At 1248 on the 10th January 2014, HMS Illustrious and her 650 crew returned from the Philippines after providing aid in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
Captain Mike Utley, the ship’s commanding officer, said:
“Our capabilities perfectly matched what was required in the Philippines.We were able to get to where we were needed quickly, and our size and flexibility meant we could store and distribute extremely large volumes of emergency aid supplies. The people in the Philippines are extremely resilient, but it was clear to me that those in the worst-hit areas had been through a lot. We believe we set in excess of 40,000 people firmly on the road to recovery.”
The occasion was also commemorated by a flypast by the Fleet Air Arm, providing a memorable welcome home to the carrier and her crew, who had been away from their families over the Christmas and New year period. Even the sun dared to appear as the carrier came through the harbour entrance, and the air contingent provided the perfect accompaniment to her homecoming.
Prior to her arrival, the usual support boats and tugs were positioning in the harbour, and heading out to meet her: –
Then at 1248, 23 minutes after her advertised time, she entered with style, as the tugs Bountiful and Powerful provided a water gate leading the way: –
On deck, Sea King HC4 ZD480 was tied down with blades open: –
1251, and the flypast came into view sweeping over Southsea before lining up over the top of ‘Lusty’ to see her home. Two marks of Seaking, a Merlin, and Lynx provided the rotary element, while a 736 Sqn Hawk came in over the top, silent at first, but powering away letting the sound of jet noise reverberate around the harbour.
In order of appearance, the flypast arrived as follows: –
Hawk T1 XX217
Merlin HMA1 ZH830
Seaking ASaC7 XV672
Lynx HMA8 XZ698
Seaking HC4 ZG821
With the flypast then heading off low over Gosport, ‘Lusty’ was left to berth and allow her crew to be reunited with their families, a great way to return to the UK, and their home port of Portsmouth: –