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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Ark Royal memories of Queen Mother
Queen Mother visits Ark Royal in November 2001
The Queen Mother visited the ship in November 2001
The captain and crew of aircraft carrier Ark Royal have paid tribute to the Queen Mother, the patron of their ship.

The Queen Mother launched HMS Ark Royal in 1981 and subsequently re-commissioned her in November 2001, in what was to be her last public engagement.

On Monday the ship's commanding officer, Captain David Snelson, and members of the crew spoke of their fond memories of the Queen Mother.

Captain Snelson said all the crew felt a "personal loss because she had meant so much to us".

An inspiration

He said during her visit in November she was "full of life and vitality".

"She was a wonderful inspiration. She had that special ability to talk to people of all levels. She had a very human touch," said Captain Snelson.

The Ark Royal, one of the Royal Navy's three aircraft carriers, has just completed a 147m re-fit, which was carried out in Rosyth in Scotland.

The ship will take over the roll of the on-call aircraft carrier, which is currently carried out by HMS Illustrious, once she has completed trials and assessments following the refit.

Ship visit

The carrier has a crew of 1,000, and is capable of carrying Sea Harrier aircraft, Royal Air Force Harriers and a variety of helicopters, including Chinooks and Sea Kings.

She will also be the first ship to carry the navy's newest helicopter - the Merlin.

Captain Snelson of the Ark Royal
Captain Snelson praised the Queen Mother

In November last year at the ceremony to recommission the ship, the Queen Mother said: "I'm so happy that I'm once again onboard Ark Royal... you see, I launched her and her predecessor.

"So it's wonderful to feel that now she's going to be at sea and she's guarding our shores just as in the days of yore.

"She is a wonderful ship and I hope you will all be happy in her."

In a reference to a discontinued naval tradition, when sailors were given a tot of rum on special occasions, the Queen Mother joked: "Captain, splice the main brace."

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