Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to Portsmouth after its captain was sacked

The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier has sailed into its home port of Portsmouth after its commanding officer was removed from his post for using an official car for personal journeys.

Crowds lined the sea walls of Portsmouth to wave home the 65,000-tonne warship as it returned to the Hampshire city’s naval base.

The ship’s Twitter account posted: ‘We would like to apologise to the residents of #Portsmouth and #Gosport for bringing more greyness to your #BankHolidayWeekend.’

HMS Queen Elizabeth draws crowds as it sails back into Portsmouth harbour today after six weeks in Rosyth, Scotland, undergoing maintenance

HMS Queen Elizabeth draws crowds as it sails back into Portsmouth harbour today after six weeks in Rosyth, Scotland, undergoing maintenance

HMS Queen Elizabeth draws crowds as it sails back into Portsmouth harbour today after six weeks in Rosyth, Scotland, undergoing maintenance

It added: ‘On the plus side, we will be home and it will be great to see your support at the usual spots.’

Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest is understood to have been onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth but then removed as it set sail from Rosyth, Scotland, earlier this week.

The navy had already announced that Cooke-Priest, who takes the rank of captain for being in charge of the carrier, was being reassigned.

Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest is understood to have been onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth but then removed as it set sail from Rosyth earlier this week

Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest is understood to have been onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth but then removed as it set sail from Rosyth earlier this week

Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest is understood to have been onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth but then removed as it set sail from Rosyth earlier this week

A Royal Navy spokesman said on Wednesday: ‘In light of the ongoing investigation, as a precautionary measure to protect both the individual and the ship’s company, the Royal Navy has decided that Captain Nick Cooke-Priest will not be at sea in HMS Queen Elizabeth.’

Cooke-Priest, who joined the Royal Navy in 1990, had only been in command of the 280-metre vessel, described by the Royal Navy as an ‘awe-inspiring warship’ capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft, since last October.

He has been accused of using the navy’s Ford Galaxy car for personal journeys in breach of the service’s rules.

He was reassigned after accusations emerged he used the navy's Ford Galaxy car for personal journeys in breach of the service's rules

He was reassigned after accusations emerged he used the navy's Ford Galaxy car for personal journeys in breach of the service's rules

He was reassigned after accusations emerged he used the navy’s Ford Galaxy car for personal journeys in breach of the service’s rules

And the Royal Navy confirmed the married father-of-three would no longer be in charge of the £3billion vessel known as ‘Big Lizzie’ after an investigation found he made an ‘error of judgement’.

Cooke-Priest sailed the ship from Rosyth to Portsmouth because the Ministry of Defence said it ‘makes sense’ for him to sail the ship back to port while he is still technically in charge.

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He first took over the ship after a period working with the Ministry of Defence in the Corporate Strategy Group and the Standing Joint Force Headquarters as the assistant chief of staff of operation.

An investigation found Cooke-Priest made an 'error of judgement' and he was then relieved of his duties commanding the carrier known as 'Big Lizzie'

An investigation found Cooke-Priest made an 'error of judgement' and he was then relieved of his duties commanding the carrier known as 'Big Lizzie'

An investigation found Cooke-Priest made an ‘error of judgement’ and he was then relieved of his duties commanding the carrier known as ‘Big Lizzie’

Cooke-Priest, who was made an OBE in 2016, was then relieved of his duties commanding the carrier, which has a crew of 700 and is capable of carrying up to 60 aircraft including the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

There is no allegation of fraud and the officer, who joined the Royal Navy in 1990, paid for his own petrol.

But it still remains unclear what personal trips the Ford Galaxy was used for.

Today, crowds lined the sea walls of Portsmouth (pictured) to wave home the 65,000-tonne warship as it returned to the Hampshire city's naval base

Today, crowds lined the sea walls of Portsmouth (pictured) to wave home the 65,000-tonne warship as it returned to the Hampshire city's naval base

Today, crowds lined the sea walls of Portsmouth (pictured) to wave home the 65,000-tonne warship as it returned to the Hampshire city’s naval base

The decision to remove him from the role has been criticised by former senior officers including a retired commanding officer of an aircraft carrier who said: ‘I know of him and he is seen as a fine chap, it seems somewhat harsh and smacks of political correctness.’

Admiral Alan West, former first sea lord and security adviser to Gordon Brown, said: ‘Nick Cooke-Priest is a very good officer and highly competent and nice officer and I would be surprised he has done anything dishonest but I don’t know the details of it so I cannot comment further.’

Work carried out during the six-week maintenance period in Scotland included replacing 284 hull valves, removing and cleaning both rudder blades and applying a fresh coat of anti-foul paint to the ship’s bottom.

Captain Stephen Moorhouse OBE (pictured above) will take over the command of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is worth £3billion

Captain Stephen Moorhouse OBE (pictured above) will take over the command of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is worth £3billion

Captain Stephen Moorhouse OBE (pictured above) will take over the command of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is worth £3billion

Successful completion of the work means HMS Queen Elizabeth should not need to dock down again for another six years, the navy said.

Captain Stephen Moorhouse OBE is set to take over the command of the vessel.

The carrier will go on to conduct a period of sea trials and training before a planned deployment to the east coast of the US later in the year.

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