The Big 50. Navy marks half century of continuous sub patrols from Faslane

anniversary of sub patrols 2

The launch of HMS Resolution on 15 September, 1966.

By Kim Hardie

Generations of Royal Navy submariners involved in operating the UK’s Continuous at Sea Deterrent met at HM Naval Base Clyde this week for what has been called a CASD 50 dinner.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Royal Navy providing CASD – the longest sustained military operation ever undertaken by the UK – and as part of the commemorations the past and present submariners gathered at HMS Neptune’s Wardroom for the formal occasion.

One-hundred people attended the event, including veterans who had served on the legendary R-Boats – HMS Resolution, Renown, Repulse and Revenge – which provided the deterrent from 1968 to 1995.

CASDOne such veteran was Ray Hunter (79), pictured left with Rear Admiral John Weale, the Navigating Officer on board HMS Resolution during the first ever CASD patrol.

Mr Hunter joined the Royal Navy in 1957 and underwent submarine training at HMS Dolphin in 1961.  Before joining HMS Resolution in-build at Vickers in Barrow, he was sent to Virginia in the United States for specialist navigational training.

“Many of us who sailed on that first deterrent patrol had come from smaller, conventional, submarines so the conditions on board HMS Resolution were positively luxurious in comparison,” said Mr Hunter.

“There was a high degree of motivation among the crew.  We knew we were doing a job that was hugely important and we worked hard to meet the patrol objectives.”

He added: “There was also a number of ‘pressed men’ on board that first patrol – Senior Rates who had never previously served on submarines but who had skills that were needed.  A lot of them became volunteers afterwards because they could see the value of the task and the obvious need for it.” 

Mr Hunter went on to complete four deterrent patrols – two as a navigating officer and another two, later in his career after passing the “Perisher” Submarine Command Course, as Executive Officer of HMS Resolution.

“I have had the opportunity to visit one of the Vanguard-class submarines which maintain CASD today,” he said.  “One of the things that surprised me is that the navigation centre on board seems empty in comparison to the Resolution-class boats.

“When I served with HMS Resolution the space was crammed with stacked, three-drawer, filing cabinets.  We had 43 kilobytes of storage space available to us.  Today, the average phone in your pocket has over 700 times more storage.”

In total, the Resolution-class submarines completed 229 deterrent patrols, before handing the mantle, uninterrupted, to today’s Vanguard-class submarines.

Like their predecessors, all four Vanguard-class boats are based at HM Naval Base Clyde and are operated by the Faslane Flotilla.   

The UK government is investing millions of pounds at HM Naval Base Clyde with the development increasing the numbers employed at the site to an eventual total population of around 8,500.

From 2020 the base will host all of the Royal Navy’s attack submarines and will be the future home of the Dreadnought-class of nuclear deterrent submarines – the eventual replacement for the Vanguard-class ballistic submarines – which will continue CASD far into the future.

Rear Admiral John Weale, Rear Admiral Submarines said: “I am delighted to host serving and veteran submariners here tonight.  Their dedication and commitment to the ongoing task of the continuous at sea deterrent has kept this country safe for fifty years now.

“As the world changes and technology moves on, it is important to remember that this significant achievement would not be possible without the unwavering dedication and commitment of our submariners and their families.”

Bill at the opening of the Clyde Sub Base

In addition to the ‘pressed men’ on board HMS Resolution, there were a number of Press men and women at the official opening of the Clyde Submarine Base in 1968 They were (left to right) Bill Heaney, Dumbarton Reporter; Gerry Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Owens News Agency; John Esplin, Greenock Telegraph;  Donald Fullarton, Helensburgh Advertiser;  Commodore Peter G. LaNiece; Captain HMS Neptune;  Angela Sandeman, Helensburgh and Gareloch Times; Alex Aitken, The Scotsman, and Terry Duncan, Scottish Daily Express..

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