South West Royal Naval Reservists reunite in Bahrain


Hot on the heels of four South West Navy Reservists reuniting and sharing their experiences in Bahrain, HMS Flying Fox in Bristol is opening its doors to the public to demonstrate the role of the Royal Naval Reserves (RNR).

The ‘RNR Live’ open day on Saturday 10 May is designed to encourage people to think about become a Reservist in their spare time and achieve skills that also benefit everyday life. More than 2,300 men and women currently serve as Reservists in the Royal Navy, alongside their normal day job and most have no previous military experience when joining.

The four Reservists from Bristol, Gloucestershire and Somerset met at the Bahrain naval base recently, where they shared their experiences and reflected on life as a Reservist.

Lt Ian Woodward, Lt Richard Burdett, Lt Cdr Rod Drake, Lt Tony Gilbert.

Left to right: Lt Ian Woodward, Lt Richard Burdett, Lt Cdr Rod Drake and Lt Tony Gilbert.

Lieutenant Commander Rod Drake (52), from Dursley, is a chartered engineer by profession. He has been in the RNR for nearly 30 years, recently taking a full-time post in the NATO Shipping Centre. Rod has seen service across the globe including a recent tour in Afghanistan and recently flew out for a joint civil-military maritime trade exercise called ‘Exercise Lucky Mariner’, together with Lieutenant Richard Burdett (41).  Rod said:

“This has been a good exercise for us; we’ve had the opportunity to work with both the US Navy and the merchant industry. The skills and techniques we’ve practise here are essential for keeping the sea lanes open for trade.”

Richard, from Butleigh in Somerset, joined the Royal Navy in 1997 and the RNR in 2009. In the Maritime Trade Operations branch, he is currently the Recruiting Officer for HMS Flying Fox in Bristol. Richard said:

“Back at home I work with new people who will get the chance to get out on trips such as this. Recruiting for the RNR has made me think about why I joined, and it comes down to finding the opportunities it offers rewarding. Sometimes it’s the challenges it presents, sometimes the job at hand, and often it’s just the people you meet.

“Being a Reservist not only brings a huge range of personal and professional rewards that also bring benefits to civilian roles, but it also offers unique experiences, adventures and long term friendships.”

Lieutenant Tony Gilbert (41), from Bristol, is in the middle of a six-month tour of Bahrain, working in the Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters. He said:

“The work in Combined Maritime Force is professionally challenging and it’s interesting to work alongside so many nations, but it’s always good to see a friendly face from home.”

While out in Bahrain, the three colleagues also met Lieutenant Ian Woodward (26) who has taken a professional sabbatical from the Bristol Albion Chambers. Ian is also on a six-month tour of duty with the UK Maritime Battle Staff who are currently commanding Combined Task Force 150. The US led naval presence in the Gulf has a large international component, including a significant presence from the Royal Navy. Ian said:

“Back in the UK I was involved in recruiting and training and preparing people for deployments – now I’m doing this for real myself. It is the best adventure so far in my time in the Reserves and it’s a fantastic experience to be working right alongside my regular counterparts.”

Jobs within the Royal Naval Reserve are varied, whether they are on shore or at sea. They can include: logistics, intelligence, diving, mine warfare, information systems, submarine operations, maritime trade operations, communications, nursing, and media operations.

Those attending the open day on 10 May will have the opportunity to find out more about life as a part time Reservist by meeting serving Reservists, taking part in physical and mental challenges and activities involving practical leadership, basic weapon skills, sea survival and damage control. They will be able to see what life will be like if they succeed in the entry process.

The RNR open day will take place at HMS Flying Fox Naval Reserve base, Winterstoke Road, between 10am and 1pm on Saturday 10 May. For more details, or to register to attend the event, call 08456 00 32 22 or 0117 966 8667. Alternatively, visit

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