Lusty is on her way home to Portsmouth

TOUCH DOWN A Royal Navy Lynx helicopter lands on the deck of HMS Illustrious for the first time in 18 months
TOUCH DOWN A Royal Navy Lynx helicopter lands on the deck of HMS Illustrious for the first time in 18 months
Jim Booth lays a wreath on The Copp Memorial on Hayling Island in 2015 

Picture: Malcolm Wells (150701-4775)

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BRITAIN’S last aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious will return home to Portsmouth tomorrow following a £40m refit.

The warship has been away from her home port since February 2010 and will pass the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth shortly before 5pm.

She left Rosyth Dockyard last month and has been conducting sea trials in UK waters ahead of her return to action.

Her commanding officer, Captain Jerry Kyd, said: ‘There is a really powerful sense of excitement onboard. It’s been a long time away from our base port and we can’t wait to be back in Pompey.’

The 32-year-old carrier, which will be retired in 2014, will no longer carry fast jets after the government axed the Royal Navy’s Harrier jump jets. But the ramp on her newly-painted flight deck remains.

For now, she is operating as a helicopter carrier and recently welcomed the first aircraft to land on her for 18 months – much to the joy of her crew.

Meanwhile, HMS York’s sailors are set for a heroes’ welcome when they return home to Portsmouth on Friday.

The warship had set out for the Falkland Islands in February but she was soon called in to evacuate 43 refugees from Libya and deliver medical aid to the country as war erupted. Her return to Portsmouth at 9am on Friday will include a 15-gun salute, a fly-past from her Lynx helicopter and water jets firing from tugs pulling her into the naval base.