Sussex University Royal Naval Unit (Sussex URNU)

The Fast Patrol Boat HMS Ranger, the Sussex University Royal Naval Units training vessel
Artwork: Tony Drury

Sussex URNU is one of 14 units located on or near university campuses around the UK which aim to foster interest in the sea and to educate undergraduate students of the need for, and the role of, the Royal Navy, whilst preparing them for positions of responsibility in general. It does this through a balance of presentations, seamanship training, and practical leadership training both ashore and at sea, outside lecturers, acquaint visits to naval and military units and establishments, adventurous training and sport.

Membership of Sussex URNU is open to undergraduate students of the University of Sussex, the University of Brighton, and the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), providing training for a maximum capacity of 51 students; the unit aims to recruit between 15 and 25 new members from each years Freshers intakes. Upon being accepted into the unit trainees are given the honorary rank of Midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserve (they cannot be called for active service and they can resign at any stage) and can serve for 3 years. During term times “Drill nights” are held on Thursdays, with sea training periods on some weekends for up to 12 students at a time in the Unit’s 60 ft Fast Patrol Boat HMS ‘Ranger’.

The Officer-in-Charge (OiC) of the Unit is a full time Royal Navy officer, who is also Commanding Officer of HMS ‘Ranger’, and he/she is assisted by the Unit’s Coxswain (a Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer).

Unit History:
Sussex URNU was technically founded in the summer of 1990, based out
of the HMS ‘Sussex’ offices in Shoreham. The unit’s first Commanding Office was Lt Ben Falk RN.

To facilitate sea training the ‘Archer’ Class P2000 training craft, HMS ‘Pursuer’, was given to the URNU when it was founded, at that point had been attached to HMS ‘Sussex’ together with the River Class minesweeper HMS ‘Arun’, (it was considered sufficient for the RNR unit to have only one ship). HMS ‘Pursuer’ remained berthed at the HMS ‘Sussex’ facility however and (to begin with) was shared by the URNU and the RNR.

The first students for the new unit were recruited in October 1990, purely from the University of Sussex, although students at Brighton Polytechnic (now the University of Brighton) became eligible from the next year. In 1992 the unit moved to offices in “Arts D” building on the Falmer campus of the University of Sussex, where it remained until the summer of 2003, when at the instigation of the university, it was moved across campus to “Mantell Building”.

With the closure in 1994 of HMS ‘Sussex’ the training vessel HMS ‘Pursuer’ moved from Shoreham to HMNB Portsmouth. In late 2002 ‘Pursuer’ and her sister ship ‘Dasher’ were reallocated to Cyprus to form a new “Cyprus Squadron” to protect Allied Shipping in the run up to the 2nd Gulf War; this task was subsequently widened and she did not return to the UK until 2010; both ships are now based in HM Naval Base Clyde in Scotland. ‘Pursuer’ last conducted Sussex URNU training time in November of that year. To replace ‘Pursuer’ the M.O.D. allocated another P2000 vessel, HMS ‘Ranger’ which returned to the UK in late February 2004 from duties which the “Gibraltar squadron” (previously one of the only 2 non- P2000s not allocated to one of the 14 URNUs around the UK ).

After a refit to make her fit for URNU role, ‘Ranger’ entered service as Sussex URNU’s P2000 in May 2004. Since taking over her role she has visited Brighton, Shoreham and Newhaven on numerous occasions, and her Ship’s Company attend either the Newhaven or Brighton services every Remembrance Sunday.

More details about the recent activity of the ship, her current Commanding Officer, and news regarding the URNU can be found at the official Royal Navy website

Thanks to Commanding Officer and Staff of Sussex URNU, for their kind assistance in the compiling of the units history.
HMS Ranger/Sussex URNU pages on the Ministry of defence web site.

Comments about this page

  • My husband served on HMS Arun around 1986-1988. He was an RNR diver. Can you tell me where HMS Arun is now please?

    By Lise Nye (28/06/2006)
  • Lise – All of the River Class minesweepers were withdrawn from RNR training duties in 1993, HMS Arun along with sister ships HMS Itchen , HMS Spey and HMS Blackwater were transferred to the Northern Ireland Squadron. These four vessels were the last of the (12) River class vessels to be withdrawn from service in 1998. Upon decommissioning HMS Arun became the last British warship to fire a Bofor Gun. HMS Arun HMS Itchen , HMS Spey , and HMS Blackwater were all sold to the Brazilian Navy; HMS Arun was handed over at Devonport on September 18th 1998 and renamed Npa Babitonga. The four vessels were intended for use as buoy tenders but have subsequently been employed as patrol vessels.

    By Tony Drury (28/06/2006)
  • Anyone serving on H.M.S. Itchen who may remember me, please contact me.

    By Pete (Bagsey) Baker (04/01/2008)
  • My great uncle Norman Jukes, 1st Class Stoker was killed in the unboat attack on HMS Itchen on 23.09.1943. If you served on this ship and were one of the survivors did you know him?
    I apologise if you were in a more recent war with a ship of the same name but I am trying to find out more about my great uncle.

    By Lisa Ellis (06/11/2008)
  • Is there anybody out there that remembers Ballyregan Bob (the Greyhound) being the guest of honour at the commissioning of HMS Pursuer?

    By Chris Loveland (08/01/2011)
  • I live on Ocracoke Island, NC, USA where Lt. Robert Maynard killed the pirate Blackbeard in 1718. We plan to have an observance of the 300th anniversary of this event in Nov 2018. Would it be possible for any of you to be our guests? We have read about the Blackbeard Mess Dinner. Also, I have read that nine members of the Royal Navy were killed in this battle. How can I find out their names? We would have interest in an historical marker in honor of their sacrifice. We have a British Cemetery on the island in which four sailors from WWII are buried. This might be an appropriate location for the marker. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    By Ruth Toth (30/08/2016)

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