News story

Royal Navy submarine returns from longest patrol

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Trafalgar-class nuclear-powered submarine HMS Trenchant returned home from a record-breaking 11-month deployment on Wednesday, 22 May.

HMS Trenchant returned to Devonport exactly 11 months to the day she sailed on what became the longest patrol ever completed by one of the Royal Navy’s hunter-killer boats.

Around 200 family members were waiting at Plymouth for their loved ones to return after 335 days away; 267 spent east of Suez.

A submariner by HMS Trenchant's fin
A submariner by HMS Trenchant's fin conveys orders to crewmates [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Ben Shread, Crown copyright]

To mark their achievements on that record-breaker - beating HMS Tireless’s 2010/11 patrol by 12 days – the ship’s company of 130 men were personally thanked by Britain’s most senior military figure, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards, who joined the boat at Plymouth Breakwater for the final few moments of its marathon tour of duty.

Once alongside, tears flowed and smiles beamed as crew members and families were reunited.

Thanks to rotation of the 170-strong crew, at least 40 of Trenchant’s ship’s company have been at home at any one time, but 7 submariners, ‘Black Watch’, completed the whole 11-month deployment.

Submariners enjoy their work so they are not affected by long deployments and simply get on with their duties, meeting every challenge head-on,” said Trenchant’s Commanding Officer, Commander Irvine Lindsay.

Whilst I am enormously proud of the achievements of my ship’s company, I do not believe that they are a unique body of men. I am convinced that the resilience, dedication, professional pride and sheer grit demonstrated by this ship’s company is indicative of the high calibre of personnel serving across the whole of the Submarine Service – and indeed the Royal Navy.

Submariners erect the Union Jack on HMS Trenchant's for'd casing
Submariners erect the Union Jack on HMS Trenchant's for'd casing [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Ben Shread, Crown copyright]

Commander Lindsay, who was met by his wife, Janet, added:

I’m looking forward to fresh air outside a submarine, to a full night’s sleep instead of being woken up to go into the control room and to climbing the Cairngorms, far from the sea.

Lieutenant Commander Stuart Barrie, the submarine’s weapon engineer officer, was greeted by his wife, Fiona, and their excited children, Niamh, aged 3, and Toby, 6, from Plymouth:

It’s fantastic to be back home after so long,” said Lieutenant Commander. “It’s a bit surreal really after so long away. I last saw them 5 months ago; the longest I’ve been away from them.

His wife, Fiona, added:

It’s great to have Stu back. The children are so excited to have their daddy back. Toby wants to show him all the swimming certificates he’s got and his good school reports. And Niamh’s going to show her daddy her dancing.

The Band of HM Royal Marines Plymouth
The Band of HM Royal Marines Plymouth plays for HMS Trenchant's arrival [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Ben Shread, Crown copyright]

The long-awaited homecoming was marked by families with traditional welcoming banners at Devil’s Point, while families waiting in the Naval Base itself were entertained by the Band of HM Royal Marines Plymouth as they waited impatiently for Trenchant to tie up.

Daniel Tookey, a tactical systems operator from Plymouth, was welcomed by his wife, Lisa, and son Lucas, aged 2, who was dressed in a sailor’s suit.

It is a great relief to be home after so long away,” he said. “I was so longing to see Lisa and Lucas. I want to bath him and spend time with them both, to eat when and what I want and to sleep in my own bed.

As the latest Royal Navy hunter-killer submarine to uphold the Silent Service’s presence in the Middle East – a mission going back to 2001 – Trenchant spent 267 days east of Suez.

A woman watches HMS Trenchant return to Devonport
A woman watches HMS Trenchant return to Devonport [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Ben Shread, Crown copyright]

Some 37 crew completed the patrol as fully-qualified submariners having earned their coveted Dolphins badges as the boat added 38,800 nautical miles to her odometer – that’s the equivalent of sailing around the world one-and-three-quarter times.

The impressive statistics don’t end there. Trenchant spent 4,700 hours dived; that’s six-and-a-half months without sunlight.

The long patrol meant the crew consumed:

  • 30,240 eggs – which would take 45 hens laying 2-a-day the length of the deployment to achieve
  • 7,904 litres of milk; the average dairy cow produces about 21 litres a day, so just over a year’s work for a single cow
  • 20,592 sausages (called ‘snorkers’ by submariners) which, laid end to end, would stretch approximately 2 kilometres

In all Trenchant’s chefs cooked 103,350 meals, and produced over 44,000 homemade rolls.