Portsmouth's proud shipbuilding passes into history

Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship HMS Victory stands proudly at Portsmouth's Naval dockyard, but soon no more ships will be built at the site. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Archive

Building our nation's warships has been at the heart of Portsmouth's story, but no longer from today.

From the Mary Rose to the Dreadnought Battleships and the HMS Invincible, the vessels constructed and launched from the historic shipyard have shaped British and global history for centuries.

ITV News Special Correspondent Rageh Omaar reports on a sad day for the south-coast city:

A Royal Dockyard was founded in Portsmouth in 1212 and the first dry dock built in 1495, with the launch of the first known ships two years later, before 1509 saw the legendary Tudor warship the Mary Rose built.

The expanding dockyard soon emerged as one of our country’s most important assets as Britain ruled the international waves.

By the 19th Century, the home of the Royal Navy had become one of the most fortified cities of the world, so critical was its production line to the protection and expansion of the Empire.

Thousands of shipyard workers helped play a critical role in the arms race that preceded the First World War, making a battleship every 12 months in the years leading up to the conflict, buoyed by huge public support.

The 19,500 ton aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious sailed from Portsmouth in 1982 during the Falklands conflict. Credit: PA Archive

While the number dipped briefly between the wars, during the height of the Second World War, a record workforce of 45,000 was employed at the site to help power the war effort.

The subsequent dramatic British naval decline over the past 70 years was felt keenly by Portsmouth's shipbuilders, though conflicts like the Falklands maintained a demand.

Shipbuilding in the city has been in decline for decades. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Archive

Thirty years on that decline is finally terminal. The announced axing of 940 jobs and closure of the city's shipyard brings the 800-year narrative of power and pageantry to an end.