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STRANGER than fiction, larger than life – a career in the Navy has prompted a fair few ex-matelots to pick up a pen (or tap the keyboard) to produce their take on things. In the case of veteran FAA senior

rate Ian ‘George’ Ditch it was a question of committing to paper characters and incidents from 23 years in the Navy. The volume is entitled Laughing

Navy provides inspiration

particularly challenging operations. “I have also seen at first-hand some incredibly funny incidents that have had me in stitches, so after leaving the RN, I set about jotting down the funnier side of ‘Jack’ at work and play. “Amazingly,

● Robert Collins

Picture: Dave Sherfield

Robert is in – with two days to spare

A TRAINEE submariner left it late to join the Senior Service. Generally, recruits are eligible to join the Royal Navy from the age of 16 to the day of their 37th birthday. Robert Collins embarked on his

Service career in January – and celebrated his 37th birthday two days later.

While the average age of the other 50 trainees on the nine-week course was 21, Robert was one of just three over 30.

Navy’s oldest recruit I felt quite proud,” said the former stock controller. “I’d always considered joining the military but with a steady job I didn’t pursue it. “However, with the recession,

the Navy seemed like an excellent opportunity to have a secure career and when I looked on the website I was surprised to see I was still eligible, so decided to give it a go.”

being with the younger people. “I’ve become a bit of a father figure to some, and in turn they’ve helped me with some of the physical aspects, which has definitely been the hardest for me.” He now plans to make a career for himself as a logistician in the Submarine Service.

Messages in

a large bottle


been great.

He continued: “Training has It’s been interesting

“Once I found out I was the

Kitbags, “a journey through the 70s and 80s when ‘hard play’ was expected after a ‘hard day’s work’.” A veteran of the Jungly circuit, George said: “I have been extremely fortunate to meet some tremendous officers and sailors alike, on some

was proof-read by a number of publishers and, to my surprise and excitement, I found one that was keen to publish my book.” Another WAFU veteran in print

Engadine, Illustrious, Endurance the manuscript

is Ian Weaver, an observer in the Navy between 1979 and 1987 with 814, 829, 360 and 706 Squadrons, serving

in HM ships Hermes,

and RFA Fort Grange. He transferred to the RAF as

a navigator, but in January 1996 was seriously injured in a mid-air collision between two Tornados at RAF Coningsby, which led to him being discharged from the Service. He recently had his first novel,

Time and Again, published – and fiction reflected fact in this case. “The book shares some

similarities with my accident and injuries – interesting given the majority of the book was written before my accident,” said Ian. “The hero of the book is a Naval

observer based at Culdrose, funnily enough!”

Students learn all about Royal

ROYAL Marines Commandos brought to life the rigours of the Afghanistan frontline, the hardship of alpine survival and the of

Midlands students.

A series

which closely mirrored the typical operational skills of the green berets were staged at the Swynnerton Training Area in Stone, Staffordshire.

to wall-climbing, survival skills to hand-to-hand combat. And there was also a spot of paint-balling to put military skills into practice. The students, who were learning about life in the Armed Forces, were in the hands of the 25-strong Commando Display Team. Many of those taking part

were completing Public Services courses, designed to prepare them for a career in uniformed service organisations such as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. WO Tim Whitehouse, Area

● The Duchess of Cornwall chats to ratings at RNAS Culdrose

Recruiting Manager for the Naval Service in the West Midlands, said: “This is a fun-packed day out for the students, providing physically challenging activities at a first- class location. “It demonstrates the range of activities and roles that Royal Marines

commission for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square takes its cue from the location itself.

The work, Nelson’s Ship in

a Bottle, is essentially a model of HMS Victory in the titular container, at one level reminding observers of the history of the space in which they are standing, in the shadow of Nelson. But the artist also uses his trademark fabric, Dutch wax- printed cotton, for the sails, hinting at the trade routes protected by the Navy and the multi-cultural nature of London which in part stems from its overseas interests. The work was due to be unveiled to the public as Navy News went to press, and is due to remain on display until the end of next year.

Testing the waters

A GROUP of officer cadets on Initial Fleet Time swapped a carrier for a submarine to experience life in a metal tube. HMS Ark Royal was at Glen Mallen in Scotland to take on ammunition, so the party made the short trip to Faslane, home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent fleet. And as the nine officer cadets, who had expressed an interest in joining the Silent Service, were part of Vanguard Division, there was only one boat on the agenda... The group was impressed by the size of

the vessel, though as they descended the ladder – many for the first time – there was something of a reverse TARDIS effect (it doesn’t seem quite as big on the inside as it does on the outside).

But the lack of space relative to the Ark did not put them off – they had been on the receiving end of a steady PR campaign by one of their group, OC Tim Bateson, who served for a number of years in Vanguard-class boats before entering Dartmouth. Although happy to have had a stint as

a ‘skimmer’, Tim’s passion for life in the deep still remains. “I have relished the opportunity to serve on board HMS Ark Royal and, although I am proud to remain a submariner, I am certain that the insights I have gained into the life of the surface fleet will enable me to bring a valuable new perspective to my sub-surface role,” said Tim.

Yinka Shonibare’s

young people some insight into what life is like in the Service.” The Commando Display Team

undertake and gives

is led by Capt Luke Gobell RM, who added: “Meet the Marines is a key event which allows young people on the cusp of making major decisions about their future careers to see the possibilities, the reality and the excitement that life in the Royal Marines can offer. “It’s an experience that captures their imaginations and will challenge them.

or simply leave here with a better understanding of what we do and why we do it, we’ve succeeded, and they have memories and experiences that stay with them.”

● Members of the Royal Marines Commando Display Team in action

“Whether they decide to join up

Royal visitor meets Culdrose volunteers

NAVAL ratings from RN Air Station Culdrose were on hand to greet her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall during her visit

to the Shelterbox HQ in

Helston, Cornwall. The Duchess, who is patron of the Shelterbox charity, met representatives from Shelterbox, children from several local schools and the sailors from Culdrose. The link between Shelterbox and Culdrose is strong. Tom Henderson, the founder of Shelterbox, served in the RN and on 771 Search and Rescue squadron at Culdrose. Several other key members of Shelterbox also served at Culdrose over the years, and the link continues with Culdrose personnel assisting where possible. For example,

under PO

Ewen Bell, some were on hand at Newquay

Airport to load

Shelterboxes on to an aircraft bound for Haiti. Later, 22 trainees from the RN

School of Flight Deck Operations assisted at Shelterbox HQ in Helston, packing the familiar boxes and re-stocking the warehouse ready for the next shipment to Haiti.

Throughout Culdrose, squadrons, departments, Service and civilian personnel have turned their mind to ways of raising money, with cake stalls, collections, sponsored pram-pushes by wives, and volunteers have given their time and energy as lifters and shifters wherever possible. Almost £2,000 has been raised by the Chaplaincy at Culdrose, some of which will be donated to Shelterbox, and some direct to an orphanage in Haiti which has existing links with personnel at Culdrose.

Band schools

THE Band of the Royal Marines (Scotland) took time off from entertaining hundreds in a series of Help for Heroes concerts in North Down last week to put on a special performance for schoolchildren. Youngsters

from seven primary Ballyholme schools

across Bangor and Holywood thronged into the Elim Corporate and Conference Centre for their personal treat. The schools were


Ballymagee Primary, Cygnet House Prep School, Alexander Dickson Primary, Holywood Primary, Clandeboye Primary and Redburn Primary. Children from the schools are pictured with

Director of Music Captain John Ridley and (left to right) Bugler Matt Abbot, C/Sgt Tim Watson and Bugler Jo Nelson.

Activities ranged from abseiling

jungle warfare


climate difficulties for West

fun activities

Dedication wins Admiral’s esteem

REAR Admiral Submarines has commended a

small group of

strategic weapons systems (SWS) ratings for their dedication to duty under trying circumstances. Rear Admiral Mark Anderson

wanted to formally recognise the “considerable difficulties


by a number of LET WESM and ET1 WESM [personnel] who contributed in maintaining the SWS CAMP (Control and Monitoring Panel) watch keeping requirements

during a period

when this cohort was over 50 per cent gapped.” The names were put forward by

their career manager, CPO Billy Myers, who managed the plot on a day-to-day and individual basis for the 18-month period cited

until the gapping problem was reduced.

Their role was to monitor

the panel which displayed the conditions in the nuclear missile compartment.

The recipients of the commendations – a number of whom are pictured above with COMFASFLOT’s Senior Weapon Engineer Officer Cdr Gayfer as well as CPO Myers – were LTT (WESM)s Richard Banks, Ryan Connelly, Gavin Allan, Neil Errington,

and Andrew

Roberts, and ET1 (WESM)s David Leather, Richard Cunningham and Timothy Cunningham.

Daniel Cope, Richard Scrivener, Dale Bradshaw, Michael Curry

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