Cadets commissioned as Royal Navy officers on parade before family and friends

Midshipmen Nathan Merrison-Fletcher, Jacob Cuddeford and Simon Williams, from Bedford, commissioned as Royal Navy officers. Picture: Craig Keating.
Midshipmen Nathan Merrison-Fletcher, Jacob Cuddeford and Simon Williams, from Bedford, commissioned as Royal Navy officers. Picture: Craig Keating.

Three cadets from Bedford have celebrated their formal commissioning as Royal Navy Officers on parade at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC).

Midshipmen Simon Williams, Nathan Merrison-Fletcher and Jacob Cuddeford were among 120 officer cadets who took part in the parade, watched by their families, friends and distinguished guests, including Vice Admiral Ian Corder, UK military representative to NATO and the European Union, who was the VIP inspecting officer.

The three midshipmen completed a 30-week training course, which was split into three distinct 10 week phases. While the course mainly takes place at the college in Dartmouth, the training includes a three weeks assigned to HMS Bulwark operating in UK waters.

Simon, 25, who attended Bedford Modern School and Loughborough University gaining a degree in architectural engineering, worked as a design engineer on the Crossrail Project.

He said: “I was inspired to join the Royal Navy from stories my grandfather, an ex-Royal Navy pilot told. I also wanted to be proud of myself and escape my previous life confined to an office.

Before joining I believed I had a high level of standard and patience for ironing. I quickly realised I was totally wrong. Equally I thought I had resilience to the cold, but being shoulder deep in water in December proved I wasn’t. The training has strengthened me physically and mentally, but also taught me a great deal. While I can do press-ups and iron to perfection, I conversely now have an

unprecedented knowledge of naval history and world politics. I aim to become a training manager

which is essentially providing education to naval personnel while at sea. The appeal of this is to see the world but also serve briefly on many ships, rather than one ship for an extended period of time.”

Jacob, 25, a former pupil of Mark Rutherford Upper School, graduated from the University of Leicester with a degree in general engineering. Since then he has been working as an IT operations analyst. He said: “Training at Dartmouth has been immensely challenging and rewarding. At times it seemed like it would never end, however I’m now delighted to be passing out and looking forward to contributing to the incredible work that the Royal Navy does around the world.”

Nathan’s first taste of the service came as a member of the Bedford Sea Cadet Unit.

The 20-year-old, who attended Harlington Upper School, said: “I’ve always wanted to be in the military. I had a good time and learned many skills in the sea cadets and because of the affiliation the organisation has with the Royal Navy, I realised it was the best service for all the sports and adventurous training I love. Now having overcome major struggles through the snow on Dartmoor for a week, the physical training from the Royal Marines PT staff and various leadership assessments, I have created some of the best and worst memories I will have in my life. I have enjoyed my time here at BRNC and am looking forward to starting my career as a warfare officer in the fleet.”

With the first phase of their training complete, Simon and Jacob will transfer to HMS Nelson in Hampshire for their professional training, while Nathan will remain at BRNC to begin his professional course.

The Royal Navy’s initial naval training course for officers is underpinned by nine core maritime skills that are the foundations of naval life and essential to operational effectiveness. It involves maritime training on the River Dart and also uses the rugged environment of Dartmoor to teach the cadets how to operate and lead in the field.

The course is progressive and designed to ensure that the cadets are equipped to undertake assignments both at sea and on land, working jointly with other parts of the UK Armed Forces and in partnership with other nations.

Fitness training is delivered using a disciplined method of military fitness, which focuses on developing co-ordination and individual physical strength and endurance. Command, leadership and management training is a constant thread throughout the course with an emphasis on coaching, mentoring and development activities.