Royal Navy celebrates 50 years at Faslane on the Gareloch

 First Sea Lord takes the salute. Submariners form the guard of honour at the ceremonial divisions as Admiral Sir Philip Jones inspects some of the troops.

MILITARY and civilian personnel at Scotland’s largest military base came together  to celebrate the 50th anniversary of HMS Neptune, the Faslane shore establishment which evolved into HM Naval Base Clyde.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB, ADC, the First Sea Lord, reviewed military personnel at the site during ceremonial divisions which featured submariners, sailors and Royal Marines from the Base.

“I’m really pleased to attend this event and to share in the celebrations as we mark an important milestone in the life of HMS Neptune,” said the First Sea Lord.  “I’d like to thank all those who work at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, whatever their role, for everything they have done and continue to do in support of this vital endeavour to ensure our nation’s security.”

Although there has been a Royal Navy presence on the Gareloch since the First World War, the Naval Base officially came into being on May 10, 1968, when HRH The Queen Mother opened HMS Neptune – the land establishment supporting the military personnel stationed there.

Later that same year HMS Resolution conducted the first operational Polaris patrol and by 1969 the UK fully adopted its policy of Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASD) which remains unbroken to this day.

Commodore Mark Gayfer, Naval Base Commander Clyde, said: “It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and effort to sustain, not just our submarines through high-quality engineering support, but also those who serve in them and their families.  To achieve an unbroken chain of continuous deterrent patrols for almost 50 years is a testament to the hard work and determination of generations of submariners, base workers and their families.

“The Clyde has a proud maritime history and I am confident that the Naval Base and HMS Neptune will continue this tradition of world-class engineering and personnel support for another 50 years or more.”

For a period in the 1980s the Naval Base became the largest construction site in Europe as a major civil construction programme was launched to accommodate the Trident weapon system.  By 1994 the huge project had finished with HMS Vanguard completing the first operational Trident patrol in December that year.

In 1995 the base became home to seven Royal Navy mine hunters which transferred from Rosyth.  With their arrival the site changed its name from the Clyde Submarine Base to HM Naval Base Clyde as it is still known today.

Today’s Naval Base is the largest military site in Scotland with a workforce of around 6,800.  It is also home to the Royal Navy’s new Astute Class of attack submarines as well as Royal Marines from 43 Commando and the Flag Officer Sea Training (North) organisation.

HM Naval Base Clyde will become the sole home of the UK Submarine Service from 2020 as well as the future home of the Dreadnought Class of nuclear deterrent submarines.  The UK government is investing millions of pounds into the site with the development set to increase the numbers at Clyde to an eventual population of around 8,500.

All submarine training will also be moved to Faslane over the next ten years.  These changes will provide Royal Navy submariners with a single working location allowing them to have a far more stable domestic life.

History of HM Naval Base Clyde

  • The Royal Navy presence on the Gareloch stretches back as far as the First World War when both Royal Naval Air Service floatplanes and submarines conducted trials on the loch.
  • During the Second World War, the first sizable jetties were constructed in Faslane Bay, but it was not until May 10, 1968, the HMS Neptune – the Clyde Submarine Base – officially came into being when HRH The Queen Mother opened the establishment.
  • Arriving in the Royal Yacht Britannia, HRH The Queen Mother was attended by 1,000 personnel and 1,000 spectators.  She was given a tour of HMS Resolution alongside the Base and presented with a silver model of the submarine as a keepsake.
  • Bill at the opening of the Clyde Sub Base
  • Local journalists at the opening of the Base 50 years ago are (left to right) Bill Heaney, Gerry Fitzgerald, John Esplin (Greenock Telegraph) Donald Fullarton (Helensburgh Advertiser) Angela Sandeman (Helensburgh and Gareloch Times), Alex Aitken (The Scotsman) and Terry Duncan (Scottish Daily Express). The Naval officer in the centre is Commodore Peter G LaNiece.
  • At the time of the opening there were around 2,350 people on site.  The construction of the Base cost some £24m (£1.3bn today) and included the armaments depot at Coulport, the widening of the entrance to the Gareloch, diverting roads, and the building of a jetty for eleven submarines and one frigate.  There was also homes for 850 officers and their families built and accommodation on-site for submarine crews.
  • 1968 also saw HMS Resolution successfully conduct the first operational Polaris patrol and by 1969 the UK had fully committed to Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASD), beginning a chain of constant submarine patrolling which remains unbroken to this day.
  • The amendment to the Polaris Sales Agreement (PSA) in 1982 enabled the UK to transition from the Polaris to the Trident missile system and with it came a major civil construction programme at HMNB Clyde.  For a period the Base became the largest construction site in Europe with work timed to complete ahead of HMS Vanguard’s first operational Trident patrol in December 1994.
  • In 1995, a Squadron of Mine Warfare Vessels transferred to Faslane.  The arrival of the ships marked the change of name from the Clyde Submarine Base to HM Naval Base Clyde.
  • In May 2009 the site welcomed the 200m long Valiant Jetty which was delivered to its new home by five tugs which towed the structure nine miles from its construction site in Greenock.  The revolutionary floating dock provides up to six submarine berths for the next generation of attack submarines –the Astute Class.
  • The first of the new submarines, HMS Astute, arrived at Clyde in November 2009, eventually joined by sister vessels HMS Ambush and HMS Artful.
  • In 2012, one of the most famous names in Royal Marine history returned with the re-formation of 43 Commando at Faslane.  Part of 3 Commando Brigade, the Faslane Marines provide security to the nuclear deterrent.

The Naval Base Today

Base 3

  • Today HM Naval Base Clyde is the largest military establishment in Scotland, its only Naval Base, and one of the largest single site employers in Scotland.
  • The Naval Base currently employs around 6,800 people – a mixture of military, MOD civilian and civilian contractors.
  • The Naval Base is home to: Four Vanguard Class ballistic submarines which together form the nuclear deterrent; three Astute Class attack submarines with more under construction at Barrow-in-Furness; seven Sandown Class mine hunters which form the Faslane-based First Mine Counter Measures Squadron (MCM1); the Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training (North) organisation; Royal Marines from 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group; the Northern Diving Group (NDG) who provide underwater bomb disposal expertise; the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS); MOD Police and Guard Service which includes the Clyde Marine Unit (CMU), one of the largest maritime police forces in Europe.
  • HMS Neptune still exists today at the heart of HM Naval Base Clyde.  It is the administrative centre for military personnel, providing medical and dental care, sport and adventurous training, welfare services, Royal Navy Police, Chaplaincy, Education, accommodation and messing services.
  • The Naval Base can be thought of as a giant garage and hotel – maintaining the submarines and ships berthed alongside and feeding and accommodating the submariners and sailors from the vessels.  The Naval Base has the capacity to accommodate 2,800 single service people on-site.

The Future of the Site

  • HM Naval Base Clyde will be the future home of the entire UK Submarine Service and will also become a Submarine Centre of Specialisation providing training to Royal Navy submariners.
  • In the future, when not at sea, Royal Navy Submariners can expect to serve their entire careers at HM Naval Base Clyde.  The move will provide Submariners and their families greater stability.
  • The site will also be home to the next generation of ballistic submarines, the Dreadnought Class, with numbers employed at the site expected to rise to around 8,200 by 2022.

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