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HRH Prince William opens £34m submarine training facility in Clyde

29 June 2021
His Royal Highness Prince William visited the home of the UK Submarine Service in Argyll and Bute today to meet with service personnel and officially open a multi-million-pound training facility.

The Prince, who is Commodore-in-Chief Submarines, spent the afternoon at HM Naval Base Clyde, Scotland’s largest military establishment, beginning with an update on operations delivered by members of the Submarine Flotilla.

While at the site His Royal Highness officially opened the new £34m Submarine Escape, Rescue, Abandonment and Survival (SMERAS) facility.

Known as “Thetis” building, after wartime submarine HMS Thetis which sank in Liverpool Bay in 1939, the facility is used to train Royal Navy submariners in how to safely escape from a stricken submarine.  

The state-of-the-art building features a realistic simulator capable of mimicking a variety of weather conditions and sea states.  

Trainers can put students through their paces in the water, giving them the opportunity to practise abandoning a submarine and escaping to life rafts while wind, rain and even thunder and lightning rage around them.

Submariners can also practise escape from depth methods in a realistic training environment, simulating the expected conditions on board a submarine in distress.

Captain Iain Breckenridge OBE, in charge of submarine training with the navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training organisation, said: “We were delighted to host our Commodore-in-Chief to open this fantastic and world-leading submarine escape training facility.

“His Royal Highness toured the entire building, met training staff and students, and enjoyed some hands-on operation of the escape towers and wave generator.”

We were delighted to host our Commodore-in-Chief to open this fantastic and world-leading submarine escape training facility.

Captain Iain Breckenridge OBE

While officially opening the SMERAS facility Prince William also signed the guest book on the same page as his grandfather, Prince Philip, did in 1961, and his father, Prince Charles, signed in 1972.  

The guest book was inherited by the SMERAS team from the previous submarine training facility, SETT (Submarine Escape Tank Trainer), at HMS Dolphin in Gosport. Generations of submariners undertook their training at the Gosport establishment’s famous escape tower before its closure last year.  

The new SMERAS facility at HM Naval Base Clyde has taken up the baton, becoming the site where all current and future submariners will be trained in vital escape skills. 

SMERAS is part of the transformation of the naval base into the Submarine Centre of Specialisation.

Other development work underway at the site includes the construction of a new £100m Submarine Training School. Royal Navy Submarine School training is currently held at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall but will be transferred to the new Faslane facility in the future, along with the Defence School of Marine Engineering, the Nuclear Systems Group and Nuclear Department at HMS Sultan in Gosport.

More than 6,700 civilians and service personnel are employed at HM Naval Base Clyde with this number set to increase in preparation for the arrival of the Dreadnought class of submarines, the next generation of the deterrent at the end of the decade.

Commodore Jim Perks OBE, Head of the Royal Navy Submarine Service, said: “This visit has been an excellent and important opportunity to update the Submarine Service’s Commodore-in-Chief on recent operations. It has also provided us with an opportunity to highlight the ongoing work on the Clyde to make the naval base the Royal Navy’s Submarine Centre of Specialisation.

“These are exciting times to be a submariner at HM Naval Base Clyde as we continue to shape the future of the service.”

Serving submariners were also able to speak with The Prince outside of HM Naval Base Clyde’s Neptune Building Supermess at the site’s Submariners’ Memorial Garden.

The Prince heard from personnel about life in the Submarine Service, and about ongoing initiatives aimed at helping to improve mental health of members of the armed forces. 

His Royal Highness Prince William has been Commodore-in-Chief Submarines since 2006.

He has previously visited attack submarine HMS Artful at sea in 2016 where he presented dolphins badges to newly qualified submariners and conducted his first submarine dive.  

The Prince has also presented deterrent pins to submariners at HM Naval Base Clyde and also attended a service at Westminster Abbey in 2020 which marked 50 years of the Continuous At Sea Deterrent.  

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