SAILORS on board the Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier are looking forward to some well-earned leave before deployment later this year.
HMS Illustrious is back home in Portsmouth after spending months at sea in UK waters doing exercises, training and port visits.
Despite not being on a deployment, the ship has been a rare sight in Portsmouth since Easter.
From taking a leading role in war games off the coast of Scotland to welcoming the crew of the BBC’s The One Show on board, her ship’s company have been working hard.
The ship will now stay in Portsmouth until later this summer, when she deploys on exercise Cougar 13 as part of the UK Response Force Task Group.
Captain Mike Utley, the commanding officer, said: ‘We are delighted to be home for some maintenance and leave before our next deployment.
‘We have worked hard through the summer and are now well prepared.
‘In the meantime, we are all looking forward to a well-earned break.’
The ship’s first major spell away from home after Easter was Exercise Joint Warrior, off the coast of Scotland.
That involved soldiers, sailors, ships and aircraft from several nations including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the Netherlands.
HMS Illustrious’ job was to carry Royal Marines from 42 Commando, and almost every type of UK military helicopter operated from her decks during the exercise.
The ship then enjoyed a short visit to Dublin, before heading to London for commemorations of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Sailors took part in a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, a march through the centre of London, and the colourful Ceremony of the Dues at the Tower of London.
Capt Utley took command of the carrier from Capt Martin Connell in May, and took her straight out on Operational Sea Training.