For the first time in at least 50 years civilians have begun their Royal Navy careers at HMS Collingwood.

Over the next ten weeks 22 men and women will complete their initial training at the Fareham establishment – the first of 500 civilians to be turned into sailors at Collingwoodthis year.

The base is meeting a surge in demand to join the Fleet due to Covid and plans to grow the Navy by 3,000 sailors over the next three years, starting with 1,000 extra personnel in 2021.

Collingwood follows Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth – the traditional home of the Officer Corps – which trained 100 new junior ratings last year.

The two bases are providing training alongside HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, the home of initial training for nearly 50 years. It receives around 60 raw recruits every week and is also increasing its throughput to meet the additional numbers. 

Eighty one years to the week since HMS Collingwood opened its gates for the first time to meet the demands of World War 2, a new generation of recruits received their uniforms and underwent fitness tests ready to begin their Royal Navy careers.

The ten-week civvy-to-sailor course teaches recruits how to look after their kit, parade ground drill, teamwork, Royal Navy ethos and history, general seamanship and survival skills – testing each one mentally and physically, before the successful candidates pass out and move on to specialist training such as engineers, divers, aircrew, warfare experts and gunners.

Browndown Camp in Gosport and Salisbury Plain will be used for outdoor activities, leadership challenges and assessment, while trainees will experience the basics of seafaring and seamanship at HMS Excellent and aboard Portsmouth-based patrol vessels.

Many of the 500 sailors who begin their careers at Collingwood will continue their professional training at the base, which is the home of the Navy’s weapon engineering and warfare branches and already prepares around 3,000 officers and ratings for front-line ships and units every year.

With Collingwood’s facilities already heavily in use Lieutenant Commander Jon Pollard, who’s in charge of the civilian-to-sailor training at the base, said it had taken a “monumental effort” to accommodate an influx of an extra 500 men and women a year.

“The project has required infrastructure investment, particularly new classrooms, to ensure the correct training environment is in place for the recruits,” he added.

“As far as is practicable the recruits will receive the same training and lived experience as they do at Raleigh, accepting that given the available infrastructure and geographical location there will inevitably be some subtle differences.”

Trainee communications recruit Scott Collins, aged 21, from Paisley in Scotland, said: “So far the experience has been great – and challenging, especially keeping kit up to standard. The level of training we are required to do is very high.”

Megan Lydamore is training to become an air engineer, working on F-35 stealth fighters or Merlin and Wildcat helicopters.

“It’s been really tough,” said the 19-year-old from Nottingham. “Physical training has been extremely hard, but I am looking forward to the outdoor exercises on Salisbury Plain.”

The ten-week course is based on the tried and tested programme developed by HMS Raleigh, delivered by instructors with experience of the course, as well as Collingwood’s experts in specialist fields such as physical training, seamanship and navigation.

“In partnership with HMS Raleigh, Britannia Royal Naval College and Navy People and Training, we have designed, resourced and started to deliver a third stream of initial training as part of the Navy’s Transformation Programme,” said Collingwood’s Commanding Officer, Captain Catherine Jordan.

“Most of those starting their Naval career here will continue with professional training at Collingwood to prepare them for the front line and will keep returning to the establishment throughout their long and successful careers as we help each one of them reach their full potential.”

Source: Royal Navy