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.
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.
The continuing saga of the shall we / shan’t we defense plan.
Apparently this is the plane that the Labour government had ordered but was rejected by the current government. Now, it appears, they have changed their minds on discovering the mind-boggling costs of installing a catapult system to our new carriers.
Personally, I think I would be doing some serious auditing of the costs being put forward here.
A whole carrier can be built for £5.2bn but just one catapult system fitted to one ship will cost £1.8bn !!!
I believe that the shilly-shallying of successive governments has brought the defence of this once great nation to its knees. Yet the government is still committing the support of our forces without the relevent infrastructure being in place.
This is akin to writing cheques on an empty account.
Defence of the nation, protection of the oppressed is not cheap. Face up to it and get on with the job.
Or else, let’s forget about colonialism, worldwide policing, protection of the oppressed and let’s declare ourselves neutral and rely on other nations to protect us.
Due to mismanagement by both the previous and current governments, we have witnessed the systematic reduction of our military to a second-rate force on the world stage.
Now they, our current government, are demonstrating that they are hell-bent on delivering second-rate aircraft to the Royal Navy. These aircraft are to be used on the yet to be completed aircraft carriers.
Defence secretary Philip Hammond is expected to announce the UK will revert back to the jump-jet F-35B version of the US-built F-35 planes as opposed to the carrier variant F-35C which was the preferred option in the 2010 defence review.
In 2010, the government said Labour’s original choice of the F-35Bs was an ‘error’ it was ‘determined’ to rectify.
But it now appears the navy will have the shorter-range and less capable aircraft after all.
Why did our government not pay heed to their advisors that were clamoring to keep our carriers at sea using the Harriers as a stop-gap until we actually had a working fleet ?