Fond farewell as HMS Illustrious returns to Portsmouth for final time

Crowds gathered in Portsmouth earlier to say goodbye to HMS Illustrious, as it returned to its home port for the final time.

Hundreds of people lined the harbour walls and jetty to wave home the Royal Navy's helicopter carrier.

Image copyright MOD

The ship, which has clocked up 898,893 miles on operations, will be retired after 32 years of service.

Image copyright PA

Illustrious gave a gun salute as it arrived at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour and its arrival was marked with a flypast of Apache, Lynx, Merlin, Sea King and Chinook helicopters.

The warship, which arrived with its 700-strong ship's company, flew a 210m decommissioning pennant.

The band of the Royal Marines also performed.

Image copyright PA

HMS Illustrious, nicknamed Lusty, was was built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne. The picture below shows its launch on 14 December 1978 by Princess Margaret.

Image copyright MOD

The warship is the last of the Invincible class of aircraft carriers which included the Ark Royal and Invincible, introduced into the navy in the 1980s.

Its entry into service was brought forward so it could assist in the Falklands War effort.

In 1986 it attended the Royal Australian Navy 75th anniversary fleet review, shown in this image, which was watched by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

Image copyright MOD

It has also been deployed to conflict zones in Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and helped aid efforts after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in December. This picture shows boxes of aid waiting to be loaded on to the ship.

Image copyright MOD

Last month the crew of HMS Illustrious took part in an exercise with the Royal Navy Merlin Mk2 helicopters, pictured below.

Image copyright MOD

HMS Illustrious will be replaced by HMS Ocean, which has just received a £65m refit.

The Ministry of Defence has invited tenders from private companies and trusts to secure Illustrious's future.

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