Princess Royal meets the people behind Uk’s longest mission

It is one of the securest locations in the country, but the Royal Navy allowed unprecedented access to HM Naval Base Clyde, welcoming hundreds of submariners, veterans, families and support workers to mark the 50th anniversary of the Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD).

The Royal Navy Submarine Service was entrusted with the mission of delivering and operating the country’s nuclear deterrent in 1969 and since then has successfully kept at least one ballistic submarine patrolling at sea, consecutively and continuously, every single hour of every day. 

During that entire time, the submarines and crews who sail them have been based at Faslane in Argyll and Bute – the home of the UK Submarine Service.

To mark the Scottish Naval Base’s vital importance to the mission, HRH The Princess Royal visited Faslane to attend a parade and meet some of the men and women who have helped protect the country by maintaining the deterrent.

Whether they are they are submariners, MOD civilians, industry partners or family members, each has supported the successful delivery of this important defence capability

Rear Admiral John Weale

In what is thought to be the biggest single gathering of Royal Navy submariners since the Second World War, the visitors were treated to the usually secret sight of a Vanguard class submarine completely out of the water, when the base’s massive Shiplift facility opened its doors to reveal one of the 16,000 tonne vessels undergoing routine maintenance.

Admiral Tony Radakin CB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “For 50 years our submarine-borne nuclear deterrent has provided the ultimate guarantee of our nation’s security and to this day remains the first priority for the whole of Defence. 

“The Royal Navy’s unbroken track record of continuous at sea deterrence for the last half a century is a source of enormous pride for the Service, and is testament to the skill, professionalism and commitment of the whole Defence enterprise behind this remarkable national endeavour, especially the submariners and their families who have sacrificed so much over the years in defence of our country.

“Throughout that incredible 50-year history, HM Naval Base Clyde has been home to our ballistic missile submarine fleet, so there is no better place for us to gather today to mark this significant milestone.”

The list of jobs, trades and specialisms involved in the design, construction and maintenance of the deterrent is almost endless – shipyard workers, designers, engineers, security forces, administrators, cleaners, welfare staff, and dockside support workers have all featured.

Companies from around the UK have also played a role, making it a truly national endeavour spanning successive generations.  Known as Operation Relentless, it is the longest sustained military operation ever undertaken by the UK.

While at the Naval Base, The Princess Royal took the opportunity to present awards to military and civilian staff.  Gold Deterrent Patrol Pins – given to those who have completed 20 or more deterrent patrols – and HM Naval Base Clyde Long Service Pins – for those completing 30 years’ service at Clyde – were among the awards.

One of those receiving an award was Chief Petty Officer Karl Davies, who received a Gold Deterrent Patrol Pin for 20 Deterrent Patrols.

“I am extremely proud to be awarded the Gold Deterrent Patrol Pin today by Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal.

“This gold pin recognises not only my personal achievement but the support I have been given by my family and friends.

“Knowing that I have their full support has enabled me to deliver my role in CASD throughout my career.”

The design, construction, and delivery of the first deterrent submarines – the Resolution class – is one of the triumphs of UK industry and defence in the 20th Century.

Four vessels – HMS Resolution, Repulse, Renown and Revenge – with a weapon system never-before operated by the Royal Navy, and two new Naval Bases – Faslane and Coulport – were delivered inside seven years and to budget.

The base on the Gareloch – known then as HMS Neptune but eventually to become HM Naval Base Clyde – was officially opened by The Princess Royal’s Grandmother, HRH The Queen Mother, in 1968.  The following year Continuous At Sea Deterrence began when all four Resolution class boats came online.

Between them, the four Resolution class boats – submarines are always referred to as “boats”, not “ships” – completed over 229 deterrent patrols, with the longest, at 108 days, completed by HMS Resolution in 1991.

Today, the nation’s deterrent is operated from the Vanguard class submarines, also based at Faslane.  One Vanguard class boat is always on patrol, a second is training to take over, a third undergoing routine maintenance, with the fourth in long-term overhaul, refit or refuelling in Plymouth.

Rear Admiral John Weale CB OBE, Head of the Royal Navy Submarine Service, said: “It is fantastic to see so many members of our submarine community here today for this special event.

“Whether they are they are submariners, MOD civilians, industry partners or family members, each has supported the successful delivery of this important defence capability.

“We are all very proud of what we do, and that pride does not diminish once we leave the Service.  That is why I am also delighted to see our veterans here today.  Those on parade represent the full 50 years of CASD and I would like to thank them for their hard work and continued support.”

Taking to the parade ground for the occasion were divisions from the Faslane Flotilla, Naval Base Commander Clyde, Flag Officer Sea Training (North), 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, submariner veterans, and submariners from the US Navy who were there in acknowledgement of the close and enduring relationship between the two countries.

Protectors of Peace

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Royal Navy carrying out the nation’s most important military mission – continuous patrols by submarines equipped with the UK’s nuclear deterrent. Immerse yourself in the history of the Continuous At Sea Deterrent – known officially as Operation Relentless – as we look at the crews, the boats, life on board over five decades, and the future with the advent of the Dreadnought-class.

Find out more