The Royal Navy had a spectacular year during 2018 - as seen in some breath-taking footage featured at the end of the year in an annual ‘state-of-the-nation’ style of address that highlighted many of the service’s achievements over previous last 12 months.
HMS Trenchant breaking through Arctic ice, HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing into New York, Royal Marines on exercise, the milestone of 50 years of continuous at-sea deterrent and more tender sights of families waving off a deployment in the Plymouth Sound are just some of the moments shown in a video presented as an annual update from across the service.
The footage acts as a backdrop to explanations of the Royal Navy’s successes over the year – proudly told by personnel themselves – while also talking of some of the challenges facing the service as it plans for the future, such as addressing “rumours” from earlier in the year that cast doubt on the long-term viability of the Royal Marines.
Personnel from each area of the Royal Navy tell of just a few of the service’s endeavours over the year in operations and deployments across the globe.
Warrant Officer Class 1 Nick Sharland, who took up the most senior non-commissioned rank in the Royal Navy last year, introduces the video, from the Royal Navy’s Navy Command HQ (NCHQ) in Portsmouth, announcing that 2018 has been “another big year for the Royal Navy.”
WO1 Sharland said it was a year in which the service has proved itself to be a strong and relevant navy which is “absolutely international” by design. He said:
“Not only have we managed to fulfil all of our standing tasks to this country but we have also spread ships across the globe, both RN and RFA and for the first time in four years we have been in the Indian Ocean Pacific.
“In the submarine environment, we are reaching our 50th year of continuous at sea deterrent and moreover we have put a submarine under the ice in the Arctic for the first time since 2011.
With a fleet of new aircraft, and flying trials well underway on the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Fleet Air Arm are also supporting operations across the globe.
“Our Royal Marines have also been operating widely from Norway to Brunei to Africa, and our RM medics led the UN hospital effort in South Sudan.
“All of this has been supported through our reservists and civil servants wherever we are.
“Of course, this has only been possible thanks to the continued commitment of all of you and your families.”
Other Royal Navy personnel then go on to talk up the achievements of the Fleet Air Arm, Maritime Reserves, Royal Marines, the Submarine ‘Silent Service’ and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).
This in a year when the Royal Navy has said farewell to what has been a workhorse of the Fleet Air Arm, the Sea King, which has retired after 49 years of operating in every theatre, “delivering capability from land and sea, from the deserts of the Middle East to the South Atlantic and everywhere in between”.
One pilot in the video said: “As we salute the end of one aircraft, we welcome in a whole new era of capability.
“Wildcat and Merlin Mark 2 are already well established but this year has seen the introduction of the first Merlin Mark 3 ‘Junglie’ helicopter and Crowsnest is just around the corner.
“And of course, F-35B Lightning II – the first UK fifth-generation aircraft is also joining the arsenal.
“The naval service is once again back in the business of operating fast jets from the decks of large aircraft carriers.”
Impressive footage of the HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest and most powerful ship ever built for the Royal Navy – acts as a backdrop to an address which highlights the service’s Merlin Mark 2 and 4 helicopters, which are at sea undertaking trials and bringing to life the new era of strike operations.
The year has also been marked by the first of many sea trials of the F-35 Lightning which are described as ‘breathing new life into the Royal Navy’s excellent capability’.
Speculation over cuts to the Royal Marines amid the National Security Capability Review is also addressed in the video, with one Marines telling the nation that rumours circulated last year which cast doubt on the long-term viability of the commando service, but adding that: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
A marine in the video says: “As telegraphed by the defence secretary in a recent speech, finally putting to bed speculation and additionally protecting HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark,” and adding: “We’re also looking to the future and have seized on the opportunity of the defence secretary’s transformational agenda to develop the ideas of literal strike and the future commando force – both of which sit as key strands of the future navy proposition.”
The Submarine Service, known as the Silent Service, also had an impressive year, with HMS Trenchant making headlines when she participated in a joint Arctic training exercise - breaking through the Polar ice cap, to give a visible demonstration of the submarine’s ability to fight in the most extreme conditions.
Next year will also mark 50 years of continuous at-sea deterrent (CASD) for the Silent Service, with one submariner in the video saying:
“The longest ongoing operation ever delivered by the Ministry of Defence, CASD will recognise the human achievement that has gone into maintaining the deterrent – a record that could not have been achieved without the courage, sacrifice and dedication of generations of submariners, their families and support staff.”
Marine Engineer WO1 Sharland ends the address by saying: “As you can see, we are continually in demand around the globe and that is likely to continue for some years to come but, due to the commitment of you and your families and all of those who support us, I’m sure we’ll continue to be a world-class navy.”