The vessel, built by Swan Hunter on the Tyne, has been sold for £2million and will sail out to Turkey next month
The last voyage of the Tyne-built aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious is expected to take place next month when she leaves the UK for a Turkish breaker’s yard.
Efforts to save the ship, built by Swan Hunter at Wallsend, as a heritage attraction failed and the vessel has now been sold to LEYAL Ship Recycling Ltd in Turkey for £2m.
The same fate befell the sister ship of Illustrious, HMS Ark Royal, which was also built by Swans and was bought by the Turkish breakers.
The company also scrapped the third carrier in the class, HMS Invincible, which was built by Vickers at Barrow, in Cumbria.
George Bone, who lives in Hebburn in South Tyneside, is now retired after serving for 32 years in the Royal Navy including time as executive warrant officer on Ark Royal.
He said: “Ark Royal was a wonderful ship and Illustrious, which I visited many times, was identical. I am totally gutted about both ships. It is a total shame.”
Mr Bone, who served his apprenticeship at Swans before joining the navy, will be on duty on Sunday to talk to visitors to the Old Low Light Heritage Centre on North Shields Fish Quay about a new display on Ark Royal, which also includes images of Illustrious, which was known to its crew as “Lusty.”
The Ark Royal display is an addition to the current Shipyard Painters and Swans Snappers exhibitions which are running at the centre until September18.
The HMS Illustrious Association described the decision to scrap the ship as “a sad day indeed.”
The association said: “Many of our members are very disappointed that Lusty could not be saved for the nation as a heritage attraction as was promised.
“It is likely that HMS Illustrious will leave Portsmouth on her final voyage and this is expected to take place somewhere between the October 17-24 although this exact date is to be confirmed.
“Since Illustrious was decommissioned in late 2014 after serving the nation for some 32 years it was hoped that she would be saved for the nation as a heritage attraction but despite numerous ideas and proposals, no viable plan has was reached.”
HMS Ark Royal was scrapped for £2.9 million in 2013 and HMS Invincible fetched around £2 million in 2011.
In 1982, the conflict in the Falklands meant that work on Illustrious at Swans had to be speeded up so she could join her sister ship HMS Invincible.
Work on the £400m carrier was brought forward by three months for completion at Swans and she was then commissioned on June 20, 1982.
In 32 years of service, between 1982 and 2014, HMS Illustrious covered over 900,000 nautical miles. Operations ranged from stabilization efforts in the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War and delivering humanitarian aid after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013.
In October 2013, the MOD launched a competition to seek bids to retain the aircraft carrier in the UK. The aim of the competition was to see part or all of the ship developed for heritage purposes and, while a number of bids were received, none proved to be viable.
Mike Utley, former Commanding Officer on HMS Illustrious, said: “Lusty provided a world-class service to the Royal Navy for over three decades. We will bid her farewell with a heavy heart but in the knowledge that everything has been done to find a use for her.”
The ship was featured on the Channel 5 documentary series Warship. The first series was centred on Illustrious, looking at the daily routines and lives of the crew.
Four years ago she made a final four-day visit to the Tyne.
Source: chronicle live. 11 September 2016