Captain Simon Kelly, HMS Albion’s new Commanding Officer says the ship's company handed over the role of Royal Navy Flagship to HMS Queen Elizabeth "with a sense of pride" last month.
Amphibious assault ship, HMS Albion stood in as the Royal Navy's flagship for two years and remains the UK and NATO’s High Readiness Assault Ship.
In one of his first interviews, since becoming HMS Albion’s new captain in November, Captain Kelly told Forces News: “There's a sadness to handing it over. It was certainly something the ship’s company enjoyed and really were behind, but in many ways actually we hand it over with a sense of pride as well.
“We've done a great job as the fleet flagship.
"In her first trip away, HMS Albion, as the fleet flagship, went out to Southeast Asia and operated in the South China Seas, and went as far as Japan”.
Last month's handover means HMS Queen Elizabeth will deploy as the Royal Navy’s Flagship on her inaugural operational deployment with 10 warships as the Carrier Strike Group UK lead.
Captain Kelly said: “We went as a Singleton ship. Queen Elizabeth goes in a task group of 10 ships - where we went as 300 people, they’re going to be 3000.
“The blend of RAF, Royal Navy F35s, US Marine Corps F 35s, it's a great moment for the Royal Navy and a great moment for Britain that we hand over at this time.”
Following maintenance for the last few months, Captain Kelly added HMS Albion's focus is "getting back out to sea in the next couple of weeks; re-generating that capability and making sure we’re absolutely good to go".
"Then we've got an interesting program over the next couple of months heading up probably into the Norwegian Sea into the Baltic, operating with our allies and partners, both NATO and other nations as well.
“Everything that we do now will be a blend of traditional amphibious warfare but with experimentation and looking at the future of Littoral Strike [Group] and the Royal Marines."
In December, the amphibious assault ship returned to her home base of Devonport after a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean.
Captain Kelly said the ship’s company has “been really careful” and “made sure that we followed the government guidance while being (here) in port”.
“While we're at sea we will maintain all the sort of same social distance practices that the rest of the country are doing and in the hope that maybe later on in the year when the vaccines are in, I'm hoping that we can show off HMS Albion around the UK a bit more - some regional engagement would be really nice.
“It would be nice to fly the flag around the UK and some UK ports.
“We've had a test of everyone in the ship's company, we will do that again before we go back to sea".
A number of crew tested positive for coronavirus in September with those affected isolating on land, and the rest of ship's personnel quarantining on the vessel.