MEET F-35 and Lightning – two ‘carrier’ pigeons rescued by the crew of Britain’s biggest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The pair were found in a secret nest on board the vast aircraft carrier as she sailed for the USA, looked after by crew and flown ashore safely to be handed over to the RSPCA.
The chicks were discovered – with no sign of their mother– shortly after the ship left Portsmouth on Saturday.
The fluffy duo, estimated to be about 10 days old, were found huddled together by a sailor who heard tweeting coming from a remote ledge high up on one of the ship’s boat decks.
A careful rescue plan was put in place and the chicks were brought into the warmth by sailors from the ship’s seamanship department.
The hungry chicks were fed a mix of porridge and warm water by the ship’s medical centre, who used a syringe to feed the little birds.
Sailors watched on proudly as the stowaways flew for the very first time – albeit hitching a ride in a Royal Navy Merlin Mk4 helicopter, from 845 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton.
The squadron embarked in the ship today to take part in ‘Westlant 18’, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic where she will embark F-35B Lightning fighter jets for the very first time for trials.
The chicks, christened ‘F-35’ and ‘Lightning’ by crew, were flown by a helicopter heading back to RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, then handed over to the RSPCA at its rescue centre in West Hatch near Taunton.
‘While our focus for the deployment is getting the new jets on board for the first time, we are also prepared to conduct humanitarian relief, should we be called upon to do so – we just didn’t think that would be quite so soon,” said Queen Elizabeth’s Lieutenant Commander Lindsey Waudby.
The 65,000-tonne warship is due to arrive in America next month.
She will spend 11 weeks at sea testing the new stealth jets.
The £3.1bn warship and her crew will return to the UK before Christmas.