HMS Collingwood Welcomes First Civilian Recruits Since Second World War

The course is designed on the training delivered at HMS Raleigh - the home of initial training for nearly 50 years.

For the first time since the Second World War, civilians have started training to become Royal Navy sailors at HMS Collingwood.

It comes 81 years to the week since the training centre in Fareham, Hampshire, opened its gates for the first time to meet the demands of the war.

Over 10 weeks, 22 men and women will undergo their initial training at Collingwood – the first of 500 civilians to be turned into sailors at the base this year.

The decision to hold the training at Collingwood is in response to a surge in demand to join the Navy during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as plans to grow the Navy by 3,000 sailors over the next three years, starting with 1,000 extra personnel this year.

Lieutenant Commander Jon Pollard, who is in charge of the civilian-to-sailor training at the base, said it had taken a "monumental effort" to accommodate the extra recruits.

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

The move follows that of Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, the traditional home of the Officer Corps, which trained 100 new junior ratings last year.

The course at Collingwood is based on tried and tested training developed by HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, Cornwall, the home of initial training for nearly 50 years.

The recruits are the first civilians to train at HMS Collingwood since the Second World War (Picture: Royal Navy).

Lt Cdr Pollard said "as far as is practicable" the recruits will receive the same training and experience as they do at HMS Raleigh but with some "subtle differences".

The course teaches recruits how to look after their kit, parade ground drill, teamwork, Royal Navy ethos and history, general seamanship and survival skills.

Browndown Camp in Gosport, Hampshire, and Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, will be used for outdoor activities, leadership challenges and assessment.

Trainees will also experience the basics of seafaring and seamanship at HMS Excellent and aboard Portsmouth-based patrol vessels before successful candidates pass out and move on to specialist training.

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."

Megan Lydamore, who is training to become an air engineer to work on F-35 stealth fighters or Merlin and Wildcat helicopters, said: "It’s been really tough.

"Physical training has been extremely hard, but I am looking forward to the outdoor exercises on Salisbury Plain."

Cover image: Recruits begin to learn about drill on HMS Collingwood’s parade ground (Picture: Royal Navy).