HMS Prince of Wales arrives at Portsmouth homeport for first time

HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s second aircraft carrier, sailed into her homeport of Portsmouth for the first time on November 16.

Photo: Royal Navy

It is the second time in two years the city has welcomed one of the UK’s new carriers, following HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival in August 2017.

Captain Darren Houston, the Commanding Officer of HMS Prince of Wales, said: “Our first entry to Portsmouth represents the successful culmination of the build and sea trials period in which my ship’s company and industry partners have worked so closely together to bring HMS Prince of Wales into service with the fleet.

The carrier sailed from Rosyth, where she was assembled, in late September with a mixed ship’s company of Royal Navy sailors (600-plus) and around 300 civilian contractors on board to take her through an autumn of trials in the North Sea.

“It’s been a unique experience watching the ship transition from its initial build to an operational warship,” said Air Engineering Technician Anthony Greatorex.

HMS Prince of Wales’s arrival means Portsmouth Naval Base is now home to two aircraft carriers.

The yard has been modernized to accommodate the two behemoths, with £30 million spent on strengthening and upgrading the base’s Victory Jetty.

HMS Prince of Wales arrives after around eight weeks of trials after sailing from Rosyth Dockyard on the Forth eight years after she was laid down.

When she sailed beneath the Forth crossings – lowering her main mast to do so – it meant the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy were at sea simultaneously, with HMS Queen Elizabeth currently off the east coast of the USA testing her F-35 Lightning fighter jets.

Following a brief pit stop in Invergordon, HMS Prince of Wales was tested in heavier seas to see how she handles in challenging weather. The carrier faced Sea State 6 (waves up to 20ft high) and carved through them relatively untroubled.

Most recently, she carried out tests on her flight deck to ensure she can now host aircraft permanently on board.

HMS Prince of Wales will be formally commissioned before the end of the year.