John takes command of his first submarine

Commander John Aitken, commanding officer of HMS Ralent.
Commander John Aitken, commanding officer of HMS Ralent.

A ROYAL Navy officer from south east Northumberland has taken command of his first submarine.

Commander John Aitken, from Holywell village, has been commissioned to the nuclear-powered HMS Talent.

He said: “It is a real privilege to be given command of one of Her Majesty’s submarines and I am hugely excited by the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

HMS Talent has a well-deserved reputation for getting the job done and a superb ship’s company.

“I look forward to leading my team and maintaining HMS Talent’s good name in whatever we are called to do.”

Commander Aitken was raised in Holywell village and attended Holywell First, Whytrig Middle, and Astley High schools before reading English at university in Birmingham.

He now lives in Plymouth with his wife Pippa and still follows Newcastle United and Newcastle Falcons.

A keen sportsman, he always keeps an eye out for his old rugby club Seghill RFC.

His parents still live in Holywell village.

Commander Aitken joined the Royal Navy in 1992 and qualified as a submariner in 1995.

Before joining HMS Talent, Commander Aitken served in other submarines and completed a number of operational patrols around the world.

His most recent appointment was a two-year exchange post with the United States Navy in Connecticut.

HMS Talent is the penultimate in her class of seven Trafalgar Class nuclear-powered submarines and was launched in Barrow-in-Furness in April 1998.

Since then she has undergone a full refit which included the refuelling of the nuclear reactor power plant and a new suite of sensors and weapons.

The submarine weighs 5,500 tons and is armed with torpedoes and Tomahawk missiles.

She has a crew of 130 and can remain submerged for up to three months at a time.

HMS Talent is currently undergoing a deep maintenance period in her base-port of Plymouth.

She will return to sea next year to conduct a work-up of her systems and crew before being ready to be potentially deployed anywhere in the world as dictated by government.