Rookie Royal Navy sailors from Fareham's HMS Collingwood get their first taste of military life in the field

ROOKIE sailors going through their basic training in Fareham were given their first taste of military life in the field during an exercise on Salisbury Plain.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 9:18 pm
Some of the rookie sailors from HMS Collingwood pictured during their exercise on Salisbury Plains. Photo: LPhot Rory Arnold

The first raw recruits trained at HMS Collingwood in more than half a century endured their first major test of leadership in two days on the army’s premier exercise area.

Collingwood has stepped up to train 500 new sailors this year as HMS Raleigh – the regular establishment used to turn civilians into sailors – is already at capacity following a surge in naval recruitment.

The first batch of junior ratings are expected to pass out from the Fareham naval base at the end of this month, having joined in January.

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Trainees from HMS Collingwood get to grips with a compass and map during the training drill on Salisbury Plains. Photo: LPhot Rory Arnold

Among them will hopefully be the 11 trainees from Perkins Division – one of the cohorts at Collingwood – who took part in exercise Hidden Dragon on Salisbury Plains.

The drill’s opening day saw recruits learning the basics of living in the field – from cooking ration packs and sleeping on the floor of a barn with no running water, gas or electricity, to navigating through woods and farmland while carrying a heavy backpack for 25km with no GPS or phones to help pinpoint their position.

‘This is new to Collingwood, but it’s going smoothly and the recruits are doing well. We’re getting positive feedback from the trainees – they seem to be enjoying,’ said Chief Petty Officer AJ Smith, a caterer by trade, but now part of the new training regime.

Some of the rookie sailors from HMS Collingwood pictured during their exercise on Salisbury Plains. Photo: LPhot Rory Arnold

‘The recruits have come from all over the country, from different backgrounds, they’re different ages and they have to gel.

‘There’s no relying on mum here. You’re relying on your shipmates, people you only met a few weeks ago.’

Trainee weapon engineer Luke Gaskin, aged 17, said the experience had been a challenging one.

‘I came in blind – I did some research, but this is my first time away from home. So I found it quite hard to adapt to a military bearing. So it’s been tough – but I’ve enjoyed it. And I’ve made amazing friends here, people who will be mates for life,’ he said.

Trainees from HMS Collingwood pictured navigating through woodland during a two-day exercise on Salisbury Plains. Photo: LPhot Rory Arnold

Jasmine Savage from Canterbury is training to become a naval nurse.

‘This may not be a natural environment for a nurse, but I love it. This is what I expected from training – experiences you cannot get in civilian life,’ the 30-year-old said.

‘The training is hard, but you get through it. You bond as a team and you really get to know yourself and what pushes your buttons.’

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