CROWDS of proud family, friends and veterans gathered at Portsmouth’s naval base this morning for the decommissioning of HMS Illustrious.
Members of the ship’s company took part in the ceremony this morning, with the Royal Marines band starting the celebrations, which was followed by a parade.
Able Seaman Stacey Bell was one of those saying goodbye to the aircraft carrier.
The 26-year-old said: ‘I have been on board since January. To get such a large ship for your first deployment made it a great experience.
‘When I stood on the flight deck for the first time and looked out at the ocean was incredible.
‘It will stay with me forever - it was my second home.’
The 22,000-tonne ship was deployed before her naming ceremony en-route to the Falklands in June 1982.
She has clocked up 900,000 operational miles.
Captain Mike Utley, the ship’s current commanding officer, said: ‘It has been a great honour to be the final commanding officer of HMS Illustrious.
‘This is a symbolic day in the history of the Royal Navy as we lower the ensign for the final time on the Invincible Class.
‘We say goodbye to Illustrious with sadness and pride as we remember her outstanding history, but also excitement as the Royal Navy looks to the future and HMS Queen Elizabeth.’
Family pride for Lusty
THE ceremony for the decommissioning of HMS Illustrious drew to a close with flowers being handed to the ship’s sponsor Lady Sarah Chatto.
Dressed in a long, grey coat, Lady Chatto spoke of her family’s pride for the aircraft carrier.
Her mother, Princess Margaret, became the ship’s sponsor when it launched in 1978.
She described it as an ‘emotional day’ before inspecting the ship’s company.