THESE schoolchildren will never forget the day they swapped their classroom for the decks of a Royal Navy frigate.
Youngsters from Funtington Primary School in West Sussex were lucky enough to be invited on board HMS Lancaster in Portsmouth before she sailed on a nine-month deployment.
They were given a tour of the ship, including the bridge, operations room and upper decks. The youngsters took turns to sit in the captain’s chair and asked questions about life in the Royal Navy.
And to complete their HMS Lancaster-themed day, they travelled to the base in a bus bearing the same name as the ship.
Commander Peter Laughton, the commanding officer of HMS Lancaster welcomed the pupils on board, including his daughter Jessica.
He said: ‘It really was great fun to host some of the children from Funtington Primary on board for a ship’s tour.
‘They all had a superb time and will no doubt follow our deployment with even greater interest over the next nine months.
‘This school trip was sponsored by First Bus, which provided the HMS Lancaster bus to transport the children to and from the ship.
‘This was a fabulous example of the Armed Forces Community Covenant in play with both First Bus and Funtington School supporting our armed forces and proudly promoting the maritime heritage of Portsmouth.’
The day before their visit to the ship, a navy Wildcat helicopter landed in the school grounds for pupils to see up close what the new helicopter looks like and learn how it would be joining the ship to support it on its mission.
Headteacher Sarah Titley said: ‘We are delighted the children at Funtington have been given this exciting opportunity to experience the navy Wildcat helicopter and HMS Lancaster; learning a bit about how they both work and meeting the crew.
‘These events will create long-lasting memories for the children.’
Every bus in First Bus’ Star fleet is named after a navy ship, and the company made its HMS Lancaster bus available for the pupils.
Each of the buses is painted with a silhouette of the relevant vessel and has a list of its key facts and figures on the outside.
HMS Lancaster has now set sail on a nine-month mission across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
It is a deployment of three firsts for the ship after she became the first to carry the navy’s new uniforms, the first to have an embarked Royal Marine chef and the first to carry the navy’s new Wildcat helicopter.