500 Glasgow shipyard workers sent to Fife for carrier duty

GLASGOW shipyard workers are battling against the clock to complete building work on the UK's biggest ever warship before it is named by the Queen.

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Hundreds of workers have swapped the familiar surroundings of Scotstoun and Govan for Rosyth, Fife, where HMS Queen Elizabeth is undergoing final assembly.

At almost 1000ft long, the new aircraft carrier and a second ship - HMS Prince Of Wales - will be three times the size of the Ark Royal, the Royal Navy's best known carrier which was scrapped last year.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will be able to accommodate 40 fighter jets and attack helicopters.

Although lightly armed, it and its new sister ship will operate in war zones under escort from several of the six Clyde-built Type 45 destroyers - one of the world's most modern and deadliest fleet of battleships.

Towering blocks of steel were made at the Glasgow yards of BAE Systems at Scotstoun and Govan to form giant sections of the Queen Elizabeth hull. They were then taken on barges to Rosyth.

It was workers on the Clyde who were also given the job of building the flight command tower, where selected personnel will manage the arrival and departure of war planes and helicopters.

Known as the Aft Island, it has nine decks and at 101ft it is taller than a Glasgow tenements.

Kitted out with hi-tech radar and antenna, the steel structure will tower over the ship's deck and will also provide sleeping quarters and a briefing room for pilots.

The Fife yard has become a second home for workers on the Clyde.

Numbers from the Clyde yards have varied in recent years but have now been increased to a new high of 500 for the countdown to the naming ceremony on July 4.

On board, an assortment of coloured wires and cables zig zag across ceilings, walls and floors in a maze of steel passageways that will take the crew to more than 3000 different compartments.

That includes a range of workshops to serve the fighter planes, to a large hospital complex with reception and wards.

Almost 700 crew will be on board each carrier, which will have the capacity to accommodate up to 1600 people - from Royal Marines and personnel being sent to a trouble spot to victims of a humanitarian crisis.

Paul Rafferty, planning and control director with BAE, and who started out as an apprentice draughtsman in the Govan yard, lives and breathes shipbuilding.

Now in his 50s, Mr Rafferty dedicated almost 10 years to overseeing the £6billion Type 45 fleet of six new generation destroyers from drawings to construction to launch and subsequent sea trials.

As BAE's Type 45 programme director he repeated the Clyde mantra of building and delivering ships on time and within budget.

Ian Booth, programme director for the Queen Elizabeth Class - that includes HMS Prince Of Wales - said: "The ceremony on July 4 with the Queen will be an incredibly proud moment for everyone who has worked together to design, build and integrate this magnificent warship for the Royal Navy."

gordon.thomson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

The Royals

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