Earlier this month I became aware that HMS Queen Elizabeth was due to sail from Portsmouth Harbour after a short provisioning visit.
The Queen Elizabeth class is a class of two aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy. The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was commissioned on 7 December 2017. The second, HMS Prince of Wales was commissioned on 10 December 2019.
My wife and I took a wander along Southsea sea front to take a look. As we had been in Australia for the previous seven months and had only just recently returned, this was our first opportunity to view this huge vessel.
We found a seat right by Southsea Castle, providing us with the ideal viewpoint to watch HMS Queen Elizabeth and her escorts head out into the Solent.
Here are just a few of the photos that I took on a lovely, sunny afternoon.
The News has recently published an interesting, if short, article reporting on days gone by. On the passing of the prison hulks that used to lie out in Portsmouth Harbour. Similar to HMS Victory these were ships that had seen better days. Ships such as HMS Briton, HMS Defense, HMS Leviathan, HMS Racoon and HMS Stirling Castle served as hulks until around 1850 when the practice of prison hulk usage stopped. Those prisoners being held on hulks in Portsmouth Harbour were moved to a prison within the walls of Portsmouth Dockyard.
It seems that prisoners held in the dockyard prison were once used for “public works”. The news mentions that when this practice ceased the prison was closed.
A prison was built within the dockyard walls in the north-eastern corner. By 1895 the convicts were no longer used for public works and in 1896 the prison, capable of holding 1,500 men, was closed for good.
It’s a shame that our governments haven’t seen fit to reinstate the practice of using prison inmates for carrying our public works as referenced here.
We, the tax payer, are already paying for their clothing, accommodation, entertainment, healthcare and three square meals a day. It seems only fair that prison inmates repay their debt to society by doing some work.
The namby pamby do-gooders in our society will say that they are being punished by having their liberty taken away. That may well be true. We keep hearing that prisoners don’t like their conditions, that some of them spend most of their time in a cell. Well here is a way to get them out and have them doing something for society. I’m not talking about hard labour, breaking up rocks or such like. We have a workforce locked up twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We should use them. Set them to work getting rid of graffiti, clearing out silted up canals, picking up rubbish on our beaches. How about all these potholes in our roads, created by the last severe winter and, more recently, flooding. The local councils say they are overwhelmed and don’t have the money.
Well here is the workforce, provide the tools and materials and set them to work.
Earlier today I was one of the many,waiting for HMS Diamond to kick off the Jubilee weekend. I joined the crowds all along the “hot walls” although I was stood on the beach. They may be called the “hot walls” but the weather had other ideas, being rather overcast. Nevertheless, there were quite a few folks down to watch and listen to HMS Diamond give and receive the salute. Meridian TV had their cameras on the Round Tower and Sky TV had their helicopter hovering over the harbour entrance. At some point I could hear bagpipes but never once did I see the source.
At this time Diamond was stationary, way over towards the Isle of Wight, while ferries and yachts hustled in and out of the harbour before all shipping movements were stopped. These two patrol craft came out to meet and escort Diamond in.
A number of tugs came out of the harbour, moved along parallel to the shore before turning about and coming to rest just off shore from where I was standing. These modern tugs can virtually turn on the spot and for a few minutes they pirouetted, performing a maritime ballet.
Eventually, the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. HMS Diamond made her way towards the harbour. The two patrol craft providing an escort. Two of the tugs also lined up, ready to salute HMS Diamond who had started her salute. In this photo you can just see the smoke created as she fired a broadside. I was rather hoping she was going to fire the 4.5″ gun on the bows but you can’t have everything.
Diamonds salute was answered by several shots fired by the folks at HMS Dolphin (Fort Blockhouse). That gun makes one hell of a bang and you can feel the shock wave as it hits you on its way across the water then again as it bounces off the “hot walls”. Once again the only visible indication is the smoke created by the firing.
As Diamond closed on the harbour entrance the tugs provided a salute of their own by creating water cascades.
As she was entering the narrows between the Round Tower and HMS Dolphin, a flight of helicopters in “diamond” formation overflew HMS Diamond along with an RAF Typhoon.
And finally the crew of HMS Diamond gave a rousing cheer easily heard by the watching crowds.
The end of the spectacle but a fitting start to the Queens Jubilee weekend.