Homecoming warship welcomes guests aboard

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CHILDREN from all over North Tyneside helped Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious celebrate her 30th anniversary during a return visit to her place of birth.

The warship, made by Wallsend’s old Swan Hunter yard, returned to the Tyne last week for a four-day visit ending on Saturday, berthing at North Shields.

Lieutenant Damien Stafford-Shaw said: “HMS Illustrious has returned to North Tyneside and there could be no more poignant an occasion to return to her place of birth.

“It’s the 30th anniversary of the ship this year, so the celebrations truly start in earnest here, and the ship’s company are enjoying a well-earned break.”

Although the Illustrious was not open to the public during the visit, groups of youngsters from schools and colleges were welcomed on board for guided tours.

One such group was made up of students on a uniformed services course at Wallsend’s Tyne Metropolitan College including Sophie Urwin, 18, and Amanda Elliott, 16.

Sophie said: “I really enjoyed it. It was good.”

Amanda added: “The best part was going up on the bridge.”

After leaving North Shields, the Illustrious headed to the Arctic Circle for a two-month training exercise.

n A video version of this story is available at www.newsguardian.co.uk