The Royal Navy aircraft carrier, Queen Elizabeth, docked in Gibraltar yesterday causing a sensation. At 60,000 tons she is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy and she made quite a sight entering port with her frigate escort. For the 25,000 residents of Gibraltar she must have also been a welcome relief, a sign that the 'Rock' is still vital for the Royal Navy and also a show of force to the Spanish Navy which has been carrying out incursions into Gibraltar territorial waters. The Queen Elizabeth is one of the largest warships in service in Europe and she is only matched by the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. Britain will have two of these giant vessels, the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales.
There has been much criticism of the vessels - their size, their cost and the fact that their aircraft, the US made and designed F35 fighters are still not ready. But they are still formidable vessels which put the Royal Navy back in the 'big ship group'. It is unfortunate that other vessels are having to be withdrawn from service to pay for and man the two new carriers. Ironically, while Queen Elizabeth was steaming into Gibraltar in all her glory, the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean was being decommissioned at Plymouth. HMS Ocean is a lot smaller than the Queen Elizabeth but the manpower crisis in the Royal Navy means that there are not enough sailors available to crew both ships. It was a historic day at Gibraltar but rather a sad one in Plymouth.
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