It's important we preserve tangible links to our past

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It seems hard to believe that we have seen the Harrier jet in operational flight for the last time. But the fact is that from now on, archive film will be the only reminder of that familiar and inspiring sight.

The final departure of 16 decommissioned planes from RAF Cottesmore in Rutland yesterday was another milestone in the road map towards what our political leaders tell us will be a more efficient and pragmatic defence of our nation. There remain though many who regard these small but significant moments in time with concern, if not outright dread.

The sight of the Harriers roaring into the winter sky was of course particularly poignant in Portsmouth, where HMS Ark Royal is now alongside in sorry isolation after her emotional last homecoming to the city. The Harrier for decades intrinsically linked to the Ark, her sister carriers (including HMS Illustrious which, as we reveal today, is the latest victim of the cull) and their predecessors.

It is almost 30 years ago now since the BBC's war correspondent Brian Hanrahan so evocatively counted them out and then counted them all back again to the flight deck of HMS Hermes during the Falklands War.

The Harrier will of course be remembered not only for that, but for the sterling service that it (and its pilots and ground crew) gave to the nation.

We hope that in some way its memory can be helped to live on in some tangible way in this great naval city. Perhaps a decommissioned Harrier might one day grace our Historic Dockyard as a reminder of a time gone by.

On that note, we are pleased to report today that Portsmouth City Council plans to put on permanent display the White Ensign that flew so proudly from The Mighty Ark.

The practicalities would of course have to be confirmed but how wonderful it would be to see it flown from the Guildhall – or at least displayed for all to see on the exterior of the building – when the ship's company parades in the city for the last time next month.

As we head into what many regard as an uncertain future, it is important that we retain positive links to our recently-lost naval heritage.