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The article doesn’t say who commissioned the Faststream report, but presumably the MoD. But hopefully having identified the key issue of pay, this will now be acted upon. Though with it only being completed in March it will still be some time before action will be taken, such is the nature of both bureaucracies and politics.

They say amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics. But you don’t need to be a former serviceman to appreciate how essential the RFA is to a functioning RN.

Last edited 11 days ago by Sean

They already knew pay was an issue without commissioning an expensive report. I’m convinced these reports are only commissioned to hand money to consultants to state the obvious that senior leadership should already be aware of as part of their day to day job. If they are not keeping up with industry trends and struggles they shouldn’t be in the job to begin with.


a) They may have already known, but often you need to have independent evidence of this to convince those higher-up the food chain to take action.
b) They may have known per se, but was it for all grades/ roles? How much was the pay difference? Is it just remuneration or is it also other issues – career development, holiday, pension etc.

Having an independent report means:
1) the issue is difficult to ignore
2) you known what needs to be done to resolve it.

In the grand scheme of things, this report will have cost peanuts, but may result in a serious deficiency being resolved.


The purpose of the report is likely to prove to the Treasury how serious the situation is and how urgent and cheap the solution would be.

Supportive Bloke

Exactly this.

It is a commercial rationalisation of the issue.

That is the way Treasury works…..the problem is……wring hands…….sharp intake of breath…..


I suspect this issue will be kicked down the road till after the election. The Government is going to be massively reluctant to allow any part of their workforce to have a pay rise to make their package more in line with the private sector. For the government it’s impossible to justify more pay for the RFA and not the NHS or education or social care or or or. Pigeons are coming home to roost.


Except NHS consultants nearly 20% last month, so exceptions in the public sector can be made. However the RFA is not high-profile to the general public, so less likely

Last edited 11 days ago by Sean

The average doctor isn’t expected to sail through the Bab-al-Mandab and get missiles shot at them. A bonus for the potential danger implicit in the job would not be transferable to other public sector workers.


I’m more optimistic and cynical. It would provide a good news story admittedly for a limited audience but at a miniscule price.


With the likely change in government I wonder if CSG25 will be changed to a series of High North deployments throughout the year. The new government could conveniently blame it all on the current government’s mismanagement of the RFA.
Potentially the RN/RAF would from their own retention prospective prefer 3/4 6week deployments to a 6/9 month trip to the middle/far east.


“RAF”? and there’s the nub of the problem.


Like almost every other area of the public sector, people are under pressure as the tasking and workload has increased without resources to match. 

Maybe if the public sector did not tried to create non necessary work to increase its power…just an idea…


The amount of inefficiency, red tape, jobs worth’s, bean counters, internal auditors, hr specialists, compliance specialists, separate diversity, equity and inclusion specialists that manage to find well paid non productive work in the public service is at an all time high. Public spending and the tax burden is at an all time high yet funding for front line services seems to be paper thin. The issue is the people spending the money rather than lack of money.


Whenever things go wrong, there are calls for more controls and more governance. Nobody is ever willing to say, this is an acceptable cost of doing business. Lessons always need to be learned in the form of extra arse-protecting effort in every case from that day forward.

Dave Wolfy

Try that in English please.
Throw in some IQ whilst you are at it.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

It is quite clear what he is saying.

I can’t remember seeing you here before. Or do you post here but use a different name?


Thanks Whale Island Zoo Keeper

@Dave Wolfy

Bureaucracy ultimate objective is never to fix a problem, it is to increase their power. So they create subordinate departments and “problems to supervise” to justify asking for an increase budget, that justifies an increase in high level managerial positions.
This is valid either for government and private companies. Private companies nevertheless have the counter force of profits to rein on that interminable growth.

Last edited 8 days ago by AlexS
Steven Alfred Rake

The whole recruitment fiasco for the RFA and the military in general is a joke. On the advert for the RFA it says you can enlist in the RFA from 18 to 99 well I am 61 an ex-serviceman and Fisherman I am not too bothered with the pay rates so put myself forward for a number of positions on the official RFA web site but never got a response back not even a thanks but no thanks. I believe that I am not alone as there are a number of people who have applied for positions in the RFA but just get blanked by the recruiter.


I applied for the RFA, as an apprentice rating in 2020, I was accepted and joined in early 22. I was 60 on joining. I am in, happy with the pay (I have a military pension), I would prefer a better work/life balance (3 on, 3 off); however, the food is good, I have access to the gym and so far, the RFA have catered for all my needs. I don’t need recognition, I don’t need promotion, and I am happy to ‘get on’ with it, I don’t mind going away, and I also don’t mind the cleaning and maintaining that goes with keeping a ship – ship shape!
Give it another go, Steven.. use the IM message facility to keep the pressure up, look for the address of the RFA at Whale Island, and keep on..

Steven Alfred Rake

Thanks for the heads up.


Whitehall appears to be the problem and dont want to even talk to the RFA about financial solutions. As we are about to enter the General Election period of purdah, where desks are cleared asap, policy will struggle to be pushed through, who is going to make a decision in the middle of a campaign for election for the little known RFA.

Also, how are they going to train the mass of people they need to recruit, when there are so few ships at sea doing the job. Cabins are limited, people available to train are limited as they have the day job onboard. You can’t parachute in a body and expect them to be trained by the ships company from scratch anymore, the ships are at TSOC Base Manning.

WHITEHALL needs to decide, do they want the RFA, then hopefully fund its survival and rebuilding.
The Royal Navy need to decide do they need the RFA and are they going to help fight for it and HELP the transformation to a modern working environment.
Otherwise, whats going to happen? kick the can down the road again, give it to Serco and waste more money while losing more industry skills.

Lastly, I believe that the RFA currently has no leader, as Cdre David Eagles has left (after much hard work on a difficult appointment) without a relief.
Truly reflective of the state of the RFA!


That is a conversation in itself !

Who knows what difference that makes. The Cdre had very little resource to make changes, mainly the control of manpower, but thats not gone well and mainly due to being Whitehall led.

Let’s hope the new appointment is the correct solution to help the RFA.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

It was a stupid decision. I don’t think the MoD(N) understood what they did.


They did . Just read the application pack for the position

very first sentence says ” Hybrid role , only 3 days per week at the office base”
Civil service has their priorities first

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

A uniformed service needs a uniformed head.


You would hope King Charles ‘black spider’ memos are coming fast for ‘his’ Fleet Auxiliary

David Graham

One has to wonder how replacing the uniformed head of the RFA is going to help.

I started my seagoing career in the RFA as a Deck Apprentice joining my first ship [RFA Fort Dunvegan] in Chatham in September 1958. The then Admiralty ran the RFA as a government owned shipping line [our ultimate boss was the Director of Stores] and back then we had terms and conditions on a par with the best of commercial shipping lines. Having been on the other side of the grey funnel fence since the early 70s, I have watched the steady decline of the RFA with great sadness.

For some civil servant to suggest that RFA personnel “don’t serve” is an ignorant and arrogant assumption and an insult to all who served during Corporate and successive operations in harms way up to the present day.

These people should be ashamed to have allowed this situation to develop.


Admittedly only from reading between the lines. The RN is not the obstacle on this issue. The problem is the Treasury. Hopefully having an Admirals son as chancellor will get a decision sooner than later. But time will tell.

stephen ball

Just heard the chief economist at the BOE thinks uncontrolled migrants aren’t too great with the housing crisis.

well never


Not just the Treasury.. it has been the politicians. For the last 30 years they have followed the US with a bombs and sanctions foreign policy believing that their Rules Based Order (their rules and their rules only, which they can change to suit their next bombing) was the way to peaceful global community. Add the fact that the politicians and their handlers thought we be forming component (heavy air lift, strategic carrier reach, teeth infantry and good military logistics) of the eu defence force and wouldn’t need all the self-sustaining military capability of old that Brexit put lie to (and I suspect Starmer will over turn)..


“the fact that the politicians and their handlers”

Their ‘handlers’?… Do you mean the Illuminati, Reptilian Aliens from Andromeda, or some other imaginary foe?


I served in the RFA from 1975-86 and even then we were getting screwed over on allowances that we were entitled to and although falling under the Merchant Navy we were treated as second class citizens. I’m sorry to see the RFA in decline but the blame lies solely with the MOD.


This felt almost too depressing to read



Simon Conran

Agreed. So different in our day. How can it fall so fast?

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

The RFA has always been treated badly.

If the UK government wants to operate carriers it needs a logistics train.

Society is such that most able to join ‘services’ aren’t inclined to do so for a whole plethora of reasons.

What will keep the RFA extant is that it part of government and like most entities the main purpose is to keep itself going. It will limp along in some form.


The irony which is a complete antithesis of what the MoD and RN talk about is that nobody is responsible and nobody is accountable – two areas which are intrinsically linked. The knowledge and skills gap on the ships is now so great recovering is going to be a major challenge even if the volume of trainees needed could be achieved.

That final link between the merchant marine and the Royal Navy is slowly perishing away. As Lord Chatfield pointed out in his report to the admiralty on the state of the merchant service he found people with MN cap badges reversed – Not Wanted – being the insinuation. Sadly they were proved right.

In a latest twist RFA personnel have been told by the personnel organisation that they do not serve. A hard one to explain to those sailors on Cardigan Bay off the coast of Gaza.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

comment image

Supportive Bloke

That photo was on my office wall for many years.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

One of many striking images from that war.


Saw her as a boy when she arrived in the Tyne for rebuilding, it made very real the horror of war.

stephen ball

Just looking at shipping here in the UK it looks dire.

Unregulated competition and the growth of Flags of Convenience over the last 30 years have seen UK seafarers in the merchant navy steadily replaced by non-UK seafarers, on lower rates of pay. In the early 1980s there were 30,000 UK ratings in the Merchant Navy. We were down to 8,830 by June 2015 and this does not account for the job losses and social dumping on Offshore Supply Vessels in the North Sea since then.
Overall 50% of UK ratings today are aged over 40 years but that figure rises dramatically in deck and engine to 74% and 76% respectively. 66% of General Purpose ratings are aged over 40 years. The overall figure is driven down by Catering & Hotel/OBS ratings, only 38% are aged 40 or over and they account for over half of all UK ratings.

Save Our Seafarers – SOS 2020 – rmt
Don’t really like some of RMT policy’s with rail.

Last edited 11 days ago by stephen ball

To give the Tory’s credit after 14 years in power they have brought a level of consistency to all public services that we have not seen before. If someone can name a public service that is well run and adequately resourced please can someone tell me.
There are no excuses for this because the costs of running the RFA are peanuts and it has provided up until recently the second most capable afloat support behind the huge resources of the USN.


It is not the Tories, it is your culture.
Edit: or better saying , the evolution of your culture.

Last edited 11 days ago by AlexS
stephen ball

Where do you reside?

Every culture goes up and down.
eg.. on the up you notice areas where focus is needed. etc funding here
on the down you will get skill fade. etc less funding here

I hope UK has the 3rd option, on the down notice how much the skill fade effect’s the overall picture and notice when funding at points in time is needed.


Portugal. We are even in worse state materially even allowing for size difference.
But there is an awareness’ that don’t exist in UK


The point i am making is that UK has biggest population ever, how there are no people to go to Navy, Army, AF that are on lowest size levels in last 100 years?
It is cultural. You go to a journalist and he knows nothing of about defence.

stephen ball

A quick look says Portugal spends 4billion euros which is a 1.4% of GDP.

Most of your big ships are old and need replacing, same goes for the Army.

Once Portugal reaches 2% of defence spending in 2030
Once 2% of GDP is allocated to Defence, this will become the basis from then on – XXIII Government – Portuguese Republic ( some of this funding is from the EU defence budget.
Portuguese foreign minister calls for boost in EU defence, enlargement budget – Euractiv

I think UK has a problem with equipment. Verse’s mass

If the cost of the equipment goes up = less mass overall.


Yes the only combat ships that we have that are modern are the submarines.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

A good few millions though are not Britons…….


watched parts of the most recent doco series on the RAF. Was bored silly yet I’m interested in such things-but not so much the footage on formal dinners! The target market doesnt seem to be recruitment demographic more the older crowd to show what they do on ‘front line’


At least we have culture here…


More like counter culture.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

It isn’t Labour or the Tories it is the British Political Class. A class of managers with no real world experience out to line their own nest whose only talent is kicking the can down the road in the hopes previous mistakes only come to light when they have foxtrot Oscar’d into retirement.

Simon Conran

I note that demand for Masters is strong, I therefore assume that supply is short.
My take on this, is that senior officers are often in a position where they have to make big time decisions. In days gone past, these decisions would be backed up by those in authority over the Master. Today, decisions are analysed ad nauseam by lawyers in the comfort of a court room, and often countermanded by these people.
Now, everything you do and say, you have to ask yourself, “will I have a leg to stand on in court if it turns out to be the wrong decision?”
Soon to come with ‘unconscious bias’, everything you think as well.
Hardly surprising, that in these circumstances, qualified people just don’t want to serve any more.


The credit for the Argus picture has been incorrectly labelled… it was taken from the Lyme Bay

Mark P

I know this is a far cry from what she is intended for but if RFA Argus is going to return to the UK later this year and is fully crewed, would it be possible to re task her to go as solid support ship for the CSG next year? Yes she will need a period of maintenance when she returns and yes solid supply’s would have to be cross decked via helicopter which is more expensive and crew would need additional training but this Swiss army knife of a ship might be able to step into Fort Victoria’s shoes couldn’t she?

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

No. Ships like the Forts are floating warehouses with a huge range of items carried, everything from beans to helicopter gearboxes and all sorts of stuff in between.


I think there are two things to be done rapidly.

1: Pay rise. RFA crew must not under-payed. Simple. Just do it. If rising basic pay is not easy, rising “at sea bonus” will be easy.

2: Remove all 3 Bay LSDs from RFA and move them to RN. Say, “to complement Bulwark”. This will required 70×3 = 210 more crew on RN, but will enable 2 Tides or FSSS to be manned.

In place, RN will disband 3 River B1s (so it is a 3-to-3 replacement), releasing 90 crew. In other words, 120 more crew will be needed in RN, which means one T31 will be in extended readiness. I think, better RFA fleet is much more important than “one more T31”.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Something has to give. Interesting thoughts there.


Pay more and recruit more people.

Most people in the UK don’t even know the RFA exists. How much is spent on advertising? Why Can’t pay go up another 10-15% with other civil service employees?

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Yes that is sort of obvious. I was saying more creative solutions could help address the problem along the lines of DoT’s suggestions.

Supportive Bloke

Put them onto higher existing grades.

Look at the equivalence of responsibility etc

So it is a regarding exercise and not a pay rise exercise – simples….


The biggest problem is the RFA doesn’t control its destiny. COMRFA has no power over Recruitment, Personnel or Training, that lies with the RN under People Delivery and run through the Civil Service. As for operational planning that is under COMOPS in Northwood and Afloat Support is run by another Admiral who to my knowledge has yet to visit an RFA or talk to the people in the front line. None of these Admirals or Civil Servants have an understanding of the RFA’s history or skill sets as professional mariners. None have a have any form of MCA qualification or understand what it takes to be at sea for a full career. The RFA needs to move away from the present operating model and take back control of it’s own destiny otherwise it will die. Priority should be to use manning agencies in the short term, look at this year’s pay rise to start clawing back the 34% pay drop over the past 20 years and work towards one of one on routines where possible. The most pressing thing however, is get to grips with stores and defect rectification. You cannot wait 18 months for spares. In addition ships need to be deployed to places around the world as this is vital to assist in recruiting and keeping moral positive.

David MacDonald

Back in my day, a very long time ago, the commanding officers RN ships enjoyed a good relationship with the masters of RFAs with which they were deployed and, to some extent, this was true of the officers too. So it would have been inconceivable for an Admiral not to know quite a lot about RFAs. Is this really no longer so?

David Graham

You are absolutely correct. My first long term spell in the FES was in 1961. My boss and the Masters of Fort Charlotte and Fort Dunvegan were friends of the CO of HMS Belfast and FO2 FES [Admiral Le Fanu at the time]. I was promoted during my apprenticeship and went from Resurgent to 3/O of Fort Charlotte as a result of these friendships. The RFA needs to be returned to the way it was run by the then Admiralty as a government owned shipping line. That meant being run by people who understood all the implications of just that. I also wonder if it might be better if RFA personnel were not civil servants. Back in the day there were a fair number of officers who were not “on contract”, often radio officers on freighting tankers [Marconi] and some engineers.


David, RFA Masters do generally get on well with RN CO’s when Deployed however we spend so little time deployed. Look at where the Tides operate, the last three years have seen Tides on the South coast, North Sea and Norwegian Sea. These the navy calls deployments which generally only last a few weeks. They are not deployments. Unless you go to Argus or an LSDA you have to hope you are lucky enough to get a CSG global. Look at the last one with Tidespring and Fort Vic. All visits bar two were cancelled due to Covid. Probably did more damage than good for recruitment. Trips to the Windies and South Atlantic have all gone. Only LSG or the Persian gulf is left!

David Graham

Agreed. Kid on deployments, really. You and I remember Home/Med/Far East commissions of 26-30 months. In the RFA it was not uncommon to spend 2 years in the FES. That was seafaring and was what one expected. As a result I visited Japan, OZ, Hong Kong etc. which was a great experience for a twenty year old.

It stood me in good stead in later life in both the RN and in my final twenty years Running various fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance projects in the Falklands, West Africa, Yemen and Indonesia.

I cannot see the current generation as people willing to be proper seafarers; too much like hard work!


Time to punish all those respinsible.


Defence budget is too small to manage the limited force we currently allegedly operate. The only answer if we are serious about responding to the heightened threat is for the Treasury to shut up and just write the cheques. We can have an esoteric conversation about percentages of GDP spent on defence later. Right now we just have to stem the bleeding. Being weaker 2 years after a threat has increased is a failure of policy.


In the context of the MOD budget the actual money for an uplift in RFA pay is not a big issue. The problem is political belligerence around ‘wage restraint’ and is currently seen across many sectors.

Politicians are rightly concerned not to create an ‘inflationary death spiral’ but they push too far the other way.