HMS Ark Royal Returns Home After Final Voyage


The music was corny: a Royal Marines band was belting out a version of the Rod Stewart hit Sailing as HMS Ark Royal emerged from the freezing fog to tie up at her home port for the final time.

But the emotion was genuine enough. From the quarter deck to the frozen quayside, tough sailors gulped back tears at the end of a chapter in Britain's proud naval history.

After a quarter of a century of service around the globe, the aircraft carrier is being decommissioned as part of the defence review. The former flagship's future remains unclear. There has been talk that she could be turned into a museum, but that may be too expensive. It is more likely that she will be sold off or simply scrapped for parts.

""It's very emotional,"" said Leading Seaman Paul Stockell, one of those who had tears in his eyes — and not just because of the biting wind –as he helped bring the ship alongside in Portsmouth today.

Stockell has lived on board Ark Royal for four and a half years. ""She's home from home to me. It was a shock when we heard she was to be decommissioned. She's the most famous ship in the world. I've been all over and everyone knows the Ark Royal.""

For many, joining the crew of Ark Royal has been a career goal. Chief Petty Officer Joseph Todd, the ship's chief medical assistant, said he had long aimed to serve on board the flagship: ""She's been a talisman in the navy for a long time. Ark Royal is a name that resonates. She's in a class of her own — she's a proud ship and everyone who serves on her tries to live up to her name.""