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Sultan engineers’ 185th birthday present is just tampion

20 July 2022
Engineers at HMS Sultan crafted a unique memento to celebrate the 185th birthday of their branch.

Trainee engineers and instructors at the Gosport establishment produced an anniversary tampion – a large ‘plug’ used to prevent the elements seeping into the barrels of warship guns – to demonstrate both their skill… and some of the technological advances across the branch’s lifespan.

Royal Navy engineers can actually trace their history back at least 210 years to 1812 when the first steam propulsion was introduced to the Fleet.

The engines on those early steam vessels were maintained by civilians employed on an ad hoc basis. 

A quarter of a century later, with 27 steam vessels in the Fleet, it was clear that more formal management arrangements were needed.

On July 19 1837 an Order in Council was issued placing engineers on a permanent footing, “with such rank and pay as appears to be fitting for persons charged with the performance of such important and responsible duties”.

Fast forward 185 years and today’s engineers perform tasks and duties with machinery and systems their predecessors could never have imagined: strike fighters invisible to radar, engines pushing aircraft at speeds faster than sound, and splitting the atom to power nuclear submarines.

The commemorative tampion was produced with the help of computer-aided design and a 3D printer (which have only come to the fore in the past 40 years) and fits into the barrel of a miniature cannon which will go on display to visitors to demonstrate the range of the skills taught at Sultan.

“We are hugely proud of HMS Sultan’s engineering heritage:” said Commanding Officer Captain Jo Deakin.

 “Although we continue to evolve our cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art training, it is vitally important that we recognise the value of the lessons of our past, as we develop the workforce of our future.”

Today, engineering in the Royal Navy is split into two main strands in the Fleet: marine and weapons, the former dealing with engines, generators, heating/refrigeration, sewage and water systems, the latter ensure weapons and sensors/communications equipment is in full working order.

And for the Fleet Air Arm, there’s a separate engineering branch dealing with the wide range of challenges naval air power faces, from F-35 engines to the cutting-edge sonar of Merlin Mk2s and highly-sensitive radar of Wildcats sweeping the ground/ocean for potential foes.

Marine and air engineers learn the fundamentals of their trade at HMS Sultan in Gosport, weapons engineers just up the road at HMS Collingwood in Fareham.

They celebrated not with a tampion but cake, carved up by Commander Keith Taylor, in charge of the Weapon Engineering Training Group, Probationary Leading Engineering Technician (PLET) Alex Wainwright and Engineering Technician (ET) Joseph Stadius.

Commander Taylor said: “Over the past 185 years, the Engineering Branch has remained relevant and, in the future, with the drive to remote operations, one branch that will always be needed is the engineering branch.”

PLET Wainwright said: “I’ve been in the Royal Navy for two years now and I was drawn to the engineering branch, mainly so I could travel the world and fix things!”

ET Stadius, with two and a half years’ service, added: “Being an engineer is a fantastic experience and you get the chance to work on world-class equipment."

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