Navy officers and ratings make history at unique parade

For the first time in the history of the Royal Navy sailors and officers today passed out side-by-side.

The parade ground at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth – the spiritual home of the officer cadre for the past 115 years – witnessed a unique ceremony as 34 ratings and 130 officers completed their training.

Britain’s most senior sailor, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin, welcomed the ratings – who formed a guard of honour – and officers into the naval family as the guest of honour.

Traditionally, the nine-week transformation from civilian to sailor takes place at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, but with a surge in interest in joining the Navy, an additional course was provided at Dartmouth.

Among the ratings completing training was 24-year-old Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineering) Sarah-Jayne Stoppel from Northampton.  “The course has been good, but some parts have been really challenging, particularly the Initial Military Fitness because it’s quite intense.

“Physical exercise in civvy street really doesn’t prepare you for two hours of military exercise, but I can feel that my fitness has massively improved.  It’s been exciting to be part of something significant by training here at Britannia.”

Fellow Engineering Technician Lucas Cann from South Wales joined the Royal Navy to travel, gain qualifications and enjoy a better lifestyle.  The 18-year-old lost both of his grandfathers while he was in training.

“When I found out my grandads had died I just wanted to leave, but everyone got around me and I’m still here. The staff and the management team of recruits were great. The Navy is really good at handling this type of thing.

“I have made friends for life. I don’t have words to describe how good it feels to complete this course.  There was no pressure from the Royal Navy, but as a group we got together and decided that we had to make an impression being the first to train here.”

It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in eight months, and there have been so many highlights, but my favourite part was definitely being on destroyer HMS Defender. We learned so much at Dartmouth, but it all seemed to come together finally living on board an operational warship.

Midshipman Ellie Johnson

Of the officers passing out, 98 completed a 29-week initial training programme, while 28 more underwent the transition from ratings. Four nursing officers of the Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service, 11 new officers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service and 28 international cadets from 13 overseas nations also completed their training.

“I’m extremely proud, and grateful to all the people who have been on this journey with me – it’s been a long road to get here, with lots of ups and downs, but I feel more confident, capable and stronger than ever. It’s also an absolute privilege to be passing out alongside the ratings. I think being part of this historic moment is one of the best silver linings we could have hoped for,” said 23-year-old Midshipman Ellie Johnson from Suffolk.

“It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in eight months, and there have been so many highlights, but my favourite part was definitely being on destroyer HMS Defender. We learned so much at Dartmouth, but it all seemed to come together finally living on board an operational warship.”

Admiral Radakin told the officers and ratings gathered before him:

“This is a historic occasion – and it is historic on two levels.  It is of course the first time that we have ever had officers and ratings training together, and passing out together, at Dartmouth.  And that is historic in itself.  But it is also a historic occasion for each and every one of you.  You will always remember this day as the real start of your naval career.

“That applies to all of you on parade, officers and ratings, regardless of your specialisation or which country you come from. You have made a commitment to put yourself in harm’s way.  To serve your country.  And to do so cheerfully, with determination and in the face of whatever challenges may come.  You should all be enormously proud of yourselves.”

Captain Roger Readwin, the Captain of BRNC, bristled with pride at the sight of officers and ratings passing out together.

“It is magnificent to see them all standing side-by-side, as they will at sea in the years to come. Our people are the life blood of the Royal Navy.

“They have all worked hard to meet the stringent standards and thoroughly deserve their place on this historic parade ground. It is also very special to welcome their families and friends on this momentous day, to thank them all for their incredible support during these uncertain times and introduce them all to the Royal Naval family.”

Most of the Officers passing-out began their training in January and over the course of the 29 weeks, they have been tested on Dartmoor, on the River Dart and have spent time at sea on board an operational warship.

Both Britannia Royal Naval College and HMS Raleigh have continued to train throughout the pandemic to provide the front-line Fleet with fresh blood. A further class of ratings will begin training at Dartmouth in October.