One in six sailors passing out of the Royal Navy’s principal basic training base is a woman – as the Service pushes to reach one quarter female representation by 2025.
Of 513 civilians undergoing the transformation from civilians to naval personnel – a ten-week course which covers fitness, drill, tradition, looking after their kit, leadership and weapon handling – in November 88 were female.
The Torpoint establishment has increased its capacity to train female sailors with dedicated accommodation for 120 women going through the civilian-to-sailor conversion at any one time – a figure which can be doubled if necessary.
As part of the Royal Navy’s transformation programme to meet the challenges of the mid-21st Century, it is growing by 3,000 sailors over the next three years and, to better reflect society, is aiming for one in every four new recruits to be female by 2025.
Most Mondays, around 60 civilians arrive at the gates of Raleigh. Typically, five or six are women, but this autumn the figure has consistently been over a dozen.
Among them Able Seaman Robyn Stokell, aged 20, from Wiltshire, who’s aiming to become a specialist in hydrography and meteorology, serving in survey ships.
“My Raleigh experience was excellent,” she said. “I’ve had such an amazing time. I was definitely nervous before coming into the Navy, but the nerves were not worth it.
“Everyone was very supportive. The camaraderie between us is excellent. Everyone’s chipped in, everyone’s been doing jobs. I would 150 per cent encourage anyone to join the Navy and come to HMS Raleigh.”
AB Megan Page, from Suffolk, is also 20 and aiming to specialise in hydrography and meteorology.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time at Raleigh and I would encourage all women to join, because there are different aspects that you can go into,” she said.
“There’s something to do for everyone and you are all part of a team. At the end of the day you are there to help each other.
“It’s been great having so many women in the class. I came in thinking there may just be four or five, but there were 13 of us passing-out. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and we’ve just pulled each other along.”
Women have been going to sea in the Royal Navy for more than 30 years – though the opportunities and careers open to today’s recruits are much broader now: the autumn intake of female recruits at Raleigh ranges from apprentice engineers to Naval Nurses and undergraduate submariners.
“There is no barrier to opportunities for women within the Royal Navy. Women can serve at sea, beneath the waves and in the air,” said Captain Suzi Nielsen, HMS Raleigh’s Commanding Officer.
“At HMS Raleigh we are configured to take in more female recruits and we are ready to welcome them.
“All female personnel are treated exactly the same as their male counterparts and are required to reach the same standards.”
After passing out all trainees move on to their specialist training – warfare and weapons/sensor engineers at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, for example, engineers at HMS Sultan in Gosport, logistics and administration experts and chefs at the new military college at Worthy Down, while submariners and seamen stay at Raleigh.