Former aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious sails out of Portsmouth

media caption'Lusty's farewell: A short history of former HMS Illustrious

The former aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious has sailed out of its home port of Portsmouth for the final time.

The MoD announced earlier this year it had been sold for £2m to a ship recycling company in Turkey.

It had been hoped the former flagship could be saved as a tribute to the decommissioned Invincible Class aircraft carriers.

Crowds lined the shoreline for the ship's departure for a Turkish scrapyard.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCrowds lined the shore to wave off HMS Illustrious
image copyrightPA
image captionThe former aircraft carrier was towed out of Portsmouth Harbour
image copyrightPA
image captionIt has been sold for scrap for £2m

Hundreds watched in quiet reflection as the ship sailed out of Portsmouth on her final journey.

Alan Vowles, who served on the ship, said: "I had the pleasure of serving on Lusty from 1984 to 1987.

"One of the proudest moments of my life has to be lining the deck as we sailed into Sydney harbour in a fleet of warships to celebrate the Australian Navy's 75th birthday.

"She was a fine ship and one that I will always be proud to say I served on. God speed Lusty, you will be missed."

'Goodbye with rum'

Simon Jones, former flight deck officer, said: "Today's a very emotional day, I've got my tot of rum to say goodbye to her.

"She was my ship, I basically saw her through her career. A ship is a piece of steel - it's the people that breathe life into it. The atmosphere and the camaraderie was outstanding."

media captionPrinces Margaret launches Illustrious in 1978
media captionBBC News archive report on board HMS Illustrious

Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, first commanding officer of HMS Illustrious, said: "I'm very sad indeed to see the last of the three Invincible Class ships going to the scrap yard.

"Most of us hoped the government's intention to go for a maritime heritage preservation of the ship would come to pass.

"It was a great honour to be appointed as the first captain of HMS Illustrious. I have many, many happy memories."

HMS Illustrious in action

image copyrightMOD
image captionHMS Illustrious on exercise in the Gulf in 2001
  • Was rushed into service in 1982 in the aftermath of the Falklands War
  • Operated in the Adriatic to maintain a no-fly zone in Bosnia in the 1990s and did the same in the Gulf in 1998
  • Involved in supporting operations in Afghanistan following 11 September attacks
  • Took part in operations in Sierra Leone and an aid mission in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013

The 22,000-tonne ship, also known as Lusty, left service in 2014 after 32 years.

It had been deployed to conflict zones including Bosnia, Iraq and Sierra Leone.

Sir Alan Massey, who captained HMS Illustrious in 2001-02, said he was "hugely sad" to see the vessel leave.

"You never quite knew what the next challenge would be... It just had amazing capability and flexibility. As a captain, there is no better job - there was a real can-do attitude."

image copyrightPA
image captionSailors of all ranks joined hundreds of people to wave off the former aircraft carrier
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIllustrious has been in Portsmouth since it was decommissioned in 2014

In October 2013, the MoD sought innovative bids to keep Illustrious - the fifth warship and second aircraft carrier to carry the name - in the UK.

It had hoped part - or all - of the ship could be developed for heritage purposes, but earlier this year it was announced none of the bids had been viable and it would follow Invincible and Ark Royal to a Turkish scrap yard.

Illustrious was used as a helicopter carrier following the sale of the Navy's Sea Harriers in 2010, before it was decommissioned at a ceremony in Portsmouth in 2014.

Its role will be replaced by the next generation of aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, currently being built in Rosyth.

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