Soaring numbers of Royal Navy applications during coronavirus crisis see Britannia Royal Naval College open for junior sailors

A DRAMATIC surge in people applying to join the Royal Navy during the coronavirus pandemic has prompted naval top brass to open up the historic home for officer training to accommodate the new swell of trainee sailors.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 10:27 am

To meet the sudden spike in interest among those wishing to serve their country, sailors are being inducted into the Royal Navy at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth for the first time in history.

A group of 47 new recruits started their nine-week basic training course at the college last week.

BRNC has been the home of Royal Navy officer training for more than a century while new entry training for ratings is done at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall.

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A group of 47 junior sailors. usually trained at HMS Raleigh, Cornwall, have commenced training at Britannia Royal Navy College (BRNC), Dartmouth in Devon amid a surge in applications to the navy during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the navy has received a huge 2,500 applications per month from those eager for a life at sea – a massive 12 per cent year-on-year increase.

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The huge swell in numbers is a positive step forward for the Senior Service, which has been battling for years to fill a manpower shortage.

Armed forces minister James Heappey welcomed the news and said: ‘It is essential that our Royal Navy recruits are able to train today to fight the threats of the future.

A recruit polishes his shoe at Britannia Royal Navy College

‘The brilliant work of our Armed Forces during the Covid-19 response has demonstrated just how rewarding and diverse a career in the armed forces is – and led to even more applications from ambitious hopefuls.

‘Increased capacity at Dartmouth will allow recruits to go on to become full-time sailors, helping to protect the security of the UK and our allies.’

The Royal Navy has continued to train new sailors throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

Captain Roger Readwin, the captain of BRNC, said: ‘It is an absolute privilege to support the training of ratings at Dartmouth and to play our part in growing the Royal Navy.

‘This will also be a historical first with officer cadets and ratings training together, celebrated with a combined passing out parade at the end.

‘The planning and preparation to deliver this training has been developed in close partnership with the team at HMS Raleigh.’

There are currently 630 recruits training at HMS Raleigh, which has space for a total of 2,700 young sailors per year, based on 41 entries annually.

However, The News understands that navy planners are seeking to increase this capacity to 3,000 junior sailors a year.

Captain Richard Harris, HMS Raleigh’s commanding officer, said that since March about 600 sailors had completed their basic training there, with roughly 60 recruits joining every week.

‘This is an exciting opportunity for some of our recruits to experience training at Dartmouth and gain an insight into how the officers train. I look forward to seeing them on the parade ground for their passing-out-parade in August,’ added Capt Harris.

Recruits training at BRNC will undergo the same as their counterparts at Raleigh.

Among them was Sophie Loraine, 18 from Sunderland. She will be joining the newly-formed Whittall Division at the college and said: ‘When I heard that I’d been selected to go forward for the course at Dartmouth I was really excited and glad that I’m going to be able to start my career early.

‘Being in the Royal Navy is my dream job. Looking out of the window where I’m from I couldn’t see anything that I wanted to do other than be in the Royal Navy because of all the career and travel opportunities.’

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