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HMS Ark Royal makes farewell visit to Tyneside
HMS Ark Royal
HMS Ark Royal sailing down the Firth of Clyde for its last visit to Scotland before heading towards Newcastle

A ship that was launched in 1981 at the Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend is on the River Tyne for the last time before it is to be decommissioned.

This visit will be the vessel's final appearance in the north-east of England where she was built.

She will be decommissioned four years earlier than expected as part of the coalition government spending cuts.

The carrier will remain on the River Tyne until Tuesday, 23 November 2010 at around 3pm.


She'll have Harrier jets on board which will take off shortly after she leaves the Tyne. These will be the last ever Harriers to fly from an aircraft carrier.

Micky Blench, from Wallsend, was one of thousands of workers who built the HMS Ark Royal.

He said: [Decommissioning] is an absolute disgrace I think, for a ship of that magnitude and what it means not just to this area but to the country.

HMS Ark Royal
HMS Ark Royal last visit to the River Tyne ended 28 February, 2010

"She was one of the most special ships ever built on the Tyne in our era along with HMS Illustrious. It had a very special meaning to both the workers and Tyneside."

Although HMS Ark Royal is the fifth vessel to bear the distinguished name, Micky believes it was not just another run of the mill ship.

"It was a new concept, there were a lot of new innovations came out after the falklands and during the falklands war which made that ship change constantly, with the ramp being obviously the most visible one.

"There was a sense of great pride for all of the work force and everybody who was involved with it.

"At the time there was a number of job losses and there was a sense of 'it's gone - what do we do next?' and 'where do we turn' so there was mixed feelings I would say, but an immense amount of pride for the finished article."

Family spirit

The icing on the cake for what the 20,000-tonne aircraft carrier meant to all of the workers was that it was launched by the Queen Mother in 1981.

Micky added: "There was a family spirit, everybody looked after one another, nobody was looking over their shoulder and worrying about things.

"If you done something wrong, everyone seemed to help each other out in them days. It was just the general atmosphere."

The ship will be open for the public to board it and have a look around.

HMS Ark Royal will be decommissioned by the end of 2010.

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