Buyers queue for HMS Ark Royal

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Estate agents love telling clients that certain properties would benefit from an internal viewing.

Much the same can be said, it seems, about the world-famous warship HMS Ark Royal.

Potential buyers of Ark Royal are being given tours of the decommissioned aircraft carrier at her home port of Portsmouth Naval Base, it emerged today.

Ark Royal, which has long-standing connections with the city of Leeds, was advertised for sale in March via the Ministry of Defence’s auction website, edisposals.com.

Parties who have since registered an interest in the purchase by submitting an outline of their “intentions regarding the vessel” have now been handed the opportunity to see below decks.

A Royal Navy spokesman confirmed tours for would-be bidders started yesterday and were continuing today.

News of the viewing sessions follows weeks of speculation about what the future holds for the 22,000-tonne ship.

Possible roles that have been suggested include acting as a commercial heliport in London, a base for security personnel during next year’s Olympic Games, a floating tourist attraction in Gibraltar and a nightclub and school in China.

However, she could also end up suffering the same fate as sister ship HMS Invincible, which was towed away from Portsmouth in March to be broken up at a scrapyard in Turkey.

Ark Royal was adopted by Leeds in 1941 as part of a drive to encourage people to raise money for the Navy.

Days later, she was lost at sea. Undeterred, the city then collected more than £9m – close to £270m in today’s money – to pay for a replacement.

That Ark Royal was decommissioned in 1976, three years after the vessel’s links with Leeds were further strengthened when she was granted the freedom of the city.

The same status applies to the most recent Ark Royal, launched in 1981 but scrapped earlier this year due to defence spending cuts.

As reported in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post, the name HMS Ark Royal could now pass to a new aircraft carrier that is currently under construction.

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