Queen welcomes Royal Navy back in emotional message as ship returns to UK for Christmas

Queen: HMS Queen Elizabeth crew cheer monarch

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Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived back at Portsmouth Naval Base on Thursday following the first operational deployment of the carrier strike group (CSG).

In a message welcoming the 65,000-tonne warship back home, the Queen said: “On the return of HMS Queen Elizabeth to her base port of Portsmouth, I send my best wishes to the 1200 Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, and United States Navy and Marine Corps personnel onboard the ship.

“I was pleased to hear of the important work you have undertaken to build relationships between the United Kingdom and more than twenty nations during your seven-month long deployment.

“I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to the wider CSG and hope you all have a most enjoyable and restful Christmas with your families.”

The Queen’s message comes after she visited the aircraft carrier in May before it headed to the Far-East.

HMS Queen Elizabeth set off with seven warships and a submarine for the show-of-force voyage.

The aircraft carrier arrived back at the Hampshire port on Thursday afternoon while Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond returned earlier in the day, with Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond returning to Plymouth.

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer Captain Ian Feasey said: “This seven-month deployment has proven a resurgent carrier strike capability for UK Defence.

“It would not have been possible without the professionalism, determination and self-sacrifice of the 1,500 sailors, airmen and marines who have worked tirelessly to deliver all that was asked of them.

“The safe return and operational successes of HMS Queen Elizabeth are testament to their commitment and energy.

“They have turned a Royal Navy aircraft carrier into a national flagship and it has been a privilege to be their commanding officer.”

Commander Vince Owen, Defender’s commanding officer, added: “Our exceptional success on this deployment is down to the superb men and women that make up my ship’s company, and I am immensely proud of the dedication and professionalism they have shown throughout.

“We are also heavily reliant on the support of our families, for which I am incredibly grateful, and I am delighted that we are able to return home to them today in time for Christmas.”

The CSG ships with their combined crew of 3,700 sailors faced several incidents, both diplomatic and technical, during the 25,000 nautical mile round trip.

Last month, an F35B Lightning jet crashed into the Mediterranean after tumbling off the edge of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s flight deck.

A visit to the carrier by Prince Charles scheduled for a few days later was cancelled following the incident.

Earlier in the voyage, HMS Defender was involved in a stand-off with the Russian navy after it sailed close to Crimea in June.

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