As is often the case in these matters, the former HMS Illustrious – now just Illustrious – is sitting sadly in Portsmouth Harbour, slowly wasting away.
Over the past few years, we have reported as many former proud warships have been towed from Portsmouth and despatched to Turkey, soon to be razor blades, tin cans or other products of recycling.
Last summer saw the Type 42s York, Gloucester and Edinburgh depart, while in 2014 we waved off Plymouth. All proud ships, all now gone.
Many will say it’s the inevitable – and best – end for a ship, as the alternative is rusting hulks clogging up the harbour. Times change, the Type 42s disappear, the Type 45s take their place. Soon we welcome the Queen Elizabeth class carriers, Ark Royal is no more, and therefore so long, Lusty – and thanks for the memories and the service.
However, there’s something about the Illustrious situation that sticks in the craw.
At the time of decommissioning there was a great deal of excitement about the potential of the ship. A floating conference centre was mooted in Portsmouth and Hull was interested as well. But all these official bids foundered, for want of money (in Portsmouth’s case) or inclination (in some of the others).
Now, all that’s left are a few ‘unofficial’ bids for the ship, whatever they may be.
The MoD has not shared these bids with the public and so it appears that Lusty is in limbo, waiting for someone, somewhere to decide her future.
Sentimentally, we’d love to see the ship restored and made use of, preferably in this area. We’d love her to become a working memorial – a lesson about the past that plays a part in the future.
But mainly, above all other things, we’d like to see a decision made soon.
It’s 18 months since she was decommissioned, and this is where we came in. Illustrious is sitting in Portsmouth Harbour, slowly wasting away. Let’s hope this is not still the case in another 18 months’ time.