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Submariners gather to celebrate Perisher centenary

26 June 2017
Around 280 graduates of the United Kingdom Submarine Command Course have gathered at Britannia Royal Naval College to mark the centenary of the intensive training known as ‘Perisher’.

Formal training for submarine Commanding Officers was introduced in September 1917 and since then there has been a steady flow of students ready to undertake this most intensive of courses. Since its inception the course has qualified 1,164 UK officers and 408 foreign and Commonwealth officers to command submarines and hence it remains an elite club to which only a few ever achieve access.  

The training on offer has inevitably had to move with the times to track the advances in submarine technology – from the rudimentary equipment of the early 20th century, through the nuclear age and on to the era of the computer, advanced communications and cyber, but at its core the Perisher remains a command and leadership course that seeks to prepare the successful student for war in the most demanding and unforgiving of environments.

To mark the occasion Rear Admiral John Weale OBE, the current Rear Admiral Submarines, hosted a dinner at the world-renowned College, attended by past and present members of the Royal Navy. Also in attendance were a number of foreign and Commonwealth graduates of the course and a small number of civilian guests representing some of the RN Submarine Service’s industry partners.

The spread of age and experience of those attending the dinner was remarkable

Commander Jerry Bernau, one of the organisers

Described as ‘truly a night of 100 unfinished conversations’ by Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder, Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey, in some cases the dinner reunited friends and colleagues for the first time in 50 years. It was presided over by Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope GCB OBE DL, a former First Sea Lord.  Admiral of the Fleet The Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL, who previously served as Chief of the Defence Staff, was the guest of honour.  

Commander Jerry Bernau, one of the organisers, said, “The spread of age and experience of those attending  the dinner was remarkable and was in no way better epitomised than by the energy and enthusiasm of the oldest attendee, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Todd who, at 93 years of age, kept pace with those considerably less than half his age.  

“Matthew’s stories of his illustrious career, which included service in the Second World War with some of this country’s most renowned Commanding Officers, were inspirational and certainly made the newest Perishers, who have been qualified for all of three months, reflect on the course their future careers as Submarine Commanding Officers might take.”

The formal part of the evening ended with the final words of a speech by Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement, who asked everyone to raise a glass to Captain Tubby Crawford DSC and Bar who served as Commanding Officer of HMS Unseen from 1942 to 1944. He will celebrate his 100th birthday on 27 June 2017.

The organisers would like to thank Ultra, Thales, BAE, Babcock, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and the Association of Royal Navy Officers for their generous support that made this event possible.

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