The Queen today officially welcomed the UK’s new £3.1billion aircraft carrier at a ceremony to commission it into the Royal Navy fleet.
At 280 metres long and with an estimated half a century working life, the 65,000-tonne behemoth aircraft carrier is the most powerful warship ever built by the UK.
The Queen, Princess Anne and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones today attended the ceremony along with 3,700 guests in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
The Queen, wearing a purple outfit, arrived on board using a specially installed lift to bring her up to the hangar for the occasion and was shown around by the ship’s commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd.
Prime Minister Theresa May had been due to attend today but cancelled amid ongoing talks over Brexit.
Giving a speech today, the Queen said of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has been dubbed Big Lizzy: ‘A true flagship for the 21st century.
‘The most powerful and capable ship ever to raise the white ensign, she will in the years and decades ahead, represent this country’s resolve on the global stage.’
The Queen was standing next to Captain Jerry Kyd (left) and Princess Anne (right) as she welcomed Big Lizzie into the Royal Navy
The Queen (pictured walking in front of Captain Jerry Kyd) has officially welcomed the UK’s new £3.1 billion aircraft carrier at a ceremony today
The Queen (pictured) has today visited the UK’s biggest and most powerful warship before she welcomes the £3.1billion HMS Queen Elizabeth into the Royal Navy
The Queen (pictured) arrived in Portsmouth on Thursday morning to welcome HMS Queen Elizabeth into the Royal Navy
Her Majesty entered the ship’s hangar on Thursday morning and met some Royal Navy members during the famous ceremony
The 91-year-old was smiling while she was being driven to the hangar in Portsmouth, which is the home of Big Lizzie
Wearing a purple outfit, Her Majesty walked into the ship’s hangar where she was shown around the the vessel’s commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd
The aircraft cost £3.1billion to make and the Queen arrived in Portsmouth on Thursday morning to welcome to ship into the Royal Navy
The £3billion and 65,000-tone HMS Queen Elizabeth was photographed in Portsmouth on the day of her commissioning ceremony this morning
The Queen, Princess Anne and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones are expected to join the 3,700-strong guest list on Thursday
The Queen’s colour flag is paraded in the hangar of HMS Queen Elizabeth during the ship’s commissioning ceremony in Portsmout
Royal Navy ratings were photographed in the hangar of HMS Queen Elizabeth during the important commissioning ceremony
The ship’s company arrived inside Big Lizzie’s hangar ahead of the Commissioning Ceremony in Portsmouth today
Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins sang alongside the Royal Marine band on Thursday morning – just minutes before The Queen arrived
On her arrival, the national anthem was played before the Queen and Anne inspected a guard on parade.
She then received the royal salute as the white ensign was raised for the first time on the flight deck, broadcast into the hangar on large screens.
An audible sigh of relief could be heard from the ship’s company as the ensign, initially slightly entangled, opened out fully and flew freely in the wind.
The Queen said: ‘We are gathered here in Portsmouth today, just a short distance from HMS Victory, a flagship of our seafaring past and a reminder of the debt we owe to the Royal Navy, which, for more than 500 years, has protected the people of this country and our interests around the world.
HMS Queen Elizabeth becomes the UK’s largest ship
- Weight: 65,000 tons
- Length: 920 feet
- Top speed: Upwards of 25 knots
- Flight deck size: 230ft by 920ft – the equivalent of three football pitches
- Keeps 45 days worth of food onboard
- Is made up of 17 million parts
- 28 million hours have been spent designing and building the carrier
- More than a million feet of pipes inside the ship
‘Like HMS Victory, HMS Queen Elizabeth embodies the best of British technology and innovation.
‘At the forefront of these responsibilities will be the men and women of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, supported by the Army, Royal Air Force and by coalition partners.
‘As the daughter, wife and mother of naval officers, I recognise the unique demands our nation asks of you. I will always value my special link with HMS Queen Elizabeth, her ship’s company and their families.
‘As you prepare to take this country’s message of peace, partnership and prosperities across the seas and oceans of the world, the lord high admiral, the Duke of Edinburgh, joins me in wishing you well in all your endeavours.’
Cakes created for the event including a scale model of the carrier and others depicting the Queen and sailors on parade, including one fainting sailor shown fallen on his face were on show.
The ceremony was organised to commission the carrier into the fleet but the Aircraft Carrier Alliance confirmed that the Navy had formally accepted the ship on Thursday, meaning it had been fully handed over to the MoD.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also attended to witness the huge vessel being welcomed into the fleet.
He said today: ‘It is an honour to witness the crowning moment of an extraordinarily busy year for the Royal Navy that has seen us name the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, cut steel on the first Type 26 frigates and launch the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
‘Our new aircraft carrier is the epitome of British design and dexterity, at the core of our efforts to build an Armed Forces fit for the future.
‘For the next half a century both carriers will advance our interests around the globe, providing the most visible symbol of intent and commitment to protect the UK from intensifying threats, wherever they may come.’
‘We have been working, the Navy have been working, the Ministry of Defence have been working to get it ready for the last 20 years. This is a very important moment.’
Senior warfare officer, Lieutenant Commander Nick Leeson, revealed the ship’s 700-strong company had been undertaking a ‘healthy amount of activity’ to ensure the vessel was ready for the ceremony.
Lt Cdr Leeson is the officer commanding the royal guard during the ceremony and the Queen, accompanied by Captain Kyd, inspected the front rank.
Captain Kyd described the commissioning ceremony as a ‘major milestone’.
He said: ‘Building aircraft carriers is not for the fainthearted. There are very few countries who can do this around the world.
‘So we should look at our British industry, our designers, all the skills, all the production companies around the country, the shipyards from Devon through to Fife, to the Royal Navy, who have come together to make this happen.
‘We should be really proud as a country. This has been a national endeavour. It has just been fantastic – it is really a culmination of all our hard work.’
A picture shows the commissioning cake with figures and scenes on it made by David Duncan for the Commissioning Ceremony
Cakes created for the event including a scale model of the carrier and others depicting the Queen and sailors on parade were on show
Queen Elizabeth was shown around the vessel by Captain Kyd (rear right) as she officially welcomed the UK’s largest ever ship into the Royal Navy
The Queen was star next to Princess Anne during the commissioning ceremony on Thursday as she welcomed Big Lizzie into the Navy
Ship’s company gives three cheers for the new ship and Queen Elizabeth II during the commissioning ceremony today
Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Benjamin John Key, CBE RN signs the Commissioning Order certificate for HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth was pictured undergoing final preparations before the commissioning ceremony in Portsmouth
The flag ship will officially join the Royal Navy in Portsmouth in a ceremony later today which will be inspected by Queen Elizabeth
The 700 crew (pictured) had been busily preparing for its commissioning ceremony before the Queen and a VIP audience
Able Seaman Ellie Smith, left, and Able Seaman Jessica Hewes practiced raising the ensign on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of the official ceremony
This detailed graphic shows many of the different features of the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and where they are
Set to be the nation’s future flagship, the aircraft carrier can be pressed into action for various tasks such as high intensity war fighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
She will also serve as a floating military base for the F-35B stealth fighter jets that will launch from the deck of the vessel to undertake missions.
Lt Cdr Leeson added: ‘I will be in the middle of the hangar in front of the 96 man guard, and I will be reporting the guard and speaking to the Queen as she comes to inspect us.
‘It is a massive thing of personal pride for me. It will be the first time that I have met the Queen so it is a real honour and a real privilege, and it is the first time I have commissioned a ship into service as well.
‘Just to be associated with this amazing ship is a real privilege.’
This graphic illustrates the Royal Navy’s flagships and it shows that HMS Queen Elizabeth is 48,000 tonnes heavier than HMS Invincible
There were frenzied scenes in Portsmouth yesterday as preparations continued for the event taking place later today
While some crew were involved in rehearsals, others ensured the vessel was fit for a Queen and her VIP guests
The crew seemed relaxed ahead of today’s VIP commissioning ceremony on board the 65-tonne vessel in Portsmouth
Asked if the crew had been tidying up ahead of the big day, he said there had been a ‘healthy amount of activity’, stressing that everyone wanted to ‘make sure the ship looks her best on this magnificent day’.
To prepare for the ceremony, the hangar of the aircraft carrier has been cleared and seating installed, as well as screens so that those attending can witness the White Ensign being raised on the top deck.
Lt Cdr Leeson added of the ceremony: ‘It is a big deal, but we are delighted to be on show, we are delighted to be here presenting this magnificent ship to our friends, to our family and to the nation essentially.
Commodore Jerry Kyd, captain of HMS Elizabeth will accompany the Queen later today along with his Lieutenant Commander Nick Leeson who will command the royal guard
Members of the 700 crew have been preparing for today’s commissioning ceremony with a series of rehearsals
96 members of the crew will be a special guard for the Queen during the ceremony which will also be attended by the PM
‘Since we have been back in our base port of Portsmouth we have really been cracking on with the commissioning preparations, and this last week it has been our sole focus.’
He added: ‘I hope I don’t get stage fright, so far my voice has survived which I think is the crucial part of barking a lot of orders. But I think we are all looking forward to it.’
Hoisting the White Ensign above HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time will be a day to look back on forever, a young sailor carrying out the honour has said.
The flag is one of the world’s most recognisable naval standards and has flown from British warships, boats, bases, and Royal Marine craft for more than 150 years.
Featuring a St George’s Cross on a white background and a Union flag in the upper left corner, the White Ensign will be raised above HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time on Thursday.
Lieutenant Commander Nick Leeson, pictured, is in charge of commanding the royal guard during the ceremony
Following tomorrow’s ceremony, the 65,000-tonne vessel with join the Royal Navy and continue its preparations for deployment with the planned introduction of its F-35b jets during 2018
The ships company of 87 women and 613 men were completing preparations last night – just hours before the official ceremony
Ratings on board the ship performed marching practice in the massive hangar yesterday
The Queen will be joined by Princess Anne on board, but Theresa May has cancelled amid ongoing Brexit talks
Able Seaman Ellie Smith, 20, from Hull said she is excited to be tasked with the job of raising the White Ensign, ensuring it unravels slowly as it is hoisted and does not touch the ground.
She said: ‘I hope it goes well. This is something to look back on for the rest of our lives and we can say ‘I was there’, which will be a really good thing to be able to say.’
Steward Callum Hui from Lynton, Devon, is the youngest crew member onboard and he has been given the task of cutting a cake
She said having the Queen on board for the ceremony will be exciting too.
Able Seaman Jessica Hewes, 26, from Portsmouth, who will pull the ropes to hoist the flag as the national anthem is played, revealed she is a little nervous ahead of the ceremony.
She said: ‘I don’t want to mess it up. But I am enormously proud. It makes us part of the fleet.’
She said she was ‘just lucky enough’ to be picked to carry out the task and described it as ‘one of the biggest’ moments of her career.
‘I am incredibly excited,’ she added.
The youngest crew member serving on HMS Queen Elizabeth will undertake the honour of cutting the cake during a ceremony to accept the ship into the Royal Navy.
Steward Callum Hui from Lynton, Devon, began his basic training in March, passed out in June and then joined the nation’s future flagship in October.
The 17-year-old signed up to the Royal Navy soon after finishing school and has been given the task of slicing the cake during the commissioning ceremony on Thursday.
‘I am excited to say the least,’ he told the Press Association.
‘This is my first ship, straight out of training, and just to have the honour of cutting the cake on commissioning day – it is exciting stuff.’
Describing the moment, which is a service tradition, as a definite peak in his short career, he said it ‘will probably be one of the stories you tell your kids’.
HMS Queen Elizabeth: Where has she been?
The ship set sail from the Rosyth dockyard in Fife this summer.
She passed under the iconic Forth Road Bridge before heading to the south of England and docking at Southampton.
She has just spent six weeks in the North Sea for sea trials.
The boat will soon head to America’s east coast for flight trials which will begin in October 2018.
Queen Elizabeth is expected to be operational by 2020.
As well as the royal party, there will be more than 3,000 guests including the crew’s family, The Queen and Princess Anne
The Royal Navy ratings were sent through their paces during some last-minute rehearsals on Wednesday, just hours before the huge day in Portsmouth
The aircraft hanger, pictured, should receive the first of its fighter jets during 2018 and the ship is expected to be in service from 2020
The names of some of those involved in building the vessel have been displayed in the hangar in Portsmouth, Hampshire
He will be joined in slicing the aircraft carrier cake by the wife of commanding officer, Captain Kyd.
Using a sword, they will be watched by the Queen and guests including the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, as well Steward Hui’s mother, Pak, and brother, Vincent.
‘I am definitely looking forward to seeing my family and them being able to see me on the day, cutting the cake,’ he added.
Asked if he is treated any differently as the youngest member of the ship’s 700-strong company, he said he is dealt with ‘exactly the same as anyone else’.
‘When you are working, you don’t really notice that you are under 18,’ he added.
The crew have been working to ensure everything goes like clockwork later today in front of the royal guests and VIPs
The white ensign, pictured on Wednesday during a rehearsal, will be raised officially today to mark welcome the ship into the Royal Navy
These are the first crew members onboard HMS Elizabeth during her 50-year lifespan and have all played a part in the build up to the ceremony
Inside Britain’s most powerful warship
At 280 metres long, with a lifespan of half a century and a flight deck of four acres, HMS Queen Elizabeth is Britain’s largest and most powerful warship ever built.
Here are the facts and figures behind the vessel which will be officially commissioned into the Royal Navy on December 7.
The aircraft carrier weighs some 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed of 25 knots
Workers were busily loading supplies yesterday ahead of the commissioning ceremony
- The aircraft carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed in excess of 25 knots.
- A number of ship building yards around the country were involved in the build – these include Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow, Appledore in Devon, Cammell Laird in Liverpool, A&P on the Tyne in Newcastle and Portsmouth.
- A total of 10,000 people worked on construction of the ship, made up in sections at yards around the UK and transported to Rosyth, Fife, where it was assembled.
- It is the second ship in the Royal Navy to be named Queen Elizabeth.
- The ship has a crew of around 700, that will increase to 1,600 when a full complement of F-35B jets and Crowsnest helicopters are embarked.
- There are 364,000 metres of pipes inside the ship, and from keel to masthead she measures 56 metres, four metres more than Niagara Falls.
- Facilities onboard include a chapel, a medical centre and 12-bed ward, staffed with GPs, a nurse and medical assistants, as well as a dentist and dental nurse.
- There are also five gyms on the warship which include a cardiovascular suite, two free weight rooms and a boxing gym.
- Regular fitness circuit sessions and sporting activities such as basketball and tug of war are held in the hangar and on the flight deck, with weights and other items stored inside the flight deck ramp.
- Captain Jerry Kyd said his favourite part of the ship was the laundry, which he called ‘huge and bespokely built’.
- There are five galleys on the warship which is where the food is cooked and those on board eat their meals everyday. This includes two main galleys, the bridge mess and an aircrew refreshment bar.
- The distribution network on board manages enough energy to power 30,000 kettles or 5,500 family homes.
- Its flight deck is 280 metres long and 70 metres wide, enough space for three football pitches.
- The entire ship’s company of 700 can be served a meal within 90 minutes, 45 minutes when at action stations.
- Recreational spaces enjoyed by the crew feature televisions and sofas, as well as popular board games including the traditional Royal Navy game of Uckers.
- Each of the two aircraft lifts on HMS Queen Elizabeth can move two fighter jets from the hangar to the flight deck in 60 seconds.
- The warship has a range of 8,000 to 10,000 nautical miles, and has two propellers – each weighing 33 tonnes and with a combined 80MW output of power – enough to run 1,000 family cars or 50 high speed trains.
- The crew is currently made up of 87 women and 613 men.
Chef’s pride at cooking for the Queen and her guests
Petty Officer Dean Allen is cooking for the royal party on board HMS Queen Elizabeth
Cooking lunch for the Queen is something that cannot be beaten, the chef in charge of feeding the monarch during a visit to her namesake warship has said.
At 65,000 tonnes, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the biggest and most powerful vessel ever built by Britain, and will be formally commissioned into the Royal Navy on Thursday.
Following the ceremony, the Queen will enjoy a three-course lunch on board the ship, something which Petty Officer Dean Allen said his team of chefs were very excited about.
‘I don’t think you can go bigger than feeding the Queen … it is the biggest catering moment of my career,’ he told the Press Association.
‘The chefs are buzzing, they can’t wait, they have been looking forward to Thursday for a long time – the commissioning and feeding the Queen.’
Having served in the Armed Forces for 20 years, 18 of which were in the Army with the Royal Logistics Corps, the 37-year-old from Warminster said he has cooked for the royal family before.
But PO Allen said he was not feeling pressure and was instead excited about the task at hand.
Describing the menu, he revealed it was very much a ‘team effort’ and that the Queen picked from a number of options sent to the palace.
‘She has got a salmon tian for starter, for main course she has got a double rib of (British) lamb with a bean cassoulet,’ he said.
‘And for pudding she has got a burnt blood orange tart with poached meringue.’
PO Allen said there was no real theme to the dishes being served, just that the chefs came up with the ideas and tried to create something new.
On Thursday a team of 48 chefs will have to feed more than 3,700 mouths, a number which also includes the ship’s company and their families, plus a charity dinner that evening.
PO Allen added: ‘It will go right, then we can all sit down for some beers afterwards.’
The team are preparing the Queen a salmon tian for starter and double rib of British lamb with a burnt orange tart and poached meringue for her pudding