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Issue Date:- 27 January 2009


AS we reported in last weeks issue, when the Royal Navy’s fleet flagship, HMS Ark Royal, berthed alongside Liverpool last week she created quite a stir both ashore and on board.

That’s because a good number of the ship’s crew are from the Merseyside area, and many of them celebrated their homecoming
by taking in the recent Liverpool v Everton league derby during their stay.

But for fans of the Anfield giants, there was an extra special treat when Liverpool FC legend, Bryan Hall, brought his team of community coaches onboard to conduct a training session with the ship’s football team. And the thrills didn’t stop there.

Because focus for the hundreds of Liverpudlians enjoying a public visit to the ship that day very quickly shifted to the 2005 Champions’ League replica trophy brought aboard by Bryan and his team.

Emblazoned with red and white ribbons, the gleaming silver cup provided a stunning image, with members of the ship’s company and the Liverpool public vying for pictures with the trophy. A thrilled Bryan said:- “Our visit was fantastic, I never thought I would be conducting a training session onboard a ship… thankfully she is not sailing.”

The ship’s company team were put through their paces by the Anfield team who included Robbie Fowler’s brother, Scott, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Ark Royal’s football team were clearly impressed with the intensity of the training delivered by Liverpool FC’s coaching staff and are now relishing the opportunity to practise their newly learned skills against local opposition when the ship returns to Portsmouth.

Earlier, Liverpool fans from Ark Royal were treated to a tour of Anfield by the 1965 FA Cup winning captain, Ron Yeats and another club legend Ian Callaghan.

Commander Al Salmon, the ship’s aviation specialist said:- “What an experience! I have been a Liverpool fan all my life. I’m not usually star struck, but to be in the presence of two of Liverpool’s true gentlemen is an honour.”

The ship’s company visited both home and away dressing rooms and touched the “This is Anfield” sign before touring the Kop.

Commander Steve Pearson, HMS Ark Royal’s Executive Officer, said:- “Liverpool FC has afforded us magnificent hospitality and we are most grateful. The ship’s football team now have a sharper edge to their play.”

Then during a busy programme of events for the ship’s crew, took time out to visit Europe’s largest children’s hospital at Alder Hay, which treats over 200,000 patients a year.  The ship’s company raised over £400 in donations which was used to buy Christmas presents for the children, which was supplemented by a generous gift of a further £100 from the John Lewis toy department.

Crew members visited four of the hospital’s wards and talked to families and children of all ages, from as young as two weeks up to 20 year olds. The sight of some happy sailors brought smiles to many faces, especially when the ship’s chaplain, Rev Richard Ellingham, demonstrated his sleight of hand with some magic tricks.

Nurses and co-ordinators from the hospital were delighted with the gifts and Irene Axon, from the hospital’s ‘Imagine’ charity said:- “Though Alder Hey is NHS-funded, we rely on gifts and visits from organisations like the Royal Navy to raise awareness of the hospital. It is also fabulous for the children and their families. We are so grateful to have Ark Royal visit us and we hope that the Royal Navy returns again soon.”

To see our report in last weeks issue and to hear audio interviews with the crew, please click on here.

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