After three months spent deep beneath the ocean the crew of the nuclear-powered submarine HMS Talent have returned home to Plymouth and their waiting families.
During its busy deployment HMS Talent engaged in defence diplomacy, undertook a number of trials and exercised with US and French ships and stopped in Gibraltar.
Shortly after sailing from HM Naval Base, Devonport, HMS Talent made its first stop in Gibraltar allowing the territory’s Chief Minister, The Hon. Fabian Picardo and the Deputy Chief Minister, The Hon. Dr Joseph Garcia to tour the submarine.
The visit was significant to HMS Talent’s commanding officer, Commander John Aitken, who last stepped foot on the ‘Rock’ five years earlier as the executive officer of the submarine HMS Superb. He said: “It was fantastic to be back in Gibraltar. I‘m always impressed by the warm welcome we receive in Gibraltar and I hope we continue to strengthen our bonds with the region.’’
Off duty the crew were able to enjoy some of the many attractions Gibraltar has to offer. For some that meant climbing to the summit of the Rock to admire the views over North Africa and for others, exploring the depths of the 23 miles of WWII tunnels buried within it. “The tunnel tour was fascinating” said HMS Talent’s Casing Officer Lieutenant Chris Bate, “I had no idea they were even there!”
HMS Talent left Gibraltar with the focus on a series of demanding exercises with the US Fifth and Sixth Fleets designed to test the submarines knowledge, processes and readiness.
With some of the exercises out of the way the crew were able to go ashore in Toulon, France where they faced the rugby team from the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.
HMS Talent fielded a squad of 20 (out of a crew of 130), who faced considerable odds in the shape of a 35-man French squad drawn from the aircraft carrier’s crew of 1,300. The submarine team put up a good fight, depsite going down 36-19. Not to be outdone, HMS Talent’s football team were up against a squad from the French Rubis Class submarine Amethyste and gained a 2-2 draw.
In Toulon, Talent also played host to the UK’s Rear Admiral Submarines and Commander Operations, Rear Admiral Matthew Parr.
Lieutenant Ben Samuels, whose daughter finished school the day the submarine returned to Plymouth , said: “I can’t describe how excited I was to see her and she didn’t know I was going to collect her from school.”
HMS Talent is now back in Plymouth for a short respite awaiting any future deployments.