Reserve Forces and Cadets Association
for North of England

North East Naval Officer Retires After 5 Decades of Service

Corbridge-based Royal Navy Officer Ian White is retiring from the Senior Service after an extremely successful career spanning five decades in which he has served with the Cadet Forces and the Royal Navy as a Regular and Reservist Officer.

Commander Ian White (57) was born and educated in the North East and starting his connection with the Royal Navy as a member of the Cadet Forces. He then joined HMS Calliope, the Royal Naval Reserve Training Unit based on the Gateshead Quayside, as a Naval Reservist. Ian said: “My initial experience in the Cadet Forces and the Royal Naval Reserves gave me an excellent grounding for my subsequent career – apart from my Naval Training, I gained some extremely valuable life skills, such as team working and stepping up as a leader, which has served me well in my military and civilian life.”

Ian was accepted into the Royal Navy in 1979 as a University Cadet – which gave him the best of both worlds. He was a member of the Royal Navy but also a university student, which meant that he was paid by the Royal Navy to complete his formal education at Newcastle University. Ian added that: “As a modern, forward thinking organisation, the Royal Navy recognises the importance of a solid, rounded education. However, shortly after I graduated from University, the Royal Navy promptly got a return on their investment by sending me down to the Falklands in 1982, just after the conflict had ended in one of their destroyers. This was my very first experience of real world military operations and as a young officer, it helped bring home the importance and relevance of my Naval Training.”

After completing his professional Royal Navy training, Ian specialised as a submariner and gained the coveted “Dolphins” – the badge of honour that is only awarded to Royal Navy Submariners. He served in a range of nuclear submarines and his longest patrol involved him and his team staying underwater for almost three months!

Following a very successful Royal Navy career, he transferred across to the Reserves giving him the best of both worlds. In his “Civilian” life, Ian worked in the Commercial sector, initially starting with a large company but then branching out to develop his own company which provides employment for over 250 people. As a Reserve Officer, he has continued his Naval Career, supporting the Royal Navy and its reserves in the North East and Nationally across the UK.

Ian’s Naval career culminated in his appointment as the Commanding Officer (CO) of HMS Calliope – the top Naval Reserve job in our region. As HMS Calliope’s CO he played a key role in “Project Tyneside”, which saw the Royal Navy provide considerable investment in improving the facilities of the unit to better support its Reservists, recruiting staff, patrol boats and university cadets in the North East. A key role of HMS Calliope is to prepare and equip the Naval Reservists from the North East to work with and support the UK’s Armed Forces on exercises and live operations at home and overseas. He has also helped to build strong links between the Royal Navy and local businesses and organisations.

On the eve of his retirement, Ian added: “I am extremely proud of my long association with the Royal Navy in our region. We have seen a lot of change over the years – in particularly with the way we are making increasing use of our Naval Reservists, so it is important that we equip them with the skills and capabilities to serve their country. However, we also mustn’t forget our region’s proud Naval Heritage. For example, just across the water from my office at HMS Calliope, I could see the birth place of Admiral Collingwood, who was Lord Nelson’s deputy at the Battle of Trafalgar and a real Naval Hero and a source of inspiration to today’s modern navy.”

Commander Ian White RNR small