The Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier left the city to carry out routine training and exercises at sea.
This is her first departure since her global operational deployment to the Indo-Pacific and back.
In Old Portsmouth, well-wishers braced against the cold wind as they lined the hot walls and crowded the top of the Round Tower to cheer the £3.1bn behemoth goodbye.
The nation’s flagship has been alongside since December for essential maintenance following her seven-month mission, but now returns to sea to carry out vital training and exercises to keep her ready for operations.
HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from the Princess Royal Jetty at Portsmouth Naval Base, setting sail just after 4pm.
The 65,000-tonne leviathan’s departure comes just days after her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales left to lead a Nato task force on an exercise near Norway.
Captain Ian Feasey Royal Navy, commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: ‘We return to sea today as the United Kingdom’s Very High Readiness Strike Carrier for routine operational activity and training.
‘The hard work of both my ship’s company and our supporting industrial partners has improved the condition of the Fleet Flagship.’
The aircraft will return to Glen Mallen on the Clyde in Scotland for a routine logistics visit and also hopes to visit Liverpool on her return leg to Portsmouth at the end of the month.
During this short stint at sea, training will focus on individual, team and whole ship exercises as well as working with commando-carrying Merlin helicopters from RNAS Yeovilton-based 846 Naval Air Squadron.
The ship will be conducting further exercises and training later in the year as the carrier is kept at very high readiness to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.
Sister ship HMS Prince of Wales also recently left Portsmouth for the Arctic, where she will lead a task force in her role as NATO command ship on Exercise Cold Response, the large-scale Norwegian-led exercises which will see 35,000 troops from 28 nations operate together in one of the harshest environments known to man.
On a landmark seven-month mission last year – the most significant peacetime deployment by the Royal Navy in a generation – Queen Elizabeth and her task group of eight supporting ships, a submarine, five air squadrons and more than 3,700 personnel visited more than 40 countries.
Her F-35B stealth jets flew more than 4,000 hours – more than 23 weeks in the skies – while the ship worked with allied and partner nations forging new ties, renewing old friendships and flying the flag for Britain.