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What does the HMS Queen Elizabeth mean for Portsmouth’s Naval history?

7th August 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the most powerful warship ever built for Britain's famous Royal Navy Fleet, is set to sail into its new home of Portsmouth for the first time between the 17th and the 22nd August, not far from our Grayling regional office along the South coast.

Portsmouth has a proud Naval history dating back to 1212, having constructed and launched a number of Britain’s most well-known ships including the Mary Rose, HMS Invincible and the Dreadnought Battleships. Shipbuilding continued in the town until 2013, when production finally ceased following a steady decline for the need of Naval ships since the world wars. The closure of the city's shipyard had brought the 800-year narrative of power and pageantry to an end, but HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival has opened a new chapter for the city’s Naval history.

Preparations for the arrival of the £3billion aircraft vessel have been well under way since September 2015, including extensive dredging to deepen and widen the four-mile channel to allow the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier to dock. The dredging saw more than 20,000 items including a human skull thought to date back to the Napoleonic Wars, eight cannons, an aircraft engine and 36 anchors unearthed from Portsmouth’s Harbour. A number of sea mines and bombs were also discovered on the sea bed, which have since been towed out to sea and detonated by the Royal Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. In total over 3.2m cubic meters of sediment - the equivalent to 1,280 Olympic swimming pools – was removed during the operation.

The warship is the first true aircraft carrier in Royal Navy service for almost a decade and is packed with automation and semi-automation technology, meaning her crew is less than half the size of a US aircraft carrier. The manpower demands on the already overstretched Royal Navy have caused some observers to question whether she is really worth it, but then her arrival to such an iconic historic Navy location has generated a wide amount of excitement by residents across the South coast and beyond.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth will put Portsmouth firmly on the map and with her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales will make Britain a world player able to match the capabilities of the larger fleet of US warships. She will be the Royal Navy's flagship for the next 50 years, keeping the UK safe by deploying across the seven seas and using her impressive strike power to deter enemies, an impressive new claim to fame for Portsmouth to add to its already iconic Naval history.

Rebecca Bradley

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