New book reveals the secrets of HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious Picture: MOD Crown Copyright 2015
HMS Illustrious Picture: MOD Crown Copyright 2015
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IT’S almost 15 years to the day since the captain of one of Britain’s most iconic warships witnessed a terror atrocity that would rock the globe.

The date was September 11, 2001 and Charles Style, commanding officer of HMS Illustrious, had been on a routine trip to Malta when terrorists flew two planes into New York, massacring thousands.

He had been at a reception at the British High Commissioner’s office on the island when news of the attack broke.

‘Halfway through the reception the high commissioner went up to the captain and said, “You need to come to my study and look at something”,’ recounted marine author and photographer Richard Johnstone-Bryden.

‘The captain watched the TV in shock like all of us.’

Within weeks, the 20,000-tonne aircraft carrier from Portsmouth had been mobilised and transformed to take troops in preparation for an assault on the Taliban.

This is just one of many fascinating tales to be revealed tonight as writer Richard launches his new book, HMS Illustrious (V) 1982-2014 chronicling the amazing history of warship.

He spent months researching stories and interviewing those who served aboard the legendary ship, nicknamed Lusty.

‘Their recollections provided a valuable insight into the notable events of the ship’s career and what it was like to serve in an aircraft carrier during a period of considerable social change in the Royal Navy,’ added Richard.

Launched in 1978, Illustrious is the UK’s longest serving aircraft carrier, notching up 32 years of service, before it was decommissioned in July 2014.

As well as supporting combat operations in Iraq, the Falklands and Afghanistan, it has also played a key role in saving lives.

Its final mission was to help the devastated communities of the Philippines who had been hit by the deadly super typhoon Haiyan.

‘She has had an action-packed history,’ said Richard.

The book launch is taking place tonight from 6.30pm at Princess Royal Gallery of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.