HMS Illustrious is to sail for Turkey on Wednesday, December the 7th.

The carrier was sold for scrap in a £2.1 million deal after schemes to preserve her for the nation were abandoned. It is understood that three cities submitted proposals to try to preserve the vessel but each fell through.

Following the retirement of her Harriers in 2010, Illustrious operated as one of two Royal Navy helicopter carriers. By 2014 she was the oldest ship in the Royal Navy’s active fleet, having 32 years’ service.

An MoD spokeswoman said:

“We have done all we can for over two years to find a home for the former HMS Illustrious in the UK, and regrettably no suitable bidder has come forward. While it is a difficult decision, we have announced an open competition for the recycling of HMS Illustrious, while remaining open to heritage options.”

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:

“We have done all we can for over two years to find a home for the former HMS Illustrious in the UK, and regrettably all options have now been exhausted.

It is with a sense of pride for her and her crews’ achievements that we say goodbye to the ship, and we look forward to the arrival in Portsmouth of the UK’s next generation of aircraft carriers.”

The ship was sold to Turkish company LEYAL Ship Recycling Ltd for around £2 million. Both Invincible and Ark Royal, the sister ships of Illustrious, were also recycled.

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.

As the former aircraft carrier gets ready to leave Portsmouth, so we can look to the future and the arrival of the new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, which will ensure that the Royal Navy continues to be a pre-eminent maritime power in the modern world.”

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she would have made a good hospital ship,,shame to see her go and be broken apart


You just convert a small container ship, they are currently cheap as chips

Harry Nelson

Her hull is 32+ years old. Maintenance and re-fit costs would FAR outweigh any benefits. She has served well, time to let her go.



Never really had much time for these ships, they were a symbol of post WWII national decline, a visible sign that in the 1970’s the UK was having to go shopping at the discount section of Iceland.

David Stone

Unfortunately we still have Fortnum & Mason tastes but an Iceland budget


That really added a lot to the discussion – not.

Old Geezer

Why does everyone say that the Harriers were taken out of service in 2010. The Sea Harriers were taken out of service in 2006. The RAF Harriers were taken out in 2010. They were no good on Carriers, no Radar. So, the Royal Navy was stripped of fixed wing capability in 2006 by the Labour government, who also destroyed the production facility in the late 1990’s.


Museum ship. HMS’ Mary Rose, Victory, Warrior, Alliance, Illustrious and Endurance. How about that? 700,000 tourists visit Portsmouth each year, why does anyone think scrapping her for £2m is best?


Why do we continue to expose our flank by scrapping a vessel that could still operate helicopters up to the point of Queen Elizabeth’s commissioning?