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First HMS Illustrious
Fourth HMS Illustrious
Third HMS Illustrious

The present HMS Illustrious is the fifth ship to bear that name.

The first HMS Illustrious, a 74-gun Third Rate ship of the line , was launched at Buckler's Hard in 1789 and saw action against the French off Toulon in 1793 and at Genoa in 1795. She was severely damaged in later action and driven ashore by a violent storm while being towed home for repair. She was set ablaze and abandoned.

Launched in Rotherhithe in 1803, the second HMS Illustrious was also a 74-gun Third Rate ship of the line. She had a long career, winning battle honours at Basque Roads and Java before becoming a training ship in 1854. She was broken up in Portsmouth in 1868

The third HMS Illustrious was launched in 1896. A battleship with 12 and 6 inch guns, she was already obsolete by 1914 and spent most of the Great War as an ammunition store ship. She was scrapped in 1920.

The fourth Illustrious was one of the most distinguished ships of the Second World War. She was the first of a new class of Aircraft Carrier and was commissioned in 1940. Her first theatre of action was the Mediterranean in defence of the Malta convoys and where, on 11 November 1940, twenty Swordfish aircraft attacked the Italian Naval Base at Taranto. They inflicted severe damage on the Italian Fleet and helped to tip the balance of Mediterranean Sea power in favour of the Allies.

Early in 1941, she suffered extensive damage and many casualties in a relentless attack by Stuka dive-bombers. After emergency repairs, she managed to escape to the United States where she was refitted and returned to active service in late 1941. After playing a major role in operations off Diego Suarez, Salerno and Sumatra, she supported the US landings at Okinawa. This was to be her final action of the war. After hostilities had ended, she returned to home waters as a training and trials ship before being laid up in 1954 and finally scrapped in 1957.

The current HMS Illustrious was laid down in Swan Hunters Ship Builders Yard on the Tyne on 7th October 1976. On 20th June 1982, after steering gear trouble, she was finally commissioned at sea and headed directly to the Falkland Islands to relieve HMS Invincible.  HMS Illustrious has participated in most major UK and NATO campaigns over the last 15 years; the list includes the First Gulf War, the Sierra Leone Evacuations and the war in Afghanistan in 2001. After this period of hectic activity, in October 2002, HMS Illustrious undertook a 104 week refit in Roysth Dockyard Scotland at a total cost of 118 million pounds. The refit is now allowing Illustrious to stay in service until 2012, when she is expected to be replaced by the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

HMS Illustrious and Malta

Battle Honours
Genoa 1795
Basque Roads 1809
Taranto 1940
Mediterranean 1940-1
Malta Convoys 1941
Diego Suarez 1942
Salerno 1943
Sabang 1944
Palembang 1945
Okinawa 1945

HMS Illustrious Battle Honours Details