Royal Navy submariners from HMS Trenchant received a joyful welcome home to their base-port in Plymouth after a record 11-month patrol by a UK attack submarine.
The nuclear-powered submarine was met by about 200 families and friends at HM Naval Base, Devonport, after 335 days away – the longest Trafalgar Class submarine deployment, beating the old record by HMS Tireless by 12 days.
HMS Trenchant’s commanding officer, Commander Irvine Lindsay, was met by his wife Janet who joined her husband in the submarine at sea. The pair, who have three university student daughters Kirsty, Seonaid, and Ailsa, will now return to their home in Glasgow.
He said: “I am so pleased to be back to meet my wife and I look forward to fresh air outside a submarine, to a full night’s sleep instead of being woken up to go into the control room and to climbing the Cairngorms far from the sea.’’
He also praised his crew: “This is the longest period away from the UK for a nuclear submarine deployment. Submariners enjoy their work so they are not affected by long deployments and simply get on with their duties, meeting every challenge head-on. They have achieved success on operations, maintaining the material state of the submarine in a harsh environment and demonstrating the unique and potent military utility of the submarine.
“Whilst I am enormously proud of the achievements of my ship’s company I do not believe that they are a unique body of men. I am convinced that the resilience, dedication, professional pride and sheer grit demonstrated by this ship’s company is indicative of the high calibre of personnel serving across the whole of the submarine service and indeed the Royal Navy.”
At continued high readiness as the United Kingdoms front-line strike asset, the submarine spent 267 days east of Suez, continuing the nuclear-powered submarine presence that has been established there since 2001. Operating under joint command, the submarine has completed several periods of national tasking and contributed to NATO operations against terrorism and counter narcotics.
During this time the vessel has visited six different ports: Fujairah, UAE; the British Indian Ocean Territory – Diego Garcia; the Kingdom of Bahrain; Aqaba, Jordan; Souda Bay, Crete; and Gibraltar.
Lieutenant Commander Stuart Barrie, the submarine’s weapons engineering officer, was greeted by his wife Fiona and their excited children Niamh, 3, and son Toby, 6, from Plymouth. He said: “It’s fantastic to be back home after so long. It’s a bit surreal really after so long away. I last saw them five months ago – the longest I’ve been away from them. Niamh’s hair is longer. Toby is more grown up. I’m looking forward to taking them both to school and playing football with him at school on Friday.’’
Fiona said: “It’s great to have Stu back. The children are so excited to have their daddy back. Toby wants to show him all the swimming certificates he’s got and his good school reports. And Niamh’s going to show her daddy her dancing.’’
The day of celebration was marked with cheering families with banners saying ‘welcome home daddy’ at Devil’s Point as the submarine entered the River Tamar into the docks. Thee were also crowds on the jetty who were entertained by Royal Marines Band Plymouth as they waited impatiently for it to tie up.
Sailor Daniel Tookey, tactical systems operator, of Plymouth, was welcomed by his wife Lisa and son Lucas, aged two years, who was dressed in a sailor’s suit. Daniel said: “It is a great relief to be home after so long away. I was so longing to see Lisa and Lucas. I want to bath him and spend time with them both, to eat when and what I want and to sleep in my own bed.’’
Lisa said: “It’s fantastic to have him back. Daniel has been saying ‘daddy work’ ‘daddy work’ and ‘daddy sleep’ lots recently as he knows he’s been away working and there are several ‘sleeps’ to go before he comes home.’’
Hugging his children Cole, age three years and Willow, two years, Lieutenant Ben Moran said: “I’m so happy to see my children and wife again. I won’t be going away for a little while, though I am due on the submarine commander’s course Perisher for six months later. Now is time to catch up – the children have changed for a start.’’
Cole waved his ‘welcome home’ banner and said he wanted to play Star Wars and show his dad his new soldiers.
Ben’s wife Jenny said: “The children have been so good while he’s been away. Willow is a daddy’s girl and looks so happy to have him back. It will take time to adapt after so long away. It’s been hard being effectively two parents in one! But I will now enjoy the happy times together which help as lovely memories when we are parted again when he is away on Perisher.’’
The submarine hosted visits from defence attaches and personnel from foreign armed forces; whilst on a lighter note the Royal Navy sports teams had mixed results against local sides.
HMS Trenchant conducted training and multi-national exercises with seven UK warships, a French submarine, multiple US warships and auxiliaries, a US submarine and a range of multinational aircraft – to develop the ability to conduct joint operations.
The deployment has spanned 38,800nm (the equivalent of 1 ¾ times around the world) and the submarine has spent over 4700 hours underwater (equivalent of 6 ½ months). Of the crew of 170 (of which 130 is the maximum at sea), 7 have been ‘Black watch’ (i.e. have been onboard, and not been home, for the entire trip).
The long patrol means the crew has consumed 30,240 eggs, this would take 45 hens laying two eggs per day the length of the deployment to achieve; 7,904 litres of milk, the average dairy cow produces 5ltr a day this would take 4.3 years for one cow to produce and 20,592 sausages (called Snorkers by submariners), – laid end to end these would stretch approx 2km in length. The chefs have cooked 103,350 meals, and produced over 44,000 homemade rolls.
Amidst the operational patrol training of Royal Navy personnel also continued on board, including brand new trainee submariners (of which 37 have qualified and earned their ‘Dolphins’ qualifications) as well as trainee principal warfare officers – senior lieutenants that are being prepared to take delegated charge of the boat for 12 hours a day.
The sailors of HMS Trenchant are looking forward to returning home with six new babies among the crew to enjoy leave with. The submarine will undergo a two-year maintenance period readying the boat for the future.