Scottish Mum Becomes Oldest Navy Recruit


36 year old mother of one has become the oldest female recruit to join the Royal Navy, fulfilling an ambition she has harboured for 20 years.

Tracy Philip, from Grangemouth in Scotland, joined the service this April, beginning an eight week intensive course that turned her from a civilian into a sailor. She originally dreamed of joining the service when she was 15 but had to put aside her ambitions when she became pregnant.

Tracy explained:

"A couple of my friends had joined up. I've always been a get up and go sort of person and I wanted the buzz of being part of such a big thing. I was ready to go to the careers office when I found out I was pregnant."

Concentrating on bringing up and providing for her daughter, Claire Louise, she started work just three months after Claire was born. After spending seven years working in a bakery, Tracy worked her way up to be a manager and followed this with 11 years in the hotel trade, becoming part of the management team. She originally left school with no qualifications.

Tracy married twice, but finding herself single again and with Claire now an independent young woman of 19, Tracy discovered she still had a chance to fulfil her dream of joining the Navy.

"Two really good friends of mine who were submariners told me that the Navy had extended the upper age limit of new recruits to 37," she said. "I rushed down to the careers office in Glasgow on the day of my 36th birthday. I had a talk with one of the Careers Officers and the Navy opened their arms up to me and signed me up."

Four months later Tracy was on HMS Raleigh with 28 fellow male and female recruits. The course might seem gruelling for a 36 year old; especially when the average age of your fellow recruits is 18. The day starts at 5.45am and finishes at 10.30pm. Recruits have to complete many challenging tasks including obstacle and assault courses, a 2.4km run, and learn how to firefight and fire a SA80 rifle. Leave is limited to five hours on the Saturday of week seven!

Tracy admits she was apprehensive.

"I've always had a young attitude, but did think 'how am I going to fit in with all the young adults'? I attended a Navy acquaint course before I joined up which certainly helped. Within an hour there I felt part of the team and I was relieved to find the same thing happened at Raleigh.

"My class are great. They do listen and respect me, but we also have a laugh. There have been occasions when I've missed talking to people of my own age, but my instructors have been brilliant and have been there for a chat if I needed support."

Tracy was in continuous contact with Claire throughout her training, but was delighted to see her again along with her parents at her passing out parade. Tracy was presented with a trophy as the top recruit for her entry. Seeing her mum in her naval uniform was an emotional occasion for Claire:

"I am so proud of her and knew she could do it," said Claire. "I think she looks great in her uniform and it really suits her."

Tracy has now returned to HMS Raleigh, where she is undergoing professional training as a Royal Navy Steward, after which she could be deployed anywhere in the world. Having been given a second chance she is determined to make the most of her opportunities.

"I've signed on for the full 22 years and at my age I need to set my sights high. I would like to be a Petty Officer by the age off 45.

"I have always wanted something more out of my life than just sitting in my house and with itchy feet the Navy will give me the chance to travel. Training so far has been great. It has just been getting better and better and although I have no regrets about anything I have done in my life I really think that being in the Navy is just made for me."


Good for her I say!

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