Decision to retire Lusty might be one we soon regret

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We all knew it was coming but even so, as the axe falls, it still leaves us feeling distinctly ill at ease.

As The News revealed exclusively that the last of the Invincible-class aircraft carriers would be pensioned off next month, almost 400,000 people were being evacuated in the Philippines.

Typhoon Rammasun was causing widespread destruction and killing many.

What has this to do with the ‘retirement’ of HMS Illustrious, the last of the Portsmouth-based 20th-century carriers?

You might recall that last November she and her ship’s company played a major part in the relief effort there after another typhoon.

It was one of the many ‘battle honours’ being trumpeted last night by the Ministry of Defence as it brought down the curtain on her 32 years of service. What a neat irony.

When she is decommissioned later this year, Britain will be reduced to a nation with just one carrier – HMS Ocean with her helicopters – to tide us over for the next six years until the giant HMS Queen Elizabeth squeezes into Portsmouth and becomes operational.

It was prime minister Harold Macmillan who once rather wearily said, when asked what he feared most, ‘events, dear boy, events’.

And boy do we have some ‘events’ going on at the moment in this troubled world – events which might just make David Cameron wish he had not left us without such vital cover. Hence our unease.

In no particular order there’s Israel and Hamas; Russia v Ukraine; the Syrian civil war; Afghanistan likely to implode once the west leaves by the end of the year, and, probably most vitally, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

This militant group, so hardline it has been disavowed by al-Qaeda, has gained more than a foothold in Iraq. And the possibility of having to send a carrier to the Gulf to help an American response is not fantasy.

We can only hope that Illustrious’s departure from active service does not see her mothballed, yet.

For she might have to be brought out of retirement... soon.