Historic church welcomes Ark Royal flag with royal service

A royal service in Limehouse saw the battle ensign of the decommissioned naval ship the Ark Royal move to east London yesterday.

Prince Michael of Kent was present at St Anne’s Church in Three Colt Street to see the ship’s white ensign be put on permanent display.

He opened an exhibition which will allow the public to see the 18ft by 9ft flag at the church which has many naval connections.

Rev Gordon Warren, who was appointed chaplain to the Royal Navy by the Queen, said: “It’s an enormous privilege. “People have been fighting over this ensign.

“We originally thought at the end of last year that it was going to go to Leeds because the city has always been twinned with the Ark Royal.

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“But the Navy decided that they wanted to keep it near to the Admiralty. “

The ensign, which has a red cross and the Union Jack in its top left corner, comes from the fifth naval ship to bear the name Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier which was decommissioned on March 31.

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The first Ark Royal, a flagship bought by Queen Elizabeth I in 1587 from Sir Walter Raleigh, was part of the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada the following year.

The exhibition also contains the Ark Royal’s wooden logo and a historical display.

The church already flies the Royal Navy white ensign, the second in the Royal Navy’s insignia order.

Also attending the service were Lord David Owen, Alan West, the Baron of Spithead and a former Admiral of the Fleet and Captain Guy O’Donnell, 94, who commanded the fourth Ark Royal and who flew from America for the occasion.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse and his wife Dr Sheila Fitzpatrick were also present as were Royal Marine sea cadets.

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