UKHMS Illustrious rededication completes long road out of refit

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
Click to enlarge

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.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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