HMS Illustrious crest

HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious was decommissioned in a moving ceremony in Portsmouth on the 28th August 2014. On the 7th December 2016 she set sail from Portsmouth for the final time as she headed to Turkey to be recycled.

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Sailors’ pride on new aircraft carrier as Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time


HMS Illustrious Latest News

Culdrose Squadron celebrates Taranto 75

Culdrose Squadron celebrate Taranto 75


Illustrious book to hit the shelves

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Current operation Exercise Deep Blue

Exercise Deep Blue is a high tempo, multi-aircraft exercise, putting the Merlin Mk2 helicopter through its paces operating from sea and conducting anti-submarine warfare.

  • Alongside

    Alongside in her home port of Portsmouth Naval Base

  • Operation Patwin

    Operation Patwin is the military component of the UK’s humanitarian aid mission to the Philippines after the ravages of Typhoon Haiyan.

Ready to fight

When diplomacy fails, the UK has to be ready to protect its interests and its allies. What’s more, as a member of NATO and the UN, the UK also acts to support the enforcement of UN resolutions and come to the aid of our allies. This is where the Royal Marines come in: we train to go where we’re needed – by sea, land or air – and deploy our forces with the aim of restoring peace.

Preventing Conflict

The Royal Navy’s presence on the world stage sends a powerful message that the UK is committed to global affairs and provides a stabilising influence. In this way we prevent conflict on the high seas and protect the flow of international trade on which our nation depends.  

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Unit History

The First Illustrious1789

The first HMS Illustrious goes back to 1789 and was a 74-gun battleship which fought in the French Revolutionary Wars. She was damaged during the Battle of Genoa in 1795.

Battle Honours1795

Genoa 1795

The Second Illustrious1803

The second Illustrious was launched in 1803 and saw action in European and Far Eastern waters. In 1854 she turned into a training ship before being broken up in 1868.

Battle Honours1809

Basque Roads 1809

The Third Illustrious1896

The third HMS Illustrious was a Majestic-class battleship of 1896, in her day the largest and most powerful warship in the world. She serviced in the Mediterranean and home waters.

The Fourth Illustrious1940

The fourth was a WW2 aircraft carrier which saw extensive combat in the Mediterranean and Far East, serving as the launchpad for the Taranto raid.

Battle Honours1940

Taranto 1940
Mediterranean 1940-41

Battle Honours1942

Diego Suarez 1942

Return to service1942

Her aircraft supporting the Allied occupations of Vichy French islands in the Indian Ocean. Her final 18 months of WW2 were in the Far East, launching strikes at Japanese held oil refineries.

Battle Honours1943

Salerno 1943

Battle Honours1944

Sabang 1944

Battle Honours1945

Palembang 1945
Okinawa 1945

Training Ship1954

She was repaired and refitted and used as a training and trials ship before being paid off in 1954 and broken up three years later.

The fifth HMS Illustrious1978

The second of the Navy’s three Invincible-class aircraft carriers, Illustrious was built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978. She was affectionately known by her crew as 'Lusty'.

Falklands War1982

Work to complete the 22,000-tonne ship was speeded up during 1982 after the outbreak of the Falklands War. Although the conflict ended before work was finished, Illustrious rapidly deployed and played an important role in the aftermath. So quickly was she deployed, her commissioning ceremony took place at sea en route to the Falklands on June 20 1982.

The Ninties1990

During the 1990s Illustrious helped maintain the no-fly zone over Bosnia and in 1998 operated in the Gulf carrying out similar roles over southern Iraq.

Sierra Leone2000

HMS Illustrious was soon called into action again in 2000, leading a task group aimed at restoring peace and stability to Sierra Leone.

September 11th2001

In 2011 HMS Illustrious played an important part in the war on terror in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks in America, staying in the region for several months.


In 2006, along with Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester, Illustrious helped in the evacuation of British citizens from Beirut caught up in the Israel-Lebanon crisis.

TV Star2008

HMS illustrious hit the television screens in 2008 as the star of Channel 5’s six-part documentary Warship which followed her deployment to the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia for a series of exercises and diplomatic visits to 20 ports.

Typhoon Haiyan2013

HMS Illustrious made headlines around the world in 2013 when she was diverted from Exercise Cougar 13 to assist with disaster relief operations in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.


HMS Illustrious was decommissioned in a moving ceremony in Portsmouth on the 28th August 2014.

Goodbye Illustrious2016

On the 7th December 2016, HMS Illustrious left Portsmouth for the final time, after a career spanning 32 years and more than 900,000 nautical miles, to Turkey to be recycled as were her sister ships Invincible and Ark Royal by the company Leyal Ship Recycling.

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HMS Illustrious is affectionately known as 'Lusty' by the Ship's Company

HMNB Portsmouth

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