UK: Royal Navy Officer Sails His Warship into His Home Port

Royal Navy Officer Sails His Warship into His Home Port

It may only be a brief visit, but for 26 year-old Lieutenant Chris Stevens, it is a return to his roots. Chris is the Commanding Officer of HMS Puncher, the Universities Royal Naval Units fast patrol vessel for universities in London.

He grew up in Weymouth, Dorset attending Budmouth Technology College before joining Britannia Royal Naval College in 2004.

Chris sailed HMS Puncher into Weymouth in company with HMS Explorer. They berthed in the vicinity of the Royal Dorset Yacht Club and were joined by HMS Dasher shortly afterwards.

HMS Puncher is undertaking her Easter deployment tour in company with HMS Explorer and HMS Dasher. Weymouth is the first of 14 ports the ship will visit around the south coast of the UK, Channel islands and northern France.

“I am immensely proud to be able to bring my ship and crew into my home town of Weymouth,” said Chris.

“I have very strong roots in south Dorset and this feels like a proper homecoming for me.”

Being a small ship, this deployment is unusual in that HMS Puncher will call in at many ports along the way where other Royal Navy vessels would never be seen. These small patrol vessels carry a full-time Royal Navy crew of five, which is joined by up to 12 university students at any one time.

But this is no cruise.

The deployment will allow some 20 students in total to put in practice what they have learned on shorter deployments and drill nights with their URNU throughout the year. Skills such as seamanship and navigation will be put to the test throughout.

One student undertaking training on HMS Puncher is Midshipman Angus Francis – Coleman; he himself a Weymouth local having grown up near the town. He said:

“Although I have been to Weymouth before on HMS Puncher, it is still a great feeling to return to my hometown and I am proud to wear the Naval uniform in a town that would not normally be visited by an RN Warship.”

There are currently 14 URNUs supporting universities in England, Wales and Scotland.

Each URNU is commanded by a Royal Navy lieutenant who is responsible for 51 undergraduates who each join the URNU as RN Reservists for their three or four years at university.

Training is conducted one evening a week in shore units at or near the university and at sea, over the weekends and during holiday periods, by a dedicated Archer Class P2000 20-metre patrol craft.

The URNU organisation’s mission is to “Broaden Naval understanding and develop undergraduates who show potential to become the leaders of tomorrow, through maritime experience and exposure to the values and ethos of the Royal Navy”.

Naval Today Staff, April 8, 2013; Image: Royal Navy