FolkestoneJack's Tracks

BOA 70: HMS Illustrious returns to London

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on May 8, 2013

The Invincible class light aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R06) arrived in London today for a short visit as part of the events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

HMS Illustrious with Svitzer Bootle, one of the four tugs assisting her passage

HMS Illustrious with Svitzer Bootle, one of the four tugs assisting her passage

HMS Illustrious is the lone operational survivor of the three Invincible-class light aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy. Originally constructed at the Swan Hunter shipyard in Tyne and Wear, HMS Illustrious was launched in December 1978 and commissioned at sea in 1982 before sailing to the Falklands to relieve her sister ship, HMS Invincible.

HMS Invincible met an ignominious end in a Turkish scrapyard in 2011, a fate which is soon to befall the third ship in the class, HMS Ark Royal, which is expected to depart Portsmouth within the next couple of weeks. HMS Illustrious herself will be decommissioned in 2014, leaving the UK without an aircraft carrier until HMS Queen Elizabeth comes into service around 2020.

Four tugs help HMS Illustrious turn in Blackwall Reach

Four tugs help HMS Illustrious turn in Blackwall Reach

HMS Illustrious mid-turn

HMS Illustrious mid-turn

In the circumstances, it is possible that this may be HMS Illustrious’s last sailing up the Thames before she is withdrawn so it was worth going out to see her make her way to Greenwich, catching her as she rounded the O2 assisted by four tugs (Svitzer Bootle, Svitzer Brunel, Svitzer Laceby and Svitzer Mercia).

Once the aircraft carrier made it into Blackwall Reach the tugs showed their mettle as they helped turn the ship – an impressive feat to watch and one that I hadn’t expected at all!

HMS Illustrious passes Delta Wharf on her way to her mooring in Greenwich

HMS Illustrious passes Delta Wharf on the way to her mooring in Greenwich

HMS Illustrious will be open to visitors at Greenwich from 10am to 2pm on Saturday 11th May and from 10.30am to 2pm on Sunday 12th May (according to the press release Royal Navy warships descend on capital for commemorations). She is scheduled to leave London on Monday 13th May.

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