SAILORS onboard the Royal Navy’s biggest ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth have today spoken of their pride while saying farewell to their former ship Illustrious.
The Royal Navy’s former aircraft carrier - affectionally known as Lusty - left the city for the last time today as work continues on the imminent arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth into her home port for the first time.
Illustrious was saluted and given three cheers by onlookers at the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth as she left the harbour for the final time bound for a scrapyard in Turkey after a career spanning 32 years and more than 900,000 nautical miles.
As the clock ticked down to Illustrious’ departure from Portsmouth today, people who gathered to see her off spoke of their feelings.
The nation’s media, residents and past serving members of Lusty have gathered at the Round Tower to say their farewells and document the huge occasion.
Jon Everett was an able seaman radar who served on Illustrious for three years.
He said: ‘For me, it’s the end of a chapter in my life, because it was the last ship I served on, which is now being scrapped.
‘So it’s very sad.’
Donald Loake, 75, has made the trip from Northamptonshire.
He said: ‘I came to see her when she was first made. It’s a bit sad. It’s a shame more couldn’t have been done to preserve her.’
Meanwhile, in Rosyth, work continues at a pace to bring HMS Queen Elizabeth to life ahead of her first entry to Portsmouth next year – and many of those on board have fond memories of Illustrious and her remarkable career.
Chief Petty Officer Richard Byers, from Portsmouth, served on Illustrious twice during his career. He now serves on board HMS Queen Elizabeth and is in charge of the ship’s fire detection systems.
He said: ‘I was lucky enough to serve in Illustrious twice, once in 2007 and again in 2011 and I have fond memories of my time on board. But it makes me even more aware that there are massive differences in the systems that I worked on then compared to what I work on now.
‘The amount of new technology and the amount of learning we have all had to do to take HMS Queen Elizabeth to sea represents a massive step forward and has made for some incredibly interesting times.
‘I’m based in Portsmouth with my family and I’m really looking forward to getting back down there. I’ve been up here for nearly three years now so the first entry to Portsmouth will be a really interesting time for me.’
Leading Airman (Aircraft Handler) George Medcalf served on board Illustrious for two and a half years at the start of his career.
He said: ‘I really enjoyed my time on Illustrious and I’m sad to say goodbye to the ship but I had good times on board. Working on a ship of this size is just exciting and I’m drafted now for two years. I’m really looking forward to the exciting times ahead, especially with the F35s coming in.’
Meanwhile in Portsmouth, £120m of investment is now seeing extensive work take place to prepare the naval base for the two new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
In order to prepare the harbour and dockyard infrastructure for the 65,000-tonne carriers, 276 metres of jetty have been reinforced with over 3,300 tonnes of new steel work. New navigation lights have been installed in the harbour and Solent, with huge new fenders and gangways delivered to accommodate the giant ships.