HMS Ark Royal


There has been an Ark Royal in British fleet since 1587. But now its final incarnation has been decommissioned there will no longer be any ship bearing this illustrious name. In this brand new series Discovery Channel joins the crew of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal on her final, poignant voyage. 

With exclusive access to all areas of the ship, we follow her as she heads across the Atlantic. For many of the crew it will be their first and perhaps last experience of life at sea, testing their ability to live and work in cramped, pressurised conditions.

The fleet first heads to Halifax to celebrate the Canadian Navy centenary – including a confidential Royal visit – before they continue down the Eastern Seaboard to the Mayport, New York, timed to coincide with Fleet Week – the American celebration of the US Navy.

Then they continue their voyage to drop-off the Marines of 42 Commando in North Carolina for training with the US Marine Corp in advance of deployment to Afghanistan. Finally, the Ark Royal will head back to the UK as she prepares to go out of service. 


Exclusive to Discovery Channel, HMS Ark Royal is a brand new eight-part series which follows the nation’s most famous flagship aircraft carrier, on what turns out to be her last ever deployment for the Royal Navy.  The series will be followed by a one-off documentary, HMS Ark Royal: The Final Journey which charts her final moments as a Navy warship before docking at Portsmouth for the last time.

The access-all-areas series marks the first time a documentary team has filmed aboard HMS Ark Royal on an international deployment since the epic TV series from 1976 “Sailor”. 

HMS Ark Royal – the fifth warship named after the galleon that led England to victory against the Spanish Armada – has now also been consigned to history. However, when filming began, the crew of the Ark Royal were unaware of its fate.

The series follows the aircraft carrier as it undertakes an emergency mission directed by the Government; participates in international war games with fellow military powers; receives a visit by dignitaries including the PM and ultimately prepares for its final days at sea.   HMS Ark Royal captures the incredible dedication and sheer professionalism of the 1000-strong crew of the ship, led by the ship’s indomitable Captain, John Clink.

On 6 April 2010, filming commences as the HMS Ark Royal leaves Portsmouth. Almost immediately she is diverted from her mission of joining an international task force assembling at Norfolk in Virginia, to lead “Operation Cunningham”, helping to rescue British citizens stranded by the Icelandic ash cloud. For a short period, HMS Ark Royal effectively becomes the UK’s only operational airstrip.

After docking for emergency repairs, it’s full steam across the Atlantic to join an international task force, with the ship following the “Great Circle” route, navigating through the hazardous iceberg-laden waters that sank the Titanic.

The ship participates in the International Fleet Review where the Queen takes the salute to mark the centenary of the Canadian Navy.  And the film crew are present when some very important persons visit the vessel, including our very own Prime Minister David Cameron only weeks after the General Election.

The Naval Strike Wing and the RAF 1 Squadron, which fly the UK’s Harrier jets, join the Ark for manoeuvres as she enters the final stages of the deployment – a massive war game with the US military, lasting for several weeks, pushing the HMS Ark Royal’s crew to their limits. 

As the deployment comes to an end and the pilots fly back to the UK, they are fully unaware that this would be the very last time they will fly their Harriers from the deck of the HMS Ark Royal. As the series was being filmed, Government plans were underway to decommission this legendary aircraft and the HMS Ark Royal.

Throughout the series, viewers see the incredible hardware and aircraft that make up HMS Ark Royal’s huge arsenal including the weaponry, ammunition, radar and helicopters, including the Lynx, Sea King and Merlin. And in addition to the Harrier fighter jets, there is even an appearance by the US Osprey aircraft.

Airing on Discovery Channel every week from Tuesday 22nd February at 10.00pm, HMS Ark Royal is an eight-part series offering an incredible insight in the last days of one of the nation’s most famous ships, as it exits the world stage for the final time. 

HMS Ark Royal: The Final Journey is a one-off special which follows the Discovery series and charts the final moments of the legendary ship as she sails into Portsmouth for the very last time, airing on Tuesday 19th April at 10pm.

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