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Sister Charlotte leads the way as younger brother Tom passes out at Dartmouth

14 April 2023
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Sub Lieutenant Charlotte Heley led the Ceremonial Guard at the spiritual home of the Royal Navy officer corps as her younger brother Thomas ended his training.

Twelve months after she passed out from the same establishment having completed the same 29-week intensive course which turns civilians into the naval leaders of the future, the young trainee warfare officer was selected to lead the march past at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

It was a proud moment not just for the Portsmouth siblings, but for the entire Heley family – among hundreds of friends and relatives gathered at the Devon naval institution to see 150 Officer Cadets pass out at Britannia’s spring parade.

Sub Lieutenant Charlotte and Midshipman Thomas Heley were among over 200 other Naval Personnel on parade in front of their friends and families, who had gathered to witness the spectacle.

As Officer in Charge of the Ceremonial Guard, responsible for giving orders, Charlotte led the march past and saluted the Guest of Honour, Admiral Sir Keith Blount, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

“I’m still a trainee Warfare Officer and off next to HMS Collingwood for further training,” said Charlotte. “I passed out myself this time last year and was absolutely thrilled to be asked to be the Officer of the Guard at Tom’s passing out.

“I’m so proud to be on same parade with my brother, when I finish the next phase of my training, I will go to sea for nine months and I could terrorise him even more and join the same ship.”

Midshipman Thomas is training to be a warfare officer in submarines – following in the footsteps of his father, who also commanded Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Gloucester – having experienced a winter course and the rigors of Dartmoor during the more challenging parts of his training. 

“It’s been really good, I’ve met some good people and made some pretty good friend during my time here at Dartmouth, friends for life,” said Thomas. “I’ve enjoyed the navigation side of things and all the warfare officer stuff as well, but other stuff not so much, overall, it’s balanced itself out. Today the bonus is a proud and beautiful spring day.”

Watching both the young Heleys from the side-lines were mum Emma and dad David, now a retired naval captain who works in the Middle East.
“Today I was incredibly proud of both of them, it’s such a huge achievement,” said Emma.

“What a wonderful day, the college is just so magnificent, it’s such a special backdrop for a superb ceremony. I only found out that they would both be together about a week ago, and Charlotte was going to be the Officer of the Guard. Seeing them both performing today was just an incredibly ‘very proud mum moment’.” 
David remembered when he passed out on the very same parade ground in 1985, saying that little had changed for the ceremony from back then.

“I was here 38 years ago, it has brought back some wonderful memories,” he said. “It’s the music for me, listening after all these years. When they played Auld Lang Syne, it always brings a little tear to the eye.”

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