Operation Hurricane (1953)

Operation Hurricane was the test of Britain’s first atomic bomb on 3 October 1952. The test took place at the Montebello Islands of Western Australia. This documentary film from 1953 was produced for the Central Office of Information for the Ministry of Supply.

Royal Navy battleships 1905

Royal Navy battleships in commission with full crews, 1st April, 1905.

There were thirty four battleships in commission. Of these, twenty were assigned to Home waters, eight were with the Mediterranean Fleet, five were on the China Station, and one was employed on trooping service.

Home waters:


Atlantic (at Gibraltar)





King Edward VII







Prince George



Royal Sovereign



HMS Albemarle, 1903.







Prince of Wales



HM Bulwark, IWM Q 21052B.








Barfleur was also temporarily in commission with full crew in trooping service.

HMS Barfleur, from “The Navy and Army Illustrated” 1897.

Source: United Kingdom. Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 5th ser., vol. 47, col. 635-7W.

Royal Navy Films (YouTube channel)

Please visit the Royal Navy Films YouTube channel. It is a collection of Royal Navy instructional films, documentaries, recruitment ads, and miscellaneous bits & pieces.

Here is a sample: Action Navy (1975), Launch & Recover (1960), and Sam Pepys Joins the Navy (1941). There are more at the YouTube channel.

Chevaline: The Bomb, the Chancellor and Britain’s Nuclear Secrets

An interesting radio documentary from the BBC regarding Britain’s development of the Chevaline programme and the decision to keep Denis Healey out of the loop.

The Bomb, the Chancellor and Britain’s Nuclear Secrets

BBC Radio 4

Polaris A3TK Chevaline PAC and re-entry vehicle.

In the first edition of a new series, Mike investigates documents which suggest that Labour Chancellor Denis Healey was kept in the dark over plans to modernise Polaris, Britain’s nuclear weapons system in the mid-1970s.

Dubbed Chevaline, the upgrade programme was top secret and highly controversial, that would eventually cost hundreds of millions of pounds more than originally estimated. And all this at a time of economic hardship. Striving to keep his split party together on the highly sensitive issue of nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Harold Wilson restricted decision-making to a small circle of ministers.

But Thomson discovers papers which suggest that officials may have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that Chevaline was kept on track, proposing to withold key information from a sceptical Chancellor on the “need to know” basis. Was national security the real reason or were other motives at play?

Mike puts the claims to former Cabinet Ministers Tony Benn and Lord Owen, formerly David Owen, Foreign Secretary in the late 70s.

Producer: Laurence Grissell

Good grief. Healey, Benn and Owen. Those are names from the 1970s/80s for any Brit to conjure with.

Denis Healey interviewed for the programme.

Tony Benn interviewed for the programme.

David Owen interviewed for the programme.

3 videos of Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon in action (2013)

OTDIH 12 Oct 1702 Anglo-Dutch fleet trounces Franco-Spanish at Battle of Vigo Bay

‘The Battle of Vigo Bay, 12 October 1702’ by Ludolf Backhuysen I. Painting in collection of National Maritime Museum Greenwich.

BAE selects partners for Type 26 frigate

The current Royal Navy requirement (by which we mean “HM Treasury-directed requirement” and not “RN-determined operational requirement”) is for 13 Type 26 frigates. Combined with the Type 45, that would give the RN a destroyer/frigate force of just 19 ships. But all the same, a hearty “THANK GOD!” that the project is moving forward at last.

BAE Selects 4 Firms for Type 26 Frigate Program

The latest design of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship is seen. (BAE Systems)

LONDON — BAE Systems began selecting key systems suppliers for the Royal Navy Type 26 frigate program now on the drawing board.

Rolls-Royce, MTU, David Brown Gear Systems and Rohde & Schwarz were unveiled as suppliers on the second day of the DSEi defense show in London Sept 11.

The awards will see Rolls-Royce supply its MT30 gas turbine, with MTU responsible for the diesel engines and David Brown the gear box. Rohde & Schwarz will provide the ships integrated communications system.

The Rolls-Royce MT30 is the same engine as the one that will power the Royal Navy’s two 65,000 ton aircraft carriers now under construction.

BAE’s program director, Geoff Searle, said the suppliers were the first of between 30 to 40 companies expected to be selected for major systems deals on Type 26 by the end of the year.

There are about 70 competitions for Type 26 systems. Final supplier selection for major items will be completed in 2014.

The Type 26 program has been in the assessment phase since 2010 and BAE is now refining the design of the warship.

The Royal Navy is planning to buy 13 Type 26’s with the first of the new warships expected to start replacing the current Type 23 fleet in the early 2020s.

It will be the maritime industry’s single biggest surface warship program once the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are completed late in the decade.

Searle said the Type 26 program is expected to continue through to the 2030s. The warship has primarily a utility role with a bias toward anti-submarine capabilities.

Aside from the firming up of the supply chain, BAE revealed a number of design changes to the 6,000-ton warship. The most significant of those was a switch of the mission bay from the stern of the vessel to a position just behind the helicopter hangar.

The hangar can house a variety of containerised modules of equipment or facilities ranging from mine counter measures to fast intercept craft.

Searle said that moving the mission bay back gave the Royal Navy greater flexibility including possible extension of the hangar space to handle unmanned air vehicles when required.


Britain ‘must have two aircraft carriers to be global player’

This really has nothing to do with being a “global power” or “punching above one’s weight” or any of the the other trite reasons so often given by politicians and civil servants who don’t understand the fundamental and abiding reason that Britain requires a strong, capable navy. It is not about the Prime Minister playing with toy boats in a global bathtub and having something shiny to hang his bunting on during national holidays. It is this: Britain is an island nation dependent upon international trade and all of those lovely trade goods arrive by sea in 2013 just as they did in 1913. If you want the shipping lanes to be safe and secure then you need a strong, capable navy. Otherwise the nation starves. That’s it. Nothing to do with the capability to lob cruise missiles into Syria, nothing to do with threatening to stick one up the Iranians, nothing to do with being better than the French. Just life-or-death trade. Karl Dönitz understood that. Winston Churchill understood that. The Chinese understand it. So should the pillock who currently rents 10 Downing Street.

Britain ‘must have two aircraft carriers to be global player’

Britain must have two working aircraft carriers if it wants to be a global military player, a Foreign Office parliamentary aide has said.

Mr Ellwood said: “The UK either needs a carrier capability or it does not.” Photo: REUTERS

A Government cost-cutting proposal to mothball or sell one of two carriers being built would be a poor use of public money, Tobias Ellwood MP said in a report for a military think tank.

Trying to rely on a single carrier would also undermine the UK’s ability to cope with international crises.

Mr Ellwood said: “The UK either needs a carrier capability or it does not.

“If it does, then a minimum of two are required in order to have one permanently available.”

Running both carriers would cement Britain’s position as “a global player with a military power of the first rank,” he said.

The Government has yet to decide the fate of the two 65,000 ton Queen Elizabeth class carriers currently being built, but the 2010 defence review proposed selling one or keeping it mothballed to save money.

Mr Ellwood, in a report for the Royal United Services Institute, said: “A £3-billion carrier waiting in ‘suspended animation’ in Portsmouth to be activated has political consequences, as does the selling of a ship at a loss.

“Neither option is a sensible use of taxpayers’ money. Indeed, the latter should be firmly disregarded.”

He said the lack of British carriers during the 2011 Libya campaign had meant that RAF Tornadoes and Typhoons had been forced to fly a 3,000 mile round trip from the UK to hit Col Gaddafi’s forces.

Even when a base became available in Italy, he said air raids were still four times more expensive than if they had been launched from a carrier in the Mediterranean.

Mr Ellwood, a former Army officer, said: “The carrier’s agility and independence means it is likely to be one of the first assets deployed to any hotspot around the globe.”

He said a single carrier would only be available around 200 days per year because of maintenance work.

Last week backbenchers on the Public Accounts Committee warned the aircraft carrier programme faced further spiralling costs.

The project remained a “high risk” because technical problems had not been resolved and there was potential for “uncontrolled growth” in the final bill.

The committee also said a decision to change the type of planes to fly from the carriers had wasted tens of millions of pounds.

The Ministry of Defence had originally opted for jump jet versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, then switched to the carrier variant, only to return to the jump jets again last year when costs soared.

Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary, said no decision would be made on what to do with the two carriers until the 2015 strategic defence and security review.

But money saved by reverting to the jump jet F-35s meant there was the possibility of having two operational carriers.

He said: “Of course there are operational cost implications of holding two carriers available rather than one, but we will weigh very carefully the benefits of that and the costs of that in the review.”


Britain honours seafarers with new Merchant Navy Medal

Britain has the thirteenth largest global merchant fleet and the fifth largest in Europe. Although those rankings may depend more upon tonnage than on the number of vessels.

New Merchant Navy medal to be created and Department of Transport honours Merchant Navy Day.

Merchant seafarers who have shown distinguished service may be honoured with a new Merchant Navy Medal, Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond has announced today (3 September 2013).

Her Majesty the Queen has approved the Merchant Navy Medal, as part of the honours system.

The approval of the new medal coincides with the UK’s fourteenth Merchant Navy Day on Tuesday 3 September. The Red Ensign flag will fly over the headquarters of the Department for Transport to mark the day.

Merchant Navy Day provides an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of the seafarers of the past, to show appreciation for British shipping and to look ahead to the future of our maritime nation.

Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond said:

Our maritime success could not be achieved without the people who work in the shipping industry, and I am very pleased that there will now be an Honour specifically for merchant seafarers. On Merchant Navy Day, we remember the merchant seafarers of the past, more than 20,000 of whom lost their lives in the Second World War alone. We should never forget their efforts and the sacrifices they made, bravely crewing the ships which carried the goods which provided Britain with the means to survive.

Shipping is every bit as important to the UK today – with the vast majority of goods arriving in our country by sea. The UK maritime sector enjoys an excellent reputation, which I hope will help it go from strength to strength.

The new Merchant Navy Medal will be awarded for meritorious service by merchant seafarers.

Merchant Navy Day also celebrates the continuing role of the maritime sector in Britain’s economic well-being. Recent times have seen a revival in UK shipping, and the department welcomes the inaugural London International Shipping Week, which is taking place from 9 to 13 September. This major event will give our maritime industries an opportunity to showcase themselves to an international audience, demonstrating that the UK is a great place to do maritime business.

Captain Matthew Easton, Chairman of the Merchant Navy Medal Committee, said:

There has long been an acknowledgment amongst the maritime community that the importance of the Merchant Navy has not been recognised at a national level.

We are hugely honoured that Her Majesty the Queen has granted the Merchant Navy its own national award and in doing so reinforcing the importance of the Merchant Navy in the lives of all us, honouring the nation’s debt to the Merchant Navy in war and peace, historically, today and into the future.

The Merchant Navy Medal Committee, which has overseen the industry sponsored Merchant Navy Medal since its inception in 2005 have been involved in this process and welcome today’s announcement. We look forward to working with the National Honours Committee and Department for Transport in suggesting the criteria for the new Honour.

The existing Merchant Navy Medal is an unofficial medal. It is awarded by the Merchant Navy Medal Fund, which was set up in 2005 as a result of a charitable initiative. The new medal will be a State Award with a place in the Order of Wear. Her Majesty the Queen recently gave her approval to a recommendation by the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (the HD Committee) for the introduction of the new medal.

Captain Matthew Easton is the Chairman of the Merchant Navy Medal Fund, and Admiral the Lord West of Spithead is its Patron.

The Red Ensign is the official flag of the commercial shipping fleet of the UK and its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. September 3 was chosen as the date to recognise the service of the merchant fleet as it is the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Athenia, the first British merchant vessel lost during World War II.

The UK registered trading fleet increased from 5.03 to 16.64 million gross tons between 2002 and 2012, an increase of over 230% over the decade. The UK has the thirteenth largest merchant fleet in the world and the fifth largest in Europe.

The increase in tonnage on the UK shipping register has been achieved without compromising quality standards. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has appointed dedicated customer account managers to assist with enquiries throughout the registration process. This – and removing excess regulation – has made the UK flag more attractive.

London International Shipping Week is an industry-led event bringing the world of shipping together. This inaugural event will focus on London’s vital role in global shipping and the promotion of the UK maritime sector (ports, shipping and London maritime business services – ship broking, maritime insurance, ship finance, maritime lawyers and arbitration services).