'A debt we can never repay' - First Sea Lord's thanks for Queen's service to Royal Navy

  • ITV News Meridian's Stacey Poole reflects on the Queen's relationship with the Royal Navy

The Queen has always had close links with the armed forces, she was the daughter of a Navy officer who served in the First World War.

At 16, a then Princess Elizabeth, enrolled as a Sea Ranger, later marrying a lieutenant. 

Her children also chose careers in the Navy, becoming serving officers.

The last ship the Queen commissioned into the fleet was the aircraft carrier named after her, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

In December 2017, the Queen was in Portsmouth, the ship's home port, to commission the carrier into the navy.

For all aboard, her presence cemented the close bond between her and the senior service.

In December 2017, the Queen was in Portsmouth to commission the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth into the navy. Credit: ITV News Meridian

On that day, in a speech the Queen said: "As the daughter, wife and mother of naval officers, I recognise the unique demands our nation asks of you and I will always value my special link with HMS Queen Elizabeth, her ship's company and their families."

The day was a special occasion, but it was just one of her many visits to the fleet.

Among the earliest was as a young wife in Malta, where she lived when Prince Philip was an officer serving in the navy.

She developed a deep understanding of naval life.

Admiral Sir Jonathan Band, Former First Sea Lord said: "One of the things as a head of service one had was an annual call with Her Majesty for half and hour, just you and her, and she was always interested in what we were doing operationally, she was always interested in sailors, she understood the demands of separation, she had a really good feel for it.

"One felt you were talking to someone who knew the system as intimately as you."

Shortly after her coronation in 1953 The Queen reviewed her ships.

It was the first and by far the biggest fleet review of her reign.

The same year she launched the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was to be her floating palace for more than 40 years.

The Queen speaking at the launch of the new Royal Yacht Britannia. Credit: British Pathé

It was said that Britannia was one of the few places the Queen felt she could truly relax.

Allan Jones, Former Royal Yachtsman, said: "She came along the line and she shook my hand and said 'What is your name?' I said Jones, then she said 'Oh are you the Jones whose wife is expecting a baby?'

"I was knocked sideways, why would the Queen go all that way to find out about Jones from Huddersfield whose wife was having a baby? It was an honour for me."

Another fleet review took place in 1977, the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

A final fleet review of the Queen's reign was staged in 2005 for mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

As well as commissioning new ships, the Queen has also had to say goodbye to old ones like the carrier Ark Royal in 2010.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was the Queen's floating home for 40 years. Credit: British Pathé

It is said that the only time she shed a tear in public was in Portsmouth in 1997 when Britannia left the fleet.

Anthony Morrow, Last CO, Royal Yacht Britannia, said: "It was a combination of pride, of the memories they had, wonderful pictures of the Queen and the Duke looking up at the standards and flags as they came down at the decommissioning moment, so naturally there was great emotion but pride in a job so well achieved."

Every man and woman of today's Royal Navy has only ever served in Her Majesty's ships, her presence a constant throughout their careers.

Those who knew her cherish their contact with her.

Following the monarch's death, Admiral Sir Ben Key KCB CBE ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: "The very sad news of the death of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II has touched every member of the Royal Navy.

"In all of our lives, her reign has been a constant, and her dedication and lifetime of service was utterly inspiring.

"She exemplified qualities we all aspire to.

"As the daughter, wife and mother of Royal Naval officers, Her Majesty had a close affinity with the men and women in her Royal Navy and those who support us and she took close personal interest in their well-being, as well as that of their families.

"We owe her a debt we can never repay.

"May she rest in peace.

"God Save the King."