HMS Ocean leaves service with a royal farewell
Her Majesty The Queen today officially bid a fond farewell to HMS Ocean as the Royal Navy's 'Mighty O' was decommissioned.
The Queen was welcomed to Her Majesty's Naval Base Devonport with a 21-gun salute in her honour. The Queen, who once launched the ship as the ship's sponsor, was guest of honour at the ceremony.
She was joined by the head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones and more than 500 of the ship's company, their families and affiliates of the ship.
During the decommissioning ceremony, The Queen inspected a parade of the ship's company on the jetty and observed a flypast of military aircraft as she boarded the ship. The crowds were entertained by music from the Royal Marines Band.
The ceremony ended with the Royal Navy's White Ensign being symbolically hauled down from the ship's main mast.
"It's a huge honour and privilege to carry the Queen's Colour for 'her' ship and it's a huge responsibility"
Lieutenant Lindsey Gascoigne
The ship's Executive Officer, Commander Nick Wood, said: "This is a sad day for us all. This is our home when we are away. But while we will miss HMS Ocean we mustn't let emotion cloud the bright future for the Royal Navy or stand in the way of progress. The ship that replaces HMS Ocean, HMS Prince of Wales, is much larger and has greatly increased advanced capability."
The Queen met members of the crew and their families on board before being presented with the official decommissioning book and with mementos and gifts from the ship.
The ship officially leaves service with the Royal Navy this week after an eventful 20-year history. During her busy career HMS Ocean has shown she is not only a warship that can engage the enemy, but engages with the world as a symbol of UK influence. This has been seen recently with her humanitarian aid to hurricane-devastated British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean islands.
Lieutenant Lindsey Gascoigne had a starring parade role, standing a few feet away from The Queen at the front of the guard during the decommissioning ceremony. She carried the Queen's Colour - a special silk White Ensign with the Crown and Royal Cypher as a symbol of respect to the Navy which represents heroic deeds and battle honours.
Lindsey said: "It's a huge honour and privilege to carry the Queen's Colour for 'her' ship and it's a huge responsibility. It makes it especially poignant because one of the new carriers is named after her.''
Her Majesty was then hosted to lunch by HMS Ocean. The ship's catering team were consulted from the beginning and were asked to come up with ideas for the meal. Chef Carl Tester of Plymouth says cooking for the Queen is the peak of his career in the Royal Navy. He said: "I've cooked for lots of top people including the First Sea Lord, the top man in the Navy, which is big enough. But the Queen is the peak of my career. You don't get any more important than that. We're all very excited about this opportunity.''
The helicopters in the flypast were a Wildcat from 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and a Merlin Mk3 from 845 NAS based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton (RNAS); a Sea King Mk 7 from 849 NAS and two Merlin Mk2s from 814 NAS based at RNAS Culdrose, and Chinook from 27 Squadron based at RAF Odiham.
Lieutenant Commander David Starkey, operations officer on board HMS Ocean, played a key role in the ceremony as parade commander.
He said: "It's a great honour to be the parade commander - standing out in front almost on my own. It's been a lifelong ambition to meet the Queen and I couldn't be more proud today. This is the peak of my career after 14 years in the military and a very fitting way to end this stage in my career.
“It has been a hugely eventful period serving with HMS Ocean with the Caribbean hurricane relief and a NATO deployment.”