The Big Stick hit the shores of merry old England last week.
The presence of the 100,000-ton carrier Theodore Roosevelt, on an eight-month deployment, created huge Buzz in Great Britain when it anchored off Portsmouth March 22 for a five-day port visit along with the destroyer Winston S. Churchill.
The British papers went bananas, spectators lined the shores to catch a glimpse of the 1,100-foot-long warship and businesses hung American flags to welcome 5,000 sailors to the land of America’s one-time imperial overlords.
Portsmouth’s local paper, The News, reported that the Roosevelt “stunned onlookers on Southsea seafront as she dwarfed the Victorian-era Solent Forts sailing through on her way to the bay.”
“‘It’s a slumbering giant. I guess it’s one of the biggest carriers in the world,” one spectator told The News. ‘It’s a bit like watching a floating town arrive off the coast.’”
The BBC reported that the town council estimated sailors would pour about $2.2 million into the English economy.
It was the first time a carrier had visited England since 2011 when the George H.W. Bush visited, a 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times.
The papers also hinted at a little bit of carrier envy for the United Kingdom, whose last active carrier left service in 2014. The TR was forced to anchor out because the Royal Navy’s facilities couldn’t accommodate them.
The tabloid Daily Mail ran a story under the headline “100,000 tons of U.S. firepower too big to dock at Portsmouth,” in which it noted that: “The mighty ship, which is making its first port of call during a round-the-world deployment, is much larger than the Royal Navy’s next generation of carriers, The Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth, which weigh in at 65,000 [tons]when they finally become operational.”
The Mail ran the story with a cascade of photo of Brits pointing at the ship, taking photos and even selfies with the TR in the background.
The Royal Navy’s top officer Adm. George Zambellas took the opportunity to greet the ship in a statement released to the media and reminded the British public that their new carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, would be operational soon.
“It is excellent to see US Navy carrier steel in Portsmouth. And in barely two years we will see UK carrier steel here too,” he said. “We warmly welcome the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group – a reflection of the close partnership between our nations and navies, and the value of credible sea power in support of our shared national interests.”
But bigger carrier or no, the Royal Navy got its licks in on the soccer field. The crew of the Roosevelt were challenged to a match by the crew of the British frigate Diamond, one of the newest in the Royal Navy’s inventory.
The News reported that “it wasn’t even close as the team from HMS Diamond thrashed the Americans 15-2.”
A source at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., who spoke on background to discuss military soccer matches between the U.S. and U.K., said that all reports from England indicated that the crews of the Roosevelt and Churchill had a great time.
The Roosevelt hosted a number of dignitaries during her time in Portsmouth, including First Sea Lord Zambellas, and Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon.
Sailors told the British papers they were interested in visiting HMS Victory, which was the flagship for the renowned Trafalgar victory, and getting some fish and chips.
One tabloid, the Mirror, even sent a correspondent to party with the sailors on liberty. She came away somewhat disappointed that the sailors were out in civvies and not dress uniforms.
“Rather than impress the locals with their dazzling dress uniforms like Richard Gere in an Officer and A Gentleman,” the reporter wrote, “2015 security risks compel the US sailor to venture out in his or her civvies. Not nearly so appealing. Think hoodies, baggy jeans and fluorescent superdry T-shirts.”