Fallon: £1bn investment in Royal Navy to kick start “new era of maritime power”

HMS Ambush Astute class submarine Royal NavyBritish Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has revealed that the Royal Navy is to receive an additional £1bn investment on top of previous financial projections for the service. The additional money looks set to be spent on advanced early warning and tracking systems as well as up to eight new patrol vessels leading most observers to speculate that they are in direct response to increased clandestine Russian naval activity around the British Isles.

Fallon said;

We are investing billions in growing the Royal Navy for the first time in a generation – 2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.

The Royal Navy has been under increasing criticism from a British public that has become alarmed at the number of Russian ships and aircraft that have been sailing around the UK in the last five years. With its dwindling number of ships, the feeling has been that years of decline under three consecutive governments have left the “island nation” vulnerable from the sea. This new announcement is hoped to reverse that situation.

The emphasis placed on tracking systems reflects the problems the Royal Navy has had in locating Russian submarines in recent years thanks in no small part to the previous Conservative-Liberal coalition government’s decision to scrap the UK’s maritime patrol aircraft in 2010. It is also in response to the Russian Navy’s modernisation program for its nuclear submarines which has lead President Vladimir Putin to claim that their new submarines are “undetectable”.

Regarding the additional patrol ships it is likely this is to free up the Royal Navy’s major surface combatants such as the Type 45 from home waters patrol duties which will be instead needed to protect the new aircraft carriers as they come on line. The first new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is expected to make her maiden voyage this year.

While this is much welcome boost in equipment from the government, it is now up to the Royal Navy to find the personnel to support it. The service has suffered a severe shortfall in recruits and personnel retention in the last decade which has lead to speculation that limited recruitment may have to be undertaken abroad primarily from British Commonwealth nations such as Australia and New Zealand. Like the Army and Royal Air Force the service may also place greater emphasis on reserve forces in the coming decade.

 

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World War I U-Boat wreck discovered off Scotland

The wreck of what is believed to be UB-65, a World War I German U-Boat lost in 1918, has been uncovered by divers laying an undersea power cable off the coast of Stranraer, Western Scotland.

Dr Innes McCartney, a historian and nautical archaeologist, told the BBC;

The submarine was caught on the surface at night, recharging its batteries. It saw the patrol ship coming. It attempted to do a crash dive to get away. Once the submarine was under water, it rapidly started flooding from above so they had no option but to blow all the compressed air they had, bring the submarine to the surface at which point all they could do was surrender.

The U-Boat then sank again for the last time.

The wreck was discovered by engineers involved in the £1bn Western Link project which involves laying a 239 mile sub-sea power line between Ayrshire and the Wirral that will carry renewable energy produced in Scotland to England and Wales. The engineers found the wreckage 120m north-west of the centre of the planned route. It is hoped further investigation of the wreck will confirm its identity.

Five Of The Most Significant Submarine Attacks In History

SM_U9_Postcard

The development of the submarine changed the very nature of naval warfare forever. Suddenly, the huge fleets of yesteryear found their supremacy threatened by an unseen force and for a long time they were largely defenceless to the new weapon. However, it took a certain type of courage to volunteer for submarine duties especially in the early days when their vessels were often as dangerous to their crews as to the enemy. As a result of this courage submarine commanders and their crews were often exceptionally daring in their efforts to fight the enemy.

Here are five of the most significant submarine attacks in history.


 

  1. The First Ever Submarine Attack in History

Submarine Turtle Eagle 1776Largely thought of as a 20th century invention, primitive submersibles have actually been around since the 17th century. On September 7th 1776 the submarine Turtle designed by American inventor David Bushnell was given over to the American patriot cause for use against the British in the American Revolution. Piloted by Ezra Lee, the submarine approached the British 64-gun warship HMS Eagle and attempted to plant a bomb on it. However, he was unable to secure it to his target’s hull and it fell off the British ship before detonating which saved the Eagle from destruction. Although a failure, Lee’s mission is considered the first submarine attack in history.


 

  1. The Cressy Catastrophe

HMS CresseyUpon the outbreak of World War I, Britain’s Royal Navy had the most powerful surface fleet in the world and the British people were confident that they were safe on their island nation as a result. That confidence was shattered on September 22nd 1914 when German U-Boat U-9 attacked a formation of three Cressy-class heavy cruisers – Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue.

When the first ship, the Aboukir, was hit the crews of the other two cruisers believed that the explosion was caused by an accident onboard and went to assist them. Seizing the opportunity, U-9 attacked the Hogue and sank it. The remaining British ship, Cressy, attacked U-9 before returning to rescuing survivors of the other two ships. U-9 attacked again and sank Cressy. In all 1,450 British sailors were killed in what was at that time an unprecedented victory for a submarine.

For more on this read The Cressy Catastrophe


 

  1. The Submarine That Sent A Nation On The Path To War

RMS LusitaniaOn May 7th 1915 the British liner Lusitania was travelling south of Ireland on a route from New York to Liverpool when it was spotted by the German U-Boat, U20, which was taking part in an attempt to blockade Britain’s sea lanes. At the time the US was neutral in the First World War but despite being warned by the Germans that they reserved the right to attack any ship heading for British ports a large number of Americans were aboard believing that the Germans would never target an ocean liner with 2,000 people on it.

They were wrong.

Shortly after 2pm, U20 fired on the ship and in the resulting explosion and sinking, 1,198 people were killed including 128 Americans. The attack outraged the American people who were at that time largely oblivious to the war in Europe and pushed America closer to the Allies before they eventually declared war on Germany in 1917.


 

  1. Submarine vs. Submarine

HMS VenturerContrary to the myth perpetuated by Hollywood movies, submarines sinking other submarines has only happened in exceptionally rare cases. In all but one of these incidents the target submarine was on the surface when it was attacked. The exception occurred on February 9th 1945 when the British submarine, HMS Venturer, detected the German U-Boat U-864 on the surface with engine trouble. The U-Boat was actually on a highly secretive mission to deliver two scientists and several key jet engine components to Japan, Germany’s ally, for use in their own jet fighter program.

Realising he had been spotted by a British submarine the captain of U-864 dived to escape. The captain of Venturer, 25-year old Lieutenant Jimmy Launders, attempted to match the U-Boat’s dive and by estimating the approximate position of the German vessel, fired a spread of six torpedoes in to its vicinity. One of the torpedoes successfully struck the U-Boat destroying it and its precious cargo. It remains the only time in history where one submarine has deliberately sunk another in combat while both were submerged.

For more on this read The Only Underwater Submarine-to-Submarine Kill in History


 

  1. The MV Wilhelm Gustloff

MV Wilhelm GustloffFrom the outbreak of World War II Germany’s navy, the Kriegsmarine, exercised a policy of unrestricted U-Boat warfare against the Allies. This in turn dictated a similar policy amongst the Allied navies and the oceans became a brutal killing ground as a result. In January 1945 this policy was about to reach its bloody climax and it would actually be the Germans who would be on the receiving end. The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a cruise liner requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine for service as a hospital ship when the war broke out. When it became clear the vessel could no longer safely go to sea it was held in port at Gdynia in German-occupied Poland where it was painted in naval grey and used as an accommodation ship for trainee U-Boat crews.

By the start of 1945 the Soviet Red Army was pursuing the retreating German Army across Eastern Europe and so the ship was pressed back in to service to evacuate thousands of German troops, Gestapo officers, officials and civilians who had made a life in occupied Poland. On January 30th 1945, the ship along with another liner, the Hansa, and a torpedo boat made their breakout attempting to reach Germany through the Baltic. Official records show that over 6,000 people were onboard but the actual number was closer to 11,000 as a large number of civilians desperately crammed aboard and in the chaos of the boarding the crew simply gave up counting.

Shortly after leaving port the Hansa had to turn back because of mechanical problems but the Wilhelm Gustloff continued on before it was discovered by the Soviet Navy’s S-13 submarine. The S-13 torpedoed the overloaded vessel which quickly sank taking around 9,500 people with it of which nearly 5,000 were children.

It remains the biggest loss of life at sea in a single incident.

 

HMS Victorious 1996 BBC Documentary

An excellent documentary produced in 1996 chronicling Britain’s nuclear deterrent in the post-Cold War world. Skip forward 20 years later and the need to replace Victorious and her sisters has never before been such a contentious political issue.

Please note: this site is not affiliated with this documentary series.

NEWS: HMS Vengeance refit and refuelling completed

HMS Vnegeance Royal Navy

HMS Vengeance Trident missile-armed nuclear submarine (Royal Navy)

HMS Vengeance, one of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), has now completed a £350m refit and Long Overhaul Period and Refuel (LOP(R)) programme. The programme has taken three years to complete with the work being undertaken by Babcock International at Devonport Royal Dockyard, Plymouth.

HMS Vengeance will soon undergo sea trials before returning to operational duties with the Royal Navy as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent. HMS Vengeance and her three Vanguard-class sister submarines each armed with Trident Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) will continue to carry out the mission until the early 2020s when the first replacement vessels will come online.

HMS Vanguard is currently scheduled to undergo a similar programme that will involve replacing the nuclear reactor core, an overhaul of submarine and missile launch systems, the addition of new submarine sonar equipment, upgrades to computer and communication systems, and replacement of equipment and machinery.

NEWS: Royal Marine dies on Dartmoor

A Royal Marine trainee has died whilst undertaking a 30 mile march across Dartmoor. The Ministry of Defence confirmed today that the trainee (who has not yet been named) was taken ill during the march known to trainees and instructors simply as the 30-miler and then died shortly after. The cause of the trainee’s death has yet to be determined and an investigation is being launched.

The trainee was based at the the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon when he died on Thursday. The march across Dartmoor is the last major test undertaken by prospective trainee marines as part of the 32-week Commando course considered to be the most rigorous training undertaken by regular British forces.

SITREP – June 2015 (and a big thank you)

Morse CodeWelcome to Defence of the Realm’s SITREP for June 2015. For those of you who are new followers and have never seen one of these posts before I would like to welcome you and thank you for giving the site a look. Basically, this is my opportunity to let you you know how the site is doing and the direction it will be taking over the next month. It is also your opportunity to let me know your thoughts on the site in general as well as to offer your own suggestions/input in to any of the projects that are on the horizon.

First off I would like to thank each and every one of you for following the site, reading the articles and liking/commenting. We are coming up to the one year mark now and the site has gone beyond my wildest hopes and aspirations with May being just incredible for site traffic. A whopping 12,810 hits were recorded on the site statistics for May and its all down to you guys giving up your precious time to see what’s new. To put that in to perspective that’s more hits than the total between July and December 2014.

What started as a side project for me has now taken on a whole new life of its own which now encompasses a YouTube channel which is just starting to take off. My next step is going to have to be to buy the domain name off WordPress so that it becomes my own. I don’t want to risk losing it at this point. As I have told some of you before I am not exactly well financed so I will have to come up with some sort of plan to afford it but its something I want to do now.

I believe there’s equilibrium in the universe and so to that end I have to report that I am more or less giving up on the defence podcast idea. It’s proven too problematic and in my practice runs I have proven that I am not that great at speaking on the spot. If anyone else plans to do one I would be willing to take part but as for DotR I think its not the direction to go.

Anyway, that’s enough babbling on. Here’s what’s on the horizon for June;

  • Following the interest I continue to have on the article covering British tanks during the Russian Civil War 1918-19 I am currently researching Royal Navy operations in support of the white Russian forces against the Bolsheviks.
  • I am currently researching and writing an article on the only time in history a submarine has sunk another submarine while both were submerged. Hollywood likes to tell us that US submarines did it all the time but the fact is it was a British submarine that did it and it’s a story I certainly want to make more public.
  • Months ago I put up on a SITREP that I was going to do an article on De Havilland Chipmunk trainers that used to fly through the East German air corridors to Berlin taking pictures of Soviet ground troops. I had gathered some research and pictures but for some reason it fell by the wayside as other articles occupied my time and I forgot about it until I stumbled on the file on my computer this week. I will get around to it this month.
  • I have been making more of an effort to keep the news articles coming. I have set up Google email alerts to keep me abreast of what’s going on and I am trying to filter a lot of the more important stories out from the lesser ones. I find that a lot of defence news sites put a lot of minor stories up and that tends to cover up the more important stories or the ones that are developing. I am not saying those stories are any less interesting but for one man researching and writing articles as well as keeping up with the news it’s just too much to cope.
  • I am considering writing an article in the wake of the recent round of defence cuts where I will be looking at what Britain’s future theatres of operation will be and how an even leaner military might be employed. This will be a big post so don’t expect it soon.
  • I will continue with the Five Facts About… format for future YouTube videos. I have made a start on scripting videos for the Spitfire and ships named Ark Royal.
  • Hopefully going to squeeze in a few more museum visits this month but again finances willing. Currently digging up the garden and putting chippings down which is taking up a lot of my resources (not to mention reminding me why I hate gardening). Maybe a return visit to Yeovilton will be my reward for a job done.

Thanks again everybody for your support. It really means a lot to me. If you are on Twitter you can follow me by clicking on my name below. I tend to upload a lot of pictures on there of where I have been and stuff that just doesn’t fit into an article yet.

– Tony Wilkins

The mysterious "Pilot X"

The mysterious “Pilot X”