Despite attempts to turn HMS Illustrious into a floating museum or attraction, the former aircraft carrier left Portsmouth today to make a final journey to a scrapyard in Turkey.

7 December 2016

Onlookers at the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth today (7 December 2016) saluted HMS Illustrious as the former aircraft carrier left the port for the last time.

The vessel had a career spanning 32 years and more than 900,000 nautical miles, including deployment in the Falklands War and conflicts in Bosnia and the Gulf.

The departure of ‘Lusty’, as the boat is affectionately known, comes as work continues at Portsmouth for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s biggest ever warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious takes over from HMS Invincible (in the background) in the Falklands Task Group. Credit: Royal Navy

The second of the Royal Navy’s three Invincible-class aircraft carriers, HMS Illustrious was built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret.

Work to complete the 22,000-tonne ship was speeded up during 1982 after the outbreak of the Falklands War.

Although the conflict ended before work was finished, Illustrious rapidly deployed and played an important role in the aftermath.

So quickly was the vessel deployed, the commissioning ceremony took place at sea en route to the Falklands on 20 June 1982.

HMS Illustrious

Credit: Royal Navy

Illustrious took part in a range of operations until 2014, including evacuating Britons from the Lebanon in 2006 and delivering humanitarian aid after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013.

There have been several attempts to save the 22,000-tonne ‘Lusty’ after it was decommissioned in August 2014.

The last – selling the warship to Gibraltar as a maritime attraction – fell through in April 2016 because of the “prohibitive” maintenance cost of the aircraft carrier.

The Ministry of Defence then announced in May 2016 that it had put it up for sale for scrap.

The ship will now be recycled by Leyal Ship Recycling Ltd. “following a two-year open competition which sought to retain part of all of the ship for heritage purposes in the UK. While a number of bids were received, none proved viable,” stated the Royal Navy in a media release.

HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious during the RAN 75th anniversary Fleet Review in Sydney Harbour, Australia, Credit: Royal Navy

Meanwhile, as work continues in Portsmouth for the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth, sailors on board the warship, which is currently in Rosyth, Scotland, have spoken with affection about deployment on HMS Illustrious.

Chief petty officer Richard Byers, from Portsmouth, served on Illustrious twice during his career.

He now serves on board HMS Queen Elizabeth and is in charge of the ship’s fire detection systems.

“I was lucky enough to serve in Illustrious twice, once in 2007 and again in 2011 and I have fond memories of my time on board. But it makes me even more aware that there are massive differences in the systems that I worked on then compared to what I work on now,” he said.

“The amount of new technology and the amount of learning we have all had to do to take HMS Queen Elizabeth to sea represents a massive step forward and has made for some incredibly interesting times,” continued the chief petty officer.

HMS Illustrious

Credit: Royal Navy

“I’m based in Portsmouth with my family and I’m really looking forward to getting back down there. I’ve been up here for nearly three years now so the first entry to Portsmouth will be a really interesting time for me,” he added.

Leading airman (aircraft handler) George Medcalf served on board Illustrious for two and a half years at the start of his career.

“I really enjoyed my time on Illustrious and I’m sad to say goodbye to the ship but I had good times on board,” he noted.

Around £120 million has been invested in Portsmouth to prepare the naval base for the two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

In order to prepare the harbour and dockyard infrastructure for the 65,000-tonne carriers, 276 metres of jetty have been reinforced with over 3,300 tonnes of new steel work.

New navigation lights have been installed in the harbour and Solent, with huge new fenders and gangways delivered to accommodate the giant ships.

The work has also led to the uncovering of bombs, which were dropped in the harbour by the Germans during World War Two.

 

13 May 2016

HMS Illustrious, which served in the Falklands War, Bosnia and the Gulf, has been put up for sale for scrap by the Ministry of Defence.

The Disposal Services Authority (DSA) is inviting expressions of interest for the sale of the warship “for recycling”. The vessel is currently moored in Portsmouth Harbour after 32 years of active service.

The announcement comes following several attempts to preserve the 22,000-tonne HMS Illustrious, which is affectionately known as ‘Lusty’.

The last – selling the warship to Gibraltar as a maritime attraction – fell through last month because of the “prohibitive” maintenance cost of the aircraft carrier.

The DSA said the sale could be discontinued should “a heritage option” become open.

Bids for the warship must be in by 23 May with viewings in June.

HMS Illustrious was decommissioned in August 2014 at a service at Portsmouth Naval Base. At the time, the ship was the last Invincible-class carrier left – both her sister ships, HMS Invincible and HMS Ark Royal had already been scrapped.

 

12 April 2016

The HMS Illustrious Association is warning that the warship is at risk of becoming a ‘national embarrassment’ if action isn’t taken to secure the vessel’s future.

This comes as the Portsmouth News reveals that a deal to sell the 22,000 tonne vessel to the government of Gibraltar has fallen through.

The newspaper quotes a spokesman from the government, stating that it was giving “serious consideration” to plans to make the ship a maritime attraction in the British territory. However, the idea has been shelved because of the “prohibitive” maintenance cost of the aircraft carrier.

The President of the HMS Illustrious Association, Vice Admiral Bob Cooling told the newspaper that he would now rather see the ship scrapped if the Falklands warship could not be adequately preserved.

“Unless Lusty’s future is adequately funded to preserve her appearance and dignity as the UK’s longest-ever serving aircraft carrier then it would be better that she is scrapped rather than risk her becoming a national embarrassment,” he said.

The Vice Admiral believes ticket sales could have paid for the ship’s upkeep in Gibraltar.

“What better than such an iconic example of British naval heritage showcased in a vital overseas territory which itself reflects over 300 years of British maritime history?” stated Vice Admiral Cooling.

Responding to the concerns, an MOD spokesperson told YBW: “No decisions have yet been made on the future of the former HMS Illustrious and options for her sale are still under consideration by the Disposal Services Authority.”

HMS Illustrious was decommissioned in August 2014 at a service at Portsmouth Naval Base. At the time, the ship was the last Invincible-class carrier left – both her sister ships, HMS Invincible and HMS Ark Royal had already been scrapped.

‘Lusty’, as she is affectionately known, had been in active service for 32 years, including deployment in the Falklands War. The ship was replaced as the nation’s helicopter carrier by HMS Ocean.

  • Toffer99

    We haven’t got a carrier at the moment, so lets keep it going. Oh no, we can’t do that, the Government sold all the Harriers!

  • Toffer99

    We haven’t got a carrier at the moment, so lets keep it going. Oh no, we can’t do that, the Government sold all the Harriers!