Christmas On Patrol with HMS Vanguard
For many of us Christmas is already a distant memory, with only an increased waistline to remind us of the festivities. But for those Service personnel serving during festive season, a Christmas deployed can often be a time to remember.
Being unable to communicate with friends and loved-ones for up to three months is an entirely alien concept in the modern networked age.Lieutenant Simon Rees
Lieutenant Simon Rees of HMS Vanguard describes what it was like to spend Christmas on patrol…
“Having completed our previous patrol early last year, owing to operational reasons, the crew of HMS Vanguard Starboard once again carried the baton, providing the UK’s Nuclear Deterrent over Christmas and New Year for the second year in a row.
“Since the first Polaris submarine patrol in 1969, very little about life on an SSBN has changed.
"The patrol is still conducted in strict radio silence with the only news from family and friends in the form of 120 words a week in one or two ‘familygrams’.
“Being unable to communicate with friends and loved-ones for up to three months is an entirely alien concept in the modern networked age. Friends and family find it difficult to grasp that there will zero reciprocal contact whatsoever.
“For some it must sound very appealing, to have zero exposure to the commercialised festive build-up. But for the submariner on patrol at Christmas it makes the run-up a matter of early planning.
“Entertainment on board, although enhanced by modern technology (Kindles and hard drives being a God-send on a platform with limited space) remains broadly traditional.
"Quiz nights and game nights all play a part, with the more traditional ‘Uckers’ now mixed with inter-mess Mario Kart.
“A traditional service of carols was held on the Sunday before Christmas, with the choir of ‘King’s College Vanguard’ providing impressive harmony.
"Christmas Eve was marked by a staging of ‘A Christmas Carol’ involving a spooky reappearance of the previous Executive Officer as the Ghost of Christmas Past.
"Christmas day itself included the opening of presents around the tree, before the Commanding Officer and others helped serve up a sumptuous Christmas dinner for all.
"The chefs on board deserve special credit for managing to create such a varied feast.
"There was something for everybody on board from carols to Secret Santa, but just as importantly some space for quiet reflection and thoughts of loved-ones at home.
“It may sound like all jokes and jollities, but there are good reasons for making an extra effort when on patrol.
"Christmas is a sensitive time of the year and for many of the younger ship’s company who have struck-up relationships almost three years ago, couples have still not spent a Christmas together.
"Those with young children up to three years of age have yet to have their father home for Christmas.
“Every member of the ship’s company has sacrificed something which is emotionally important in order to serve with HMS Vanguard.
"With our Armed Forces deployed in multiple theatres it is easy to overlook the continued and understated contribution made by the UK’s SSBN force, always there and always ready.”
RN HQ Brunswick Quay and Liverpool Maritiem Museum, Liverpool
HMS Bulwark, Liverpool
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