HMS Illustrious sails out of Portsmouth for scrapyard


Royal Navy’s former aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious will leave Portsmouth one final time today and sail for the scrapyard after 32 years of service with the Royal Navy.

Sailors on board HMS Queen Elizabeth and public at the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth will bid farewell to the aircraft that they affectionately called Lusty.

The UK government announced earlier this year that Illustrious, which sailed over 900,000 nautical miles during her carrier, was sold to a Turkish scrap company.

Leyal Ship Recycling will dismantle the ship after 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.

Illustrious was commissioned in 1982 at the end of the mission to liberate the Falkland Islands and 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.

The second of the Navy’s three Invincible-class aircraft carriers, Illustrious was built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978.

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 she deployed, her commissioning ceremony took place at sea en route to the Falklands on June 20 1982.

During the 1990s Illustrious helped maintain the no-fly zone over Bosnia and in 1998 operated in the Gulf carrying out similar roles over southern Iraq.

She was soon called into action again in 2000, leading a task group aimed at restoring peace and stability to Sierra Leone.

The following year she played an important part in the war on terror in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks in America, staying in the region for several months.

In 2006, along with Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester, Illustrious helped in the evacuation of British citizens from Beirut caught up in the Israel-Lebanon crisis.