ARK ROYAL in Loch Long (Photo courtesy of Clyde1 News)
ARK ROYAL : Final Voyage From The Clyde
The end of an era as a name sails into history books?...
It's a name that has always been with is it seems, but soon, it may become history, perhaps part of the past for ever.
The Royal Navy's last ship to bear the legendary name ARK ROYAL, left the Clyde yesterday (17th November) on her last voyage before decommissioning. Under a leaden, gloomy sky, in miserable weather, the day and the purpose seemed well suited.
After disposing of most of her armaments at the rain-sodden jetty on Loch Long, her flight decks bare, she was manoeuvred by a gaggle of tugs, civilian and admiralty, to face down the majestic loch and then begin her voyage to Tyneside, her place of birth.
Thereafter it's Portsmouth and the sad process of mothballing a once proud ship, with an equally proud crew leaving her for the very last time.
Her build to commission took from 1978 to 1985, launched by the late Queen Mother on 20th June 1981 at Swan Hunter's in Wallsend.
She is one of three Invincible class aircraft carriers, the others being INVINCIBLE and ILLUSTRIOUS. INVINCIBLE was withdrawn from service and mothballed in 2005, the intention being for five years. Reports suggest she was struck off the reserve fleet list this year, so this leaves only ILLUSTRIOUS out of the three to remain in service.
She is currently undergoing a £40m refit at Rosyth in Scotland so she seems set to continue for some years, at least until the new aircraft carriers, currently under construction at various sites around the UK, come on stream.
The fate of ARK ROYAL is unclear, she could be scrapped, sold or kept in mothballs. Perhaps external influences may yet decide if she survives under the White Ensign.