VETERANS have reflected upon their time aboard the former HMS Illustrious with both sadness and joy.
Scores of sailors joined hundreds of other well-wishers along the harbour wall in Portsmouth to bid farewell to the aircraft carrier as she headed to Turkey to be scrapped.
Pete McFadden, 61, of Gosport, was a leading seaman on Lusty and was one of the first to join the ship when she was hastily commissioned in 1982 to join the effort to retake the Falkland Islands.
He said: ‘It was an exciting and daunting time. She was the biggest ship I ever served on and it was pretty full-on. We had to work up to a state or readiness on the way to the Falklands, training as we went.
‘We were working anything up to 18 hours a day, playing war games and getting ready for action.
‘To watch the Harriers take off and come back was exhilarating. It’s something I never grew tired of.’
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.’
David Stares, 51, from Fareham, who served as an able seaman aboard Illustrious between 1982 and 1985, said: ‘She was a lovely ship, she was cutting edge technology. Now she’s gone despite a lot of people wanting to save her. She was a brilliant ship, great crew, she was a large family.’
David Rogers, chairman of the HMS Illustrious Association, served in her on 1982 and 1986. He said he was sad to see her go and is inviting other Illustrious veterans to join the association and to sign up for their next reunion at the Spinnaker Tower, on September 9, 2017.
For details, see www.hmsillustriousassociation.com