HMS Queen Elizabeth is now very close to being ready to leave the fitting out basin in Rosyth for around 10 weeks of sea trials.
Living on board
The Ship Staff Move on Board (SSMOB) date was achieved on 26th May and her crew have moved from shoreside accommodation are now living on the ship. Living on board allows the ship’s company to become familiar with their new home, socialise together in the mess, personalise cabins and make the living spaces their own. The forward part of the ship is now in full use and comprises of; The forward galley – one of five galleys on board, six chefs serve daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners to the 700 men and women of the Ship’s Company. Medical Complex / sick bay will provide routine patient consultations and clinics, as well as urgent medical treatment, minor operations and dentistry. Living Quarters – The QE class carriers have modern, comfortable accommodation with 1,600 bunks in 470 cabins. Each member of Ship’s Company will be able to use the state of the art facilities on board including a cinema and fitness suite with personnel also having access to e-mail and the internet.
Sailing when conditions are right
The Navy and government is understandably keen to announce the date she will sail, as soon as it is known (after the election). The Aircraft Carrier Alliance who remain the owners of the ship are however, less keen to commit publicly to a date. The first possible tidal window when the ship could leave is sometime between 21st and 27th June but departure at then is not certain. The weather, and especially the wind conditions, will probably be the deciding factor. The decision to sail may only be announced at quite late notice. Media speculation and interest will be considerable and there is pressure to get the ship to sea as soon as possible. However wise heads will ensure it is done safely and at the right moment, even if this means delaying until the next tidal window.
Before any new or recently refitted ship goes to sea, the crew usually conduct a ‘fast cruise’ alongside where everything is operated and tested as if the ship was at sea. HMS Queen Elizabeth’s fast cruise is expected to be run for around 10 days in early June.
No there is not a “morale crisis”
On 6th June The Portsmouth News published an article that claimed that morale on board “was at an all time low” and 21 “depressed” sailors from the ship “had resigned in one week”. One would expect the local paper to be enthusiastically supporting carriers which are of such importance to the city, rather than publishing sensationalist and inaccurate gossip that is detrimental to the reputation of the navy and its centrepiece project.
While some sailors will have resigned while the ship has been alongside, it takes around a year for them to leave and the numbers leaving are below the 4.7% average VO (Voluntary Outflow) across the fleet as a whole. It is true the RN does have a shortage of manpower and the carriers are part of the issue but a lack of manpower will not prevent the sailing and commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Her Captain Jerry Kyd should be congratulated for maintaining high morale of the crew working on a ship during its construction, mostly living away from their families in Scotland for an extended period. There is of course, considerable anticipation amongst the ship’s company as the time for her go to sea gets closer, resignations are very unlikely to increase in the near future.
This video from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance shows the ship’s company moving on board.
- HMS Queen Elizabeth – making good progress (Save the Royal Navy, February 2017)
- When will HMS Queen Elizabeth arrive in Portsmouth? (Save the Royal Navy, October 2016