HMS Queen Elizabeth sails from Invergordon, an echo of the Royal Navy’s illustrious past

After nearly sixteen days alongside in Invergordon for replenishment and repairs, HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed last night to resume sea trials. Her time in the port was slightly longer than anticpiated but today’s departure from the Cromarty Firth provides an opportunity to take in some historical perspective.

HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Invergordon, 23rd July 2017. Video via ACA.

Sixty years ago the Home Fleet, including three aircraft carriers arrived in Invergordon after welcoming the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh home from a state visit to Denmark. HMS Queen Elizabeth’s departure is another episode the long history of Royal Naval connections to the Cromarty Firth. Although rather forgotten now, the port became increasingly important from the start of the 20th Century, strategically placed between Rosyth and the fleet anchorage at Scapa Flow. By 1912, the Admiralty had established a permanent naval base at Invergordon which played an important role in supporting the Grand Fleet in the First World War. Spending cuts forced the navy to scale down the base in 1933 and it was little-used during the Second World War because of vulnerability to German bombers. However, warships on operations in the North Sea have continued to visit the port right up until recent times.

Royal Navy Home Fleet 1957

HMS Superb leads the Home Fleet in sail-past of HMY Brittania before entering the Cromarty Firth, 27 May 1957. (Photo from the NavyLookout family archive)

The news footage from the time shows three aircraft carriers, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Ocean and HMS Albion. (Two out of three names that still live on in the RN today). The Royal yacht was also escorted by two cruisers, fast minelayer HMS Apollo, destroyers HMS Duchess and HMS Diamond, four ‘battle class’ destroyers and four submarines, including HMS Artful and HMS Trump:)

The Navy welcomes the Queen, Pathé News, 1957

It would be rather unkind to make comparisons between the Royal Navy of 1957 and that of today. The RN is indeed a shadow of its former self, too small and undermanned, yet there are things be positive about. 15 vessels are at various stages of construction and commissioning including 2 aircraft carriers, 1 frigate, 5 OPVs, 3 submarines and 4 replenishment tankers.

We will also not dwell on the events at Invergordon 1931, when a government plan to cut sailors pay caused the last recorded mutiny in the Royal Navy. Instead for now we will focus on the inspiring sight of warships at sea and wish HMS Queen Elizabeth success with her continuing trials programme. She has already achieved a speed of 27 Knots (according to AIS) as her machinery and propulsion continues to be tested in the Moray Firth today.