Royal Navy School – Channel 4. Ep1

Photo courtesy of Channel 4

Confessions out of the way first, I have a vested interest in this program because I went to RN School back in the times before mobile phones and the internet proper.

The other reason I was looking forward to watching this series is because the PO Wren (Now CPOWTR Mead) makes an appearance, as one of the HMS Raleigh Instructors. The very same one that inspired me and whisked me off to the recruitment office. Back when we females were still called Wrens.

I made it to the dizzy heights of Leading Wren Writer, otherwise known as the Leading Hand rank – lets get the giggling out the way now. The Writer trade, in civvie terms, is Pay, Personnel & Secretariat. My dad still thinks I wrote the Captains log. Unfortunately thats not a bad dad joke, he actually thinks that.

However that doesn’t mean that you don’t see any action, as a writer. I did a six month tour of Bosnia, which counted as my sea time – landlocked and serving with the Army! Back then the RN was still transitioning with the occurrence of Women (Wren’s) being allowed to go to sea.

So there were still ships that hadn’t been converted to accommodate both the sexes, so at that time opportunities to go to see were still somewhat limited. Which is a pisser when you join the Royal Navy to see the World,, I was aboard HMS Birmingham for 2 weeks but there was no Wrens accommodation so I had to come ashore each night!

Anyway enough about me…..

First up we meet Master At Arms (MAA) Gritt as 60 new recruits arrive at HMS Raleigh for the first time. Everyone looks very nervous, some even a little shell shocked. However their nativity has saved them further nerves as the MAA is part of the Regulator Branch. Otherwise known as the Reggies but NEVER to their face. They are the RN Police.

There is no scarer person to meet, other than the enemy, than a MAA.

Also in the opening scenes is PO Cox – Drill Sargent and she perfectly sums up the entire basic training “You come here as a potato and we will turn you into a packet of crisps”.
Recruit Harland says his heart stopped when the recruits had to first empty their bags of any ‘civvie’ food they had brought with them. He had to dump all of his Angel Slices. Harland is clearly going to start off as the boy in the group but I’m sure we’ll see an amazing transformation.

The recruits come from all walks of life and of all ages. Of the 60, 23 are still teenagers. At the other end of the spectrum you have Recruits Myatt and Stewart in their late 20’s and Recruit Rowan who is 32.

Rec. Rowan was previously in the Army and by his own admittance he didn’t make the best of that opportunity at the time. Now he is married with four children and wants to carve out a career in the RN.

Rec. Stewart looks very much like a young Prince Edward (in a good way)! So I wasn’t surprised to hear that after finishing university he initially applied to be an officer. Unfortunately he didn’t pass selection so a couple of years later he is here hoping to work his way up through the ranks. He’s got Tiff written all over him from his accent to his level of intelligence,

They will all be treated the same but those who are older will be of great encouragement to the younger recruits who may never have been away from home, had responsibility or been told what to do before.

That said the younger recruits can bring something to the table, often the younger ones have been cadets before and can provide invaluable kit (Uniform) advice.

The dorms still look pretty much the same, same metal beds and wafer thin mattresses but is that a quilt I spy? The kit cabinet has evolved though. It used to be barely the size of a bedside table but now they seem to have proper wardrobes. However the storage in training is supposed to represent the amount of storage you get onboard a ship. That’s pretty much a walk in wardrobe by ship standards.

Warrant Officer Collingbourne oversees the basic training and warns the recruits that they are being watched 24/7. This is proved numerous times throughout the episode when the Instructors are shouting out the window at people with the incorrect dress. The provision of press ups is never far behind.

Much is made about Harland being lazy and having no idea about real life and I think his dad, who does a couple of pieces to camera about it, is to blame there. No teen is going to pick up after themselves if someone else is going to do it and I also got the impression that not a lot of praise was being dished out at home.

Its time for the first kit inspection. The recruits have to lay out all the kit in a specific way with all items folded to A4. There cannot be even a microscopic piece of dust or dirt on anything. The Instructors tear through everything and if anything is not up to standard it gets thrown onto the floor, including beds.

It’s a shock for the recruits when they return to see how they’ve done and it’s probably the harshest form of criticism but it works as a method to get you to do better. Especially as it’s all been on the floor now and will need to be cleaned again.

They’ll will have spent hours preparing their kit, even through the night when they should’ve been sleeping.

Wait till they get further into their training and it starts getting thrown out of the window because you should know better by then.

Physical Training – My favourite session *Sarcasm.

Classic line from the PT to start the session “Why is *Insert Name* late because they had to go to the toilet? Why is he having a shit in my time”

We get a passing glimpse of Recruit Bernard-Jones, the first female to be spoken to by the film crew. There are girls in this group, we just aren’t being shown them and it’s slowly getting infuriating. The Production company are not doing RN recruitment any favours.

There seems to be a lot of rope climbing in PT now, I don’t remember climbing any ropes. Lots of beastings but no rope climbing other than on an assault course.

Family man Rec Rowan is unsurprisingly made the Class Leader, with Rec. Stewart his deputy. Prestiges positions to be given and believed to be an indicator of the position holders future career in the RN.

It’s finally time for the daunting first drill exam, when the class has to demonstrate that they can respond to orders as unit, quickly and efficiently. The ability to do this the backbone of any disciplined armed service.

I’d like to make it known that, that parade ground is freezing even in the summer. The wind blows directly up from the sea there and it’s Baltic. You don’t get to wear a coat out there in the winter months either.

The class are told they passed but only by the skin of their teeth. Looking back on my training I’m pretty sure that even if you nailed it the first time they’re not going to tell you.
Straight from the parade ground to the Gym, because there’s no rest for the wicked. Suddenly, and not long into the session, Rec. Rowan passes out. It’s clear straight away that it’s not a simple faint though and he is rushed to the Medical Centre for further tests.

It’s not good news … Rec. Rowan has a heart defect. He has to leave HMS Raleigh immediately and return home for further hospital tests and surgery.

Not only is his heart broken that his dream maybe over before it started but so are the rest of the class and even the instructors. “

Recruit Harland

The lads are what keep you going, like a second family.” Rec. Harland.

With Rec. Rowan gone Rec. Stewart is made up to Class Leader but he is worried that he has a tough act to follow.

The good news comes as the credits roll at the end of episode 1. Rec. Rowan had the necessary heart surgery and after making a full recovery was able to make a return to Basic Training at HMS Raleigh and again was able to prove his worth and was made Class Leader.


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