Twenty years after joining the Royal Navy’s crucial supporting fleet of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), Glaswegian Captain Susan Cloggie-Holden has taken charge of the 39,000 tonne tanker RFA TIDERACE.
Today at Devonport Naval Base, the 37-year-old entered her name in the log of the replenishment ship – which is designed to provide the ships of the Royal Navy, and especially its carrier battle groups, with fuel to sustain global operations – to formally take charge from her predecessor Captain Angus Bissell.
The RFA was established back in 1905 to provide front-line warships with the food, fuel, spare parts and other supplies needed to sustain them on operations at sea – rather than returning to port to stock up.
RFA ships can also be used in their own right as vessels carrying out military, peacekeeping and relief missions, from acting as command ships for Royal Navy minehunters in the Gulf, to providing humanitarian aid and joining the fight against drug running in the Caribbean.
TIDERACE has spent the past six months supporting Royal Navy operations in home waters after a refit in Liverpool, with Susan serving as the tanker’s second-in-command, before today stepping up to the No.1 role aboard.
Originally from Drumchapel, Susan’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary career began in September 2000 after studying at Glasgow College of Nautical Studies.
Since then she has travelled the world and taken part in military and peacekeeping operations pretty much from day one. Those have included the initial campaign against the Taliban in 2001-02 (Operation Veritas), supporting the post-Saddam Iraqi Navy in 2006-07, conducting counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden at the height of the scourge in 2008-09, and navigating supply ship RFA Fort Rosalie providing support to RN vessels involved in operations off Libya in 2011.
Captain Cloggie-Holden said she feels "privileged" to have the opportunity of taking command of a vessel of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. "It is a pivotal moment,” added the Ayrshire resident.
She continued: "When I commenced my career as a Cadet there hadn’t been any female Senior Officers, therefore I feel honoured to be the first female Captain in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
“I hope that this will provide all women within the organisation to aspire to achieve whatever they put their minds to.”
Married to Captain Peter Holden, who retired from the RFA in 2019 after commanding helicopter training ship Argus, Captain Cloggie-Holden is a long-standing advocate for women at sea. She was the first Royal Fleet Auxiliary Female Champion, chairs the RFA Women's Network, has set up a female-to-female mentoring scheme across the RFA, and was a founding member of the Maritime UK Women in Maritime Taskforce. Last year, she was named the Global Seafarer of the Year Award at the Lloyd’s List Europe Awards.