Submariners celebrate HMS Torbay’s proud service

The ship’s company of the Royal Navy submarine HMS Torbay celebrated her proud history at a decommissioning service in HM Naval Base Devonport.

After 32 years of service the Plymouth-based nuclear-powered submarine was alongside a jetty in Devonport for the last time as she decommissioned via a ceremony at which a few tears were shed.

Her 614,000 mile journey around the world, through war zones, diplomatic missions and covert operations was marked with a parade and traditional ceremony attended by current and past crews and commanding officers.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Torbay paid an emotional tribute to his assembled ship’s company, the last for the submarine. He also addressed assembled families, affiliate organisations (including the Torbay area) and a Royal Marines Band. Taking the salute at the decommissioning parade was the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Vice Admiral Sir Richard Ibbotson.

Commander Dan Knight said, “I have had the privilege of serving in Torbay on a number of occasions; at the start of her second commission as first casing officer then navigating officer and now at the end of that commission as her commanding officer.

“It has been a huge honour to be her final commanding officer and to have had the opportunity to lead the exemplary men who have made her the ‘Good Boat’ that she has always been recognised as. It is with immense sadness, but significant pride, that all of us say goodbye to her.”

It is with immense sadness, but significant pride, that all of us say goodbye to her

Commander Dan Knight, Commanding Officer

He said the submarine had been very busy in last years’ of her service, spending more time on operations than average and this was largely possible and successful because of the support of families back home who bore more of the burden of regular separation for months at time than their partners.

Sailors stood proud on parade for one last time as a unit before the submarine takes up her place in Royal Naval history. Since HMS Torbay was commissioned on 8 March 1985 the world has seen a lot of changes.

Throughout these changing times Torbay has maintained a silent vigil on the forefront of the UK commitment to worldwide defence. Her motto is ‘Je maintiendrai’, I Maintain, and that she has.

Long-serving submariner Warrant Officer 1 engineer Ian Stace, shed a few tears as he said farewell to his ‘favourite submarine’. He joined HMS Torbay when it was being built and in between serving on other submarines he built up more than eight years on her.

He said, “It’s a fitting and emotional ceremony. I feel sad because of all the memories. I was at her birth and now I’m here at her last. She’s my favourite submarine and I leave at the peak of my career.

“The ship’s company will now break up and go their separate ways, which is a shame because we are an elite brand of brothers. We spend a lot of time qualifying as submariners and are proud of our jobs. It’s different from serving on ships because most of our time is spent on covert operations, which is exciting.”

Ian, who is married with two sons, served on HM Submarines Courageous (now a museum attraction), Ocelot, Trafalgar, Trenchant, Tireless and Dreadnought. He said the most exciting part of his career was the Cold War – ‘real James Bond stuff’.

Engineering Technician Peter Kelly said, “It was weird coming up river back home to Plymouth after a long time at sea and also feeling sad that we’d not see each other again as a ship’s company. But there’s a lot to be proud of, especially of what we achieved doing real meaningful covert operations.”

The boat’s legacy will live on in the memories of the 2,500 men that have served on board over the years, including 21 previous naval commanding officers and one admiral.

One of the most versatile vessels in the naval arsenal, HMS Torbay has been involved in promoting stability, gathering intelligence and supporting NATO operations worldwide.

She is capable of silently gathering intelligence or delivering force via her complement of Tomahawk missiles and Spearfish Torpedoes.

HMS Torbay has been on the forefront of submarine development during her life, proving the Trafalgar Class submarine is capable of adapting to the changing threats around the world.

HMS Torbay career facts:

  • Total distance travelled in 32 years: 705,600 miles
  • Dived distance travelled: 544,760 miles
  • Time at sea: 3,162.5 days
  • Time under water: 2,415 days
  • Port visits: Approximately 70 (not including base port visits)
  • Number of crew who have served on board: ~ 2,500
  • Basic submarine qualifications completed: ~ 1,850
  • Meals eaten at sea: ~ 379,440
  • Number of Perisher (submarine command) courses hosted: 7
  • Length overall: 85.4 m
  • Breadth: 9.83m
  • Draught: 9.5m
  • Displacement :4,730t surfaced, 5,208t dived
  • Armament: 5 x 21 inch torpedo tubes
  • Complement: 96