HMS Illustrious home coming: The crews stories.

ARRIVAL HMS Illustrious recieves a rapturous welome from families as it arrives back in Portsmouth following its recent humanitarian deployment in the Phillipines. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (1477-9)
ARRIVAL HMS Illustrious recieves a rapturous welome from families as it arrives back in Portsmouth following its recent humanitarian deployment in the Phillipines. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (1477-9)

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OUR reporters caught up with a number of Lusty’s crew on her arrival in Portsmouth.

CPO Nick Brindley, 41, from Whiteley

LUCKY Chief Petty Officer Nick Brindley swapped an aircraft carrier for a brand new car as he left HMS Illustrious yesterday.

The 41-year-old, from Whiteley, won the Peugeot 208 in the deployment raffle.

And, more importantly, he was delighted to see his wife Fiona again for the first time in five months.

He told The News: ‘I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family.

‘I won the car in the raffle. It’s just nice to be home, we’ve had a busy year with a lot happening.’

The car had come from Griffin Tax Free, which runs the Defence Discount Service.

CPO Brindley, pictured above right with Captain Mike Utley, added: ‘I am very pleased and surprised to have won the car. I was completely stunned to hear my name being read out. It really was the last thing I expected.’

PO Martin Gardner, 31, from Havant

PETTY Officer Gardner spent three nights ashore in the Philippines helping locals rebuild their lives.

He said: ‘One of our top priorities was getting the children back to school.

‘The waters had come up incredibly high in some places and damaged the buildings and roads to get there.

‘That was one of the main things we wanted to do so we set about doing that and helping them rebuild.

‘I’m really glad to have had the experience and it has given me a different outlook on life in some respects. Coming back home you realise how sometimes we worry over the simplest things when actually we have so much more than others out there.

‘These people often didn’t have very much, and what they had, they had lost in the typhoon, so we were really pleased to have been able to help them.’

Lt Gemma Radcliffe, 33, from Fareham

LIEUTENANT Radcliffe had been celebrating her boyfriend’s birthday thousands of miles away at sea when the news came that HMS Illustrious would be diverting to the Philippines.

Now she has been reunited with her family to enjoy the celebrations properly.

‘I remember the day we were told we were going to the Philippines because it was my boyfriend’s birthday,’ said Lt Radcliffe, the education and development officer on board.

‘You obviously do get a little period of disappointment but then you realise you are being given the opportunity to do something amazing.

‘Once we started seeing what was going on and received our handover from HMS Daring, we knew the scale of the devastation and how much help we could bring.

‘It is really exciting to be coming home and to know that everyone is waiting for me on the jetty. I was really pleased to be involved in the Philippines operations but now I’m glad to be home.’

AB Emma Whitty, 22, from Fareham

AS FAR as a first deployment at sea goes, Able Seaman Emma Whitty could not have asked for anything more.

The 22-year-old, from Fareham, joined HMS Illustrious only two days before it left Portsmouth in August last year.

It was her first deployment since joining the Royal Navy 14 months ago.

She said: ‘The deployment has been an emotional rollercoaster but it is definitely something to be proud of.

‘Once we knew what we were doing and why we were doing it, everyone was more than ready to help in the Philippines.

‘My job on board was communications so I was relaying information on the ship.

‘We all felt like we were really making a difference.’

AB Whitty was met on the jetty by her parents.

AB Nikki Bodkin, 31, from Copnor

WRITER Nikki Bodkin has only been away from her friends and family since August, but they might not recognise her since her time on the ship.

The 31-year-old, from Copnor, shaved her hair off while on board in a bid to raise money for charity.

She was inspired by friends and family who had been through the stages of cancer, and wanted to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Nikki said: ‘I was a little nervous about coming home because everyone on board has got used to how I look without my hair, but for my family and friends it will be a shock.

‘I said I would do it to support a friend of mine who has cancer and I’m glad I did it.

‘The hair will be going to the Little Princesses Trust to be made into a wig.’

If you would like to donate to Nikki’s fundraising attempt, visit

Lt Cdr Kevin Watkins, 44, from Southsea

HMS Illustrious has returned to Portsmouth in the nick of time for one sailor to see the birth of his child.

Lt Cdr Watkins was looking forward to going ashore to see his wife Jenny, 34, and children Charlotte, 19, and Callum, 13.

Jenny is due to give birth on Tuesday and Lt Cdr Watkins was thrilled to be home in time for the big day.

He said: ‘I’m really pleased to be home in time for it.

‘It has been an incredibly busy deployment and I think everyone is glad to be home at last.

‘One of the most rewarding things for me was going ashore in the Philippines to help out.

‘Where we went ashore, the morale was a bit low but once we started delivering aid the locals really bounced back.

‘It was like a weight was lifted off the whole of the village and working alongside them was fantastic.’