Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to be with you for the Lord High Admiral’s Divisions today. I realize that this is a very important moment for you all and for your families and friends who, I am delighted to see, can join us all in person, and I know will be full of immense pride in witnessing you on parade.
Britannia Royal Naval College has a rather special place in the hearts of my family. My father, as Lord High Admiral himself, was extremely proud of his links to this College, and it was here that my mother and father first met in the Captain’s garden, while my grandfather, King George VI, carried out the inspection of your predecessors. For myself, it is somewhat alarming to think that fifty years ago I was standing where you are as part of Blake Division on the eve of my own Naval service which, to this day, I still look back on with great fondness and pride.
The lessons I learnt remain with me through the decades and I certainly sat more upright than usual when arriving this morning. Indeed, it was whilst here that I learnt about the Fleet Air Arm and realized that it was the specialization I wanted to pursue. My very first flight from Norton (which I now hear is a Lidl shop, at the top of the hill) convinced me of that. Each one of you will discover your own particular skills within the Service, amongst which to bear in mind is the vital importance of being able to maintain a sense of humour. Now, of course, may not be the time to tell you how my signature came to be on the Wardroom ceiling or how I understand I still retain the fastest time for transiting the internal College corridor….
You join the Service at an exciting time, full of opportunity. H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth has just returned to U.K. waters after a successful, historic, first deployment leading the Carrier Strike Group. Having planned to visit her in Alexandria during my recent official visit to Egypt, it was a great pity this had to be cancelled at the last minute but she transmitted from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, covering forty countries and undertaking more than seventy engagements, visits, air exercises and operations. The lessons drawn from this deployment will be key in delivering the full capability by the end of 2023. Next year will see my namesake, H.M.S. Prince of Wales, deploy for the first time in support of N.A.T.O. and the Navy will have both Carriers at Sea simultaneously. There has arguably not been a better time to join the Royal Navy and put into practice all that you have learnt here at the College, whilst gaining the experiences you inevitably all joined for – travel, adventure and camaraderie.
Much of what you do will be in a Joint capacity with the other two Services, as well as working closely with our allies – as demonstrated through the makeup of the Carrier Strike Group. In this regard, it is especially heartening to see representation from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South Asia, the South Pacific and the West Indies here today. These close working relationships will be vital to secure our peace and freedom, both now and in the future. Our Armed Forces have always been at their best when working together, and that vital part of your career in the profession of arms is also about to begin.
Of course, the strains of Service life do not fall on you alone and you will no doubt have to call on the patience and support of those you love throughout your careers. As you reach the top of these steps, concluding your time here at the College, and share in this success with your families and friends, I am sure you will appreciate the level of support they have offered thus far, and will continue to offer in the future.
I know, from personal experience, just how much effort, hard work and commitment you will have put into your time at Dartmouth. I pray that it will stand you in good stead as you now continue into your professional training and transition to front line operations where your future will include a wide spectrum of unexpected demands, perhaps summed up rather aptly by a former Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, “If I want a thing done well in a distant part of the world; if I require someone with a good head, a good heart, lots of pluck and plenty of common-sense, I always send for a Captain in the Royal Navy!”
I can only wish each of you every possible success and good fortune as you embark on your future service to this nation. We are fortunate to have you.