As when she first joined the Fleet in 1982, HMS Illustrious has once again been formally welcomed into the bosom of the Royal Navy with a rededication ceremony at sea.
|Rededication ceremony takes place in HMS Illustrious’s cavernous hangar [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dean Nixon, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Ministry of Defence, UK
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The aircraft carrier held the ceremony as she returned from Hamburg — the ship’s first visit to a foreign port in more than two years.
The ceremonial and symbolic act — a sort of ’naval christening’ — was performed at sea, just as the aircraft carrier’s first commissioning had taken place in 1982.
Back then ‘Lusty’, as the ship is affectionately known, was making best speed for the Falklands to relieve her sister ship HMS Invincible. Three decades later, the helicopter assault ship took a more leisurely pace home from the North German port of Hamburg.
Being December, the poignant ceremony took place inside Illustrious’s cavernous hangar.
The 700 men and women currently serving on board turned out smartly in their No 1 ceremonial uniforms for this special occasion, with musical accompaniment to the hymns provided by HMS Illustrious’s volunteer band.
Present at the ceremony was the ship’s senior physical training instructor, Chief Petty Officer Derik Nordon, who was on board ‘Lusty’ when she was first commissioned at sea in June 1982:
“I feel privileged to have served in Illustrious three times, at the very beginning, during the middle, and now again as she nears the end of her famous career,” he said.
“Each time it has been the people who I have served with that have made being on board such an enjoyable experience.”
Rededication proceedings concluded with the cutting of the rededication cake, decorated with the ship’s famous badge and surrounded by photos depicting various moments in the ship’s life from the past six months.
As is traditional, the cutting was performed by the youngest person on board, 18-year-old chef Lewis Steel, who sliced the cake in half; the two huge slices were shared between two lucky mess decks (determined by a raffle) to enjoy.
A rededication ceremony would normally take place ahead of a ship’s Operational Sea Training period but events this year, which have seen HMS Ocean deployed for seven months, have resulted in HMS Illustrious’s training programme being brought forward.
‘Lusty’ therefore conducted her ceremony after successfully completing two months of intensive training and assessment off the South West coast, ahead of taking over as Britain’s on-call helicopter carrier from HMS Ocean.
The rededication ceremony was also a fitting final act for the current Commanding Officer, Captain Jerry Kyd, who hands over command of the 22,000-tonne warship to Captain Martin Connell in the New Year:
“It has been a very busy and demanding year regenerating this fine ship, from sailing from refit in Scotland in June to now being ready for whatever the Government wants us to do around the world,” said Capt Kyd.
“The ship’s company have been brilliant, as always, and I am tremendously proud of what they have achieved in the last year. Illustrious is back, ready for action.”
Ministry of Defence, UK