A career in Royal Navy Communications

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Jane is an operator mechanic (communications) in the Royal Navy. Jane has to learn how to communicate with other ships using flags and lights as well as telecommunications.

What does your work involve?

I work in a communications office, which can be based either on a ship or on shore. I send and receive messages sitting at a computer terminal. When a message comes in I read it to see if it needs printing, then I have to make sure that the right people get the information. I take copies round the building or round the ship to the people who need to see them.

My job also involves putting the radio circuits together on the control panels. I check that I can hear the right tone to make sure that we have a good signal. If there is a problem with communications I check the circuits to see what's wrong.

What sort of information do you send and receive?

It may be routine business like a list of people who are going on a training course, or something very serious such as a bereavement in someone's family back home. I don't always know what the signals are about as sensitive information is encrypted in code. Signals have different levels of priority according to how important they are. This determines how quickly the signal needs to be sent. This is all authorised by an officer.

How long have you been working on ships?

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For about three months. I am usually on board for two weeks at a time. I'm back at work now after maternity leave, doing a shore-based job, but I will go back on a ship in the future.

What other communication methods do you use?

I can signal with Morse code, using flashing lights. It took a bit of practice at first. We also use flags to communicate with other ships. It can be hard work running flags up in high winds.

What other skills have you learnt?

In my initial training I was taught skills that I need on a ship, like tying knots, throwing ropes and how to handle an anchor cable. We all have to do weapon training too. When the ship is in a foreign port we have to take turns on duty as the ships armed guard.

What about life on board ship?

Last time, I was one of 20 women out of a crew of about 100, but there was a separate female living area in our mess deck. It's good being able to live and work with your friends.

Do you miss your family and friends?

That's one of the hard bits of being at sea though everyone on board is in the same position and we can use email. My partner's in the Navy too and we have a baby son. The Navy will try to make sure that only one of us is at sea at a time.

Jane's tips

  • You may be homesick at first, so try to make friends from the beginning.
  • Try to get fit before you join.

Starting a career in Royal Navy Communications

  • After basic training, professional training includes establishing communications circuits and the operation of cryptographic equipment (which turns information into code). You are also taught the routine maintenance of vital electronic equipment.
  • Completion of the course includes the award of NVQ Level 2 in Engineering and NVQ Level 2 in Telecommunications.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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