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Graduate submariner makes history

Portsmouth graduate Penny Thackray

A University of Portsmouth graduate has made history by becoming one of the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy.

Penny Thackray, who studied a postgraduate course in training management and consultancy, has recently earned her ‘Dolphins.’ These are awarded to every submariner who finishes their training and are considered a badge of honour.

It comes after months of rigorous training, which included conducting operations on submarine HMS Vigilant and a robust examination programme. She also had to learn how a nuclear reactor functions, which involved tracing all the systems onboard and learning how each works.

Now a training manager, Penny is responsible for the education needs of the whole submarine flotilla split between Plymouth and Faslane. Future roles will see Penny joining boats on deployment all around the world, carrying out training design, procurement, and quality assurance roles.

She said: “Portsmouth was a fantastic place to study and some of the course modules were invaluable in my training. I’m so proud to have been awarded this honour, and I hope to continue my success by returning to Portsmouth for my Masters.”

The badge was awarded to two other women at the same time, Maxine Stiles and Alex Olsson, making them the first women to receive the honour in the 110 year history of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service.

Women have been allowed to serve at sea for twenty years, but until December 2011 were barred from serving on submarines. This was due to concerns about the build up of carbon dioxide and its effects on women. However, research showed that these fears were unfounded, and that there were no medical reasons why women should be excluded, except if they are pregnant.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond commended the women, calling it a huge personal achievement and an important step towards making the armed forces more representative of society.

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