Invincible and Prince Andrew home from war


PORTSMOUTH, England -- Queen Elizabeth II and thousands of her subjects joined Friday in a thunderous welcome home from the Falklands war for the aircraft carrier Invincible and her son, Prince Andrew, who strode down the gangplank with a red rose between his teeth.

The ship, at sea for a record 166 unbroken days, was surrounded by pleasure cruisers filled with bare-breasted women -- a now traditional welcome for task force ships.


The scene approached bedlam as 10,000 jubilant relatives and friends of the 1,050 crewmen swarmed over the quayside.

A creaky pre-war Swordfish torpedo bomber rumbled overhead. There were Lynx helicopters and balloons, red smoke, spray from tugs and fireboats and a cacophony of salutes from other berthed vessels, including the U.S. destroyer Comte de Grasse.

During the two-month war in the South Atlantic, the Argentines claimed 12 times to have damaged or sunk the 19,500-ton ship.


'The only damage we sustained had nothing to do with the enemy,' one officer said. 'The damage was caused by high winds and 50-foot waves which sent our wind reading instruments right around the register and back to the start again.'

The queen, with Prince Philip and Princess Anne, had boarded Invincible far out in the harbor, making the ship the first Royal Navy vessel to hoist the queen's gold, blue and maroon royal standard since 1948, for a reunion with her son -- the 22-year-old third in line for the throne.

The scene at the West Wall of the Royal Naval dockyard was so exhuberant that the queen whipped out her camera and snapped away like a tourist.

Andrew, a strapping 6-footer, grinned broadly as he followed the queen and Philip down the gangway. Handed a single red rose, he clenched it between his teeth and waved his white navy hat.

Trailing behind the queen past the flag-waving crowd, Andrew shook hands, playfully tried on a Union Jack hat, peered up at his ship and bent to three little girls who clustered around him with more roses.

Nobody called him 'Randy Andy,' a prince whose only claim to fame was his preference for blue-eyed blondes. Now it's Andrew the Warrior Prince, a hero home from the wars.


The prince, a sub-lieutenant and helicopter pilot, flew from the Invincible throughout the war that recaptured the Falkland Islands from Argentina.

The ship's eight Harrier fighters flew 1,580 hours on combat missions.

'It was an experience I wouldn't have missed,' Andrew told a television reporter aboard the ship.

'I feel different,' he said. 'I think I've experienced something very few people are able to experience. I felt loneliness -- when you lie on the deck when missiles are flying around, at that moment you are on your own.'

The prince was in the thick of the Falklands action -- in submarine search missions, rescue operations and even at one point using his helicopter as a decoy for Argentinian French-built Exocet missiles.

'He wasn't spared anything, neither in the battles nor the arduous routine,' said Lt. Alan Bell, fellow pilot in 820 heliciopter squadron. 'After a while, he merged into the crowd.'

The carrier set a Royal Navy record of 166 continuous days at sea, a voyage of 51,660 miles, the equivalent of twice around the world.

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