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First Sea Lord: HMS Queen Elizabeth ‘the embodiment of Britain in steel and spirit’


Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, spoke about HMS Queen Elizabeth as she arrived in her homeport of Portsmouth.

The transcript is displayed below.

“It’s a huge privilege to welcome you to Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth.

This is the oldest of the Royal Navy’s three dockyards and has witnessed many great events over the centuries.

Those of a certain age, me amongst them, will remember the extraordinary scenes from the spring of 1982 as a Royal Navy Task Group – led by a previous generation of aircraft carriers – left this place for the long journey to the South Atlantic, to return a few months later having turned a potential national disaster into an audacious triumph.

In the same year, the nation held its breath as the magnificent timber skeleton of Henry VIII’s flagship emerged from below the waves after more than 400 years on the seabed.

Today, we are gathered to witness another seminal moment in the long history of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

In the golden years of the second Elizabeth age, a new era of British maritime power is beginning.

And in fifty years’ time, people in Portsmouth will still talk about the day they saw this 65,000 tonne giant arrive for the first time.

QE Development

It’s remarkable to think that all this was set in train 20 years ago, when the need for a new generation of large aircraft carriers was first recognised.

I’d like to thank my predecessors, several of whom are here today, for having the vision and the tenacity to see this project through.

During the construction phase, this project has involved six shipyards, including here, as well as businesses both large and small all around the country.

It’s been part of an unfolding renaissance in our maritime industries, from Devon to Fife, on the Tyne and on the Mersey. For hundreds of apprentices, it represents the start of an exciting new career in an area of historic and future strength for the United Kingdom.

Within the Royal Navy and within British industry, a generation has dedicated the best years of their professional careers to making the Queen Elizabeth-class a reality. I’d like to pay tribute to all in the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, and their leadership, for all they have done to enable this moment.

Today is the culmination of their achievement – not only in building this ship but proving to the world, and to ourselves, that the United Kingdom remains a great maritime industrial nation.

Of course, it will take time and patience to introduce a 65,000 tonne vessel into service, with all the intricacies of big deck aviation and strike group operations.

And in doing so, I’d also like to acknowledge all that the US Navy, the US Marine Corps and the French Navy have done, and continue to do, to help us on this journey – most recently seen during Exercise Saxon Warrior with the USS George HW Bush Strike Group here in UK waters, working alongside two Portsmouth based frigates and the UK Carrier Strike Group Battlestaff from Whale Island.

But the hardest part of the journey is now behind us, and the Royal Navy’s carrier-led revival is fast becoming a reality.

It’s not always been an easy path, but with a steady nerve and a deep resolve we saw it through. It’s a triumph of national strategic ambition and a lesson for the future.

Infrastructure & Community Support

While all eyes are on HMS Queen Elizabeth today, it’s absolutely right that we also recognise how much work has gone on here in Portsmouth to prepare for her arrival.

More than 3 million cubic metres of sediment has been dredged from the harbour channel, along with the odd bomb and stray torpedo, which have inevitably stolen the headlines and disrupted the odd bit of shopping in Gunwharf Quays.

But equally, a huge amount of time and effort has been dedicated to putting the necessary infrastructure in place, from navigation buoys and jetties to high voltage electricity supplies.

All this has been done with the consent of the Council and the local community, and I would like to thank the people of Portsmouth for their forbearance and, indeed, their enthusiasm.

Just as Portsmouth has supported the Royal Navy in our ambitions so the Royal Navy will support the City in return. The Royal Navy is hugely excited to sponsor Portsmouth’s new University Technical College.

It’s part of our shared vision to strengthen Portsmouth’s position as a heritage destination, a commercial port, a centre for maritime industries and, most of all, the home of the Royal Navy.

Strategic Significance

And as home of the Royal Navy, let’s remember that this is first and foremost a working dockyard.

Most of the ships currently alongside have recently returned from operations or will shortly deploy.

HMS Duncan is leading NATO maritime forces in the Mediterranean and Black Sea – one of the most visible demonstrations of the United Kingdom’s continued commitment to European security.

As for HMS Diamond, next month she heads to the Middle East to maintain the Royal Navy’s 40 year presence in a part of the world which is fundamental to both our national security and economic prosperity.

I’m sure you’ll joining me in wishing her Ship’s Company – and their families – the very best as they prepare for that nine-month deployment.

But nothing better symbolises our nation’s continued global role than the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.

Maritime air power has played a major, often decisive contribution, in all the UK’s major overseas operations since the end of the Second World War.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first carrier in the world designed for and dedicated to the operation of a fifth generation combat aircraft, the F35B Joint Strike Fighter.

I’ve been to the United States to meet some of the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force aviators who are working brilliantly together to bring this aircraft into UK Service – 10 by the end of this year, with 24 available for Carrier Strike by 2023.

Crucially, a second ship – HMS Prince of Wales – is also on its way, meaning one carrier can be available for operations at all times.

Meanwhile Astute-class submarines, Type 26 frigates and Tide-class tankers are under construction or entering service, to join the Type 45 destroyers that have already proven themselves so able at the sharp end of operations in the Middle East

We will bring them together to form a Carrier Strike Group – a powerful strategic conventional deterrent – ready to fight and in the most demanding circumstances, but also providing a reassuring and highly visible UK presence on the global stage.

Working with the Army and Royal Air Force, the Queen Elizabeth class will project power and influence not just at sea, but in the air, over the land and in cyberspace.

They will support all arms of Government to promote the UK’s authority in the world, to deliver aid and disaster relief and will serve as an awe inspiring venue for trade fairs and diplomatic engagements. 

And as we prepare to leave the European Union, I have no doubt that the Queen Elizabeth-class will help take our nation’s message of partnership and prosperity to the rising economies of the world, aided by the very best ambassadors we could wish for: the men and women of the armed forces.


So, in drawing to a close, it is fitting that we are joined today by our Prime Minister.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the Nation’s future flagship; the embodiment of Britain in steel and spirit.

And 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.

And we are thrilled that you have all been able to join us.”

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Mr Bell
Mr Bell
4 years ago

Good speech, missed the opportunity to say in front of the PM and all the worlds press how more is desperately needed.
more personnel
more warships 26 frigates and destroyers as a minimum
etc, etc, etc
career flag officer kept quiet about the most important issues.

Mike Saul
Mike Saul
4 years ago

Maybe the first sea lord would like address the issue raised in an article recently published in the Portsmouth News. “The navy had set a target to recruit 3,571 new sailors last year. But it only achieved 2,980. And of the combined aim of 1,237 new engineering ratings and officers, only 1,080 were recruited. It has forced some of the service’s top engineers to be ‘bounced from pillar to post’, a senior sailor claimed. Experienced engineers are being forced to stay at sea longer than ever before because of the personnel shortage, the insider said. The source said: ‘The navy… Read more »

Mike Saul
Mike Saul
4 years ago

HM forces trialling a new system that allows personnel to work a 3 day week and not be paid for the rest of week to save money and make the armed forces more family friendly.

Premier league of global military forces? I don’t think so.

But don’t worry folks, let’s buy some new shiny expensive equipment for PR purposes and everything will be OK as long as no one starts shooting at us.

Jassy Von Spik
Jassy Von Spik
4 years ago

If you want the best sailors, and crew, you have to pay them better. No one wants to sign up in the armed forces, risk there lives and not get payed accordingly.. I guess It’s something the MOD will have to seriously look at other than procuring equipment for the services..

John Hampson
John Hampson
4 years ago

Was he being deliberately ironic. Every new navy ship since or on order are using foreign produced steel because of failure to support the British steel industry. The UK is the ONLY country in the EU that conformed and implemented the EU’s Procurement Rules. The result is equipment for our armed forces has used or will be using Germany, Swedish and French steel.

Nick Paton
Nick Paton
4 years ago

Dear Mrs May, 1st Sea Lord When will the so called National Shipbuilding Strategy policy be discussed, decided upon and invested in to sustain British ship building over the long term! This should be an all party decision to enable continuity/stability. Perhaps one could look to the continent for stable Defence Programmes were either Conservative or Socialist parties continue the plan without this chopping and changing! All Conservative policies are not bad just as all socialist policies are not bad! Is it not time to take the responsibility and work together for the countries good? I would appreciate sensible feedback/constructive… Read more »

Nick Paton
Nick Paton
4 years ago

Dear all politicians/1st Sea Lord, I would like to hope and think that politicians across all parties take up this challenge to ensure a sensible compromise is reached to build up our forces which let’s face it have been short changed over many years. All the forces have schrunk to an unacceptable level! I don’t want to mention the Chamberlin era but we are already dangerously undercut! I expect open and honest discussion! The reality is we are not living in a safe world! The Cold War has finished but my goodness Mrs May look east and wake up before… Read more »

Peter French
Peter French
4 years ago

Well well a whole 24 F35 aircraft available by 2023 , Please possible aggressors hold off until 2027 when we might have enough to defend our selves.
What absolute tripe and overblown bunkum these continuing statements are by MOD and Naval brass

Rick M
Rick M
3 years ago

I see that France is offering us the use amphibious assault ships if the Albion Class be retired.
The same France that was selling Exorcet missiles to Argentina to use against us during the Falklands Conflict.
Charming, eh?

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