HMS Trenchant Clocks Up Nine Months on Patrol in Indian Ocean

HMS Trenchant Clocks Up Nine Months on Patrol in Indian Ocean

The crew of hunter-killer submarine HMS Trenchant have passed the nine-month barrier on their marathon tour of duty in the Indian Ocean. The Plymouth-based boat has clocked up 277 days on patrol since leaving Devon last year, continually maintaining the UK’s submarine presence east of Suez.

She sailed on June 22 – a month before the London Olympics and nearly six months before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced they were expecting their first child.

Since then she’s carried out operational patrols and international training exercises have been entwined with port visits to Fujairah in the UAE, Christmas and New Year in Bahrain and a quick trip around the Indian Ocean, including a visit to the remote UK territory of Diego Garcia.

Trenchant has worked with six Royal Navy warships – frigates Westminster, Sutherland, Northumberland and Monmouth, new destroyer HMS Diamond and minehunter Quorn – as well as various American units (including one submarine, USS Providence) and one French submarine (FS Casablanca).

The T-boat has also received plenty of high-profile visitors, hosting everyone from admirals and various defence attachés to the crew’s family members and military personnel from the US and Australia.

Due to the length of Trenchant’s tour of duty, most of her crew have been rotated – but ten submariners have done the full 277 days so far.

Specialist sonar rider Lt Cdr Graham ‘Yorkie’ Thorley has passed another milestone: a grand total of 5,000 sea days in his career – that’s more than 13½ years at sea.

He joined up aged 16 and has worked his way up through the ranks through multiple submarines – and multiple classes of submarine – to serve as the specialist sonar rider on Trenchant. Although he claims “It’s just my job”, he should be justifiably proud of his achievement.

Sonar controller PO Ignatius Oberholzer, who’s been aboard for the duration of the deployment, has notched up one million metres – that’s 1,000km, 621 miles or roughly the distance from Plymouth to Hamburg – on one of Trenchant’s rowing machines; he also plans to row the length of the Suez Canal when the boat goes through later in the year on her way home to Devonport.

Twenty-nine members of the crew have earned the coveted Dolphins – the badge of honour, irrespective of rank, which signifies that they are fully-qualified submariners ­ while deployed.

A few received their ‘badges’ when Britain’s most senior sailor – and former submarine commander – First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope visited the boat.

Over £750 has been raised, through a variety of means, for the boat’s chosen charity – the Derriford Neo-Natal unit in Plymouth.

Lt Cdr Stuart Barrie, the weapon engineer officer and another crew member of the ‘Black Watch’, who’s been onboard since June 22 said:

“It’s been an enjoyable deployment so far with lots of varied tasking and experiences.

“However, it’s always tough being separated from family, especially during the periods when we are without communications with home – which can be as long as seven weeks. I’ve been fortunate that my wife and children have visited twice, including Christmas in Bahrain.”

“The lads deserve a huge amount of credit for all that we have achieved, and everyone onboard is looking forward to getting back home later in the year, following the successful completion of our future tasking.”

At nine months and four days away, Trenchant’s deployment is far from over. With further training exercises, including taking the latest class of trainee submarine watch-leaders to sea, port visits and wider regional engagement still to complete, the boat remains poised and ready for action.

Naval Today Staff, March 26, 2013; Image: Royal Navy