The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations have been launched in dramatic fashion by Royal Navy warship HMS Diamond which fired a 21-gun salute as it sailed into port.
Hundreds of well-wishers lined the walls of Portsmouth Harbour and waved flags and cheered as the Type 45 destroyer arrived into its home base.
The arrival was accompanied by a diamond formation flypast of four navy helicopters, two Merlin and two Lynx.
And Diamond was led into the harbour by two RN patrol vessels – Raider and Blazer.
As the warship fired its salvo, the navy saluting gun overlooking the harbour entrance at Fort Blockhouse, Gosport, Hampshire, fired 21 times in return.
After berthing at Portsmouth Naval Base, a street party was held on the ship’s flight deck for the 190 crew and guests.
Commanding officer of Diamond Commander Ian Clarke said: “It is a real honour for HMS Diamond to salute Her Majesty the Queen as she celebrates not only 60 years on the throne but 60 years as head of the Armed Forces.
“By happy coincidence, 2012 is an important year for HMS Diamond as we sail for our maiden operational deployment in a couple of weeks’ time.
“When we came in this morning we had not realised how many people there would be – it was a really emotional moment for us.”
Fleet Commander, Admiral George Zambellas, said: “It is fitting that Her Majesty’s ship Diamond should mark Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee in this way.
“The Queen’s affection for and commitment to the Armed Forces have touched the lives of many servicemen and women and their families over the past 60 years and I am proud that HMS Diamond is helping to launch this special weekend of celebrations across our island nation.”
The event also saw the launch of a cocktail created for the navy by the Dukes Hotel in Mayfair, called Dukes Royal Navy Jubilee.
The Diamond crew were among the first to sample the jubilee cocktail made and served by Dukes Hotel head barman Alessandro Palazzi.
Among the ingredients are Navy rum, apple juice, lime juice and Kings Ginger liqueur.
Hotel general manager Debra Dhugga said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with the Royal Navy and HMS Diamond to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in this way.
“Dukes has always had a close connection with the Royal Household over the 100 years it has been trading as a hotel. We are delighted to be celebrating this very special weekend.”
Petty Officer Dickie Davies, one of the lead organisers of the ceremonial entry, said: “Being a staunch royalist I am honoured at having a key part to play in the ship’s entry to Portsmouth.”
Ableseaman (AB) Holly Cole, 19, from Portsmouth, said: “It felt really good to be a part of the celebrations, I’m really proud.
“Sometimes when you see a picture of the Queen you think ‘She’s my boss’ so it’s nice to be able to honour her today.”
AB Sharlotte Pape, 21, from Swansea, said: “When they were firing the salute it was a really great moment and great to be part of.”
Aptly named Chief Petty Officer Brian Diamond, originally from Portrush, Northern Ireland, but who lives in Gosport, was recently awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for five years’ service.
The 30-year-old said: “I had my parents down to see us sail in today so there were even more diamonds together.
“It was nice to think the nation’s focus was on us today.”
Among the guests at the street party were visitors from the ship’s affiliate cities of Coventry and Aberdeen.
And also attending was retired Commander John Mancais, 84, from Cerne Abbas, Dorset, who was the final commanding officer of the last HMS Diamond which was originally commissioned in 1952 and became the first HMS of the Queen’s reign.
He said: “I am excited to be here today and to be on board HMS Diamond.
“I have to say they seem to be a very happy ship’s company, they look like a good team who would make the Queen proud.”Led by ABP’s Humber Charter, it will include the Royal Navy’s HMS Explorer, the yacht Ierne, which took Olympic Gold with a Norwegian team in 1920, and the former coal tug Kellingley. Civic dignitaries from Hull, Hessle, Barton upon Humber, North and South Ferriby, will be onboard the 1907 Humber keel Phyllis.
Vessels are due to sail from Hessle Foreshore at 6pm, passing beneath the Humber Bridge to North Ferriby around 6.30pm, and onto Brough Haven around 6.45pm, before returning to the bridge. The event aims to recreate one held in 1897 for Queen Victoria.