – which has a capacity of 1,600 – is mum Monika Holton’s husband Lieutenant James Holton. She waved off the second navigator aboard the £3.2bn ship in “pure excitement”.

The 31-year-old, of Hayling Island – who has two young children with James – said: “My husband is the second navigator so I’m playing the supportive wife role. I’m pretty gutted because it’s been short term, quick news. It’s a big shock to the system. We just had a baby eight weeks ago and we have a two-year-old toddler. There’s a bit of pressure but I’m also super excited. He’s got quite a big role on this and it’s a great thing for his career.

"It’s his first Nato exercise but he’s been with the ship for the past year so he’s been across the ocean for Christmas. It’s definitely the biggest one of this scale, so exciting times.” Emma Dudley, 48, spectated with her daughter Hannah to send off their son, Harry Dudley-O’Brian, 25. He is a training leading hand in weapons engineering, and is taking part in his first deployment. “It’s Harry’s first time out, so he’s been in the navy a year,” the thrilled mum from Bracknell said. “We’ve come down to wave him off and hopefully he saw us.”

“He’s really excited and has been looking forward to it since they got told they were leaving so they haven’t had long to get ready but he’s been really excited. It’s such an experience for him on his first deployment to be in something so important. He can’t wait to get out there.” One happy couple were marking their 47th wedding anniversary when they stumbled upon the momentous occasion of HMS Prince of Wales leaving Portsmouth. “We just bumped into it by accident”, laughed husband Paul Reason, from Shoreham-by-Sea. We came to The Still and West and when we’d gone back, noticed that it was moving.”

Paul’s wife, Sandra, said: “We came here because it’s our wedding anniversary and it’s where we first started married life. It was a coincidence that this was happening today.” Scores of spectators could be seen lining the walls and seafront all the way down to Southsea pier from the Round Tower, phone in hand, eager to capture the first moments of HMS POW’s departure. Onlookers told The News that people were out in force in Gosport too. Kirsten Bell from Portsmouth waved off her husband, Petty Officer David Bell, along with nine other family members.

Beaming with pride, she said: “It feels amazing. He’s been there 25 years now so we don’t know whether this will be his last trip or not. It’s incredible. He does a really good job, I’m really proud of him.” She put his lack of nerves down to a wealth of experience. “He’s quite breezy about it. I think this is about the fourth time he’s done it”, she said. “He’ll just crack on and get on with it. He’s funny, crazy and brilliant at his job.” Husband and wife Andrew and Marilyn Fulbrook travelled from Andover. Marilyn said: “We’re very excited. We’d seen it on the news that it was imminent but we just sort of jumped in the car and it was a nice day. We often come down this way so this is a bonus.”