The crew of the Royal Navy submarine HMS Talent arrived home to a cheering crowd of families and friends in Plymouth after a five-month deployment.
About 100 families and friends accompanied by a bugler and bagpiper were not deterred by freezing rain and gales. They crowded the jetty waving ‘welcome home’ banners to greet the crew of the nuclear-powered submarine to its base-port of HM Naval Base Devonport after a successful patrol promoting peace and security worldwide.
Commander John Aitken, HMS Talent commanding officer, praised his crew: “I’m really pleased to be home and see my wife Pippa and show her on board. We’ve have a fantastic deployment and I’m proud of HMS Talent and what we’ve achieved. My ship’s company who are the best I’ve ever worked with. They’ve done a fantastic job. This is my last submarine sea-going job and I couldn’t have had a better bunch of fellas to see us through.’’
Cdr Aitken, of Holywell village in Northumberland, will now work at the staff college at Shrivenham. Among his crew were sailors who were awarded their ‘Dolphins’ – dolphin-shaped badges denoting full submariner qualifications which were completed during the deployment. David Webb, of Neath, was awarded his Dolphins by the captain as the submarine tied up today. He said: “It’s a great day of double celebrations for us to be home and to get our Dolphins. I’ve missed by new daughter – she’s only nine months, so I’ve missed a lot of her life and longing to see her again. But I’m very proud to be a true submariner at last. It was very hard work learning everything about how a submarine works and what to do when something breaks down and what everyone else does on board, so we can all operate as safely as possible.’’
The submarine sailed from Devonport and returns from working in the Mediterranean and the Gulf regions promoting peace and security. During that time she has made port visits and worked with Royal Navy and foreign navies on exercise and operations while continuing to provide flexibility and potential firepower if needed at short notice.
Warrant Officer (2) Mark Craddock, of Torpoint, hugged his two sons Ben, 15, and Carl, 12, as they ran into his arms on the jetty. Mark said: “It’s so good to see Ben and Carl – we’ve got a lot to catch up on. And I’m hoping to spend a lot more time with them as this is probably my last submarine sea-going deployment. I wasn’t expecting to be away for Christmas, so it was a surprise to have to be away with Talent – which didn’t put me in my son’s good books.’’
Ben said: “Dad’s missed GCSEs, Christmas and my birthday and lots. It’s not good for him to be away so much. But it’s good to see him again and hopefully for a bit longer this time.’’
Rob Turner scooped his excited son Tommy, 3, into his arms as he was mobbed by his girlfriend Jessica Herd and his parents when he stepped ashore. Rob said: “I’m really happy to see my family again. Tommy’s grown a little I’d swear. I think the family are planning a welcome home party. I’d just happy for the simple things like a proper bed and normal food. We’ll be making the most of seeing friends and family again as I’ve not got much leave before we begin work again.’’
Jessica said: “It seems such a long time he’d been away. I’m happy to see him back safely. Tommy’s so pleased to see his dad again.’’
The deployment began with a period of training and exercises in the Mediterranean aimed at generating the fighting capability of her 130-man crew, simulating attacks with the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile system and Spearfish torpedoes. This was followed by a stop in Gibraltar for routine maintenance when the crew seized the chance to play cricket and football against local sides.
A highlight of training at sea was the chance for a few sailors to spend time onboard one of the Royal Navy’s advanced Type 45 air defence destroyers HMS Dragon when the submarine worked with the ship on trials and exercises with US Navy warships.
The next port of call for HMS Talent was Souda Bay on Crete, before continuing to the Red Sea after exercising with Royal Navy aircraft and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster. The submarine visited the United Arab Emirates when the crew travelled to Dubai to climb the highest building in the world and explored the desert.
HMS Talent then carried out operations for several weeks before spending Christmas and New Year in Bahrain.
The submarine’s rugby team played a hard-fought match against Bahrain RFC, with the relative lack of exercise facilities onboard slowly catching up with the submariners in the final quarter of the game. Given that the team had not played for six months it was a creditable performance.
During her deployment the crew ate about 20,000 sausages and three tons of potatoes and travelled more than 30,000 miles. 27 men completed their formal submariner qualifications during the deployment.
The submarine will conduct a six-week maintenance period in Plymouth before conducting further training at sea to ensure she and her crew are ready in all respects to carry out whatever tasking is required.