Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Million poppies dropped over QE2

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One million poppies are dropped over the QE2 during a flypast

One million Remembrance Day poppies have been dropped over the QE2 in Southampton, ahead of its final voyage.

A DeHavilland Beaver aircraft accompanied by an Auster flew over the QE2 at 1100 GMT to mark the beginning of a two-minute silence.

Then as thousands of people watched, a Harrier jet dipped its nose in tribute.

Earlier, five tugs were sent to assist the 70,000-tonne liner when it ran aground on a sandbank at about 0530 GMT at the entrance to Southampton Water.

About 2,700 passengers and crew were on board. It later docked at 0730 GMT.

Now her sea days are done and she passes on to a new life in a new home. We wish her well
Cpt Ian McNaught

The 40-year-old liner is being taken out of service and turned into a floating hotel in Dubai. It is due to leave on its final voyage on Tuesday evening.

The poppies were dropped to mark the 90th anniversary of the Armistice, the end of World War I.

Following the two-minute silence, the Duke of Edinburgh met crew members who travelled on the QE2 when it was used as a troop ship in the Falklands War.

The RAF Harrier jet, from No 1 (F) Squadron, hovered over the QE2 for about one minute at 1345 GMT, dipping its nose in tribute to the ship.

As well-wishers looked on from packed ferries in Southampton Water, RFA Mounts Bay led a flotilla of ships past the liner, blowing its horn as it went.

'Flair and fortitude'

In a farewell address, Cpt Ian McNaught told the crowd the vessel had been acclaimed all over the world as a symbol of British excellence.

"For 40 years QE2 has striven to serve Southampton and serve her country with flair and fortitude," he said.

An RAF Harrier jet dips its nose in tribute to QE2

"But now her sea days are done and she passes on to a new life in a new home. We wish her well."

Meanwhile divers were at the dockside in Southampton to inspect whether the vessel was damaged when it hit the sandbank. Cunard bosses later said the vessel was ready to sail.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency also sent two surveyors on board, which it said was standard practice when a vessel ran aground.

Solent Coastguard said the ship was pulled off the sandbank after about 30 minutes.

Most passengers were asleep during the grounding and no-one was hurt, owners Cunard said.

Spokesman Eric Flounders said: "She touched a sandbank called Brambles but with the tide rising she was able to get away.

"We are not aware at this stage of any damage to the vessel and everything is proceeding today as planned."

'Violent shudder'

It is thought winds blowing from the south west at force seven may have contributed to the ship grounding as it made its way into port.

Kenneth Williams, 79, and his wife Geraldine, 81, of Brockham, Surrey, were on board finishing a 15-day Mediterranean cruise.

"We were sitting having breakfast at 6.15am and suddenly there was quite a violent shudder and it went to ground," Mr Williams said.

Mrs Williams added: "It must be symbolic, it doesn't want to go.

She said: "It's a lovely ship, it's a crying shame it's going. Why couldn't it stay here in England?"

Derek Millard, 71, and his 72-year-old wife Bunty, from Croydon, south London, were on board for their seventh time.

The QE2 arrives in Southampton ahead of its final voyage on Tuesday evening

"We had done 31 cruises so it (the grounding) didn't worry us at all," Mrs Milliard said.

Mr Millard added: "It was very moving last night at dinner.

"There was a lovely speech by one chap who has been coming on board for 35 years. It was wonderful."

A fireworks display will take place on Tuesday evening as QE2 leaves Southampton for the final time at 1915 GMT.

The liner has sailed nearly six million nautical miles, been round the world 25 times, crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times and carried more than 2.5 million passengers.

It is Prince Philip's seventh visit to the vessel, which was launched by the Queen on Clydebank, near Glasgow, in September 1967.



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