I remember watching the last big aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy leave the port of Palma back in 1978. It was quite a sight. The Ark Royal was returning home after a long deployment to be scrapped. I had been aboard with my classmates from Bellver International College and it was quite a sad occasion really watching her sail off into the sunset. She was the last of the big carriers and the British government had said that no more would be built for the Royal Navy. It was a decision which was taken in the 1960s and it did have deep repercussions.
Years later the Falklands task force set sail without a big carrier (HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible were relatively small and were only able to accommodate Sea Harriers). If the old Ark Royal was still in service with her conventional jets the outcome of the war in the South Atlantic might have been much quicker. The British government reversed their decision on big carriers and HMS Queen Elizabeth was ordered by the British government shortly after the Second Gulf war.
The Queen Elizabeth is bigger than the Ark Royal and when she sailed into Palma this week my mind flashed back to that day in 1978 when I had watched the old carrier sail. The modern-day Royal Navy flagship is an impressive ship. Like HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes she can only operate vertical liftoff jets but the F35 is light years ahead of the Sea Harrier.
It is only right that the Royal Navy should have big aircraft carrier because at the end of the day they were the pioneers of ship-bourne air operations. The Royal Navy has entered the big ship league again...and Palma has played its small role in welcoming them back.