The aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious stood down today after thirty-two years as a flagship in the Royal Navy.
The Portsmouth-based helicopter and commando carrier has clocked up nine hundred thousand miles on operations across the world. HMS Illustrious, based in Portsmsouth, was built on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978.
She and her crew have played an important role in the Royal Navy's operations around the world. Rachel Hepworth joined sailors past and present to bid her farewell.
The Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious is to be decommissioned today in a special ceremony. The Portsmouth-based helicopter and commando carrier has clocked up 900,000 miles on operations across the world. She has been in active service for thirty-two years.
HMS Illustrious was built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978. Construction of the carrier was underway when the Falklands War broke out - completion of the project was speeded up. The carrier was deployed so quickly that her commissioning ceremony took place on 20th June 1982, while she was on her way to the conflict.
The helicopter carrier HMS Ocean will take over the responsibilities of HMS Illustrious and her crew.
HMS Illustrious helped maintain the no-fly zone in Bosnia during the 1990s. In 1998 she operated in the Arabian Gulf and carried out a similar role in southern Iraq. In 2000 she led a task group aimed at restoring stability and peace to Sierra Leone in West Africa. After the 9/11 attacks in the USA, HMS Illustrious played an important part in the 'war on terror' in Afghanistan - staying in the region for several months.
In 2006, during the Israel - Lebanon crisis, HMS Illustrious helped in the operation to evacuate British citizens from Beirut.
In 2013 HMS Illustrious was diverted from other duties to assist with disaster relief in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.
“Bringing the ship into her home port for the last time was a poignant moment but the welcome we received was tremendous. I’m extremely proud of what the ship has achieved and about what my team has achieved.
"I have mixed feelings but all with a complete optimism for the future given what the navy has got coming, Ocean is back out after an extensive refit and we were at HMS Queen Elizabeth's naming just a few weeks ago."
– Captain Mike Utley, the ship’s 18th and last Commanding Officer - Speaking in July 2014
Hundreds of people are expected in Portsmouth today to watch the official decomission ceremony for the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. It's been in active service for 32 years and is the oldest ship in the Royal Navy's active fleet. Illustrious is being replaced by HMS Ocean which has just undergone a sixty five million pound refit.