Royal Navy's Gibraltar gun boats trade defending The Rock for training recruits in Portsmouth

TWO gun boats that once protected Gibraltar are now being used to train the future sailors of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 1:50 pm

Patrol boats HMS Sabre and Scimitar, relieved from their role defending ‘The Rock’, are now providing recruits from HMS Collingwood with their first taste of life at sea.

The two vessels’ new role comes after the Fareham naval establishment was expanded to provide initial training to some 1,000 new sailors this year, supporting the likes of HMS Raleigh following a sudden boom in recruitment.

Trainees from each fortnight’s intake at Collingwood will now embark on the boats for a day for seamanship drills.

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HMS Sabre pictured in Gibraltar during her time defending the British territory. Photo: PO(Phot) Paul A'Barrow/Royal Navy The Gibraltar Squadron was created in September 1985 as a dedicated force for the 'The Rock', as it is known. The Gibraltar Squdaron was set up when the Royal Navy took command of the two patrol vessels previously used by the RAF to patrol the waters around Gibraltar and decommissioned as HM Ships Cormorant and Hart. They were replaced by two P2000 Archer Class Patrol Vessels, Trumpeter and Ranger, in 1991 before Scimitar and Sabre took over the roles in 2003. Scimitar and Sabre were previously used by the Royal Marines in Northern Ireland patrolling the waterways of the province. On 7th September a ceremony was held to mark the birthday at the Naval Base in Gibraltar, with guests including the first Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Maurice Fitzgerald and the Governor's wife, Lady Suzie Johns who cut the birthday cake with the youngest member of the squadron AB Liam Daubney.

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Recruits tackle everything from replenishments at sea and line handling, to ceremonial and coxswain duties.

Also providing training in the Solent for the upturn in Royal Navy recruits is the sailing vessel TS Tenacious.

Infection control regulations mean only four additional personnel can embark Sabre or Scimitar each day they take trainees.

Raw recruits from HMS Collingwood pictured on HMS Sabre, one of two coastal patrol boats being used to provide the new sailors with the training at sea. Photo: Royal Navy

Lieutenant Tim Clouter, Sabre’s skipper, said: ‘The feedback we have received from their training staff is that the recruits have really been enthused by the day, both because this is their first experience of life at sea and a chance to get out of the classroom.’

A dedicated seamanship school has stood up to support this phase of training, which is being provided by the Portsmouth-based coastal forces squadron, parent unit of Sabre and Scimitar.

As well as a day of practical seamanship, the transit out of Portsmouth Harbour from the moorings of HMS Excellent on Whale Island provides a first chance to see the ships many will be joining in the near future.

Raw recruits from HMS Collingwood pictured on HMS Sabre, one of two coastal patrol boats being used to provide the new sailors with the training at sea. Pictured is one of the recruits at the helm of one of the boats. Photo: Royal Navy

On top of helping improve recruits’ skills, the 12 Archer-class and two Scimitar-class boats of the coastal squadron are increasing their support to the surface fleet, expanding both operational and training roles to great effect.

This includes support to the Wildcat helicopter crews of 847 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Operational Sea Training and Ministry of Defence Police during Queen Elizabeth-class carrier movements.

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