A ROYAL Navy Warrant Officer is set to retire from the Senior Service after a career that is thought to be one of the longest in modern times.
Warrant Officer 2 Allan Mason (68), affectionately known as “Perry”, has notched-up a staggering 52-and-a-half years in regular service, 40 of them on board or in support of the Submarine Service.
On February 12 the Marine Engineer from Lincolnshire will finally hang-up his overalls for good, but before then there was a poignant farewell to a major part of his life – submarines.
Perry, who served with submarines HMS Valiant, Sceptre, Sovereign, Splendid and Torbay during his lengthy career, stepped-off a submarine alongside HM Naval Base Clyde for the final time on Friday, December 18.
“What I will miss the most is the everyday challenge and the people,” said Perry. “It has been a genuine privilege to serve on submarines and to work with a tight-knit team who are focussed on the same goals – getting boats to sea.”
Joining the Royal Navy in 1968 aged just 15-and-a-half, Perry began his career as a Junior Marine Engineer Mechanic (Stoker). His first draft was to the World War Two era ship HMS Ulster – a U-Class destroyer converted to a Type 15 frigate. This was followed by service on HMS Leopard, a Type 14 frigate, and HMS Llandaff.
“HMS Ulster was used as a navigation training ship then so there were some great opportunities to sail all around the UK coast,” recalled Perry. “As a Junior Stoker I had to do external and internal boiler cleans and make sure that tubes were cleaned. The ship used a fuel oil that was like treacle so it was a pretty dirty job.
“In those days everyone lined-up on deck on payday and we were all paid in cash. I spent 18-months on HMS Ulster and during that time ‘Black Tot Day’ happened – the last time that the daily tot of rum was issued to sailors. I wasn’t old enough to have the tot at the time but I remember there were a few grieving crew members on board.”
Perry later spent time at HMS Sultan, where he was awarded the Institute of Nuclear Engineers’ HMS Sultan Prize, and then joined HMS Dolphin in 1981 where he undertook his initial submarine training. This was followed by nuclear training and assignment to the Third Submarine Squadron and HMS Valiant. After further training and time at sea, Perry eventually qualified as a Category A2 Nuclear Watchkeeper or Chief of Watch, before serving time on board various Swiftsure Class submarines and with HMS Torbay.
In-between service at sea, he has also spent a considerable amount of time at HM Naval Base Clyde, the Home of the UK Submarine Service. The Engineer is a familiar site, usually to be found in overalls down a Reactor Compartment, in a bilge, or heading to his next job within the Naval Base.
The depth of Perry’s knowledge and experience is something which will be sorely missed at the Naval Base.
As well as plaudits from his colleagues at Faslane, Perry also received a specially recorded message by the professional head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin CB ADC who thanked both Perry and his family for their service.
Perry was also quick to thank his wife and daughter for their support over his career.
During his distinguished career he has been awarded the Iraq Medal, the Operational Service Medal for Operation Veritas, Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals, the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM), his Long Service and Good Conduct badge with three clasps, and has become a member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Although records begin to get sketchy past a certain point, it is thought that Warrant Officer Mason’s career is one of the longest in modern times. Both Lord Mountbatten and Admiral Keyes served some 52 years, while Admiral Fisher, who was recalled from retirement, served for 59 years. It is also believed that some Royal Navy Ratings kept on active service during the World Wars also approached Perry’s length of Service.
Perry’s achievement of 52-and-a-half years however is one which is incredibly rare and even more remarkable for most of it having been spent beneath the waves.
“If anyone is thinking of joining the Submarine Service then I would say to them to go for it. You will never work anywhere else quite like it. Every day will be a challenge and the people you work with will be first-class.
“A submarine is an amazing, unique, vessel and the only comparison would be to the space shuttle.
“I have been very lucky to have had the travel opportunities which I’ve had, first in General Service where I got to travel all over the world, and then in the Submarine Service where I got to do it again, except this time underwater!”