October 24th 2017

Simulating a nautical environment

Richard Cooke HMS Sherwood

Reservist Richard Cooke

A reservist from HMS Sherwood, the East Midlands’ only Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) unit, has embraced the opportunity to take part in a bridge simulator exercise that mimicked being at sea for real.

Leading Hand Richard Cooke, aged 30, who works as a Pastoral Manager in a Derbyshire Secondary School in his civilian career, took part in a two day exercise in September on the Royal Navy’s bridge simulator in Portsmouth, that allowed him to develop specialist navigational skills enabling him to respond to different sea-based situations, albeit in the safety of the training environment.

Bridge simulators are the Royal Navy’s equivalent of a flight simulator. It allows personnel to replicate the reality of the bridge of a Royal Navy warship at sea, and allows personnel to train in how to safely and successfully navigate around a variety of obstacles such as other boats or buoys as well as entering and exiting ports and harbours, which each have their own individual challenges.

Richard joined the RNR eight years ago, and has recently been promoted from an Able Seaman to Leading Hand, allowing him to take on a number of new responsibilities at HMS Sherwood such as leading those more junior than himself and organising training sessions where appropriate.

Richard Cooke during the Bridge Simulator exercise

Richard Cooke during the Bridge Simulator exercise

Richard explained: “It was a fantastic experience to use  navigational charts, or what you might call ‘maps of the sea’, to plot the locations of ships and effectively navigate  the simulator around a range of hazards as well as safely navigating the simulator in and out of port. In reality it would be my job to take the relevant information and pass it up the chain of command as needed.

“The photo-like graphics shown on the cinema-like screens inside the simulator are really realistic, often showing landmarks or other naval vessels you would recognise. It is actually easy to forget you are in a simulator environment at times as you become immersed in the environment surrounding you.

“I even felt like I was swaying around at times as even though the simulator itself does not move the screens recreate different sea and weather conditions, tricking your brain into believing you really are on the water.”

Richard’s specialism in the RNR is Maritime Trade Operations, meaning if mobilised he has to effectively understand the risks and issues affecting the maritime community operating in the region, such as issues effecting safe navigation, as well as working to prevent pirates or people traffickers operating in specific locations.

He continued: “This is not the first time I have been able to take part in simulator based training in Portsmouth, although I have learnt something new every time. The bridge simulator gives you a good understanding of life at sea, and allows everyone taking part to build their confidence and team-working skills which would obviously be drawn upon in an operational situation.”

Apart from experiencing the bridge simulator, Richard explained that another recent highlight of his RNR career was when he completed his leadership course as part of his promotion to Leading Hand. The course pushed Richard physically and mentally in order to develop and enhance Richard’s naval skills, confidence and leadership, in highly demanding situations, and in the face of adversity. Richard added that the course culminated in him operating in a disaster relief scenario where he was able to successfully demonstrate his new found skills and leadership.

He concluded: “Continuing my development in the RNR is really important to me. I hope to continue my leadership training in the future to be able to mentor others in developing their skills and overcoming any hurdles they may be experiencing.

“I’d recommend joining the RNR to anyone who wants a new challenge. I’ve made some great friends, had some once in a lifetime experiences thanks to the RNR and undertaken lots of different types of training which have given me loads of skills, some of which can be transferred in to my day job.”


“It was a fantastic experience to use navigational charts, or what you might call ‘maps of the sea’, to plot the locations of ships and effectively navigate the simulator around a range of hazards as well as safely navigating the simulator in and out of port."