Tributes as HMS Ark Royal is decommissioned

Sailors at the decommissioning ceremony today
Sailors at the decommissioning ceremony today
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The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal has been decommissioned at a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base.

The emotional service saw 150 sailors bid farewell to the ship on the flight deck in front of 900 guests and dignitaries .

The guest of honour was First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, who inspected a guard of Ark’s sailors before giving a speech at a private ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base later this afternoon.

The service was conducted by the ship’s chaplain, the Reverend Martin Evans, with music from the Portsmouth’s Royal Marines Band.

Captain Jerry Kyd, the last Commanding Officer of HMS Ark Royal was also there.

He said: ‘Ark Royal has played a very important role throughout her history and has had considerable success in delivering carrier strike.

‘For me, personally, I have been exceptionally proud to serve as her captain - my very first job after finishing my initial officer training 25 years ago at Dartmouth was in the then brand new HMS Ark Royal.

‘It is therefore a great honour for me to have been her last captain.’

Capt Kyd, who now commands sister ship HMS Illustrious, added: ‘I am only too aware that this famous ship and her iconic name mean a great deal to many people.

‘Although Ark Royal will be decommissioned, the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are vastly more capable and will provide the Royal Navy with an exciting future.’

Operations have included leading the UK’s naval forces during the invasion of Iraq, with a fleet of helicopters embarked.

The current ship is the fifth vessel to carry the name and has clocked up 621,551 nautical miles during its career.

The first Ark Royal saw battle in 1588 against the Spanish Armada.

The current Ark Royal was built at the Swan Hunter ship yard in Wallsend, North Tyneside, in December 1978 and launched by the Queen Mother.

She also accepted it into service in July 1985 and it was commissioned in November of that year.