My Trip Aboard HMS Illustrious
As soon as we heard that our Guest Blogger, Katie Shea, was going to board the HMS Illustrious last weekend, the team here at Door2Tour saw an opportunity and gave her the task of writing about her day out so that we could post her adventures here on our Blog. This is what she got up to during her day…
When I heard that HMS Illustrious was docked in London last week and open for visitors to commemorate the 70 year anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, I knew immediately that I wanted to go aboard.
Early on Saturday morning, I set off into London. Arriving in Greenwich, where the HMS Illustrious was docked at around 9.15am. The queue was already pretty long when we arrived so we patiently made our way to the back whilst another member of our party went in search of the nearest coffee shop as we had no idea how quickly the queue would move once us civilians were allowed to board.
To our surprise and delight at 10am, when the ship was open, the queue started moving at a fairly quick pace. Having passed an impressive display of guns (don’t ask me which!) and Royal Marine Commandos we gradually moved ever closer to the search point.
Bags were searched and groups were led to a London Tour boat, which took us out to the Illustrious towering over Greenwich Pier. Having disembarked the tour boat, I finally climbed aboard the Illustrious. Visitors were immediately directed into the ships hangar and up the stairs onto the impressive flight deck.
The Illustrious has the capability to host a number of the Royal Navy’s helicopters such as the Merlin, Sea King and Lynx. The flight deck also has the ski jump ramp made famous by the Harrier Jump Jet before they were retired and in its hay day the ship could carry 22 aircraft. The flight deck doesn’t have sides for obvious reasons, so I didn’t feel too comfortable going to the edge!
On the deck, visitors could look inside a Merlin and a Sea King helicopter, but this meant more queuing so I gave this a miss. At the front of the ship, you could see the ships defences and I did my best Titanic impression, as it’s a must when at the front of any warship! We then went down into the hangar, where there were several displays and a stall selling various HMS Illustrious souvenirs from caps to t-shirts. Children could sit inside a life raft which the crew would use in an emergency. There were various other displays with the ships history including the damaged bell from the previous HMS Illustrious, which was in operation during World War II.
As the ship is still in operation, we did not have complete access to everything on-board as most of it was closed off to the public. This was a shame but it didn’t stop the trip on-board being interesting.
The HMS Illustrious is being retired from service in 2014 and will be made into a Museum to mark the tremendous work of the ships in the Invincible Class of light aircraft carriers. This group was made up of the HMS Ark Royal (the former Royal Navy Flagship which was retired early in 2011), HMS Invincible (who too, was retired from service in 2005) and finally the HMS Illustrious.