VIDEO: On board HMS Illustrious
HUNDREDS of people turned out to wave in navy warship HMS Illustrious when she sailed into Liverpool for what could be the last time.
The helicopter carrier arrived alongside the cruise liner terminal at around midday yesterday for the start of a five-day visit, during which the public will be able to go on guided tours over the weekend.
The ship made the traditional ceremonial entry into the city with around 200 members of the 600-strong crew standing in their dress uniform on the flight deck.
She had travelled from her home port of Portsmouth for the visit to Liverpool with a Chinook and a Lynx helicopter on board.
The commanding officer, Captain Martin Connell, said: “It’s a great privilege to bring a ship such as Illustrious into a city with such a deep maritime heritage as Liverpool. We are delighted to be opening up the ship this weekend and our aim is to get as many visitors on board to see how an operational warship works.”
The last time the 22,000 tonne helicopter and commando carrier visited the city was in 2009 for the Fleet Air Arm’s celebrations to mark 100 years of naval aviation.
On that occasion more than 8,000 people took the opportunity to go aboard each day and get a unique insight into life in the Royal Navy.
The present visit is a curtain-raiser for the forthcoming commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. The main focus of events will be in Liverpool over the weekend of May 24 to 27.
HMS Illustrious - known as “Lusty” to those on board - has a sizeable Merseyside contingent among the crew.
Capt Connell said: “Merseyside has always been a popular recruiting ground for the navy. It’s great for some of my locally-born ratings to bring their ship back in to Liverpool and to get their families on board.”
They include leading seaman Peter Kewn, 32, a dad-of-two from Fazakerley. He said: “You can’t miss us because of our accents and we’re generally pretty loud. I love the navy and I love Liverpool, so it is really exciting to arrive here.
“I’ve been bigging up the city to the other crew members and was pointing out all the sights on the way in.”
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