Tag Archives: HMS Vigilant

Sailing into the history books: the Navy’s first women submariners: Trio complete months of training to earn their ‘Dolphins’


  • First females in the 110-year history of the Navy’s Submarine Service
  • Ban on women serving in submarines lifted in December 2011
  • During training the three women conducted operations on nuclear-powered Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant
  • ‘Dolphin’ is the name give to the clasp worn by qualified submariners

Three women have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy.

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray have completed months of specialised training to earn their ‘Dolphins’ – the clasp worn by qualified submariners – becoming the first women in the 110-year history of the Navy’s Submarine Service.

For years women were unable to serve on submarines because of possible health risks but, after an independent review found that only pregnant women should not serve, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, lifted the ban in December 2011.

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy

Today, Mr Hammond said: ‘This is not only a huge personal achievement for these three outstanding officers, as they take up their new roles supporting the ultimate safeguard of our national security, but also an historic moment for the Royal Navy and our armed forces.’

Following the arrival of woman officers, female ratings (non-commissioned personnel) will start training later this year with a view to serving on Vanguard submarines in 2015.

Female personnel will also be able to serve on Astute-class submarines from around 2016.

Ring ring goes the bell: After 110 years of the Silent Service, pioneering Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alex Olsson and Penny Thackray have become the first women to serve onboard a Vanguard class submarine

Ring ring goes the bell: After 110 years of the Silent Service, pioneering Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alex Olsson and Penny Thackray have become the first women to serve onboard a Vanguard class submarine

During their training, previously only undertaken by men, the three women officers conducted operations on nuclear-powered Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, passing their rigorous final exams with flying colours, and will now embark on careers in the Submarine Service.

Lt Stiles, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, said: ‘I wanted to be able to say that I had made the most of every opportunity that I had been given in the Navy.

‘It’s very intense and very challenging but that’s what makes it so rewarding. At the end of it, when you get your Dolphins and are accepted into the submarine community, it’s great.’

Describing the reception from the 165 male members of the 168-member crew, the 29-year-old, who has been in the Navy for four years, said: ‘As long as you can do your job and you’re good at what you do, I don’t think they cared whether you were male or female.’

HMS Vigilant's (pictured) commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw the training, said: 'I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board'

HMS Vigilant’s (pictured) commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw the training, said: ‘I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board’

A life under the ocean wave: Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have completed months of specialised training to earn their 'Dolphins' - the clasp worn by qualified submariners

A life under the ocean wave: Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have completed months of specialised training to earn their ‘Dolphins’ – the clasp worn by qualified submariners

Ever vigilant: Lt Penny Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, will become an education oficer

Ever vigilant: Lt Penny Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, will become an education oficer

Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead.

She said: ‘I kept volunteering and volunteering until it came in.’

She admitted that the three women might have ‘stuck out’ on board, but said: ‘They were really receptive. Having a slower process of introducing a few females first in the officer cadre and then ratings has helped. We haven’t just knocked on the door of a submarine and said ‘Can we come to sea please?’

‘I felt like a little sister to 165 brothers. You live as a very strange family. Once we got qualified they were glad for us the same way they had been glad for hundreds of submariners before.

‘At the end of the day manpower is a big thing for the Navy – as long as you can do the job, it doesn’t matter.’

Maxine Stiles will serve aboard HMS Vigilant as a logistics officer

Maxine Stiles will serve aboard HMS Vigilant as a logistics officer

 She added: ‘We did a long patrol, we’ve come across most things people want to know about, like how you live and how the guys get on with you.

‘I know there’s people who are interested but they haven’t been able to make an informed decision.

‘Of course it’s been challenging, but women are absolutely capable of doing this job. I think that change can always be a bit of a shock, but I look forward to seeing more and more women getting on board.’

Describing the living conditions on board, she said: ‘It’s slightly more cramped that you would be used to.

Actually you bring your perspective in so you don’t see the lack of space anymore – you see the space that’s there.

‘It’s a bit of an odd place to live – everything smells the same, it all has this diesel oily smell which you have to get used to. But it’s not a horrible place to live.

Always a rover: Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead

Always a rover: Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead

 ‘I managed to have a shower every day, we had laundry facilities. There was gym equipment. And food becomes a massive part of your day, it’s a routine you get into.’

Lt Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, said: ‘You limit your horizons. I found I just forgot about the existence of some things – someone asked me if I missed bananas. I hadn’t even noticed until they mentioned it. I just forgot the outside world, you get a whole new world.’

After their training, Lt Stiles will continue her logistics officer post on board; Lt Olsson is undertaking deputy weapons engineering officer training; and Lt Thackray will become an education officer.

HMS Vigilant’s commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw their training, said: ‘I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board.

‘They qualified without any difficulty and two of them even completed additional training whilst at sea.

‘As I would expect, they were accepted as integral members of the ship’s company by the rest of the crew and have really paved the way for women on submarines to be business as usual from now on.’

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel said: ‘Women have been serving in ships at sea with the Royal Navy for more than 20 years and integrating them into the Submarine Service completes their inclusion into all seagoing branches.

‘This is a proud day for the Royal Navy but equally a major personal achievement for these three officers, as it is for all those qualifying.’

Source – Daily Mail.

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Ex-Barrow submariner Craig launches charity night for naval fund

A FORMER submariner is working hard in a bid to create a  night to support a naval charity.

Craig Palmer with a football signed by Manchester City players which is among the items to be auctioned at the charity night to raise money for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. Craig was inspired to help the fund after seeing its work supporting the family of Ian Molyneux, inset, who was killed onboard HMS Astute

Craig Palmer with a football signed by Manchester City players which is among the items to be auctioned at the charity night to raise money for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. Craig was inspired to help the fund after seeing its work supporting the family of Ian Molyneux, inset, who was killed onboard HMS Astute

Craig Palmer, 24, is organising a fundraising night in aid of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.

Mr Palmer, who served onboard HMS Vigilant, said he was inspired to organise the event after his experiences serving in the forces and after seeing the support the charity provided to the family of Ian Molyneux, who died after being shot onboard HMS Astute in 2011.

Mr Palmer has already secured an array of donations set to be auctioned off at the charity night due to be held at the Nines, in Barrow, on June 20, including a signed Manchester City football, a signed Barrow AFC shirt and a bottle of House of Commons whisky.

He said: “I had friends who were onboard HMS Ambush and were injured in the shootings in 2011.

“This is my way of giving a bit back to the forces. I’ve seen firsthand how this charity can help people.

“A friend of mine died and his kids don’t have a dad. This charity helps his family but this family gives it away to so many people – it’s unbelievable.”

Craig Palmer served aboard HMS Vigilant

Craig Palmer served aboard HMS Vigilant

Mr Palmer is also hoping to put a new Mini Cooper up for grabs via a reverse auction which is due to launch at the fundraiser evening and end on December 20 with the winner named in time for some festive fun behind the wheel.

Along with the charity auction and launch of the reverse auction Mr Palmer said there will be performances from Take That tribute act Rule The World and local bands Paper Cranes and Jumbo Jamz.

Mr Palmer also said he is set to give away 50 tickets to current forces personnel.

More details about tickets are set to be released in the coming weeks

Source – North West Evening Mail

 

All at sea: Clyde-based Trident sub stranded in US despite £300m overhaul

Trident submarine HMS Vigilant has been forced to limp back to port in the US after its rudder broke, upsetting Britain’s nuclear weapons patrols and undermining the effectiveness of a £300 million

HMS Vigilant suffered damage while heading home to Scotland

HMS Vigilant suffered damage while heading home to Scotland

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed that HMS Vigilant, a nuclear-powered submarine capable of carrying nuclear warheads, was disabled while on the way home to the Faslane naval base on the Clyde after test-firing a Trident missile in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida on October 23.

The submarine is understood to have turned around and returned to the US naval base at Kings Bay in Georgia, near Florida, where the damage is now being investigated and repaired. The base is home to the US fleet of Trident submarines.

A submariner on Vigilant revealed that the boat’s planned schedule had been disrupted when he complained on Twitter that he was “stuck in the USA for Christmas”. Vigilant was due to return to Scotland to recommence continuous patrols of the oceans after a three-year overhaul.

The MoD has released few details of what happened because the operations of Trident submarines have the highest security classification. The ministry never usually says where the boats are, or whether they are carrying nuclear weapons.

“While returning to the UK after the successful firing of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile, HMS Vigilant suffered a defect to her rudder,” an MoD spokesman said. “This is not nuclear-related and the crew and boat have safely returned to port where the defect is being assessed.”

A source told the Sunday Herald that damage had been caused by “debris at sea”, but this was not confirmed by the MoD. “There is no evidence that there was a collision at sea,” said the MoD spokesman.

Steven Savage, a sailor currently serving on Vigilant, sent a tweet on December 8 to the BBC in Teesside saying he was missing Middlesbrough Football Club, known as Boro.

“Can we have a shout out to all the Boro fans on HMS Vigilant (submarine). Stuck in the USA for Xmas #missingtheboro,” he said.

Vigilant is one of four Vanguard-class submarines equipped to carry nuclear-tipped Trident missiles. One submarine is meant to be patrolling the seas 24/7 as part of a policy of “continuous at-sea deterrence”.

Last month, Defence Minister Philip Dunne told Parliament that Vigilant had recently completed a major overhaul.

Test-firing the missile was part of a “demonstration and shakedown operation” designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the UK’s nuclear deterrent before the submarine returned to service.

According to the Royal Navy, the overhaul cost more than £300m, took three years and involved refuelling the submarine’s reactor. More that 200 significant upgrades were made to the submarine’s machinery and operating systems.

Critics questioned how a submarine that had just undergone such an extensive and expensive overhaul could immediately break its rudder. They were also concerned about whether it would be safe to sail with a defective rudder.

“The navy is probably very concerned about this,” said John Large, an independent expert on nuclear submarines. “It may be that the maintenance work caused the problem.”

He suggested that the rudder could have suffered a mechanical failure with its hydraulics or communications systems, or may have snagged on a cable used to tow a sonar array to detect other submarines.

The incident would also have been embarrassing, Large argued. “I would imagine the boat would have to surface, which is a disaster for a stealth submarine because it can be seen,” he said.

He also pointed out that Trident submarines were very dependent on keeping to their programme. “If something goes wrong it completely screws up the schedule,” he added.

John Ainslie, co-ordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, claimed that sailing a Trident submarine across the Atlantic with a “dodgy” rudder could cause a collision with “catastrophic consequences”.

He also claimed that repairs would delay when Vigilant becomes fully operational. “It will have an impact on the navy’s ability to keep one Trident submarine at sea at all times,” he said.

“Rather than rushing to patch up the rudder, the MoD should follow the Liberal Democrats’ advice and end continuous at-sea deterrence. Then they can take as long as they like to fix this problem.”

Another Trident submarine, HMS Vanguard, famously collided with a nuclear-armed French submarine, Le Triomphant, in February 2009 somewhere in the Atlantic. Both boats had to return home for repairs.

The submarine is understood to have turned around and returned to the US naval base at Kings Bay in Georgia, near Florida, where the damage is now being investigated and repaired. The base is home to the US fleet of Trident submarines.

A submariner on Vigilant revealed that the boat’s planned schedule had been disrupted when he complained on Twitter that he was “stuck in the USA for Christmas”. Vigilant was due to return to Scotland to recommence continuous patrols of the oceans after a three-year overhaul.

HMS Vigilant - one of the Royal Navy`s Trident submarines

The MoD has released few details of what happened because the operations of Trident submarines have the highest security classification. The ministry never usually says where the boats are, or whether they are carrying nuclear weapons.

“While returning to the UK after the successful firing of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile, HMS Vigilant suffered a defect to her rudder,” an MoD spokesman said. “This is not nuclear-related and the crew and boat have safely returned to port where the defect is being assessed.”

A source told the Sunday Herald that damage had been caused by “debris at sea”, but this was not confirmed by the MoD. “There is no evidence that there was a collision at sea,” said the MoD spokesman.

Steven Savage, a sailor currently serving on Vigilant, sent a tweet on December 8 to the BBC in Teesside saying he was missing Middlesbrough Football Club, known as Boro.

“Can we have a shout out to all the Boro fans on HMS Vigilant (submarine). Stuck in the USA for Xmas #missingtheboro,” he said.

Vigilant is one of four Vanguard-class submarines equipped to carry nuclear-tipped Trident missiles. One submarine is meant to be patrolling the seas 24/7 as part of a policy of “continuous at-sea deterrence”.

Last month, Defence Minister Philip Dunne told Parliament that Vigilant had recently completed a major overhaul.

Test-firing the missile was part of a “demonstration and shakedown operation” designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the UK’s nuclear deterrent before the submarine returned to service.

According to the Royal Navy, the overhaul cost more than £300m, took three years and involved refuelling the submarine’s reactor. More that 200 significant upgrades were made to the submarine’s machinery and operating systems.

Critics questioned how a submarine that had just undergone such an extensive and expensive overhaul could immediately break its rudder. They were also concerned about whether it would be safe to sail with a defective rudder.

“The navy is probably very concerned about this,” said John Large, an independent expert on nuclear submarines. “It may be that the maintenance work caused the problem.”

He suggested that the rudder could have suffered a mechanical failure with its hydraulics or communications systems, or may have snagged on a cable used to tow a sonar array to detect other submarines.

The incident would also have been embarrassing, Large argued. “I would imagine the boat would have to surface, which is a disaster for a stealth submarine because it can be seen,” he said.

He also pointed out that Trident submarines were very dependent on keeping to their programme. “If something goes wrong it completely screws up the schedule,” he added.

John Ainslie, co-ordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, claimed that sailing a Trident submarine across the Atlantic with a “dodgy” rudder could cause a collision with “catastrophic consequences”.

He also claimed that repairs would delay when Vigilant becomes fully operational. “It will have an impact on the navy’s ability to keep one Trident submarine at sea at all times,” he said.

“Rather than rushing to patch up the rudder, the MoD should follow the Liberal Democrats’ advice and end continuous at-sea deterrence. Then they can take as long as they like to fix this problem.”

Another Trident submarine, HMS Vanguard, famously collided with a nuclear-armed French submarine, Le Triomphant, in February 2009 somewhere in the Atlantic. Both boats had to return home for repairs.

Source – Herald Scotland

Navy submariner faces jail over Official Secrets Act

Edward Devenney

Devenney was arrested in Plymouth back in March

A navy submariner who offered to hand over secrets to MI5 agents posing as Russian spies had been passed over for promotion, a court has heard.

Petty Officer Edward Devenney, 30, originally from County Tyrone, admitted breaching the Official Secrets Act by collecting classified coding material.

He gathered details of “crypto material” useful to the UK’s enemies.

He also admitted a charge of misconduct in a public office. He will be sentenced later.

The court has been told Devenney, who was arrested in Plymouth in March, had been passed over for promotion because of defence cuts and was on the verge of being fired.

Devenney, who lived in Barnstaple, Devon, was a communications engineer on nuclear sub HMS Vigilant when he rang the Russian Embassy in November 2011.

According to the Royal Navy website HMS Vigilant, one of four submarines, equipped with Trident nuclear missiles, was launched in 1995. She recently underwent a £300m upgrade and was in dock at Devonport at the time of the offence.

‘Betrayal’

Devenney also offered details of HMS Vigilant’s movements, including plans to sail to its base at Faslane on the Firth of Clyde and then to the United States for nuclear missile testing.

Analysis

The story of Edward Devenney’s attempted betrayal sounds like it comes from the pages of a John le Carre thriller but it raises important security issues.

It is true that he was caught by MI5 without actually passing on any secret information to another country.

But the fact he was able to gather this information aboard a nuclear submarine is worrying. He was able to photograph code material held in a locked safe which he was not supposed to have unrestricted access to.

And when arrested he was found with a spare key for the secure communications room which he was not supposed to have.

There may also be questions as to why, given that he clearly was having problems in the Navy, he had access to sensitive areas.

Mark Dennis QC, prosecuting, said his fellow submariners felt what he had done was a “betrayal of the secrecy, loyalty and trust”.

At the time of the offence Devenney was drinking heavily, suffered bouts of depression and had just been cleared of rape, the Old Bailey heard.

He asked for his training course for promotion to be deferred for a year but he was warned he faced the sack after prolonged absences without leave, the court heard.

The MI5 agents recorded meetings at various venues, including the British Museum, in which he said he was angry with the Navy and did not want payment for the crypto material – programmes used to encrypt secret data.

At one point he told one of them: “Your accent sounds remarkably fake and like British intelligence.”

Mr Dennis said: “The potential damage could have been considerable and could have harmed the safety and security of the United Kingdom.”

The BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera said the case had gone into a secret session to assess the potential harm to national security; sentencing is due around lunchtime on Wednesday.

Devenney was charged under the Official Secrets Act for collecting information for a purpose “prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state” between 18 November 2011 and 7 March 2012.

HMS Vigilant sailing into Plymouth: Pic Royal Navy
Devenney was a communications engineer on HMS Vigilant at the time of his arrest

He contacted the Russian embassy on his girlfriend’s mobile phone in an attempt to pass on information on the operation of HMS Trafalgar and two other nuclear submarines.

Devenney denied a second charge under the Official Secrets Act of communicating information to another person. This will not be pursued by prosecutors as no secret information was passed on.

Mr Dennis said he had security clearance to go into a room where secret material was kept in a safe.

He was not authorised to open the safe but managed to take three pictures on his mobile phone which showed secret information which held “the essential piece of the jigsaw” to encrypted material, the court heard.

Devenney transferred the pictures to his laptop – hidden in a folder called The Falklands War – but was arrested before he could pass them on.

If the data had been handed over it might have enabled a foreign power to set up an operation to capture the unique acoustic signature of the submarine – meaning it would lose its ability to move secretly underwater, Mr Dennis said.

He said: “The threat posed by Devenney’s actions was simple. If he had passed on information of the movements of a sub, then a foreign power would have been able to track it and capture its acoustic signature – the sound wave it leaves in the ocean.

“Each sub has its own sound which is effectively like a fingerprint – hear it once and you can identify that sub forever – and that means the nuclear deterrent provided by hidden submarines would be completely compromised.”

Source – BBC