LUSTY: Life and times of the last of the Harrier carriers

So, Trusty Lusty has gone on her way to a Turkish breaker's.

Wednesday, 7th December 2016, 9:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 2:06 pm
INTO THE SUNSET HMS Illustrious leaves the Med for the Adriatic for her last deployment there in the winter of 1995

When she left Portsmouth today, her hull streaked with corrosion and flaking paint, she was more like Rusty Lusty.

For those of us lucky enough to have spent time in her, it was a poignant day as HMS Illustrious, the final ship of the three Invincible-class aircraft carriers, was tugged through the narrows on her final voyage.

The last of the ‘Harrier carriers’, she sailed getting on for a million nautical miles since Princess Margaret launched her in December 1978.

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Launch of HMS Illustrious on December 4, 1978, at Swan Hunter shipyard, Newcastle

The carrier was rushed into service during the Falklands War four years later.

During her lifetime she took part in a wide range of operations, among them the evacuation of British citizens from Lebanon in 2006 and the delivery of substantial amounts of humanitarian aid after a typhoon devastated the Philippines in 2013.

HMS Invincible, which saw action during the Falklands War, was decommissioned in 2005, and HMS Ark Royal was scrapped after a defence review in 2010 when the government decided to stop, temporarily, operating aircraft carriers to save money.

llustrious became a helicopter carrier at that point until she too was decommissioned two years ago — more than three decades after taking to the sea.

D-DAY Illustrious passes the naval war memorial on Southsea Common during the drumhead service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994 Picture: Rebecca Naden

Now we await the arrival next year of the latest carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

MEDITERRANEAN Illustrious enters Malta for VE Day celebrations in May 1995 Picture PO(Phot) Kenny Everitt
HANDOVER Illustrious, in the foreground, having taken over the Commander Task Group duties from HMS Invincible which is setting off from Gibraltar bound for Portsmouth, February 1995
GIANT ANCHOR HMS Illustriouss ships company, plus Sea Harriers, recorded in 2002 in the Red Sea afte r operational duties in the Gulf
HMS Illustrious crest
Launch of HMS Illustrious on December 4, 1978, at Swan Hunter shipyard, Newcastle
D-DAY Illustrious passes the naval war memorial on Southsea Common during the drumhead service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994 Picture: Rebecca Naden
MEDITERRANEAN Illustrious enters Malta for VE Day celebrations in May 1995 Picture PO(Phot) Kenny Everitt
HANDOVER Illustrious, in the foreground, having taken over the Commander Task Group duties from HMS Invincible which is setting off from Gibraltar bound for Portsmouth, February 1995
GIANT ANCHOR HMS Illustriouss ships company, plus Sea Harriers, recorded in 2002 in the Red Sea afte r operational duties in the Gulf
HMS Illustrious crest