Sailors of the Royal Naval HMS Torbay have returned to a hero’s welcome as the submarine returns to her base-port at Plymouth after a successful six-month patrol.
As HMS Torbay entered Plymouth Sound to begin her transit up the River Hamoze to her berth in HM Naval Base Devonport she was followed by a passenger boat crammed with cheering families and friends waving ‘welcome’ banners. The happy party followed the submarine to her berth in the docks and were then reunited later at an emotional meeting in the leisure complex Royal William Yard in Plymouth.
The nuclear-powered submarine, which carries Tomahawk land attack missiles, has returned after routine underwater deployment.
Throughout the crew there is considerable pride at their achievements and the success of the deployment. Sub Lieutenant Craig Dymock, one of the newly qualified submariners who completed his exams while on deployment and was presented with his symbolic metal Dolphin’s badge as a result. He said: “It is an immense moment when you get presented with your Dolphins. The culmination of all your hard work pays off in that moment you are presented with them.
“It’s been hard work combining my studying with duties on board. With being on watch and studying to qualify I would be working on average an 18 to 20 hour day. Yes it is a lot of work, but you really have to seize the opportunity by the throat and go for it if you want the honour of wearing those Dolphins.”
Naval Writer Christopher King said: “I’ve enjoyed the variety of training that we’ve accomplished and the personnel milestones that I’ve achieved. The variety of cultures that I’ve witness has been eye-opening. But I am looking forward to seeing my girlfriend and getting back on my road bike now I’m home.”
Petty Officer (engineering technician) Justin Green said: “Seeing my family after a long deployment and going on holiday with them is what I’m looking forward to most. Time away from them is hard but what other career allows you to ease the separation with the fun of go-karting on Christmas Day at a top international track with my shipmates.”
During her deployment HMS Torbay has travelled 19,653 nautical miles, roughly equivalent of once round the world and spent 2,562 hours dived.
An army may march on its stomach, but a submarine can only work out what day of the week it is from the menu as there is no indication of daylight or night under water. Therefore, if it is steak night it must be Saturday, while pizza night equals Sunday and there is always a curry on a Wednesday.
Submariners are a superstitious lot at the best of times and any deviation from this routine is an unacceptable risk in tempting fate. Whilst keeping bad luck at bay, the chefs in the galley have produced four meals a day for 130 people for the entire 6 months.
They used the following quantities in that period, 1,902Kg of beans, 16,032 eggs and 20,040 sausages. Not bad considering the galley onboard is no bigger than a kitchen in a small flat (only the temperature in the submarine’s kitchen seldom drops below 40°C).
However, it is the marine engineers who have to tolerate the highest temperatures at 50deg C while ensuring the generators and engines provide power and propulsion in confined engineering spaces.
HMS Torbay has also achieved a lot of other tasks during this patrol duty:
- A submarine command, colloquially known as the “Perisher”, where the next generation of potential submarine captains must prove their worth under the most demanding of command courses in the military.
- A multi-national exercise where the submarine’s skills at evading surface ships hunting her down were put to the test against the very best that fellow NATO countries offer.
- Support to international maritime security.
- Honouring fallen service personnel through laying of a wreath during the Act of Remembrance at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Crete.
- Wider regional engagements.
- Training at sea of newly trained submariners through to experienced marine engineer nuclear watch-keeper supervisors.