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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 June, 2005, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
French flagship arrives for T200
By Katy Glassborow
BBC News

BBC News reporter Katy Glassborow is on board the FS Charles de Gaulle, one of a host of international ships taking part in the Trafalgar 200 celebrations.

FS Charles de Gaulle
The flagship of the French fleet arrives into the Solent

The last time she visited Portsmouth was to mark 100 years of the Entente Cordiale.

Now the flagship of the French fleet, FS Charles de Gaulle, is back to help commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.

As the largest ship to grace the event, she made an impressive entrance, dwarfing all other vessels as she sailed into the Solent.

Her 21 "canon de salut" rang out across the overcast harbour, puffs of smoke hanging in the mist as she saluted Britain upon her arrival.

The French navy are not looking to the past
Vice Admiral Jacques Mazars

Aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, boasting two separate launching runways on a vast flight deck, Vice Admiral Jacques Mazars said: "It is an unusual experience to come to Portsmouth as part of this naval and maritime feast.

"The French navy is not looking to the past, which has provided us with lessons to learn. We do not want to just contemplate them, but go forward to the future.

"To be part of a parade of 160 ships is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Hangar on FS Charles de Gaulle
Aircraft in the hangar on FS Charles de Gaulle

Despite being the biggest and most flexible platform in the Fleet Review, Commanding Officer Xavier Magne said: "I am proud of my ship but I am more proud of my crew.

"There is no feeling of comparison between the ships here. HMS Invincible is also a brilliant tool in her area of expertise. All combat ships are special in their own way."

Nearly 200 years on from Nelson's victory over the combined French and Spanish fleet, British Rear Admiral Charles Style, visiting the Charles de Gaulle, denied any tensions persist between the navies: "We even interchange ships within our respective commands.

"We are bound by a common awareness that most of the world's trade is transported by sea and there is a global interest to protect it."

When pressed on the political frictions between EU member states, Vice Admiral Mazars said: "From time to time in a family there is a struggle, but here in the Solent there are no problems at all."

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