Farewell to the submarine that took Rugby out to sea

HMS Tireless in the Indian Ocean searching for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Wire PPP-140104-192748001
HMS Tireless in the Indian Ocean searching for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Wire PPP-140104-192748001

A Royal Navy submarine with links to Rugby has come home for the last time last night before decommissioning after nearly 30 years of service.

A crowd of about 50 gathered on the jetty at Devonport, Plymouth to welcome home their relatives and friends on board the longest serving nuclear-powered hunter killer submarine in the Royal Navy. A link between the vessel and Rugby was established through English Electric, which produced steam turbines for submarines from its Rugby factory.

The submarine spent time in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere largely east of Suez, with her deployment included a search for the missing Malaysian airliner Flight MH370.

Commanding Officer Commander Hywel Griffiths said: “It is with immense pride that I bring HMS Tireless into Plymouth for the final time. Although a sad day, Tireless has achieved much in her nearly 30-year career.

“Our recent involvement in the search for Malaysian Flight MH370 is testament to her valued contribution right up until the end of her distinguished Service at the frontline of naval operations. She gives way now to the modern and world-beating capability represented by the Astute Class; she will be replaced in the Naval arsenal by HMS Artful.”

HMS Tireless originally operated as one of the Cold War warriors, out of sight and mind as she deployed for long, secret and often dangerous missions out into the Atlantic patrolling for months at a time searching for and stalking her enemies.

Renowned for her stealth and many successes she enjoys a strong reputation to this day, as demonstrated by recently completing the first deployment by a Royal Navy nuclear powered submarine to Australia in seven years after assisting in the search for the airliner.

Whilst the final entry through Plymouth Sound was a sad occasion for many, it will also bring to a close a period during which the submarine has been out of her home port for most of the last 11 months, and brings a welcome return home for many families.

Leading Seaman Nick Ingledew, 25, said: “I joined Tireless at the age of 18 in September 2006 as a trainee submariner and since joining I have now clocked just over 1,200 sea days sailing on her. These have included a deployment under the ice to the North Pole, two East of Suez deployments, Mediterranean deployment, submarine command courses and taken part in a number of varied operations.

“I have enjoyed some great trips ashore including Goa, Dubai, Gibraltar and Perth. Sailing up river for the last time as the final Scratcher on Tireless is a moment of mixed emotions, one of happiness at the seeing my wife Tanita and daughter Chloe again - but also one of great sadness as this will be the end of a big chapter of my life that was Tireless. It has been an honour and given me great pride to serve on Tireless for the last 8 years. She has always been a happy boat and will be missed by all who have served on her.”

Having been in Service since 1985, there are generations of submariners who have served in HMS Tireless, indeed some who have only ever been on HMS Tireless.

Petty Officer Dave Helyer, a radio supervisor, joined HMS Tireless as an able seaman in 2003 and has since risen through the ranks. He said: “I’ve enjoyed a number of deployments including two under ice deployments, East of Suez deployments and various Atlantic patrols. On joining Tireless as an able rating, I’ve been able to progress to petty officer and, now in charge of the communications department onboard, this has only been possible due to the support and training I have received from the boat. Tireless is known for its professional approach to operations and it gives me great pride to have been able to serve on her for so many years. It is a sad day to bring her back to Plymouth for the last time - but it has provided me with many happy memories that I will never forget. I’m looking forward to spending time with my girlfriend and new-born son.”

Petty Officer Mike Hyde works in the sonar department. He said: “I have served on HMS Tireless for eleven consecutive years, from AB1, rising to petty officer. It has been an honour to serve on one of the most capable anti-submarine warfare platforms in the world. The professionalism and dedication of the countless members of the ship’s company I have served with is a credit to the Royal Navy Submarine Service. As a sonar operator and now underwater communicator, Tireless has taken me to the UK, Europe, the Gulf, India and as far as Australia. I have made friends for life on Tireless and sadly lost some very good shipmates as well. So it is with immense pride, tinged with sadness, that I sail into Devonport with Tireless on her final voyage before she decommissions.”

Below is a summary of the submarine’s career highlights, although for the majority of her commission Tireless was employed on secret operations:

1984 – Launched

1985 – Commissioned

1991 – Surface at North Pole

2004 – Surface at North Pole

2006 – Surface at North Pole

2010-2011 – Ten-month deployment, the longest continuous deployment by UK fleet submarine (up to that date)

2014 – East of Suez deployment including search for MH 370