Brand-new £1bn destroyer HMS Dragon saluted the seven cruise ships of world’s famous P&O line as they gathered in the Solent to mark the firm’s 175th birthday.
The seven liners – displacing more than half a million tonnes in total – conducted a sail past out of Southampton, with HMS Dragon and the Trinity House vessel Patricia on hand to show their support.
The 77,000-tonne MV Oceana passes HMS Dragon at anchor in the Solent. Pictures: LA(Phot) Simmo Simpson, FRPU East
SHE is normally known as quite a large warship, but HMS Dragon was dwarfed by seven liners in the Solent last night.
The Type 45 destroyer’s crew stood in ceremonial uniform as the full P&O cruise fleet passed them as they marked the company’s 175th anniversary.
The Portsmouth-based ship was briefly lost in the grey gloom on Tuesday night as the luxury vessels left celebrations in Southampton Water and headed east.
Earlier a Red Arrows display over the Solent had been cancelled, but the weather cleared in time to give passengers aboard the illuminated ships a good view of one of the Royal Navy’s newest ships.
The flotilla departs into the deepening Channel gloom, leaving Dragon behind
Dragon’s commanding officer, Commander Darren Houston, said: “It was a great privilege to be up close to these vast liners for their historic sail past.
“The weather may not have been perfect but it was a fascinating spectacle.”
Between them the seven liners displace 569,871 tonnes, which is more than 70 times larger than HMS Dragon.
Ranging from the 30,000-tonne Adonia to the giant 116,000-tonne sisters Ventura and Azura, the cruise fleet took about 30 minutes to pass Dragon as hovercrafts, speedboats and yachts looked on.
Joining Dragon in the middle of the Solent was the Trinity House ship Patricia. The tender is normally used for navigation maintenance work and wreck location but was transformed to a ceremonial vessel with Princess Anne onboard to observe the sail past.
The three-year-old MV Azura, all 115,000 tonnes of her, approaches Dragon
Cdr Houston said: “After viewing the P&O fleet leave the Solent, we now shift our focus onto our preparation for operations.”
Dragon has recently finished a maintenance period in Portsmouth Naval Base and is in training around UK waters, including the Outer Hebrides. Later in the year she will start her Operational Sea Training which is the major training cycle warships go through ahead of deployments.
HMS Dragon is the fourth of six Type 45 destroyers. HMS Daring is working east of the Suez Canal, HMS Dauntless is off the south west coast of Africa and HMS Diamond is on her way to operations in the Middle East.