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Liverpool gets ready to welcome navy’s helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious, the Royal Navy’s last remaining helicopter carrier, will sail past Crosby and into Liverpool today (Thursday) for what could be her final visit before being withdrawn from service.

She is due to berth alongside the Liverpool Cruise Terminal at around 1pm for a packed programme of events lasting five days.

The public will be able to visit HMS Illustrious – nicknamed “Lusty” by her crew – during this weekend before the ship departs on Monday.

Commanding officer, Captain Martin Connell, said: “All of us in HMS Illustrious are looking forward to visiting Liverpool and renewing our bonds with this wonderful city. Liverpool is a very special place for a ship such as HMS Illustrious to visit and we always receive a very warm welcome indeed.

“We hope to be able to reciprocate in some small way by opening our doors to the general public to visit on Saturday and Sunday and to meet some of our people for an insight into some of the things we do on board.”

The light aircraft carrier is sister ship to the now decommissioned Ark Royal and Invincible, which both visited Liverpool several times for major Royal Navy and city events.

HMS Illustrious is also due to be withdrawn from service some time during next year, even though she has just undergone a lengthy systems refit to bring the ship up to a high readiness to deploy.

Once secure Captain Connell will call on the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Sharon Sullivan, a long-established naval tradition when a ship docks in a British port.

On Friday night 270 guests and dignitaries have been invited on board ship with the Royal Marines Band (Scotland) playing Beat Retreat and at the ceremonial sunset.

Liverpool’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, Cllr Wendy Simon, said: “With this city’s strong links to the sea ship visits – whether they’re cruise liners or naval vessels – are always hugely popular.

“And this visit gives us just a taste of what is to come in May when Liverpool becomes the focus of the national Battle of the Atlantic 70th commemorations when around 25 warships will take pride of place on the splendour of our magnificent waterfront.”

“Lusty” will open free to visitors on Saturday from 10am to 4pm and on Sunday from noon to 4pm. On both days 3pm is the latest time visitors can board. Departure is scheduled for 4.30pm on Monday, February 18 (times can change for operational reasons).

lPLEASE send us your photos of HMS Illustrious sailing past Crosby - email us at: newsdesk@crosbyherald.co.uk

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