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Farewell HMS Ark Royal

The Ark Royal journeys towards its audacious end.

News 1980 3 mins Silent

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Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


The fourth HMS Ark Royal, former flagship of the Royal Navy cuts a large and lonely figure in the Hamoaze (where the estuary of the River Tamar joins Plymouth Sound) journeying to a Cairnryan shipbreaking yard in Scotland. Although the Audacious class aircraft carriers were replaced with three Invincible class carriers, HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious and HMS Indomitable, the latter's name at its launch in 1985 was changed to Ark Royal at the behest of an emotive public.

The first Ark Royal was the flagship of Sir Francis Drake in 1587 leading the Navy Royal's fleet in 1588 when the Spanish Armada of 130 ships was defeated in the English Channel. The fifth ship to take the name of Ark Royal was decommissioned earlier than expected in 2011 after a review of Britain's military and naval capabilities. The Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales are the new supercarriers, the largest type of aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers are naval seagoing airbases with flight decks for takeoff and landing of planes and helicopters. The ships form part of a country's mobile force and may be deployed anywhere in the world thereby enhancing a country's international influence and prestige.