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Reservists’ key submarine role aboard carrier Queen Elizabeth

SLt Ross Ewing , Lt Cdr Mark Driscoll RNR
30 June 2020
For the first time a team of submarine specialist naval reservists has mobilised to join HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Bolstering the carrier’s staff and providing additional expertise and experience, the team was particularly needed during a five-day test of the carrier and her battle group, Exercise Crimson Ocean.

The workout helped to hone and develop tactics and methods the carrier and her escorts will use to protect each other from threats above, on and beneath the waves.

Typically, the carrier strike group will comprise the flagship, plus an air defence destroyer, anti-submarine frigate, support/supply ship and a hunter-killer submarine… which could be used to both defend the task force from enemy surface ships and submarines, or take the fight to the enemy by launching long-range cruise missile strikes.

Its presence – as well as the ever-present threat of a hostile submarine – demands the presence of a specialist team on the carrier staff. Enter the Submarine Advisory Team.

“This marks an important milestone – the beginning of a 50-year partnership,” explained Commander Ben Horner from the Maritime Reserves’ submarine operations capability.

“Today's Submarine Advisory Team watchkeepers are leading the way for those who will support the carrier for many decades to come, supported by our specialist communicators who train and deploy alongside us.”

Among the team dispatched to Queen Elizabeth is Lieutenant Commander Mark Driscoll, whose job involves controlling both British and NATO submarines “ensuring they are in the required place at the right time with the right bits of information to ensure their tasking can be carried out.

“This tasking could range from protecting the Strike Group and defending the aircraft carrier to land attack missile operations to gathering intelligence – and many more operations too.”

With more than two decades’ service under his belt as both a full-time sailor and reservist, the submarine operations specialist from HMS Eaglet in Liverpool juggles his reservist role with a day job in the nuclear industry, community volunteering, flying as a private pilot, not to mention family life.

“Life is very busy,” said the 39-year-old from Warrington. “It is not for everyone but it certainly can be done.

“The Reserves bring an additional challenge to the everyday and the opportunity to serve with some of life’s real characters. “It has opened up so many varied opportunities. And, just like in the regular Royal Navy, I am still serving with amazing people.”

Serving alongside him on the future flagship is 22-year-old Sub Lieutenant Ross Ewing from Muthill in Perthshire, normally a political and public affairs manager for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation in Scotland.

He’s also a Submarine Operations specialist attached to HMS Scotia in Rosyth. From there he can be mobilised to serve in a land-based headquarters or at sea, such as on the carrier playing “vital role in operating submarines effectively and safely”.

Ross joined the Royal Naval Reserve while studying at university in St Andrews.

“It gave me the opportunity to travel, train, stay fit, acquire valuable skills and earn money all in one go,” he said.

In the four years since he’s taken part in national exercises involving submarines, helped train new recruits at HMS Raleigh, and travelled to France, Gibraltar and Belgium as well as serving about the Portsmouth-based carrier.

“I am extremely proud to serve in the Royal Navy part-time,” he said. “The more you put in, the more you get out.”

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