HMS Illustrious crest

HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious is the UK’s High Readiness Helicopter and Commando Carrier, undertaking multiple tasking at short notice.

Add to favourites

The veteran carrier is due to retire from her military sea-going career in 2014 and while her future is still unknown, the Government is considering a number of proposals for her potential preservation.

HMS Illustrious final homecoming

HMS Illustrious returns to Portsmouth for final time


HMS Illustrious Latest News

HMS Illustrious hands over to HMS Ocean


HMS Illustrious prepares to enter Portsmouth for the last time

See all news for HMS Illustrious

Current operation Exercise Deep Blue

Exercise Deep Blue is a high tempo, multi-aircraft exercise, putting the Merlin Mk2 through its paces operating from sea and conducting anti-submarine warfare.

  • Alongside

    Alongside in her home port of Portsmouth

  • Operation Patwin

    Operation Patwin is the military component of the UK’s humanitarian aid mission to the Philippines after the ravages of Typhoon Haiyan.

Ready to fight

When diplomacy fails, the UK has to be ready to protect its interests and its allies. What’s more, as a member of NATO and the UN, the UK also acts to support the enforcement of UN resolutions and come to the aid of our allies. This is where the Royal Navy comes in: we train to go where we’re needed – by sea, land or air – and deploy our forces with the aim of restoring peace.

Preventing conflict

The Royal Navy’s presence on the world stage sends a powerful message that the UK is committed to global affairs and provides a stabilising influence. In this way we prevent conflict on the high seas and protect the flow of international trade on which our nation depends.  

prev next

Unit History

The First Illustrious1789

The first HMS Illustrious goes back to 1789 and was a 74-gun battleship which fought in the French Revolutionary Wars. She was damaged during the Battle of Genoa in 1795.

Battle Honours1795

Genoa 1795

The Second Illustrious1803

The second Illustrious was launched in 1803 and saw action in European and Far Eastern waters. In 1854 she turned into a training ship before being broken up in 1868.

Battle Honours1809

Basque Roads 1809

The Third Illustrious1896

The third HMS Illustrious was a Majestic-class battleship of 1896, in her day the largest and most powerful warship in the world. She serviced in the Mediterranean and home waters.

The Fourth Illustrious1940

The fourth was a WW2 aircraft carrier which saw extensive combat in the Mediterranean and Far East, serving as the launchpad for the Taranto raid.

Battle Honours1940

Taranto 1940
Mediterranean 1940-41

Return to service1942

Her aircraft supporting the Allied occupations of Vichy French islands in the Indian Ocean. Her final 18 months of WW2 were in the Far East, launching strikes at Japanese held oil refineries.

Battle Honours1942

Diego Suarez 1942

Battle Honours1943

Salerno 1943

Battle Honours1944

Sabang 1944

Battle Honours1945

Palembang 1945
Okinawa 1945

Training Ship1954

She was repaired and refitted and used as a training and trials ship before being paid off in 1954 and broken up three years later.

Securing Britain's Future

An island nation needs a powerful navy. A simple fact, often forgotten. Go behind the scenes of the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and discover its true scale and ambition.

Read about the new carrier

Commanding Officer Mike Utley

Rank: Captain

Capt Mike Utley joined the Royal Navy as a Warfare Officer in 1988. He assumed command of HMS Illustrious on completion of professional courses in May 2013.

Previous units

Download full profile


HMS Illustrious is affectionately known as 'Lusty' by the Ship's Company


Learn more

Aircraft Controller

Join us