A FORMER Woodroffe student will play a key role at the unveiling of the Royal Navy’s next generation aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Simon Petitt, 47, who was born in Derby but went to school in Lyme Regis from 1978 to 1985, was awarded the role of senior naval officer of the new vessel back in 2012.

The 65,000-tonne ship is Britain’s biggest ever carrier and is said to be the most complex warship built in the UK.

More than 7,000 people in more than 100 companies across the country have worked on its construction.

The Queen will attend a ceremony to mark the completion of the new aircraft carrier at Rosyth dockyard in Fife tomorrow, July 4.

Mr Petitt, who will have the chance to meet the Queen at the ceremony, left Woodroffe school at 18 after his A-levels and joined Britannia Royal Navy College in Dartmouth in 1985.

He said: “I’m a huge supporter of Lyme Regis as a town because I grew up there.

“I’ve been in the navy for a long time now and was appointed the senior naval officer for HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is very exciting and a huge honour.

“A senior naval officer is put on a ship to prepare the ship for sea, to operate things and in this instance, to grow the crew from 12 to 700 people before the ship is handed over to another commanding officer when it goes to sea.

“Knowing I will have this experience to tell in future years is at the back of my mind every day. It’s a huge privilege to be working in command of a brilliant bunch of people.”

Thousands are expected on the banks of the Firth of Forth for the unveiling of the ship on July 4, including members of the ship’s crew and workers who helped build it.

Head of sixth form at Woodroffe Jim Thomas said: “After leaving Woodroffe Simon took his first post as an engineering officer cadet and progressed from there. I remember him well, having been his geography teacher and also involved in various boating activities in Lyme Bay.

“He was an energetic student with an interest in all things maritime who clearly chose the right career path.

“Congratulations to him – what an achievement.”

Mr Petitt said the forward programme for the next few years includes fitting out the ship with the neccessary equipment, cables and kit.

It is hoped to have the ship set sail in mid 2016, accepted into service in 2017 and be flying jets from the ship by 2018, he added.

He said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth has a 50-year operational lifespan, so putting this in perspective, it’s last captain won’t have even been born yet.

“Preparations have been going really well for the launch, where I’ll have the chance to meet the Queen and tell her about how the ship is operating and what the crew are doing.

“Currently, we have 110 people in the ship’s company but this will increase to 700.

“From the ship, aircrafts will be able to cover 450 operational nautical miles, reaching 80 per cent of all cities 100 miles off the coast.

“We aim to peak at 108 flights a day.”

Simon is now married and lives in Hampshire, but also has a holiday home in Lyme Regis by the iconic Cobb.