Steve Parsons  /  AP
A farewell parade of the crew from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal makes its way through Portsmouth, England to celebrate the close affiliation between the Royal Navy's flagship, which is being decommissioned as part of the Government's defence review, and its home port Saturday Jan. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/ Steve Parson/PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
updated 1/22/2011 8:20:15 AM ET 2011-01-22T13:20:15

Thousands turned out Saturday to bid farewell to the crew of the HMS Ark Royal, the British navy's flagship aircraft carrier that is being decommissioned amid tough austerity measures.

Crowds lined the streets as a Royal Marines band led about 250 sailors in a parade through Portsmouth, the home port of the HMS Ark Royal in southern England. Some went on board to have a final look as part of an open day this weekend.

The 25-year-old warship, which served in the Iraq war, is being decommissioned three years early as part of the government's defense spending review.

The Ark Royal is the fifth vessel to bear the name — the first was involved in action against the Spanish Armada in 1588, while the second served during World War I.

The warship will be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carrier, which will carry F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

Queen Elizabeth II made a farewell visit to the ship in November to mark its 25th anniversary in service.

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