Junior sailors make history as number of Royal Navy recruits soars

Junior sailors are making history by training at the spiritual home of naval officers amid a rise in demand to join the Royal Navy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

To meet the sudden spike in interest among those wishing to serve their country, sailors are being inducted into the Royal Navy at the iconic Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth for the first time in history.

A group of 47 new recruits started their nine-week basic training course at the college last week. BRNC has been the home of Royal Navy officer training for over 100 years while new entry training for ratings is done at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall.

But with an increased interest in careers in the service, the Royal Navy has increased training capacity for ratings with an additional intake of sailors at BRNC.

The Royal Navy has continued to train new sailors throughout the coronavirus outbreak to support the country in times of need and ensure key Defence outputs are maintained.

Captain Roger Readwin, the Captain of BRNC, said: “It is an absolute privilege to support the training of ratings at Dartmouth and to play our part in growing the Royal Navy.

“This will also be a historical first with officer cadets and ratings training together, celebrated with a combined passing out parade at the end.

“The planning and preparation to deliver this training has been developed in close partnership with the team at HMS Raleigh.”

The course at BRNC is based on the tried and tested programme developed by HMS Raleigh. It will be primarily delivered by instructors with experience of the course, while calling on the expertise of BRNC staff for specialist areas such as physical training, seamanship and navigation.

Captain Richard Harris, the Commanding Officer of HMS Raleigh, said: “Since March, around 600 sailors have completed their basic training here at HMS Raleigh and we’ve continued to take in approximately 60 recruits every week.

“This is an exciting opportunity for some of our recruits to experience training at Dartmouth and gain an insight into how the officers train. I look forward to seeing them on the parade ground for their passing-out-parade in August.”

During training recruits are placed in divisions, and to recognise the unique nature of their course the first ratings at BRNC have formed a new group named the Whittall Division.

It has been named in honour of Petty Officer Wren Ellen Whittall who was the only fatality when the college was bombed in September 1942.

Among the new recruits training at BRNC is Kieran Warren, 22, from Witham in Essex. He said: “I’ve always wanted to work in the public sector. My dad and my brother are in the Army and I wanted to do something different. When I found out I was joining Dartmouth, I did some research into the college. I felt it would be a real opportunity to see how the officers train, interact with them and then maybe meet them later during our careers.”

Sophie Loraine, aged 18 from Sunderland, said: “When I heard that I’d been selected to go forward for the course at Dartmouth I was really excited and glad that I’m going to be able to start my career early.

“Being in the Royal Navy is my dream job. Looking out of the window where I’m from I couldn’t see anything that I wanted to do other than be in the Royal Navy because of all the career and travel opportunities. Training is going to be a challenge, particularly all the organisation, but I think I’m prepared.”

It is essential that our Royal Navy recruits are able to train today to fight the threats of the future. The brilliant work of our Armed Forces during the COVID-19 response has demonstrated just how rewarding and diverse a career in the Armed Forces is – and led to even more applications from ambitious hopefuls. Increased capacity at Dartmouth will allow recruits to go on to become full-time sailors, helping to protect the security of the UK and our allies.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey