University Royal Naval Unit

A University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) is a Royal Navy training establishment connected to a university, or a number of universities concentrated in one area. There are 15 URNUs nationwide in the UK, and each URNU has land-based facilities near the university in question, up to four training officers (members of the Royal Naval Reserve) and, with the exception of Devon, a dedicated training vessel (an Archer-class P2000 fast patrol boat).[1]

Units and ships

Glasgow & Strathclyde
Manchester and Salford
Meeting Places, University Royal Navy Units
Unit Date EstablishedShipHome Port Unit Location
Edinburgh 1968ArcherLeith Hepburn House, Edinburgh
Glasgow & Strathclyde 1972PursuerHMNB Clyde Glasgow University
Liverpool 1972ChargerLiverpool Headquarters Naval Regional Command Northern England
Southampton 1972BlazerHMNB Portsmouth National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
Birmingham 1984ExploitHMNB Portsmouth HMS Forward
London 1985PuncherHMNB Portsmouth HMS President
Bristol 1986DasherHMNB Devonport HMS Flying Fox
Manchester & Salford 1986BiterLiverpool University Barracks, Manchester
Sussex 1990RangerHMNB Portsmouth University of Brighton
Cambridge 1994TrumpeterIpswich Cambridge
Northumbria 1994ExampleHMS Calliope, Gateshead HMS Calliope
Oxford 1994SmiterHMNB Portsmouth Falklands House, Oxford
Wales 1994ExpressPenarth Marina, Cardiff HMS Cambria
Yorkshire 1994ExplorerKingston-upon-Hull HMS Ceres
Devon 2017 N/A HMNB Devonport HMS Vivid

URNU ships are part of the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron, or "1PBS". 1PBS is commanded by Commander 1PBS, who previously was also Commander URNU (however Commander Universities is now a separate post). The mission statement of 1PBS is to provide high-quality sea training experiences in support of the URNU mission and to deliver P2000 operational capability in support of other fleet tasking.[2]

The most recently formed unit, Devon URNU was established in 2017, catering to universities across the region. The unit is the only URNU without a dedicated training vessel, but students are able to utilise available P2000s and other craft for training.[3] Devon was the first new unit formed since 1994.


While the URNUs are commanded by Commander URNU they fall under the overall jurisdiction of Captain BRNC (the officer-in-charge of the Britannia Royal Naval College), Dartmouth. Each URNU is commanded by a Lieutenant RN, Lieutenant Commander or RM Captain, and is associated with a P2000 patrol boat of the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron. Each URNU comprises 51 undergraduates who join for the duration of their degree, with the option of taking years out or leaving at any time.

Undergraduates join for three years, or in some cases the duration of their course. Members hold the rank of honorary Midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserve. A notable difference between this and other ranks in the Royal Navy is that there is no call-up liability and members may leave at any time.

During the first year URNU students wear URNU slides on their shoulders and are Officer Cadets (O/CDTS) and on completion of their first URNU taskbook they receive a white officer cadet tab in addition to the URNU slide. They can then be referred to as Midshipmen RNR(MID) and on completion of the second taskbook students will wear Midshipman rank slides and "turnbacks".

Each URNU has a Senior Midshipman (SMID) and Deputy Senior Midshipman (DSMID) with a committee made up of various roles which differ according to unit, but will generally include a treasurer and sports and adventurous training officers alongside other roles, and this committee will take leading role in programme planning and assist in the running of the Unit. The committee is supported by the unit CO and a Coxn, usually a full-time Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer (CPO) as well as a civilian secretary. Each unit also has capacity for up to four training officers, who may be ex-Navy, former URNU students, or civilians with relevant experience, who are appointed as Royal Naval Reserve officers (RNR).[4]

Training and Unit Life

Training focuses on leadership, navigation and seamanship, and this is put into practice during sea weekends, and longer deployments during the summer and Easter vacations. Drill nights also often include lessons on wider navy knowledge, drill practice, and visits from serving personnel and affiliated units as well as practical leadership tasks and team building. Units also frequently undertake visits to affiliated units and local training establishments to experience military life first hand. Training is assessed via successive taskbooks which must be signed off by members of the unit staff or P2000 ships company. Advancement in rank depends on completion of each taskbook.

There is also a significant and important social element to URNU life from formal mess dinners including the main naval formal event of the year, Trafalgar Night, to informal socialising in the unit's mess and dedicated socials which contribute to unit integration and may be coordinated by a dedicated social secretary.

There are sporting activities held within the URNU units, informal contests between the units and an annual sports weekend in Portsmouth between all units, organised by the losing unit from the previous year.

See also


  1. "University training | Royal Navy". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  2. "Patrol boats | Royal Navy". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  3. "Devon University Royal Naval Unit launched | Royal Navy". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  4. BR 3 (2) Chapter 25 - Volume 2 - The University Royal Navy Units. London: Royal Navy media office. 2016.
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