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Former classmates reunited on Royal Navy carrier

Lt Cdr Alex Harris and Lt Cdr Jeremy Olver both attended Newbridge Junior School in Bath in the early 1990s. They have been reunited almost 30 years later onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. Picture: POPhot Jay Allen
22 July 2021
Two Royal Navy sailors have been reunited after nearly thirty years on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s global deployment.

Lieutenant Commanders Alex Harris and Jeremy Olver were classmates at Newbridge Junior School in Bath but since leaving in 1994 had not seen each other. 

The pair joined the Royal Navy more than 15 years ago, one as a full time officer, the other as a reservist, but this is the first time they have served together. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth in May for her first operational deployment, which has seen the 65,000 tonne vessel lead a 10-strong flotilla through the Mediterranean for operations and exercises with NATO partners. 

Earlier this month, they passed through the Suez Canal and is now heading across the Indian Ocean to East Asia, for a series of engagements with South Korea, Japan and other partners.

The task of organising the programme of diplomatic visits and events falls to Alex. She said: “While the main focus of Carrier Strike is about maritime power, HMS Queen Elizabeth offers much more. She supports not just defence and security, but diplomacy, trade and prosperity. 

“The ship is only a few years old, but is already something of an icon, attracting interest wherever she goes.”

The final few days before HMS Queen Elizabeth’s departure from her home port of Portsmouth saw a succession of senior government and military officials tour the ship, culminating in the Prime Minister and Her Majesty the Queen visiting within a few days of one another. 

Alex added: “It has to be the highlight of my career to date. It was an honour to organise the visit of the Queen, but to then have the opportunity to actually meet her was really memorable and an absolute pleasure.”

Alex joined the Royal Navy in 2008 as a warfare officer. Her early experience included serving on the frigate HMS Sutherland during the Libya crisis and serving with NATO in Portugal. 

She also served in the offshore patrol vessel HMS Mersey for a period of counter narcotic and disaster relief duties in the Caribbean, before relocating to the Aegean during the migrant crisis.

 
HMS Queen Elizabeth supports not just defence and security, but diplomacy, trade and prosperity

Lt Cdr Alex Harris, currently serving on HMS Queen Elizabeth

Jeremy joined the Royal Navy as a reservist in 2005, and has subsequently juggled a career as a press officer and speechwriter in the Civil Service with four periods of operational service. 

Specialising in Media Operations, he is able to bring the skills from his civilian job into the Navy, to help coordinate visits to the Strike Group from journalists, as well as managing a team of photographers.

He said: “A few years back I spent three years as speechwriter to the head of the Navy. The carriers were still being built and I must have written about them every single day, so it’s hugely fulfilling to be part of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first operational deployment and see it all become a reality. 

“Standing with journalists on the flight deck as the jets launch one-by-one is an extraordinary experience.”

Jeremy’s career has included conducting counter-piracy operations in the Somali basin from a Turkish warship as well as two deployments working alongside the Royal Marines on amphibious assault ship HMS Albion

“Joining the Royal Navy as a reservist is one of the best decisions I’ve made,” he added.
 
“It’s given me control over my career, enabling me to pick and choose different jobs. With media operations I’ve found a niche that works for me. 

“Over the past 15 years I’ve visited more than a dozen countries from the Seychelles to Singapore. It all started when I was growing up in Bath and I used to visit Navy Days in Portsmouth and Plymouth with my parents. I know they’re following the deployment from home with great interest.”

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