The new affiliate ship of The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, HMS Queen Elizabeth, sailed into Portsmouth for the first time this morning as she was welcomed by thousands of spectators.
Uncertain weather conditions meant that the new aircraft carrier arrived 2 days ahead of schedule, with the original window for entry set to be some time between 17 August and 22 August.
Since June, the aircraft carrier has been undergoing sea trials having set sail from Scotland's Rosyth dockyard. After much speculation, the 65-000 tonne aircraft carrier and her 700-strong ship's company sailed through the Solent in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The Royal Navy's Flagship for the next 50 years
She is now the largest ship in Royal Navy history and is the latest in a long line of famous Royal Navy ships to call the port home.
"HMS Queen Elizabeth will be the Royal Navy's flagship for the next 50 years, keeping us safe by deploying across the seven seas, using her strike power to deter our enemies," said Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon.
With only three other countries in the world building aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth will give Britain the capability to lead the way in tackling global issues in an increasingly uncertain world, from providing humanitarian relief to high-end warfighting.
And with the state-of-the-art F-35B Lightning fighter jets on track to make their first trial flights from the carrier's deck next year, the UK is now building towards delivering carrier strike capability.
Despite sailing into Portsmouth today, HMS Queen Elizabeth will not officially be in service until 2020. In an earlier interview with Jerry Kyd, captain of the Royal Navy's largest ever ship, he said, "I can safely say all 700 of the Queen Elizabeth’s crew are itching to get to her to sea and test all the systems and get into a sea routine."
Needless to say, the captain and his ship's company were delighted to finally make their maiden entrance into Portsmouth but they are already looking forward to their first deployment.
"Being alongside port is not a natural place for a sea-going crew to be for long! People like to do the job they joined for and whether you are a medical assistant, pilot, engineer, or chef or any of the myriad of specialisations onboard, being at sea is our environment."
A message from the First Sea Lord
First Sea Lord, Sir Philip Jones made his public address shortly after the aircraft carrier docked into HMNB Portsmouth.
"The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will project power and influence throughout the world."
"In fifty years time here in Portsmouth, people will still talk about seeing this magnificent ship."
Big names show their support
We also received support from three-time Olympic Gold medallist Pete Reed OBE who is a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. We thank everyone who took part in welcoming HMS Queen Elizabeth on social media during our Thunderclap campaign.
The affiliate ship of the RNRMC
Staff from The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity turned up this morning to hand out flags and collect donations from the public as they welcomed in the Royal Navy's flagship.
A post shared by RNRMC (@rnrmcharity) on Aug 16, 2017 at 2:13am PDT
Crowds all along Southsea Esplanade through to Old Portsmouth were waving their RNRMC flags as they welcomed in HMS Queen Elizabeth and took photos of the historic event.