Tyne and Wear twins complete navy training

Identical twins Jess and Hannah Holman from the Boldon, Tyne and Wear, have been causing confusion at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall.

The 18-year-old Royal Naval Reservists (RNR), who belong to the Gateshead unit, HMS Calliope, were among a group of Reservists, from across the country, who spent two weeks at the Royal Navy training base to complete their initial training.

Having the twins in the class was bewildering for some of the staff and their fellow trainees.    Jess said:  “People found it quite a novelty. 

“We were living with some of the regular Royal Navy recruits and those nearing the end of their 10-week course, who were really tired, thought that they were seeing double.”

When we left school a lot of our friends were getting part-time jobs during College, but we wanted to do something exciting and something different.

Hannah Holman

“Sometimes Jess was in a different uniform to me and people were asking: ‘how did you get changed so fast?’” Hannah added.

The twins joined the RNR in August 2018.  Members of the RNR conduct most of their induction within their own units and then come to HMS Raleigh for a two-week consolidated course which gives them the experience of living in a Service environment. 

With a focus on team-work the course also includes elements of fitness, seamanship and fire-fighting training.  It culminates with the passing-out-parade.

Hannah said:  “The course tested our boundaries.  Going in and knowing you’re going to be out of our comfort zone for two weeks and thinking, yes, I’m going to do this and smash all the tasks, knowing that it’ll be hard and challenging, but also knowing that when you do it you’ll be really proud.”

One of the highlights for Jess was the variety of people the twins met during their course.  She said:  “With the Reserves you have people who work full-time, some have children and others are studying, it’s just a massive variety of people and that’s really nice. 

“The activities were really good.  We spent two nights on Dartmoor, where we did a 22 km hike carrying our Bergens; that was so hard.”

Jess and Hannah have previous experience of the Naval Service through their family.  Their father and grandfather were both in the Royal Marines Reserve and they have a cousin who is a regular in the Royal Navy.

Hannah said:  “We weren’t aware of the Royal Naval Reserve until our cousin joined full-time.  When we left school a lot of our friends were getting part-time jobs during College, but we wanted to do something exciting and something different. 

“Being a Reservist is a lot more varied than an ordinary job because you’re not doing the same thing every day, ever.”

The girls are currently studying for their A’Levels.  Hannah is hoping to have a career in sports science and is studying physics, biology and PE.  

She said:  “With the fitness and everything you do in the Reserves, I think being a sports scientist and a Reservist complement each other.”

Jess is studying physics, biology and English language.  She said:  “I want to go to university and study marine biology.

“It might help with something in the Navy, but I don’t know yet if I want to join full-time, but that’s certainly something I can think about when I have a bit more experience.”

The twins have identical twin brothers, Johnny and George, aged 14, who are also thinking of joining the RNR.   Summing up her time as a Reservist so far, Jess said:  “It builds that military bearing that you can carry on into your civilian life. 

“I think it helps particularly at our age; it helps your development as an adult.  An institution like this is really good for building confidence and having that self-respect.”

The Maritime Reserves is made up of the RNR and the Royal Marines Reserve.  In many cases reservists are indistinguishable from their regular counterparts. 

In recent years the Maritime Reserves has been involved in a range of operations including counter-terrorism and anti-piracy work in the Gulf.