Posted on Thursday 9 December 2021
Presenting the 13th and final article in our exclusive series, as HMS Queen Elizabeth is set to return to Portsmouth this Friday. Our finale focuses on Commander Chris Ansell. We’d like to thank everyone onboard who has contributed to this series since May and to Lieutenant Samuel Williams for coordinating all the reports and images. It’s been quite a deployment!
What is your role onboard?
My name is Chris, I am 45 and I am the Commander and Second in Command of the Fleet Flagship. My role is a strange one, post Command myself (T23 HMS ST ALBANS) and having also been an XO before, I have the Command perspective, whilst also having to ultimately support my Captain and his vision for the ship, who in turn as Flag Captain conducts the Band of Brothers in the task group and supports the embarked Commodore. A complex and unique chain of Command, but to simplify I run the ‘Ship’ so the Captain can Command the ‘Flag Ship’ and Operate the airfield above us. In human terms I have to be Mum and Dad, big brother, policeman, mentor, coach, disciplinarian, counsellor, chief of staff, all things to all sailors. In our case, all things to up to 1600 sailors, marines, and airmen and women.
What has the ship been up to in the last seven months?
HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH is the Nation’s and the Royal Navy’s Flagship. During 2021 we have delivered the most ambitious deployment for a generation, with the largest Ship’s Company for over 40 years. We have deployed as the first dedicated 5th generation Strike Carrier, Flag Ship and extension of Great Britain and her National values at a crucial point in our National story.
During the course of our deployment we will have conducted over 2000 fixed wing sorties, 3000 deck landings and 4000 flying hours; by day and night, in weather fair and foul. We will have sailed 48000 miles over three Oceans, delivered 1.1M meals, enabled over 55,000 person-days of shore leave and in the process of all of this we have also made a 6 part documentary for the BBC. The ship, and her Strike Group has energised the country’s diplomatic networks, particularly in Asia and the Pacific and provided a convening power for Government and the most potent of icons with which to influence partners and adversaries. In many ways we have inspired our own Armed Forces and those of our Allies; energising logistics, communications and political circuits that will serve us over the coming decades.
In HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH we have provided a well-found base for the UK/US air group and our embarked staff and hospital facility, confidently operating in contested regions, extending the competitive edge of UK defence and marking a return to the Country’s ability to fight at scale. We have done this with a degree of adversity, facing the challenges of COVID outbreaks and isolation whilst maintaining operational and defence engagement output to the highest of standards.
The ship has been struck by lightning, encountered three volcanic clouds, fields of floating lava, typhoons, monsoons and inducted 898 new members of the UK and US Armed Forces into the Kingdom of Neptune at the equator, off Indonesia. In one day her Ship’s Company completed a deployed support period, conducted a Captain’s supersession, recalled and sailed at 4 hours’ notice to avoid being damaged alongside by gales.
Our amazing ship, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH has provided a totemic figure-head for Global Britain and has empowered military and diplomatic representatives around the world, acting as a force multiplier for British standards and values. She has embodied the power and meaning of the Capital Ship and Super-Carrier in every way and in the finest traditions of our Service and our Nation’s Maritime heritage. This deployment’s challenges and highs will define the careers of all those in her, old, young; from Commodore to Able Seaman.