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‘At the heart of Wales’ – HMS Cambria’s new home formally opened in Cardiff

4 October 2021
The £11m new home of the Royal Navy in Wales has been formally opened with full ceremony in the heart of Cardiff.

The state-of-the-art HMS Cambria marks a return to the unit’s roots, back in the Welsh capital where it was formed in 1947, providing the most modern of facilities for military personnel. Every week, around 80 Royal Navy and Royal Marines Reservists will use the complex in Cardiff Docks, which serves as a hub for three units.

As well as HMS Cambria herself – Wales Royal Naval Reserve Unit – the facility is home to the Royal Marines Reserve Detachment Cardiff and Wales Universities’ Royal Naval Unit, which give undergraduates a taste of life in the Senior Service, aided by fast patrol boat HMS Express.

The weather forced proceedings – officially a rededication of Cambria, for the unit itself has never closed, even if its old headquarters at Sully have – to shift from the parade ground outside to the more confined surroundings of the drill deck inside.

Admiral Sir Timothy Fraser, Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff – and captain of destroyer HMS Cardiff between 2001 and 2003 – was guest of honour at the formal act of rededication. He inspected personnel on parade as the Band of the Royal Marines from CTCRM Lympstone provided suitable nautical music for the occasion. 

“This great building will serve as a focus of the Royal Navy’s activities in Wales and its location so near to the Senedd and the heart of Wales, serves as an enduring commitment to the Maritime Reserves in the region,” the admiral told Cambria’s reservists.

Hailed as the ‘crown jewel’ of the Defence estate, the new complex replaces facilities in Sully which served the unit faithfully for four decades.

Inside the 4,000-square-metre building are offices with up to 80 workspaces, training and classroom suites, a fitness room, large, multi-purpose dining room, and short-term accommodation for up to 50 people. In the grounds, there’s a parade square for practicing drill, a Royal Marines rope training area, plus parking spaces.

Beyond serving Reservists, it can also serve as a focus for community engagement with the people of Wales and support visits to the Welsh capital by Royal Navy warship.

HMS Cambria has a long and distinguished history as the Royal Navy’s home in Wales, training and deploying sailors to support the Royal Navy at sea and ashore, at home and abroad.

Commodore Mel Robinson

Commander Maritime Reserves – and former Commanding Officer of HMS Express – Commodore Mel Robinson said the move to the new facility marked the beginning of a new era and increased activity on and off the water by Reservists.

“HMS Cambria has a long and distinguished history as the Royal Navy’s home in Wales, training and deploying sailors to support the Royal Navy at sea and ashore, at home and abroad,” she said.

“Most recently, Reservists from HMS Cambria and the Royal Marines Reserve Unit in Cardiff have demonstrated their value during the pandemic, bringing a valuable blend of skills from their civilian jobs and their military experience to support the Welsh and UK Governments in their response to Covid.

“Looking forward, it’s a really exciting time to be a Maritime Reservist in Wales. As we transform to adopt a regional approach to our training, we can expect to see small boats from HMS Cambria, crewed by Reservists from the Wales and South West region, developing their sea sense and waterborne skills, on the river here in Cardiff. And HMS Cambria will be at the heart of that model.”

The new facility is the result of decisions taken nearly a decade ago to invest in the Reserve Forces by the beginning of the decade (the Future Reserves 2020 programme).

The ceremony ended with a traditional cake cutting as CO Commander Carolyn Jones and the youngest member of her ship’s company, AB Alex Klusevich, plunged a sword into a giant slab of confectionery.

“I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead with HMS Cambria. It’s an exciting time to be here with the new building and all the opportunities with deploying,” said Alex, who completed his accelerated training to pass out of HMS Raleigh over the summer after two years with Cambria.

“Cutting the cake was a really special experience, words can’t describe how I actually feel right now – it’s unbelievably special. I’m so lucky to be in this unit.”

His CO is now ready to write “the next chapter in the life of HMS Cambria,” promising it will play a “pivotal role in the transformation of the Maritime Reserves.”

The project has been delivered through the partnership of Reserve Forces and Cadet Association (RFCA) for Wales and Associated British Ports, South Wales (ABP South Wales). Its commission forms part of the Future Reserves programme encouraging growth and investment in the UK’s Reserve Forces.

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