Scottish Bishop visits the Royal Navy in the South West

Bishop of Galloway William Nolan tries out the captain’s chair during his tour of HMS Albion – one of the highlights of his visit to the Royal Navy in the South West.

The Scottish Bishop spent three days in the Plymouth area as the guest of the Royal Navy at HMS Raleigh to learn more about how the Chaplaincy fits into the wider training of the men and women in the Senior Service.

Only seven of the 12 billets for Catholic priests in the Royal Navy are currently filled – and the figure is about to drop to half a dozen, with four of those posts occupied by priests supplied by the Scottish bishops.

Unlike other denominations, Catholic priests can be recalled to their original dioceses, so a visit by one of the bishops from north of the border to the RN’s principal training establishment for ratings was a useful and timely reminder of the important spiritual, emotional and moral support provided.

The bishop was very much ‘on side’ with what we are doing and impressed by the standard of the recruits coming through

Father David Conroy, Royal Navy Chaplain

Currently the Diocese of Galloway has one priest in the Royal Navy and another in the Army.

“The bishop was very much ‘on side’ with what we are doing and impressed by the standard of the recruits coming through,” said Father David Conroy, who joined the RN on an initial commission of six years but with the permission of his bishop has completed almost 18.

Fr David continued: “Church is frequently cited by trainees as one of their favourite parts of their time at Raleigh. Even if you’re not religious, it’s a de-stresser, a place to relax, a place to think, a place to learn and a place to get support when it’s needed.”

While Mass at the Torpoint establishment on Sunday typically enjoys a congregation of nearly 150 souls, it’s not the only function of ‘bishes’ – one of several affectionate nicknames for chaplains in the RN – perform at Raleigh: they teach ethics, rules of engagement and help trainees reflect on what they are going through as well as helping to prepare them to represent the nation and Navy at religious and civic events.