Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier leaves with crowds waving off ‘the pride of Portsmouth’
HUNDREDS of people lined the shore in Old Portsmouth as HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth Harbour this afternoon.
The aircraft carrier is expected to head to the North Sea for her final test before being declared fully fit for operations next year.
Among the crowds gathered to watch her departure were three friends all with partners among the warship’s 1,700 strong crew.
Sailing was delayed on Friday due to wind, having previously been delayed due to Covid-19 infections in the crew.
Shannon Davis, alongside her friends Bethany White and Shannon Carroll, said the group were ‘very proud’ to have boyfriends serving in the Royal Navy.
Shannon, from Havant, said: ‘I went onboard last year and it was much bigger than I imagined.
‘Before me and my partner started seeing each other I didn’t really know that much about it.
‘I think a lot of people in the city don’t know a lot about what they do on board.
‘But it’s good to see so many people come out.’
The 65,000-tonne carrier moving through the harbour is a ‘once in a lifetime sight’ for many people - but one Portsmouth residents have had the privilege of enjoying several times, according to Milton resident Colin Webb.
The 72-year-old said: ‘It’s a spectacular sight. It makes you feel free lucky to live here.
‘It’s the pride of Portsmouth, and it will look even better when they have the F-35s on there.’
Later this year, HMS Elizabeth is due to join an international task group and be outfitted with the cutting-edge F-35B stealth fighter jet.
About a dozen British and American jets will join the carrier at sea in the largest number of the hi-tech warplanes ever to operate from the vessel.
They will perform in a series of increasingly complex and demanding drills at sea alongside ships from the Dutch and American navies.
The aircraft carrier has left the city after her departure was delayed twice last week.
Hayling Island resident Anne Collins had come down on both occasions only to be disappointed - but said it was worth a third trip for the ‘stunning’ view.
The 61-year-old, speaking from the Round Tower, said: ‘It’s spectacular - it’s a great view where.’
HMS Queen Elizabeth is now due to remain at sea for several weeks.
Quizzed about the Covid-19 infections onboard by Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan in a written question, defence minister James Heappey last week said: ‘Extensive Covid-19 quarantine and testing procedures were developed and successfully employed, prior to sailing in UK waters, and these continue to be refined.
‘Although there was a two-day delay for HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing, extant measures have proven our ability to detect, contain and manage Covid-19 ahead of bringing the Strike Group together.
‘We remain on track, ensuring our ability to deliver training exercises, declare Initial Operating Capability (Carrier Strike) and conduct the first operational deployment in 2021, all as scheduled.’
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