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Naval Chaplains in dunker babtism

Published: 09 Jul 2013

Six Royal Navy 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.

They were ‘dunked’ together as they attended a Vicars Conference at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton to see whether they can escape from a helicopter should it ditch in an emergency.

To do their job, providing spiritual and moral support to sailors and Royal Marines on the front line, they must fly regularly – and any 'frequent flier' with the Fleet Air Arm must be able to get out of a downed 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).

After strapping into the mock-up fuselage, the chaplains were lowered into the pool until completely submerged, and then the helicopter turned over. For added realism, some of the exits or windows are blocked or jammed and, as they 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 however is essential to ensure I can perform my role, bringing spiritual and pastoral care to the men and women of Britain’s Maritime Armed Force”.

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.The Chaplain is a vital member of every Naval unit. A unique and remarkable position of being "friend and adviser to all" irrespective rank, and a voice for those of any faith, or those with none.

Photograph: from left to right:

The Reverend Alastair Mansfield RN, Royal Naval Air Station, Culdrose

The Reverend Ralph Barber RN, Seagoing: Portsmouth Flotilla.

The Reverend Simon Springett RN, Commando Training Centre, Royal Marines

The Reverend Martin Evans RN, Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton

The Reverend Andrew Corness RN, Seagoing: Portsmouth Flotilla.

The Reverend Tom Pyke RNR, HMS PRESIDENT, London.




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