World's longest-serving warship HMS Hermes being decommissioned in India

Video report by ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

Of course it’s sad to see a great ship pass away. But the aircraft carrier that was HMS Hermes is bowing out after a glorious lifespan unsurpassed – she’s the longest serving warship in the world.

In the autumn she was taken to the Alang shipbreaker’s yard in Gujarat, India. It’s the biggest there is.

At every high tide the former Hermes has been towed closer to shore and to her end. Dismantling began a month ago.

About five per cent of the ship is already gone. The famous take off ramp used by the Harrier jump jets has been removed.

Hermes was a British warship until 1986. Credit: ITV News

Breaking her up completely is likely to take a year. Hermes’ keel was laid down in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, in 1944.

The end of the Second World War meant a delay in construction and it wasn’t until 1953 that she was launched, and then it was only to clear a slipway.

She wouldn’t join the Royal Navy until 1959.

Come 1981 and a defence review would deem Hermes surplus to requirements. But then Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.

Hermes was saved. She would become flagship of the UK Task Force sent to the South Atlantic.

She carried with her Harriers, helicopters and the hopes of the nation.

The dismantling of the ship

One hundred and eight days after leaving she returned to Portsmouth and a hero’s reception.

The quayside was packed with well-wishers welcoming home the 1700 crew, Royal Marines, and survivors from HMS Sheffield.

In 1986 Hermes was sold to India. She was recommissioned into the Indian Navy as INS Viraat. The name means giant.

After 27 years of Royal Navy service, the carrier would be a mainstay of the Indian Navy for another 30 years before her decommissioning in 2017.

Watch drone footage of HMS Hermes

Andy Trish is a Cornwall-based IT businessman who served on Hermes during the Falklands War.

He heads up a Trust that has been trying to preserve the ship as a museum and events centre.

As recently as last week his Trust wrote to the UK and Indian prime ministers asking them to intervene and save the old carrier.

Even though it looks even later than the eleventh hour, his campaign underlines the regard those who know her have for the great ship that was HMS Hermes.