Ark Royal open day report

Ark Royal on Victory Jetty

Today’s Portsmouth News reports that over 11,000 people visited HMS Ark Royal over the weekend, taking a lost opportunity to visit the ship before she is decomissioned. I went with my Girlfriend and Dad. We had planned to visit some of the Historic Dockyard afterwards, but in the event only had time to go round the Mary Rose Museum – after a restorative Hot Chocolate of course!

The queue snaked all the way back from Victory Jetty right back through the Historic Dockyard, and at times almost reached the Gosport Ferry at the Hard. If anyone doesn’t know Portsmouth, that is a very long way. All in all we had to queue for over an hour just to get on, then queue round the ship just to get off again.

The famous ski-jump

There wasn’t even much to look at or see. A Merlin and a Gazelle on deck (what exactly a Gazelle has got to do with Ark lord only knows), and in the hangar we had the ubiquitous displays of firefighting equipment and suchlike, like on every ship at every Navy Days ever. It’s extremely boring standing round on a ship for hours on end, even more so in January.

The end of a famous ship deserved so much better. I guess the Ark is a victim of her own popularity, it wouldn’t have been so bad if 1) it had been in the summer, and 2) it had hadn’t been so crowded. If the RN had got its planning right it would have ensured that Ark Royal was at Navy Days in Portsmouth last year, ensuring a welcome publicity coup and a much more fitting chance to say goodbye.

Hopefully with her being decomissioned soon at least the Ark Royal brownie points bandwagon will cease. In more than one place I’ve seen an article about the Ark, accompanied by a picture of the OLD Ark Royal. Have people been getting a piece of the Ark circus while they can?  We’ll see when Illustrious retires from service in 2014 (or earlier if Dave and Boy George decide) and what kind of a send-off she gets. Invincible, a Falklands veteran, left service in 2005 with barely a whimper.

Hells Bells? 😛



Filed under Dockyard, Navy, out and about, Uncategorized

26 responses to “Ark Royal open day report

  1. John Erickson

    “over 11,000 people visited HMS Ark Royal (…), taking a lost opportunity …”
    Should that not be a LAST opportunity, or is that some form of Freudian slip showing? 😉
    I am so envious of you. I would have loved to tour her, never having met a British warship before. I guess I’ll just have to be content with, what do we have now, 5 or 6 battleships as museums? :p
    Seriously, I hope you said goodbye to the lady for me. I’ll have to terrorise you for a good-quality copy of that photo of you with Ark’s bell. Yes, I now we have to progress with more modern weapons systems. It still doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.

  2. The trouble is we won’t be progresssing if our people lose their skills in how to operate aircraft from a carrier deck.

    • John Erickson

      Good point. I was trying to cover myself from the whiners who would complain about my fondness for “out of date” weapons. Of course, things tend to go out-of-date really fast when you have no proper replacement lined up.

  3. It’s always odd that a lot of people forget that it it comes down to having the right number of people with the right skills and experience – which is a more difficult issue than the equipment itself.

    • James Daly

      After what could be a gap of 6 years of more, taking into account people leaving the service, the Royal Navy will be pretty much learning from scratch. All thanks to a combination of light blue deviousness and political incompetence.

    • John Erickson

      It is so easy to fall in love with the weapon, especially if you’re a numbers guy like me. One tiny little problem – if you don’t have the people to work the weapon, you’ve got a REALLY expensive tin toy. Although I have enjoyed the 35+ years I’ve spent learning about the technology, my absolute favourite time was when I was re-enacting. It gives you great insight, as Col. Hal Moore said, into that point “where the metal meets the meat”.

      • James Daly

        I’m mindful of the assesment of Falklands weaponry I read some years ago… that there was not a great deal of difference in the weapons fielded by the Args and the Brits, but there was in the quality of the men using them.

      • John Erickson

        That shows up so many times in warfare. In 1940, the German panzers were inferior in armour AND armament to the majority of French tanks. Yet the panzers triumphed, due to superior training and discipline, as well as better tactics. (Not to mention a teeny little advantage called RADIOS! Gee, to talk to your other tanks, the French had to stand up OUTSIDE the hatch and wave flags? And to think the French lost. Hmm…)

  4. x

    I heard it had been a “good day” for visitors numbers.

    Sad. Really sad.

    • John Erickson

      X- An honest question, no insult or offence meant. Are the numbers low, or are you mourning the Ark (or both)? Those numbers are pretty good for a day at the USS Texas – not sure how the newer ships in Alabama or North Carolina draw. USS Intrepid gets a lot more, but they’ve trolloped her up with a bunch of planes a carrier could NEVER launch. (Yes, the SR-71 is one of the most beautiful birds there ever was, but on a carrier deck?) Although I would have expected higher numbers, given this is Ark’s “farewell tour”.

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