The Royal Navy submarine family have celebrated the unveiling of an imposing new monument to the Silent Service this week (18 May 2022).
The Duke of Cambridge unveiled the imposing new Submariners Memorial at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire – a focal point for all who serve/have served with the waves above them to contemplate separation and sacrifice which has characterised the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service since it was established in 1901.
Nearly 400 submariners past and present, family members, and VIPs converged on the site at Alrewas for the formal dedication of the monument in the presence of the Service’s Commodore-in-Chief, just a couple of years after the plan for a central memorial was suggested.
Since then a national competition has been run to design the structure – fittingly the brainchild of a family who are Silent Service through-and-through – and more than £400,000 raised by an appeal to realise that vision.
Paul Day, behind the Battle of Britain Memorial on London’s Embankment and the Meeting Place sculpture at St Pancras Station, turned the sketches and concept into the full-sized monument.
Prince William said the finished memorial – two halves of a conning tower split, allowing people to walk through, passing the statue of a submariner as they do – captured “all the elements of the Submarine Service of which I am immensely proud to be the Commodore in Chief – the loneliness of separation, the anticipation of return, the fortitude and the sacrifice.
“I’m sure you will agree with me that, inspired by the competition winners and their ideas, Paul Day has created a truly fitting memorial to those lost, and sadly to those who yet may give their lives.
“That all parts of the submarine community: serving, veterans, families and the submarine industries have come together to raise the large amount of money needed is testament to your spirit and energy.”
The monument serves as a tribute to the 5,349 men lost in Royal Navy submarines in 121 years of the Silent Service.
Most of those killed went down with the 170 boats which have been lost since the first submarine tragedy in 1904. Few have graves beyond the hulls in which they are entombed, so the arboretum monument is intended to serve as a place for reflection for their families and comrades.
Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson, chairman of the appeal said:
“And for many, we must also acknowledge the enduring pain caused by the memory of lost shipmates, who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. I know that this memorial, this arboretum, means something to every one of us.
“There is no more challenging environment in which to work – the great oceans of the world are tough enough, but to operate safely and effectively, deep under their surface demands great skill and dedication.”
Yesterday’s Silent Service was represented by serving submariners, led by their senior officer, Commodore Jim Perks, who oversees a small, but elite cadre of men and women operating nuclear-powered boats which are at the cutting edge of naval technology – and the sharp end of underwater operations 24/7/367. He said:
“Today’s Vanguard and Astute-class and the future Dreadnought-class submarines bear little resemblance to those of yesteryear but the spirit, professionalism and ultimately sacrifice of the people who serve in them are identical.
“Today’s submariners remember with pride those who have gone before and support the new memorial with all their hearts.”
Source: Royal Navy