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Byline: NOSTALGIA DAVE MORTON recalls the people and places of the North East @

LAUNCHED 35 years ago and one of the most famous ships built on the Tyne, HMS Ark Royal is the subject of a new exhibition.

Spotlight on the Ark Royal is part of the Shipyard Painters' Alpha Omega Exhibition which focuses on the life of Wallsend's Swan Hunter shipyard as documented by some it is former employees.

Until September 18, visitors to the Old Low Light Heritage Centre, in North Shields, will be able to get up close and personal with images and objects from the Ark.

Pearl Saddington, centre manager at Old Low Light, said: "We're hosting a superb display, which includes a scale model of the Ark Royal - as well as other ships made at Swan's.

"There are photographs of the Ark Royal under construction, as well as images documenting the life of the previous Ark Royals.

"And there are never-beforeseen objects belonging to officers and crew from Ark Royal, as well as Shipyard Painters' work depicting the great ship."

On Sunday, as part of a special Heritage Open Day at Old Low Light, visitors will be able to meet curators, and talk to specialists including model-makers, ex-employees and photographers, all of whom hold a special place in their heart for the Ark.

In addition, Ark Royal's retired executive warrant officer, Malcolm Bone, will be giving a fascinating insight into life on board the Ark during wartime and peacetime.

The keel of HMS Ark Royal RO7 was laid at Swan Hunter's Wallsend yard in December, 1978.

Just over 35 years ago, on June 2, 1981, the carrier was launched there by the Queen Mother. The ship would be later commissioned on November 1, 1985.

Affectionately known as the 'Mighty Ark', she was the fifth Royal Navy ship to have borne the proud name. (The first was the 1587 flagship that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588).

At any given time during her near 30 years on the waves, the Illustrious-class aircraft carrier carried Harrier GR9, Merlin and Sea King aircraft, and up to 600 crew.

The 22,000-tonne Ark played a key role in the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s.

She won battle honours in Operation Telic during the 2003 military campaign to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In 2010 the disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud, which paralysed Europe's aircraft and airports, saw her sent to rescue stranded travellers and bring them back to the UK.

After the announcement of her de-commissioning, she made an emotional final trip to the North East in November 2010 for a five-day visit.

In retirement, a bid to sink Ark Royal and turn it into an artificial diving reef off the Devon coast was rejected, as were plans for a commercial heliport in London, a nightclub and school in China, and a casino in Hong Kong.

In May 2013, we reported how the Ark Royal was set to make its final poignant voyage. The harriers would be sold in the USA for spares, and the ship would sail to Turkey where she would be scrapped.

|Spotlight on the Ark Royal, running at Old Low Light, North Shields until September 18. The Heritage Open Day takes place this Sunday, September 11 between 11am and 3pm. | Visit, telephone 0191 257 4506.


The Ark under construction, by Barry Martin

The Ark nearing completion, by Barry Martin

On the Ark's flight deck

HMS Ark Royal on the Tyne

Ark Royal at night, by Brian Chambers

On the way to the breaker's yard

Ark Royal on the Tyne, by Brian Chambers (All pictures courtesy Old Low Light, North Shields)

The Ark Royal is broken up in Turkey
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2016
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