Skip to comments.Might HMS Ark Royal's final farewell (British carrier)
Posted on 11/21/2010 6:42:36 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
Might HMS Ark Royal's final farewell
Nov 21 2010 by Rob Pattinson, Sunday Sun
THE outline of the iconic Harrier jump jet casts a striking image as the winter sun sets on the horizon.
Its like a scene from 80s blockbuster Top Gun as workers tinker around the small GR9, ensuring its secured firmly to the deck in the fading light of this cold November afternoon.
Its 3pm on Friday and Im standing on the deck of the HMS Ark Royal, the Wallsend-built Royal Navy flagship less than an hour after it docked on Tyneside for the very last time in its 25-year career.
Alongside Northumbria Quay, North Shields, hundreds of people are gazing up at the 22,000-tonne ship, many brandishing cameras, snapping away for the last time at the vessel some of them will have had a hand in building at Swan Hunter back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Built at a cost of £320million and delivered four months early, she entered service on July 1, 1985, and was commissioned in the presence of the Queen Mother four months later.
Affectionately dubbed The Mighty Ark, this is the fifth ship to bear the name of the famous HMS Ark Royal which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, and she played an integral role in the Bosnian War in 1993, and the invasion of Iraq a decade later.
But in this, her Silver Jubilee year, it will all end.
HMS Ark Royal will soon be taken out of service as part of the Government defence cuts announced last month.
Im one of a lucky few journalists invited onboard as the crew prepare for a busy five days docked here, just a couple of miles up-river from where the first steel was cut back in 1978.
Public openings, corporate receptions and a number of tours are planned before the ship sets sail and leaves the Tyne for the final time on Tuesday, and already the deck is a hive of activity.
Aircraft Engineering Technicians (AETs) are hard at work securing four Harriers which share the huge deck with two Sea King helicopters, while more hands are working on a Merlin helicopter in the hanger in the bowels of the ship.
A dozen of them are towing one of the four jump-jets up the ski-jump ramp in preparation of the thousands of visitors due on deck yesterday and today.
The Harriers arrived just a few hours earlier and the mood is tinged with sadness.
Not only is this the end of the ship, but the jets too, which have also been decommissioned. And this week the ship will cut ties for good.
After sailing down the Tyne and out towards Hamburg, the birds will fly as the GR9s leave the decks for good.
For the AETs, this is the last time they will work on these jets on these decks. Its clear in their body language as they spend longer than normal carrying out the tasks theyve done hundreds of times that this a huge moment.
One tells me that his career path had been based on wanting to work on the Harrier and admits that it will be hard saying goodbye to these and the ship in the same year, while another simply says its the best jet they ever made.
With the end of two very big eras looming this week, its no surprise that this visit to Tyneside brings mixed feelings for the crew
Im joined on deck by Petty Officer Darren Dinsdale and Lieutenant Geoff Hughes, both of Sunderland.
Petty Officer Dinsdale has sailed up the Tyne several times on Ark Royal. It brings a certain poignancy, knowing this is the last time here, he said.
You just had to look at the people lining both sides of the river as we sailed in to know how important this is to the people of Tyneside.
Lieutenant Hughes agrees that this trip is the perfect goodbye.
Once it was announced this was to be our final voyage, everyone was pleased to hear we were coming back.
We were built on the Tyne and we felt it was important to say our farewells on the Tyne.
Many thanks for your learned input..
Very interesting. Thanks for a great post.
Why make this about the UK, Britain is finished blah blah blah isnt that similar to what a german guy by the name of Hitler said. Truth is the Ark Royal was knackered, i know plenty of people who use to work on her and truth is she was falling apart and needed replacing. The harrier, that great fantastic plane was aged and few in number. Yes its regrettable that the new carriers with aircraft cant be here sooner but they will arrive, meanwhile the RN will have to do what it has always done for 500+ years make do with what it has. Unlike the USA we dont need the latest toys to win a battle because we realise sometimes the best way to win isnt to get into a fight in the first place and if we do, we pick our fights.