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HMS Illustrious bound for Turkish scrapyard

Handout photo issued by the MoD of the Royal Navy's former aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious being towed out of Portsmouth Harbour heading for a Turkish scrapyard. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 7, 2016. Illustrious is the last of the Invincible class of aircraft carriers, which included the Ark Royal and Invincible, that were introduced into the Navy in the 1980s. See PA story DEFENCE Illustrious. Photo credit should read: LPhot Guy Pool/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Sailors of all ranks from ratings to admirals have joined hundreds of people to wave off the Royal Navy's former aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious as it was towed away to a Turkish scrapyard.

The 22,000 tonne ship, affectionately known as "Lusty" and a regular caller to Gibraltar in the past, sailed from its home at Portsmouth Naval Base for the final time with crowds lining the harbour walls to say their farewells.

The ship, a shadow of its former glory with its paint peeling and engines ripped out, was pulled by a tug out into the Solent.

Former sailors gave a salute and three cheers as it sailed past the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth, the traditional vantage point for families to see warships arriving and leaving the historic base.

Illustrious was formally decommissioned in August 2014 after 32 years of service and has been sold to the Turkish company LEYAL Ship Recycling Ltd for about £2 million.

The sale came despite proposals to turn the carrier into a floating hotel, museum or even a UK centre for powerboats.

Following the retirement of the Harrier aircraft in 2010, Illustrious went on to serve as one of the Navy's two helicopter carriers.

This has left the service without a fixed-wing aircraft carrier until the first of the next generation of carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is due to be commissioned next year.

Main pic: LPhot Guy Pool/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire