Inside HMS Queen Elizabeth: The construction of the Royal Navy's largest ever vessel


It’s the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, proudly bearing the name of the sovereign, but the Scottish dock workers constructing aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, are all aware they are working on the last warship order of this size that Britain will commission for at least 50 years.

Next month HMS Queen Elizabeth is to be named by her namesake the Queen in a traditional champagne ceremony at Rosyth, where she has been constructed from components forged across the county. Then she will free the giant dry dock for her sister ship the Prince of Wales, but for now she is firmly in place and today, The Independent had early access to the warship before she floats for the first time.

“HMS Queen Elizabeth is designed around the F-35B Lightning II jet and once operational in 2020 will be capable of tasks ranging from humanitarian assistance to air strikes on the first day of a high-intensity conflict,” said Captain Simon Petitt, the Royal Naval officer in charge, who is working with the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, including BAE Systems, Babcock and Thales, to bring the ship into service.

She may not be operational just yet - she officially becomes a military vessel in 2017 - but HMS Queen Elizabeth has taken form already, towering above the quayside with a 4.5-acre flight deck, dwarfing the size of the Royal Navy’s previous generation of carriers.

When deployed she will have a range of 10,000 miles, be able to steam 500 miles a day and be able to carry a mixture of 40 jets and helicopters, as well as up to 1,600 embarked service personal, including a crew of 679. She will, as the Royal Navy loves to say, be able to "project force".


There was hubbub of activity today, with 1,400 workers putting on the last of seven paints of battleship grey ahead of the Royal visit, but the new class of warship has been plagued by overuns and delays, doubling in cost from £3.1bn to £6.2bn, and recently earned an embarrassing “red” warning from the Major Projects Authority.

On board ship though most workers seem more keen on pointing out the vast “Goliath” crane which help pull together the ship’s 40,000 tonnes of steel and 17 million individual parts. Inside it boasts 3,013 modern-looking compartments with 3.1 million metres of cable, 362,000 miles of pipes and 250,000 litres of battleship grey paintwork. In places it looks very much complete.

Next month the Queen will be joined by David Cameron, but also Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, to name the ship. Captain Petitt said, “It’s a day to celebrate the industry of shipbuilding, I’ll leave the worrying about the seating plan to the First Sea Lord’s Office.”

On the rust-coloured deck, scaffolding contractor Gerard McCue, 52, is happy for the Queen “to visit” and “perhaps” remain head of state, but is adamant he’ll be voting for independence and that one of the two carriers should remain Scottish.

“We’re waiting for a yes vote on 18 September then we should seize this ship for Scotland. I'm all for common defence and the Queen is welcome as a head of state to name her, but I will be voting yes, to vote for Scotland and Scottish jobs. That's whats more important,” he said, before was hurried away by his foreman for a “job up top” on one of the carrier's two islands, seemingly at the behest of a BAE Systems public relations minder.

Most workers on the carrier, which will serve for 50 years, seem to be in the no camp however, and point to the fact that the ship was built at half a dozen sites across the UK, and that BAE Systems alone supports 3,000 shipbuilding jobs in Scotland.

John McLaughlin, a BAE Systems shift manager on the ship, is certain she will act as  “symbol of the Union” and is optimistic that the politically charged decision to shift the firm's focus from the south of England to the Clyde for the forthcoming Type 26 Frigate programme will secure ship-building jobs in Scotland well after HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales leave Rosyth.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album