HMS Queen Elizabeth is 'clear signal' of UK's 'global power', Theresa May says as ship arrives in Portsmouth

Telegraph Reporters

The UK's new £3 billion aircraft carrier is a clear signal the country will remain a fully engaged global power, Theresa May said as the ship arrived in Portsmouth.

Tens of thousands of people lined the harbour to welcome HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has berthed at its home port for the first time.

The Prime Minister hailed the ship as a symbol of the UK as a "great global maritime nation".

Speaking on board the Royal Navy's newest and biggest ship, Mrs May said: "Britain can be proud of this ship and what it represents.

"It sends a clear signal that as Britain forges a new, positive, confident role on the world stage in the years ahead we are determined to remain a fully engaged global power, working closely with our friends and allies around the world."

The 919ft (280m), 65-000 tonne vessel has been undergoing training and tests at sea after setting out from Scotland's Rosyth dockyard in June.

Those on board and watching from the shore were treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters, the first featuring a Sea King, two MK2 Merlins and two MK3 Merlins, which were then joined by two Hawk jets for the second.

A flotilla of craft follow HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sails into Portsmouth Harbour Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the head of the Royal Navy, said: "HMS Queen Elizabeth is the nation's future flagship; the embodiment of Britain in steel and spirit.

"In the years and decades to come, she and her sister ship will demonstrate the kind of nation we are - not a diminished nation, withdrawing from the world, but a confident, outward-looking and ambitious nation, with a Royal Navy to match.

"So this is truly a proud moment for Portsmouth, for the Royal Navy and for the United Kingdom. Today, we've shown the world how to welcome a Queen."

Crowds lined the seafront to great Britain's largest and newest aircraft carrier Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA
Crowds watch as HMS Queen Elizabeth comes into Portsmouth Credit: Victoria Jones/PA
HMS Queen Elizabeth crew members watch as crowds line Portsmouth Harbour Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: "Today we welcome our mighty new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to her home for the very first time.

"She is Britain's statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.

"The thousands of people across the UK who have played a part in building her and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, should be immensely proud as our future flagship enters Portsmouth."

Crew members stand on board HMS Queen Elizabeth as it arrives in Portsmouth Credit: Ian Simpson/Royal Navy/PA

Mr Fallon added: "She has made good progress in sea trials and will now embark on the next phase of preparations that will see the return of Britain's carrier strike ability.

"When she enters service she will help keep Britain safe at a time of increased threats, able to fill multiple roles from providing air power anywhere at any time to fight future campaigns, supporting allies or delivering humanitarian aid."

HMS Queen Elizabeth squeezes into Portsmouth Harbour, where - at its narrowest point - there was less than 66ft clearance on each side Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

A flotilla of craft followed the behemoth aircraft carrier as she sailed into the Solent before heading into Portsmouth, where, at its narrowest point, there was less than 66ft (20m) clearance on each side.

With boots polished and caps perfectly placed, all the ship's available company stood at the edge of the vessel as she arrived in the harbour and naval base.

Crowds line the port at Portsmouth Harbour to witness the warship's arrival Credit: Leon Neal/Getty

As eager crowds waved and welcomed her in, Commander Darren Houston could be heard saying over the tannoy to those on the shore: "Good morning, Portsmouth."

Some of the keen well-wishers had camped out over on the Round Tower, the traditional spot in Old Portsmouth to view navy ships leaving and arriving at the base, in order to get a good view.

Crew on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth as the ship arrives in Portsmouth Credit: Ray Jonesn/Royal Navy/PA

An 820ft (250m) exclusion zone, enforced by armed police in small boats, meant the port was effectively closed to the flotilla of boats which had turned out to greet the Queen Elizabeth.

A Champagne breakfast was held on board the Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond for "VIPs and "VVIPs" from the Ministry of Defence.

Those watching from the shore were treated to treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Navy officers and family members also lined the jetty in the Navy base to welcome the ship, while the band of the Royal Marines played to entertain the crowds.

Lieutenant Commander Ian Pratt, who took a moment to take a photograph of the carrier as it sailed past, said: "Absolutely fantastic.

"What a wonderful day for the Royal Navy, for Portsmouth and the whole of the country, the flagship of our nation is home. Fantastic."

A flotilla of craft follow HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sails into the Solent Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Louise Bond, 30, from Fareham, Hampshire, whose husband, Petty Officer Greg Bond, 33, is serving on board, said: "It's my first homecoming, it's brilliant, I was up at 2.30am, first in line.

"It's amazing, I wouldn't miss it for the world, it's a historic moment, once in a lifetime to see."

HMS Queen Elizabeth crew members muster on the deck ahead of the ship's arrival in Portsmouth Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

Tanya Baker, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, came with daughter Eloise, two, to meet her partner Petty Officer Craig May.

She said: "We are really proud that my partner is coming in on the Queen Elizabeth, it's been a long time since I've seen him and we are both proud to be part of the aircraft carrier."

Members of the public take pictures of HMS Queen Elizabeth as she arrives in Portsmouth Credit: Leon Neal/Getty

Lt Cdr Neil Twigg, a fast jet pilot responsible for integrating the F35 fighter jet into the carrier group, said: "We are very ready, there is still a lot more work to be done, the aircraft is still going through its testing programme in America and the ship has still some more sea trials but we are on the right track.

"The sheer size, this is the 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier, the largest the Royal Navy has ever had, she is specifically built for the F35, the only aircraft carrier in the world designed for that air system, so a pretty unique capability the UK now has."

Graphic: HMS Queen Elizabeth

Captain Jerry Kyd, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: "HMS Queen Elizabeth's first entry into her home port of Portsmouth is an historic, proud and exciting occasion, not only for those of us serving in her, but also for the wider Royal Navy, the city of Portsmouth and the entire nation.

"The UK's future flagship, as well her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, will be powerful symbols of Britain's outward-facing global character and ambition.

"The Royal Navy has a very special relationship with Portsmouth dating back half a millennium and both carriers will ensure the Navy's city remains the focal point of our great nation's maritime power for generations to come."

Captain: 'It is really special coming home'

Leading Airman Liam Forgeron, 28, from Portchester, Hampshire, is an aircraft handler on board HMS Queen Elizabeth.

He said: "Being a local lad, I am extremely proud that Portsmouth will now be the base port for the nation's future flagship.

"The historic port has a long and proud association with the Royal Navy and the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth will cement this relationship for a further 50 years. As a Royal Navy aircraft handler, serving on board this mighty vessel is a real honour, as I too get to make history in my home town."

During her estimated half a century working life, the vessel can be pressed into action for various work such as high intensity war fighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

"We have never had a ship of 65,000-tonnes before in the Royal Navy so we have had to put in a bit of investment," said Capt Kyd, who has served in the Navy for 32 years, and has been captain of HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal.

"Of course when Henry VIII built Portsmouth, it was designed for ships the size of Mary Rose so we have had to make a few little changes to make sure we can fit in and be supported there."

Preparations for the ship's arrival saw more than 3.2 million cubic metres of sediment removed from the harbour to ensure the entrance is deep enough to allow the giant ship to access the Hampshire base.

HMS Queen Elizabeth - on board the Royal Navy's new warship: in pictures

During the dredging, more than 20,000 items were removed from the sea bed including eight cannons, an aircraft engine, 36 anchors, a British torpedo, a German sea mine, five large bombs and a human skull - which was passed to local police.

The operation to prepare the harbour and base has cost £100 million and has included new jetties and a new power plant to meet the electricity needs of the ship which is set to be joined by its sister vessel the HMS Prince of Wales which is currently being built.

The warship has been undergoing training and tests at sea after setting out from Scotland's Rosyth dockyard in June, with more to take place over the coming months.

The moment warship squeezed out of dockyard

Mark Deller, Commander Air on HMS Queen Elizabeth, said the four-acre flight deck is a capability the Navy has not had before.

Speaking about the arrival in Portsmouth, he said: "It is going to be a good day, we are bringing our ship in. But what I wouldn't want to do is to sell the story that this is it, the bees knees and we are bringing our new Ferrari out of the garage.

"It is not Ferrari yet we have still got some work to do. She's not finished."

HMS Queen Elizabeth in numbers