'We're like one big family': Emotional scenes as families travel from far to salute loved ones on HMS Prince of Wales

EMOTIONAL scenes greeted Britain's new aircraft carrier as it arrived in Portsmouth - with families travelling across the UK to salute their loved ones serving on-board.

Saturday, 16th November 2019, 6:34 pm
Proud dad's Gareth Wood, 44, and Darren Day, 54, watching HMS Prince of Wales arrive in Portsmouth.

Thousands of well-wishers lined the Hot Walls and the shoreline from Gunwharf Quays to Southsea as the aircraft carrier made its way into the harbour.

It was an emotional sight for Gareth Wood, who had set off at 12am from Wigan in order to see the arrival of the ship, which has his 24-year-old son serving on-board as an engineer.

The 44-year-old said: 'I got here at 5am this morning and it's been worth every second.

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Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy had travelled from Hull with her dogs Milly and Merlin to support her nephew on-board HMS Prince of Wales.

'It's a very, very proud moment.

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'He went in when he was 16-years-old and he absolutely adores it.

'We've been very impressed with how he has been looked after - they have really cared for him.'

Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy had driven from Hull to support her nephew Michael, who is serving as a project manager with BAE to help both HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth.

She said: 'I came down specially to see the Queen Elizabeth earlier in the year, and it's really exciting to see the Prince of Wales come in.

'Michael has worked so hard and everyone in the family is so proud.'

The 24-year-old became a BAE Systems STEM ambassador in 2017, after joining as an apprentice straight from school in 2011.

Speaking to The News, two years ago, he said BAE had helped him to buy his first home in Portsmouth and that he was eager to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

But his naval career meant Adrienne had to think twice about taking her husband's surname when they were married last year.

The funeral celebrant said: 'I felt I had to take a double-barrelled surname when I got married - otherwise I would be called A-Hoy all the time.'

Marie and Larry Riley came down all the way from Liverpool to see their granddaughter's third passing out ceremony on Friday - and wanted to see the new aircraft carrier so much they risked missing their coach ride home.

Marie said: 'It was a lovely day yesterday and we thought we had to see the carrier, but we are cutting it a bit fine.

'We have an hour to see the carrier, get our luggage, and catch our coach.'

Their granddaughter Lauren McCarthy, 25, is set to become a PTI instructor at HMS Raleigh.

The ship’s arrival at its new home was also an exciting experience for those without a connection to those serving on-board, with sea cadets Isabelle, 14, and Catherine, 13, travelling with their parents from Oxford to show their support. 

Isabelle said: ‘We were here on Thursday for a tour of HMS Smiter, but it couldn’t leave port because of the fog. 

‘When we heard the aircraft carrier would be here, we got up at 8am to be here on time.’ 

But it was the support of loved ones in the crowds that helped cement the feeling of the Royal Navy being 'one big family,' according to teacher Darren Day, who came to support his son Seth, serving on-board as a chef.

The 54-year-old said: 'He was born to be in the navy.

‘He wanted to see the world – and he loves cooking.’

Gareth added: ‘And my son loves eating it.’

Seth is one of 67 kitchen staff keeping more than 800 crew members and troops well-fed as they serve on the ship. 

HMS Prince of Wales passed Old Portsmouth at 2pm, with a fly-pass from a pair of Hawk jets. 

Proud dad Gareth said: ‘It’s been a very special day.’