COMMENT: Reaction should make us proud to be British

Over the years there have been many homecomings to Portsmouth - but surely never one like this.

Thursday, 26th March 2020, 12:00 am

As the mighty aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales returned to the naval base yesterday, there was hardly a soul present to mark the occasion.

Normally, the Round Tower would be packed with people keen to see the 65,000-tonne leviathan dwarf the buildings in Old Portsmouth as she made her way through the harbour entrance following her return from Liverpool.

But then these are not normal times.

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The carrier's low-key arrival must have been very strange for the 700-strong crew, who are used to crowds waving and cheering them back to the historic home of the Royal Navy. This time it was surreally quiet.

The very different nature of this occasion underlines how much our lives have changed in the past few days. No gatherings in public, shops closed, pubs and restaurants shut and cinemas and theatres silent.

Under the government's measures introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus, we're only allowed outside to go to the shops for essential provisions, or for some much-needed exercise and to walk the dog.

Just like sailors away at sea, we're separated from loved ones as we stay indoors and rely on our phones and computers to keep in contact.

But although this is new territory for many of us and there have been challenges along the way, it's been heartwarming to see how people and businesses have rallied round to get us through lockdown and how it has brought together families whose lives are normally so busy that they rarely eat together or have much time to chat.

It's a well-worn cliche, but as a nation we really have shown that Dunkirk spirit to get us through - from so many acts of kindness across our communities to the hilarious videos we share on Facebook and Twitter.

Just like the sight of HMS Prince of Wales easing towards the mouth of the harbour, it makes you proud to be British.