Royal Navy's 'breathtaking' new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales stuns royal family

‘BREATHTAKING’ – that was the word used by royalty to describe Britain’s newest £3.1bn aircraft carrier as it was welcomed into the Royal Navy.

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 6:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 8:18 pm
The Prince of Wales inspecting the Guard of honour. 

Picture: Habibur Rahman
The Prince of Wales inspecting the Guard of honour. Picture: Habibur Rahman

HMS Prince of Wales officially joined the fleet during a ceremony inside her hangar, attended by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

To celebrate the commissioning of the ship, Charles has also been given a new title by the navy of Commodore-in-Chief, Aircraft Carriers.

The warship is the second of two enormous aircraft carriers, the biggest ever built for the Senior Service, to have been commissioned into the navy.

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The Guard of Honour at the ceremony to mark HMS Prince of Wales's commissioning Picture: Habibur Rahman

It was a moment the warship’s sponsor, the Duchess of Cornwall, said was the ‘beginning of an exciting new era in our long naval history’.

Addressing a crowd of about 3,000 at Portsmouth Naval Base, the duchess said the carrier joined a navy which has ‘protected this nation's shores, and its interests across the globe, for over five centuries’.

She added: ‘The sheer scale and size of HMS Prince of Wales is simply breathtaking.

‘Just to give you a comparison, Clarence House would fit nearly 25 times onto the flight deck.

Prince of Wales saluting. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘May I say how pleased I am that this great ship shares my husband's name.

‘And now, as Honorary Commodore-in-Chief, Aircraft Carriers, I am delighted that he will have an even stronger link to this ship and her sister.’

Flown into Portsmouth by helicopter, the royals were escorted onto the ship by its commanding officer, Captain Darren Houston.

Inside the pair were given a royal salute by a guard of honour made up of some of the ship’s 700-strong crew, who have been preparing for 10 weeks for the ceremony.

Duchess of Cornwall giving a speech. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Among the royal guard was Survival Equipment Technician Emily Gover, who was spending her last day on the ship after being selected for promotion.

The 21-year-old sailor said meeting the royal couple was an unforgettable moment and added: ‘It was my first time meeting any of the royal family. It was very exciting. The duchess was really friendly. I didn’t know what to say at first. But she was so lovely.’

Petty Officer Airman (aircraft handler) Mikaele Mua, 39, was introduced to the royal couple alongside his 11-year-old son, Brandon.

‘Today has been a dream come true for everyone of the ship’s company to see where the ship was nine months ago to where it is today,’ he said.

The cake that was cut to mark the entry of HMS Prince of Wales into the Royal Navy Picture: Habibur Rahman

Brandon added: ‘It felt weird meeting royalty. They seemed like such normal people. I was a little starstruck but they were really friendly.’

The carrier, which is taller than Nelson's Column and has a flight deck the size of three football pitches, will have at least 700 people serving on board and the capacity to hold around 1,600 personnel.

It will also be able to carry 36 jets and four helicopters, as well as enough food to last 45 days.

The duchess said HMS Prince of Wales, along with her sister ship. HMS Queen Elizabeth, are ‘the largest and most advanced ships ever to fly the White Ensign’.

She added: ‘We remember, with great sorrow, the loss of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and so many of her ship's company off the eastern coast of Malaya on this day in 1941.

‘Seventy-eight years on, we now stand proudly before her successor.’

The stunning cake produced to celebrate the commissioning of HMS Prince of Wales into the Royal Navy, which featured miniature models of the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The aircraft carrier is the eighth to bear the name HMS Prince of Wales. Next year she will deploy to Florida to conduct flight trials with the F-35.

It is expected that she will head on her first operational deployment a few years later, in 2023.

The Duchess of Cornwall pauses to take a selfie with visitors. Picture: Habibur Rahman
The Royal Marines Band at the ceremony. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Pictured is sailors presenting the Royal Salute during the commissioning. Photo: Dan Shepherd.
Pictured is the ship's commanding officer, Captain Darren Houston, making a speech during the commissioning. Photo: Belinda Jane Alker