HMS Trenchant returned home to Devonport on May 22 – 11 months to the day she sailed on what became the longest patrol ever completed by one of the Royal Navy’s hunter-killer boats. Around 200 family members were waiting for the Trafalgar-class boat to return after 335 days away – 267 of them east of Suez.
As the boat was waiting at Plymouth Breakwater the boat’s crew had a surprise welcome home from the Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards. He went on board to tell them what a good job they had done and to welcome them home.
HMS Trenchant’s commanding officer, Cdr 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.’’
Lt Cdr Stuart Barrie, the submarine’s weapons engineering officer, was greeted by his wife Fiona and their excited children Niamh, three, and son Toby, six, 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.’’
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.
There 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, a 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.’’
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.
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.
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 covered 38,800nm (the equivalent of 1 ¾ times around the world) and the submarine has spent over 4,700 hours underwater – the equivalent of 6 ½ months.
Of Trenchant’s crew of 170 (of which 130 is the maximum at sea), seven have been ‘Black watch’ – aboard for the entire deployment.
In all Trenchant’s chefs cooked 103,350 meals, and produced over 44,000 homemade rolls. Cdr Lindsay said;
“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.”
During this operational patrol training of Royal Navy personnel also continued on board, including brand new trainee submariners (of whom 37 qualified and earned their ‘Dolphins’) as well as trainee principal warfare officers – senior lieutenants who are being prepared to take delegated charge of the boat for 12 hours a day.
Trenchant’s crew are looking forward to leave and, for some, getting acquainted with six new babies. The submarine herself will undergo a two-year maintenance period readying the boat for renewed operations.
Press Release, May 24, 2013; Image: Royal Navy