A few months ago it was announced to those who track such things, that the aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious would be spending a week in London in May as part of the 100th anniversary of the Navy’s air division.

They had a page on their website announcing the fact and that groups would be allowed to go on board. As soon as the details of how to request a group tour were ready, the webpage would be updated.

Woo! I thought, and while the groups would almost certainly be limited to worthy causes and school children, it is always worth trying to apply as you never know!

I have a bit of software that tracks webpages for changes each day, so I added the page on the Royal Navy website to its list of pages to check. Although the odd bit of code was updated in the page triggering the alert software, nothing of substance was announced.

Then this morning – everything changed! Tons of details of a very interesting week of events at Greenwich while the ship is moored there. Woo!

Hang on, where’s the bit about organised group tours?

“HMS Illustrious will be moored to buoys in the river, and hence access will be restricted to organised group tours.  Unfortunately, spaces for these tours have already been filled. The ship will, however, be in full view from the riverside.”

What do you mean they have already been filled? The website said that it would be updated with details of how to book a tour when it was ready – and they have already gone?

It’s one thing to see the booking details and read that I would not qualify for a tour, but to have the tours allocated without even being advertised is actually quite irritating.

I am going to have a petulant sulk this morning.

Update: Thanks to a very nice person over at the Royal Navy, I shall indeed go to the ball get to visit the ship!

That said, the agenda for the week of events looks quite good and includes:

  • Centenary Flypast: 1200 on 7th May.  Every current Front Line helicopter type passing up the Thames over HMS Illustrious.
  • Flying demonstrations: 1400-1430, 9th and 10th May.  Naval helicopter role demonstration, in partnership with surface vessels.
  • Static Aircraft Park in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College (This will consist of a Gazelle, Lynx Mk3, Sea Harrier FA2, and a Sea King Mk6CR).
  • Merlin Simulator and Royal Navy information centre.
  • Royal Navy hot air balloon, tethered in college grounds.

Access to the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College and the static park is free, and there is no need to book in advance. The grounds are open daily from 8am to 6pm.



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  1. Zena Wynn-Jones says:

    Dear Ian,

    I am the Naval Liaison Officer for ship visits in London and follow your blog with interest.

    There are very limited spaces left – they were filled as soon as advertised (unsurprisingly) and the website info had to be changed almost instantly. Please email me and I will try and organise a tour for you over the weekend if you wish.

    Kind regards,
    Zena Wynn-Jones

  2. Mark Lawson says:

    Hi Ian,

    My son’s on the Illustrious part of the team looking after the 824 squadron Merlins for the fly-past. He can’t find out how to get a family member on board. Could you point me to the right part of the Navy that might be able to organise this please?

    Thanks in anticipation.

  3. ASD says:

    this is a message for Mark Lawson, My partner is on the same Sqaudron and knows ur son.
    He has to go through the navy and put your name on a list i think.

    Thank you for the pictures Ianvisits… they helped calm down the anticpation of seeing my boy tomorrow.

    Many thanks.

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