Navy submarines decommission as new fleet sails forward

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Crews from both nuclear-powered attack boats paraded in Plymouth for the final time in front of HRH The Princess Royal. Photographer: LPhot Juliet Ritsma - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

As the Royal Navy’s new Astute class sails on operations around the globe, submarines HMS Talent and Trenchant have been decommissioned at Devonport Naval Base.

Crews from both nuclear-powered attack boats paraded in Plymouth for the final time in front of HRH The Princess Royal – HMS Talent’s patron – as well as high-profile guests and former commanding officers.

Trenchant’s operational career came to an end last year, while Talent completed her final patrol earlier this spring. Both boats served for 32 years with distinction. As hunter-killer submarines, it was their mission to protect first Polaris, now Trident – the country’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent – and to detect, track and classify targets.

Crews from both nuclear-powered attack boats paraded in Plymouth. Photographer: LPhot Juliet Ritsma – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

The boats are capable of gaining intelligence, covertly inserting troops ashore, or striking at enemy submarines and ships with Spearfish torpedoes and targets ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

HMS Triumph remains in service, but the Trafalgar class has been replaced by the seven state-of-the-art Astute-class submarines. Four Astutes have been commissioned, soon to be joined by number five, HMS Anson, which has completed successful diving checks. Like the T-boats before them, they are deployed around the globe daily: HMS Astute sailed to the Pacific and back with the Carrier Strike Group last year; HMS Ambush launched furtive raids by Royal Marines in Norway’s fjords as part of wider UK/NATO operations in the Arctic this spring; and newly-commissioned HMS Audacious has been on patrol in the Mediterranean having reached full operating capability on 4 April.

Commodore James Perks, Commodore Submarine Service, said:

“The Trafalgar Class developed a world class reputation and defended UK interests unstintingly across the world’s oceans.  The Astute submarines have now taken up the baton, continuing to protect the UK from threats with deeply professional submarine crews.

“As we look back with appreciation at the service provided by HMS Talent and HMS Trenchant, we can also look forward with excitement to the future.  We have some of the best attack submarines in the world in the Astute class and developments in submarine training mean that we will continue to have the best men and women sailing and fighting them, protecting our nation far into the future.”

Following Talent’s initial workup period, in 1991 she sailed straight to the Mediterranean and played an active role in the first Gulf War, with the boat’s efforts praised by the US officer commanding the submarine task group, Admiral Ryan, who personally congratulated the crew.

HRH The Princess Royal. Photographer: LPhot Juliet Ritsma – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

Lieutenant Commander David ‘Freddie’ Fox, Talent’s last commanding officer, said:

“This was an emotional day for many of the ship’s company. I am well aware of the bond shared by all who have worked onboard Talent throughout her time in the Fleet. Numerous port visits, exercises, memories and stories are all interwoven into the rich and inspiring history of a submarine which has maintained a steady vigil on the forefront of the defence of the United Kingdom and indeed, the world. The dedication, fortitude and commitment shown by the ship’s company over the years is commendable and Talent will be sorely missed now her Ensign has been lowered for the last time.”

Both boats have spent much of their time away from her base port of Devonport – without the regular access to communications with loved ones back home that their colleagues in the surface fleet have enjoyed, especially with the advent of email and phone calls at sea.

Lieutenant Commander Fox added:

“All of this success would not be possible without the unwavering support of families and loved ones back home – it’s often an overlooked sacrifice, but nevertheless one which the men who have served on her will not forget.”

Members of Talent’s affiliates that the boat has built up over the years were represented at the ceremony, among them Hope House Hospices, the boat’s chosen charity, the Intelligence Corps and the town of Shrewsbury.

In her address to the ship’s company and their families HRH The Princess Royal thanked the families for their unstinting support and dealing with the “not knowing where loved ones are, what they are doing or when they will be sailing back home.”  She said this parade ended a chapter in Royal Navy history and her long association with HMS Talent which had spanned three decades.

Trenchant’s career has been no less impressive, the memories imprinted on her crews just as vivid. Commander Gareth ‘Bats’ Batsford said she had provided “sterling service to the RN over an illustrious career.

“As a previous member of her ship’s company I can attest to the durability and reliability of the ‘Tiddly T’. Whether gathering information on global warming or being deployed at short notice, this marks the end of an outstanding career and she will be missed by all those who have served in her over the years.”

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