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Former soldiers swap tanks for HMS Lancaster

4 October 2019
They have more than 25 years engineering experience between them but for two former soldiers, joining a Royal Navy ship has been a “baptism of fire”.

Ex-Army electronics engineers Ryan Bramley and Ben Fawcett swapped working on tanks to working on a Type 23 frigate.

With the change of service has come some challenges from learning Jackspeak (Royal Navy slang) and the Royal Navy salute, to finding their way around a ship.

The pair wanted more stability for their families and so, after seeing a recruitment campaign to fill a shortage of navy engineers, they transferred from the Royal Mechanical and Electrical Engineers to become Petty Officers on board HMS Lancaster.

You are living and working on the ship. We’ve had a baptism of fire, literally by learning about fire-fighting and flood procedures on board it’s been a great experience

Petty Officer Ben Fawcett

Thirty-four-year-old PO Bramley spent 15 years in the Army but was excited for a new challenge.

He said: “Transferring into the Royal Navy was like transferring into the unknown, like going into a new job, it’s been exciting.

“But the main reason to move was stability for my family. All my posts in the Army have been less than two years and I have to keep pulling my kids in and out of different schools and moving house.”

PO Bramley made the transfer in 2016 and after he had completed his professional courses, he attained an engineering degree and the rank of Petty Officer; the icing on the cake is that he won the award for achieving the top student.

His job on board HMS Lancaster, known as the Queen’s frigate as Her Majesty the Queen is the sponsor, is maintaining the ship’s sonar.

He added: “The main challenge of moving services has been getting to grips with naval knowledge. I’ve come across with 15 years of experience in the Army so I’ve got the leadership, management and engineering experience.

“All the principles are the same and I’ve got plenty of experience, but its learning a new platform. It has been a steep learning curve for us. I don’t even know if I will be sea sick yet as I’ve never been to sea.

“The language, Jackspeak, has been quite difficult to get around – we’ve had to learn it quick and it’s been hard to get used to. There have been a few funny instances with the language.”

PO Fawcett served 11 years in the Army and admitted it had been a massive learning curve, describing on board HMS Lancaster as a “completely different life”. His job on board is the satellite communications maintainer.

“You are living and working on the ship. We’ve had a baptism of fire, literally by learning about fire-fighting and flood procedures on board,” he said.

“It’s been a great experience transferring into the Royal Navy, I’ve got qualifications now too I can move on and progress up the career ladder.”

HMS Lancaster has been undergoing an extensive upkeep period and is scheduled to sail back to her home port of Portsmouth at the end of the year.

The ship’s company successfully moved back on board in August and the focus now is to get her ready to sail from Devonport and complete a period of trials prior to re-joining the fleet next year. 

PO Fawcett said he was looking forward to going to sea for the first time.

He added: “I’m 100 per cent looking forward to my first deployment, I will make the most of it. I love being on board, everything is within 20 metres, the lads here on board are highly motivated and morale is high.

“I was quite naive about the navy. There are so many different things to learn about. For example, the navy has Divisions every Friday morning - and the salute is different. I accidentally threw up an Army salute – I had a hard time living that one down.”

During her upkeep, HMS Lancaster has received upgrades to her main surveillance radar, receiving the new Artisan 3D, and the new-generation Sea Ceptor missile system. The structural integrity of the hull has been strengthened with the installation of 200 new steel inserts.

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