HMS Illustrious has sailed out of Britain for the final time

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Sailors of all ranks 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", 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.

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.

HMS Illustrious
(Ben Mitchell/PA)

The carrier, which was built by Swan Hunter shipbuilders on the Tyne and launched by Princess Margaret in December 1978, had its entry into service brought forward so it could assist in the Falklands War effort.

The warship's deployment was so rushed that its commissioning ceremony took place at sea en route to the Falklands on June 20, 1982, while it was formally commissioned on its return.

During the conflict, it relieved sister ship HMS Invincible in providing a floating airfield for aircraft unable to use the islands' damaged RAF base.

HMS Illustrious
(LPhot Guy Pool/MoD Crown Copyright/PA)

Illustrious then went on to support the forces in Afghanistan and served in the Bosnian and Sierra Leone conflicts and also helped evacuate Britons during the Lebanon war in 2006.

In 2008, the carrier became the star of Channel 5´s six-part documentary Warship which followed its deployment to the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia for a series of exercises and diplomatic visits to 20 ports.

In 2013, Illustrious was involved in the efforts to distribute disaster relief in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.