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HMS Spey officers learn how Japan trains its naval leaders

1 December 2022
Royal Navy leaders of tomorrow were given an insight into how Japan trains officers to command its Fleet.

Five Young Officers from HMS Spey took advantage of the patrol ship’s visit to Kure to look around the spiritual home of the host navy’s Officer Corps.

The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force Maritime Officer Candidates School, Etajima, is the equivalent of Britannia Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, where civilians are turned into junior naval officers.

Etajima is also home to the First Service School, providing technical education to both officers and enlisted ratings.

The Brits were given a guided tour of the entire establishment, including the Ceremonial Hall where they witnessed the latest division of ratings rehearsing for their graduation (passing-out parade).

“It was a surreal experience and massively different compared to both my training at HMS Raleigh as a former rating, and at Dartmouth as a Young Officer,” said Sub Lieutenant Calum Dee, undergoing Common Fleet Time, which gives trainees an insight in general life at sea.

“Once the Japanese sailors graduate, they immediately march to the establishment jetty to join their first ship as part of a training squadron.”

Training at Etajima takes about 11 months as cadets learn not just the fundamentals of seafaring and life in the Japanese Navy, as well as fire-fighting, damage control and an extremely physical programme of rowing, martial arts and an eight-mile swim. 

It was amazing to be in the presence of such artefacts, especially from someone such as Nelson who has been so influential to naval history and power, I will never forget that.

Sub Lieutenant Alec

The college is also home to many pieces of history, including one of the twin 41cm (16.1in) gun turrets from the WW1 Nagato-class Dreadnought JS Mutsu and a two-man midget submarine similar to those used during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And in the establishment’s museum the visitors saw not just artefacts belonging to Japanese naval heroes such as Heihachiro Togo (victor of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War) and Isoroku Yamamoto, who guided the Navy through the first two years of WW2, but also Nelson. A lock of the admiral’s hair was donated to the then Imperial Japanese Navy by the Royal Navy to commemorate Tsushima triumph.

“It was amazing to be in the presence of such artefacts, especially from someone such as Nelson who has been so influential to naval history and power, I will never forget that,” said Sub Lieutenant Alec Warren, one of two Royal New Zealand Navy exchange Young Officers aboard Spey.

The patrol ship has now left Kure but is remaining around Japan for a crew change and scheduled maintenance period before returning to operations across the Asia-Pacific region later in December.

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