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First basic trainees pass out of Collingwood in half a century

4 May 2021
The first men and women to be transformed from civilians to sailors at HMS Collingwood in more than half a century have completed their training.

Eleven recruits finished three months of training at the Fareham establishment, passing out as able seamen, ready to begin their professional instruction as engineers, warfare specialists and nurses in the Royal Navy.

They are the first of 500 raw recruits to be trained at Collingwood this year – 1,000 in all by the end of 2022 – as part of a wider effort to swell the Royal Navy’s numbers by 3,000 to meet the global missions expected of it under the Defence Review.

With its traditional civvy-to-sailor training base of HMS Raleigh already at increased, maximum capacity, the Navy looked to Collingwood – traditionally the home of warfare and weapon engineering training – to take on the task for two years.

It’s a role – today known as Phase 1 training – the Fareham base performed during World War 2 and, on a much smaller scale, post-war, but ended by the 1970s.

Trainees receive the same instruction as their counterparts at Raleigh in Torpoint, with some activities ‘tweaked’ to take into account the different location – such as outdoor activities on Salisbury Plain, rather than Dartmoor, and Portsmouth Harbour rather than the Tamar used to give recruits a basic seafaring experience.

Their training reached its climax last week at Browndown Camp near Gosport where they were expected to demonstrate the military and leadership skills they had developed since walking through the gates of Collingwood back in January.

Having come through that test, the recruits of Perkins Division – named after the first black commissioned officer, Captain John Perkins, an 18th Century contemporary of Admiral Nelson – paraded for Commodore Simon Huntington, the Royal Navy’s Naval Assistant, alongside 79 other trainees still undergoing their conversion from civilians, plus warfare and weapons engineering ratings who had completed their specialist ‘Phase 2’ and ‘Phase 3’ training.

I’m the first member of my family in the services and I think that makes them proud. I joined mainly for that – to make my family proud and also myself. It is a great opportunity and will set me up for life.

Engineering Technician Luke Gaskin

Jasmine Savage, from Canterbury, today reports for duty at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth as a newly-qualified Naval Nurse.

“Training has been challenging at times but it’s meant to be. I have been able to grow as a person while doing it. I think I have taken to it like a duck to water,” she said.

“I tried to enjoy the moment and take every day as it came. The friends I made also made training enjoyable, they are a really good bunch and have made this experience easier.”

She found the physical elements of training the most enjoyable: assault courses and exercises in the field.

“The feeling afterwards – there was nothing like it. The teamwork as well brought us closer. I don’t like camping, it’s not something I would ever volunteer to do but it was actually really fun. We had a really good time on the different exercises,” she added.

Luke Gaskin, 17, from Darlington will remain at Collingwood to complete his training as a weapon engineer.

“The training has been very difficult for me. Because of my age, it has brought a lot of new experiences. Sharing a mess with an older bunch of people was something I had to get used to, it was hard to adapt to that,” he said.

“I’m the first member of my family in the services and I think that makes them proud. I joined mainly for that – to make my family proud and also myself. It is a great opportunity and will set me up for life.”

Divisional instructor Leading Hand Sam Mullane said the training at Collingwood had gone well – and the presence of already-qualified raw recruits on the base gave the group “something to aspire to”.

He continued: “A highlight for me has been seeing the final product. When they were in week one, they were working as individuals, were stressed and time management was bad. But now, they are a well-oiled machine and you can see them less stressed and coming together and working well.

“Training them has been one of the highlights of my career – seeing them coming from week one to week ten and seeing how they have develop as a team. It has really come together and I am immensely proud.”

Covid rules meant friends and family were unable to attend the ceremony – they watched via a special feed provided over the internet – but Collingwood’s Commanding Officer Captain Catherine Jordan was in attendance and filled with pride.

It is a great celebration seeing the first 11 Phase 1 trainees pass out at Collingwood, alongside a number of Phase 2 and 3 graduations that also occur today,” she said.

“While families could not be here in person to share the day, we look forward to welcoming them all to the Naval Family. The staff and the passers-out should be rightfully proud of their hard work in setting up the training here and delivering the first Pass-Out Parade.”

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