Royal Navy submarine returns home in time for Christmas

There was excitement, tears and laughter when Royal Navy submarine HMS Vigilant returned home from patrol just days before Christmas.

The Vanguard class vessel and her 140-strong crew were re-united with family, friends and loved-ones at her home port of HM Naval Base Clyde.

In previous years families would head to public land overlooking the Gareloch to catch a glimpse of one of the giant ballistic submarines glide past.

But today, for the first time, they were granted access to the Naval Base to witness the return.

Some 40 families took advantage of the opportunity, being hosted in the comfort of the site’s Warrant Officers and Senior Rates Mess.

“Usually we’re at Rhu to watch the vessel come home,” said Victoria Barnwell, who was there to welcome her husband Iain home.

Victoria had travelled from the east coast of Scotland with their three young children – all under six years old – for the occasion.

“Last year Iain was away for Christmas,” she said. “The kids are very glad that this year daddy will be home before Santa.”

She continued, “The support we’ve received during this patrol has been really good.  If I had any questions or concerns I would ask the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Welfare team and they’d usually get back to me within half-an-hour.”

The homecoming event took around two-weeks to arrange and featured a bouncy castle for the children, games, face-painting, a buffet and even a special visit from Santa Claus.

The homecoming is the culmination of a package of support provided to families and loved-ones during Vigilant’s deployment

Sophia McArdle, Royal Navy and Royal Marines Welfare

The day was a joint venture by Command Warrant Officer Knox, Royal Navy and Royal Marines Welfare’s Sophia McArdle, and Coxswain of HMS Vigilant (Starboard) Petty Officer Sheeky.

“The homecoming is the culmination of a package of support provided to families and loved-ones during Vigilant’s deployment,” explained Sophia McArdle.

“There was a variety of events organised including visits to the Safari Park, Hotel trips, a spa day, pizza nights, cinema excursions and coffee mornings. The separation can be tough on loved-ones so the idea was to bring people together to offer mutual support.”

One person who understands the challenges of serving during Christmas is Warrant Officer Knox.

“Naturally you mind turns to your family when you are on patrol at Christmas, but you make the most of it,” he said. “During one extended patrol we once spent 15 weeks at sea and got back just two-days before Christmas.

“The excitement and relief you feel as you sail back into base is huge. One of the good things though is that all the Christmas shopping has been done while you’re away,” he joked.

Some of the loved-ones attending the homecoming had travelled from as far afield as South Wales, Lancashire and Liverpool to be there.  

Marine Engineer Mechanic (MEM) Southee’s family and partner had made the journey from Lincolnshire to Faslane to welcome him home.  Dad Rick, mum Sue and his girlfriend Alex were delighted to see him home for the festive period.

Rick, who is a former member of the RAF, said:  “When you are deployed at Christmas time the military always try to make it okay, but in some ways you wish it was treated as just another day.

“There is no substitute for being home at Christmas with your family and loved-ones and so we’re really looking forward to having our boy back.”

HMS Vigilant is one of four Vanguard class submarines which, between them, maintain the country’s Continuous At Sea Deterrent.  

Since 1969, at least one Royal Navy ballistic submarine has been on patrol, a constant deterrent against the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life.