PEOPLE from St Helens were among hundreds who welcomed navy warship HMS Illustrious on its return to the River Mersey for a five-day visit.

The ship – known affectionately as Lusty to her crew –  arrived alongside the Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal last Thursday.

The last time the huge Helicopter and Commando carrier visited Liverpool was in 2010 for Fly Navy 100, a celebration of 100 years of naval aviation.

The ship has opened its doors, free of charge, to members of the public this weekend.

On Saturday visitors will be able to go onboard from 10am – 4pm and on Sunday from midday to 4pm. On both days 3pm is the latest time visitors can board.

Her visit coincides with the build up among the maritime community to another historic occasion, the Battle of the Atlantic 70th anniversary, in which the Royal Navy is playing its part – along with a number of maritime partners and Liverpool City Council – in a number of commemorative events in May, starting in London, then Derry-Londonderry and culminating in the main BOA 70 focus on Liverpool over the weekend May 24-27.

Speaking prior to the visit, the ship's commanding officer, Captain Martin Connell said: "All of us in HMS Illustrious are looking forward to visiting Liverpool and renewing our bonds with this wonderful city.

"Liverpool is a very special place for a ship such as HMS Illustrious to visit and we always receive a very warm welcome indeed.

"We hope to be able to reciprocate in some small way by opening our doors to the general public to visit on Saturday and Sunday and to meet some of our people for an insight into some of the things we do on board."

The last time Illustrious threw down her gangway to the public three years ago, more than 8000 people took the opportunity each day to go aboard and get a unique insight into life in the Royal Navy.

Short tours for youth organisations and specialist interest groups were also arranged for Sunday morning.

HMS Illustrious leaves the city on Monday at around 4pm to return to sea and her next operational tasking.