The Royal Navy’s second flagship aircraft carrier has taken on its first crew members – while it is still under construction.
HMS Prince of Wales is being assembled at Rosyth dockyard in Fife. It is expected to begin sea trials in 2019.
The ship is the second of the new 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers being built for the UK, after the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Yesterday, 12 Royal Navy personnel became the first crew to board the second carrier and begin work.
Captain Simon Petitt, the Senior Naval Officer of both carriers, said it was an honour to be in charge of the small but rapidly growing team.
More than three years ago, he welcomed the first members of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Then only ten in number, the crew is now 370-strong.
Speaking at the site, he said: “It’s fantastic to see the first members of HMS Prince of Wales arrive. These are two very exciting ships that are being built for the Royal Navy.
“Prince of Wales is progressing very fast but a ship is nothing without its sailors so the first 12 members arriving today is a very important date for the project, but more so for the Royal Navy.”
He said the crew members will start learning about the carrier to hand that knowledge on to the ship’s company when it grows in size.
“It would not be right for 700 people to arrive and suddenly take the ship to sea, so we have to do it in a much more progressive fashion and start to really learn about the ship,” he said. “Once we get these ships to sea they could well be asked to do their bidding very quickly and we need to be prepared as sailors to do that.”
One of the 12 crew was Executive Warrant Officer Gary Nicolson, who said: “I’m so thrilled. As one of the first members of ship’s company, it’s a massive honour.
“(I’m here) to get a feel for the ship, to lay the foundations for the ship’s company that are going to be on board towards the end of the year and the start of next year, and to make sure that we learn from the company of HMS Queen Elizabeth.”
Another group member was Kenny Reid, whose main role will be to co-ordinate the weapon engineering department.He has just come to the end of a three-year spell on the sister ship.
He said: “It’s a great privilege and honour to be selected as one of the first members of HMS Prince of Wales.”
The carriers are the largest British warships ever constructed and can be used for a range of activity, from war fighting to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
The ships have been constructed in blocks at yards across the UK and are being put together at Rosyth.