‘Engineering marvel’ HMS Anson named in glitzy ceremony

The Royal Navy today welcomed the fifth of its 21st Century hunter-killer submarines: the mighty HMS Anson, formally named in Barrow.

After nine years of toil by the engineers, shipwrights and technicians of BAE Systems, the latest Astute-class boat was unveiled in the Devonshire Dock Hall – the UK’s gigantic submarine construction complex.

Guest of honour was the boat’s sponsor Julie Weale, whose husband Rear Admiral John was head of the Silent Service until earlier this year and present at the ceremony, she joked, as her bag carrier.

She described the £1.4bn piece of naval hardware as “an engineering marvel” and “a sleek hunter of the deep”.

Mrs Weale continued: “The work that BAE, Rolls Royce, other defence industries and the Ministry of Defence have done together to build such a beautiful, complex hunter of the deep is both amazing and impressive,” she told those gathered in the cavernous hall.

“She will look even better when her face mask has been removed.

“You have designed and built a submarine that with her crew will become the best of her class, the quickest to the frontline and best in the world.”

And then to the immortal words: “It is with immense pride, passion and pleasure that I name this submarine Anson. God bless her and all who sail with her,” Mrs Weale pushed a lever and a bottle of cider was smashed against the underside of Anson’s bow, christening the 97-metre-long man o’war.

With her crew HMS Anson become the best of her class, the quickest to the front line and best in the world

Julie Weale, HMS Anson's Lady Sponsor

The pandemic severely limited numbers present to a small number of guests, including the 100-strong crew who will eventually take the Fleet submarine to sea, joining Astute, Ambush, Artful and Audacious.

The boat was blessed by the Navy’s ‘top bish’, Chaplain of the Fleet The Venerable Martyn Gough.

Anson’s first Commanding Officer, Commander David ‘Bing’ Crosby, said it was now time for the ship’s company, the broader Naval family, BAE, and Mrs Weale “to bring HMS Anson to life.”

“It will require all of us to work together to achieve this goal, but we are ready for the challenge – and we are determined to succeed.”

Anson will enter the water in 2021 – there’s a basin next to the Devonshire Hall not only large enough to accommodate her, but also to allow a practice dive which almost allows the boat to completely submerge.

Her punch is delivered by Tomahawk cruise missiles and the newly-upgraded Spearfish torpedoes being introduced to the Fleet from 2021.

Unlike their predecessors, every member of crew enjoys their own bed/space, although it remains cramped on board.

The submarine is named after 18th Century Admiral George Anson who delivered an impressive victory over the French at Cape Finisterre in 1747 and went on to reform the Admiralty.

She is the first submarine to carry the name – and the first Royal Navy warship since WW2 King George V-class battleship to be so called. She was broken up in 1957 at Faslane, the new Anson’s future home.

Anson is due to remain in Barrow for completion until 2022 before leaving for sea trials and joining her older sisters at HMNB Clyde, while BAE finish the final two Astute-class boats: Agamemnon and Agincourt, completing the programme in 2025 after a quarter century of work on the entire programme.

Pictures courtesy of BAE Systems