HMS Illustrious on final visit to Liverpool

MERSEYSIDE will receive a Valentine’s Day visit from Britain’s last aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, on what could be her final call before withdrawal.

Commodore Richard Baum, Royal Navy northern regional commander, said the visit will also be a precursor to the last UK Battle of the Atlantic commemoration, to be held in Liverpool in May.

HMS Illustrious will dock at Liverpool Cruise Terminal on Thursday, February 14, coming alongside at 2pm. The carrier will be open to the public over the following weekend.

Access will be free for visitors and the carrier will open on Saturday, February 16 (10am – 4pm, final access 3pm) and Sunday, February 17 (midday – 4pm, final access 3pm).

HMS Illustrious, nicknamed “Lusty” by her crew, will depart on Monday, February 18, at 4.30pm.

Arrival and departure times could change for operational reasons.

The light aircraft carrier is sister ship to the now decommissioned Ark Royal and Invincible, which both visited Liverpool several times for major Royal Navy and city events.

The Duke of York took the salute aboard HMS Illustrious at Liverpool Cruise Terminal for the Royal Fleet Air Arm’s “Fly 100” national centenary celebration fly-past on October 23, 2009.

After the retirement of Illustrious’ fixed-wing Harrier II aircraft in 2010, the carrier now operates as one of two Royal Navy helicopter carriers. Commissioned in 1982, Illustrious is the Royal Navy’s oldest active ship and is likely to be withdrawn from service next year, after 32 years’ service.

The UK will then have no aircraft carriers for two years until the commissioning of the new super-carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, whose flight decks and hangars were built at Cammell Laird shipyard, in Birkenhead.

Commodore Baum said: “Traditionally, Liverpool always gives visiting Royal Navy warships a fantastic welcome but they really go mad when an aircraft carrier comes in – it’s on a par with visits by HMS Liverpool herself.

“HMS Illustrious’ visit is part of the build-up to the final and 70th national Battle of the Atlantic commemoration in Liverpool on May 24-28. Illustrious is not attending that event, so this visit may be her last.”

Angie Redhead, Liverpool cruise terminal manager, said: “As this may be the final visit of the Illustrious before she is decommissioned, there may be increased public interest compared to other ship visits.

“On Saturday and Sunday, a one-way traffic system will be in place along Princes Parade and St Nicholas Place in order to accommodate anticipated spectators and visitors to the ship.

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