As part of the Fly 100 events to commemorate the Royal Navy’s first “airship”, the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious will be in Greenwich from tomorrow (Wed 6th) lunchtime.

For photo opportunity fans:

The timetable is Gravesend at 9am and Greenwich at 11:30am, so she should pass through the Thames Barrier somewhere between 10-11am. I shall be there with camera!

There will then be a flypast of every current Front Line helicopter type passing up the Thames over HMS Illustrious on Thursday at noon.

From Thur-Sun there will be static aircraft displays in Greenwich Old Naval College.

On Sat & Sun at 2pm, there will be helicopter displays over the river by the College.

Update – Fireworks on Thursday night at 10pm.

2nd Update – I was very fortunate to get a tour of the aircraft carrier, my review of the tour here.

3rd 4th Update – The departure from Greenwich, delayed from Monday (and Tuesday) has now been set for Wednesday at 4am.

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  1. Ive been waiting for you to post info on her arrival! I assumed she would be coming up on the 5th but thanks for the tip as I am based in Greenhithe so will be at the River by ASDA’s from 9:30.
    My daughter is trying to get me on board on Sunday as she works for Greenwich Council!
    I will be posting any photos on my flickr site for all to see!
    Thanks again!!
    Ken B

  2. Mark E

    How far up the river will the fly, I am based at London Bridge

  3. IanVisits

    The “flypast” link above suggests that the flypast will be in formation over Greenwich only.

    It may remain in formation further over central London due to routine requirements that helicopters largely follow the line of the river when over London – but not sure if that applies to special flights.

  4. IanVisits

    I’ve been told that they did go up as far as London Bridge after all – which is a tad annoying, as I would have probably got better photos from my home!

  5. Wendy

    Do you know when HMS Illustrious is coming back up the river as I live near Grays and would love to go with my daughter to see it. Thank you Wendy

  6. IanVisits

    The aircraft carrier is due to leave Greenwich at 3pm on Monday.

    Based on the journey in, I would guestimate that she will pass Grays around 4:30-5pm – but to be safe, I’d recommend getting there earlier in case my guesses are off, especially as she wont need to stop to spin around as happened on the way up river.

  7. Wendy

    Thank you for that been searching for hours before I stumbled across your blog. Great Stuff. Kind Regards Wendy

  8. Mark

    Hi Ian,
    I found your blog while searching for pictures of HNS Illustriuos on her way up the Thames to Greenwich on Wednesday 6th May. I was lucky enough to be a gust on one of the tugs that pulled her up river and into position. I took loads of pictures from the tug but I would love to see any others that you took from the shore as we passed. I will keep looking at your blog and hope that you post them soon.
    Regards Mark

  9. Jane Robinson

    Just a note to say HSM Illustrious’ departure has been delayed due to severe crosswinds which would cause her problems as she goes through the Thames Barrier.

  10. Jane Robinson

    Thank you for chatting to me, Ian, while we were waiting with our cameras to see her come through the Barrier.

  11. Chris Hurren

    Will it still sail today or delayed tomorrow?

  12. Paul Rose

    Am in Gravesend, next to the rowing club, caught HMS Illustrious coming in and looking forward with camera in hand to getting some more shots. Will she be coming past today or delayed further

  13. amanda king

    anyone got any idea what is happening? Will it go out on high tide AM or PM?

  14. tracey bridson

    does anyone know what time she is leaving

  15. IanVisits

    I missed the news that the departure was delayed, so I am not able to confirm anything until tomorrow morning as the office I would ask is closed now.

    A source elsewhere stated equivalently that she leaves at 9am, but I can’t confirm that right now, so a case of caveat emptor if travelling to watch.

    A phone call this morning to the London Naval Regional Officer tells me that the departure is set for 3:30pm today (Tues, 12th May 2009) – presumably, weather permitting again.

  16. Thanks for the information on your blog – like others we had been searching for updated info on HMS Illustrious’ departure and could not find anything, until we came across your blog!!

  17. Chris Hurren

    My mate was there at Thames Barrier among with other 25 keen caveat emptors, waiting for hours on end just to watch the aircraft carrier going through Thames Barrier before he gave up at about 5.45pm. We kept exchanging mobile texts to update the news of of departure. He knows that I have the link about the tides. Tue 12 May at Woolwich:-
    HW 03:04: 6.7 m; LW 09:23: 0.9 m; HW 15:11: 6.7 m; LW 21:39: 1.0 m. Please can you recheck the tides? ;-)

  18. Jane Robinson

    No tugs have come up the river this evening, which suggests that departure is indeed tomorrow, as she needs tugs.

  19. Jane Robinson

    High tides 0309 1521

    Second one most likely (benefit of daylight at Barrier)

  20. IanVisits

    It was good to meet you on Wednesday Jane, and thanks for the tip about monitoring the VHF radio.

  21. Stephen

    “A source elsewhere stated equivalently that she leaves at 9am, but I can’t confirm that right now, so a case of caveat emptor if travelling to watch.”

    It was low tide at about 9 am today.

  22. IanVisits

    Indeed – I blame feeling very swine-flu’y yesterday for getting my tides mixed up ;)

  23. Trevor McGregor

    I stood waiting til 19 30 last night and then went onto this site for an update, thanks for keeping us informed. I live on the river at Greenhithe and have serious doubts whether they wil let her through the Thames Barrier today ( Tuesday ) as its blowing a hooligan. I left work yesterday early to catch some photos, but cant leave early tonight so I m hoping she doesnt come passed until18 15 ish

  24. Glen

    I contacted the Port of London Authority here (I’m based in Gravesend) yesterday (Monday) and they were able to tell me she wasn’t coming down as planned, although this information came just an hour before she was due through Gravesend (around 16:50).

    If that 16:50 was based on Monday’s departure time from Greenwich at 15:00. It follows I guess that if she departs Greenwich today around 15:30 she’ll be coming through Gravesend approx 17:20?

    I’ll hassle the PLA again today and see if this is confirmed.

  25. Chris Hurren

    The winds today are prevailing strong so I doubt it will depart today. I will watch this blog for updates. ;-)

  26. tracey bridson

    chris indeed the winds are a lot stronger than yesterday, if anyone hears anythink plz post as i would love the see her thanx tracey

  27. Glen

    I’ve just come off the phone with PLA Gravesend now and initially they told me the current schedule is departure from Greenwich at 04:00am tomorrow (weds 13th), passing Gravesend approx 06:00am.

    I was passed to a colleague who (sort of) refuted this information, saying that it wasn’t confirmed yet, and the weather is windier than yesterday and possibly set to worsen.

    He’s going to call me back later on, so watch this space!

  28. IanVisits

    Glen seems to be correct – according to the London Naval Regional Office, the departure has been set back again to 4am tomorrow (Wed) morning.

    If I can wake up, and cycle over, and the Thames Barrier is floodlit (as I expect it will need to be), that will be quite a dramatic sight.

  29. Trevor McGregor

    Please keep us posted. I ll be there @ Greenhithe – the sun will be up by 05 30 when she passes me, should make some nice shots going under the Dartford Bridge. The river narrows down outside my house so she ll only be 60mts out

  30. tracey bridson

    dam i will be at work at 4am will anybody be posting picture on here im so gutted i wanted to see her. tracey

  31. tracey bridson

    travor send me some pictures please.tracey

  32. Trevor McGregor

    No problem Tracey, whats ur e mail address ( or is it on this site somewhere ? )

  33. Mel Bond

    awww my sons gonna be so upset he was sooooo looking forward to seeing it come down the river at Greenhithe today after school. Oh well hopefully there will some pics on the websites somewhere :(

  34. Martin Bumpsteed

    I live on the River at Thamesmead so i can go out and look tomorrow morning. Thanks for the information. How do you find out the detail. Is it possible to find movements of other ships up and down the Thames?

  35. Jane Robinson


    Ship movements on the Thames can be seen here:

    but pls note that Royal Navy ships and most foreign naval ships are left off this list for security reasons.

  36. Martin Bumpsteed

    Thank you Jane, I will have a look. Makes sense about the security.

  37. anita Barrow

    If doesn’t come through tomorrow morning she is due to leave at 330pm , winds permitting.Got this from Thames Barrier staff:)

  38. tracey bridson

    ytrevor my e mail is thank you very much .

  39. rich

    waiting at grays, anybody know what time to expect a visit

  40. Curt

    Is 4.29 and she is still there. I live just around the corner from where she is moored, so will come right past me. Rang PLA and they said she was supposed to leave at 4am, subject to tide and weather conditions. It is blistery at the moment so I guess they have delayed. I did hear the tugs go by and the Harbour Master scooted past, so they are ready.

  41. Curt

    She is leaving now

  42. Jane Robinson

    She passed Woolwich Arsenal at 0530!

    Curt – Great Info – I didn’t know whether to stay out on the balcony or go back to bed until I saw your message. Thanks!!!

  43. Martin Bumpsteed

    I gave up and went back to bed then heard the engines, passed Thamesmead around 5.45am, worth seeing!

  44. Barry

    Told yesterday, she was leaving at 4 am 13th, and would be passing Gravesend at 05.50.went down to Tilbury Fort area and got there at 05.30 and waited,and waited, and waited. I left the area at 06.40 with still no Lusty.I assumed the leaving had once again been cancelled. After seeing your comments, it looks as though I left too early, and guess what, must have missed it. Am I sick or what.

  45. IanVisits

    Alas, I slept right through my alarm (how is that even possible?) and missed the departure.

    Oh well.

  46. Trevor McGregor

    She passed Greenhithe @ 06 27 at a great rate of Knots. I nearly missed her myself. It was piddling with rain and slightly foggy, but managed to get 4 x shots in open water.
    Where and how can I post them for people to see?
    Tracey I will mail them to you now

    • IanVisits

      I tend to use Flickr for photo hosting – its free for basic use (although you have to pay for heavy users). You do need a Yahoo! account though.

  47. Trevor McGregor

    I have posted the photos on Flickr. To view them look for my account (SpitMaloney) its open to the public, and they are the only photos I have on there. Can anyone advise me how to create a link ??

  48. IanVisits

    Trevor – your photos are at:

  49. Martin Bumpsteed

    Anybody know of the next Big Naval ship to visit the Thames and when that maybe?

  50. IanVisits

    I already list cruise liners and other notable ships I learn about visiting at least as far as Greenwich on the events calendar. Especially if passing through Tower Bridge.

    I know that there will be a couple of foreign naval visitors in June, and I am waiting final details (and more importantly, permission to publish them). When I become aware of the confirmed details of naval ships, then I will add them to the events calendar as well.

  51. Steve

    I have just uploaded some photos of Lusty’s helicopters in action from Sunday

    It was a great day out. Didn’t get to the static display and I missed the ship leaving this morning.

  52. tracey bridson

    ian do you know have i can got details of when ships dock at tilbry as my partner used to take photos of ship and cruies liners and was thinking about starting again but we are not sure how to find out what one are in and when they are in thanks tracey

  53. tracey bridson

    ian that should have stared do you know how i can get sorry

  54. alan

    Do you know when HMS Illustrious is coming back up the river from alan i live in gravsend

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