Navy chaplains ‘baptised’ in helicopter dunker

Always good to see men of the cloth getting drenched.

Bish, bash, splash as Naval chaplains get dunked at Yeovilton

Six Navy chaplains were ‘baptised’ as they trained to escape from a helicopter ditched in the ocean.

The chaplains – more commonly known throughout the Navy as ‘bishes’ – were put to the test in the ‘dunker’ which simulates an aircraft crashing in the sea.

The vicars of Dunker are (l-r) Rev Alastair Mansfield (RNAS Culdrose), Rev Ralph Barber (Portsmouth Flotilla), Rev Simon Springett (Commando Training Centre Royal Marines), Rev Martin Evans (RNAS Yeovilton), Rev Andrew Corness (Portsmouth Flotilla) and Rev Tom Pyke RNR (HMS President). Picture: LA(Phot) Caroline Davies, HMS Yeovilton

AND you thought they could walk on water.

This is quite possibly the best photograph of Royal Navy chaplains in uniform in a swimming pool carrying out escape training from a crashed helicopter you’re likely to see all year.

The six chaplains – more commonly known throughout the Navy as ‘bishes’ – were ‘dunked’ together as they underwent training to see whether they can escape from a helicopter should it ditch in an emergency.

Because to do their job, providing spiritual and moral support to sailors and Royal Marines on the front line, they must fly regularly – and any regular flier with the Fleet Air Arm must be able to get out of a crashed helicopter.

To that end at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset there’s the Underwater Escape Training Unit – better known as the dunker (because those on the course are dunked) – for all aircrew and ‘frequent fliers’.

After strapping into the mock-up fuselage, the chaplains were lowered into the pool until completely submerged, then the helicopter turned over. For added realism, some of the exits or windows are blocked or jammed and, as the bishes may be expected to fly at night, the lights are switched off.

“To be honest, I really don’t enjoy the dunker that much,” said the Rev Simon Springett, a commando-trained chaplain who’s served from Antarctica to Afghanistan and Scotland to Sierra Leone.

“The training is essential to ensure I can perform my role, bringing spiritual and pastoral care to the men and women of

The sextet were attending the Anglican chaplains’ conference at Amport House in Wiltshire – the spiritual home of all military chaplains – and made the short trip down the A303 to Yeovilton to ensure they were ‘in date’ for their training.

There are 57 chaplains across the Naval Service – covering the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, Church of Scotland and the Free Churches.

They provide spiritual and moral support sailors and Royal Marines at establishments, air bases and on the front line – seven are deployed or are about to deploy on ships or in Afghanistan.

There are also six ‘world faith chaplains’ across the Armed Forces who advise on the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Jewish faiths.