Surprise mid-Atlantic reunion for Royal Navy family 

Father and son Richard and John Yorke were reunited (ish) when the two biggest ships in the Naval Service linked up in the North Atlantic. 

New aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was taking fuel from RFA Tidespring during fast-jet trials off the east coast of the USA when helicopter engineer Richard thought he recognised a familiar face on the new tanker.

“I saw what looked like my dad on the other ship,” said Richard, a leading seaman responsible for Merlin Mk2 helicopters, normally based at Culdrose air station in Cornwall. “I looked him up on the internal e-mail and found out it was him. It was a great surprise.”

John was supposed to be aboard Tidespring’s sister Tiderace as her helicopter controller, guiding aircraft safely on and off the tanker’s flight deck. She’s supporting Royal Navy operations in home waters at present. 

“When I was moved on to RFA Tidespring and discovered I was coming over to join the carrier, I kept it a secret to give Richard a bit of a surprise,” said John – better known as ‘Yorkie’.

The pair were formally reunited a couple of weeks later when both ships sailed into the US Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia, once the carrier had completed her debut trials with her F-35 Lightning jets.

The stop in Norfolk allowed both Yorkes to show the other around their respective ships. Collectively John says the Queen Elizabeth-Tide-class pairing makes for an awesome sight. 

It is great both to see him out here and to serve alongside him for the first time

Leading Seaman Richard Yorke

“Having been in the Royal Navy for 25 years and now the RFA for 10 years this is such a massive step ahead,” he added. “It is just we needed.”

His son Richard added: “It is great both to see him out here and to serve alongside him for the first time.”

Also reunited in Norfolk were the Copsey brothers – Able Seaman Jacob, a warfare specialist on the carrier, and Third Officer Joshua, a deck officer on the tanker.

“During the first refuelling, I was madly emailing him to find out where he would be so we could wave at each other,” said Jacob.

Joshua added: “It was great to have a chance to join him and the carrier. I made sure that one of the packages transferred by line across to HMS Queen Elizabeth had a present of an RFA T-shirt for him.”

His brother got his own back in Norfolk, showing off his ship which is nearly twice the size of the tanker.

“I am used to some pretty big ships in the RFA but nothing compares to this,” said Joshua.

Once the carrier has finished offloading the equipment and personnel she carried for the Lightning trials, which ended just before Thanksgiving (November 22), she and her task group – frigate HMS Monmouth completes the force – will head for the UK, returning home in time for Christmas.