Britain’s Royal Navy marked its first century of aviation with a celebratory fly-past over HMS Illustrious, anchored in the River Thames, May 7.
Forty naval aircraft flew directly over Illustrious, an aircraft carrier nicknamed “Lusty,” which was moored near the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, just downstream from London.
Prince Andrew, commodore-in-chief of the Navy, met veterans of World War II, the Falklands War and the conflict in Afghanistan at the event. Illustrious will remain moored off Greenwich for the next few days, although the rest of the year will be a period of celebration for the Royal Navy, as the United Kingdom’s senior service marks the 100th anniversary of its first foray into aviation.
May 7 was chosen at the day to start celebrating because it was on that date in 1909 when the Admiralty placed an order for His Majesty’s Airship 1, named “Mayfly.” Built by Vickers at a cost of almost £41,000 ($60,500), the dirigible’s more 510 foot length made a major impression on the public when it was delivered in 1911. Indeed, the magazine Flight, also marking its centenary this year, reported in its 27 May 1911 issue: “At last our leviathan of the air has emerged from the interior of its hiding place into the full light of day.”