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The Royal Navy
Have you ever considered joining the Royal Navy? Well maybe if I tell you a little about it from an ex serving members (twice… 1979-1986 and then again 1992-1997) point of view, maybe it will help you make up your mind. This is purely based upon my own experience.
First of all before being considered for enlistment you have to be vetted, which is very personal to both yourself and your family, as they ask you everything such as: where you were born, where your parents where born, any criminal convictions of your own or your family, where your family live and used to live 10 years previously and plenty of other questions that you would probably wish they didn’t ask. You must then pass an English and a mathematics test. The tests used to be timed when I did mine and all multiple choice. The tests really are so easy that a monkey could probably pass them. At least they were then. Assuming that all goes well, you get your joining date.
The basic training was and still is as far as I am aware conducted at HMS Raleigh, which is situated in Torpoint, Devonport. This is where all the stories you’ve been told the great adventures and heroic rescues at sea etc, suddenly disappear without a trace (at least for the time being). The training basically consists of marching, (with and without a rifle in hand –although the rifle bit comes a little later after they are sure you can walk in a straight line), 5 mile runs, washing and ironing (argh! ironing), how to wash yourself correctly (how embarrassing), assault courses, boot polishing (lots of) and of course more marching. You also have to conduct (or used to and probably still do) three full kit musters for which you win rewards. The main reward coming on the last kit muster, which was to be allowed to go home for a weekend at the end of your first period of training. To pass the muster, your kit had to be ironed correctly (creases only where there are meant to be creases), folded to the size of a small book (roughly a5 size) and laid out correctly on your bed, which also had to be perfectly made. So Assuming you manage to get through all the training (which also includes: fire fighting, shooting and a stint in the gas chamber [and yes they do make you take the gas mask off]), you can then be sent to your next facility for the second part of you training, which for me was HMS Dryad in Southwick just outside Portsmouth. My training was for Radar and Seamanship (how to tie knots).
Part two of the training
Not too unlike basic training (still marching and boot polishing etc) but you are now learning your trade. This is where you play pretend war games to hone your skills before actually leaving the shore bases to join a real warship (woo hoo!).
So does it all stay as bad as I’ve made it sound so far? No it doesn’t. Once you finally join a ship you finally get to relax into the job you joined up to do.
So what ships did I serve on?
• HMS Falmouth....Rothsey class Frigate. • HMS Dido........Leander class Frigate. • HMS Scylla......Leander class Frigate. • HMS Protector...Falkland Island patrol vessel. (Converted tug). • HMS Birmingham..Type 42 Destroyer. • HMS Southampton.Type 42 Destroyer. • HMS Edinburgh...Type 42 Destroyer.
With the nature of the job or should I say career, you find yourself travelling all over the world for absolutely nothing. Sometimes you do actually find yourself conducting rescues (have done a few myself) if you happen to be in an area where another vessel as put out a mayday because they are sinking. We had one such vessel whilst in the Arabian Gulf which had caught fire. Fortunately we got there in time to rescue the crew before the vessel finally sunk. In this incident nobody was hurt. So what sort of places have I been to?
• America……including, Jacksonville and Orlando in Florida (including going to Disney World), Alabama and Norfolk Virginia.
• The Caribbean…including, Puerto Rico and Barbados
• Falkland Isles
• The Mediterranean …including, Gibraltar(22times), Barcelona, Palma, and Greece.
• Other places include... Durban (S.Africa), Mombassa (Kenya), Mauritius, Seychelles, Corfu, Rotterdam, Kiel (Germany),Naples,Denmark, Sweden, Dubai, Kuwait and the list goes on.
So you can see by this that you do get to travel all over the place and all free of charge. In fact it does tend to annoy my wife a little that nearly every time somewhere is mentioned on the television, I say “been there”.☺
All the travelling makes it sound very glamorous, but in reality it is hard work when you’re at sea. You have two main jobs onboard for the most part, one being your technical job (radar in my case), which is normally referred to as “watchkeeping”. Then you have to play your part in the maintenance of the ship (in my case again, that would include painting and general cleaning above and below decks and splicing rope etc). The watchkeeping hours would normally be:
The Royal Navy is a combination of hard work, great leisure times, and fantastic comradery. I have only touched on a fraction of the skills gained, the places visited and the overall workload. I hope however, that this has given you an insight as to what to expect if you do wish to become a member of the Senior Service. I would recommend it to anyone as a great way to start working life, as it definitely teaches you to grow up and respect others, as well as providing a possible long and rewarding career.