Her Majesty's saltiest sea dog: Royal Navy sailor completes 33 years of service with an incredible THIRTEEN years at sea
By ANTHONY BOND
On dry land: Leading Logistician John Wicking is now back on dry land after setting the record for the most days spent at sea. He is pictured with his granddaughters Billyanne, 7, and Angelique, 4 months
He joined the Royal Navy as a fresh-faced 16-year-old because he wanted to travel the world.
And after completing 33 years service and visiting more than 30 countries, Leading Logistician John Wicking is proud to have made history by notching up an incredible 5,100 days at sea, believed to be an Armed Forces record.
His remarkable achievement was recognised in a personal letter from the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.
He wrote: 'I have been advised that you have just accrued 5,000 days LSA the highest amount amassed by anyone within our Service.
'I would not be surprised if you held the record for all the Armed Forces. My very many congratulations on this remarkable achievement which is such an impressive testament to your character in continually opting for sea assignments rather than time ashore.
'I am immensely grateful for the service you have given the Royal Navy in both the Submarine and surface flotillas.'
Father-of-three Mr Wicking, 49, said: 'I will have spent 33 years in the Navy in July. I was 16 when I first joined.
'I’ve only ever had one job and only ever applied for one job.
'I decided to join because I wanted to travel the world and I thought it would be a good life - so my family were happy for me.
'I’m still enjoying it and have about five and a half years to go, but I haven’t thought about the day when I have to leave the Navy.'
Over the years spent serving his country, Mr Wicking missed countless birthdays, anniversaries, cherished family moments - and even the birth of his grandchildren.
He sailed into Plymouth, Devon, on Friday to meet his five-month-old granddaughter Angelique and is now enjoying some well-earned shore rest.
During his long career he has served on the submarines HMS Repulse, HMS Renoun, HMS Revenge, HMS Oricle, HMS Onslaught, HMS Trafalgar, HMS Talent, HMS Trenchen, HMS Splendid, HMS Soverign.
He has served on the ships HMS Bulldog, HMS Ocean, HMS Campbell town, HMS Argyll, HMS Bullwalk.
Honoured: John Wicking receives his 15 years good conduct medal from Princess Anne aboard submarine HMS Trafalgar in 1995. He has sailing for 5,100 days and visiting more than 30 countries during his service
Remarkable: HMS Campbeltown, pictured, is one of the Royal Navy Vessels which the proud sailor has served on. The 49-year-old has notched up an incredible 33 years service
His last deployment was a 186 day stint on HMS Argyll, which covered over 36,600 nautical miles.
If Mr Wicking had covered similar mileage on his other tours of duty, he would have clocked up over 1 million miles.
During his time in the Royal Navy he has met members of the Royal family including The Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
Mr Wicking, from Plymstock, Devon, said the hardest part about being in the Navy was not being able to see his family.
In 1986 his daughter Christyanne, now 26, was christened on board the submarine he was working on.
Fortunately, Mr Wicking said that with today’s technology he can always keep up to date with home life through email.
He said: 'It’s hard missing out on things while I’m away. Like the kids first birthdays, them going to school, them leaving school and missing my granddaughter’s birth.'
Dedicated: Leading Logistician Wicking with the letter he received congratulating him on his incredible service record
Family affair: This image shows Leading Logistician Wicking, fourth from left, and his wife Julie and their daughter Christyanne at her christening aboard HMS Revenge in 1986
Happy times: The proud couple watch as their daughter Christyanne is christened. Over the years Leading Logistician Wicking has missed countless birthdays, anniversaries, cherished family moments - and even the birth of his grandchildren
He and wife, Julie, 49, have three children, Christyanne, 26, Josephine, 24 and Blaze, 19.
Mrs Wicking said: 'We got married in 1985 and I knew what his job was when I met him so I knew he would be away a lot.
'All the time we’ve been married I’ve never known any different. But it’s lovely when he comes back.
'We’ve been together so long that you get used to it. It’s made the kids very self-sufficient.
'You have to have a certain mentality to be able to cope.
'I’m so proud of him for breaking the record, but it’s been all of his own choosing - if he ever said to me tomorrow he wanted to leave the Navy that’s fine.
'I’m just here for him to support him in whatever he decides to do.'
Globetrotter: The 49-year-old has served on HMS Argyll. He decided to join the Royal Navy because he wanted to travel the world
Distinguished: He has also served on HMS Trafalgar, pictured. During his time in the Royal Navy he has met members of the Royal family including The Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Anne
In 1995, Princess Anne awarded him one of his six medals - giving him the good conduct medal.
He said: 'I met Prince Charles when I was in hospital with an injury to my foot in 2006 and I met the Queen when I was a Navy guard too.'
Mr Wicking said he was unaware that he had broken the record until a friend looked it up for him online.
He said: 'I knew I was close to the record because I knew I was reaching 5,000 days and I didn’t think there would be many people who had done that much.
'A friend of mine looked it up for me and found I was actually the longest serving member of the Royal Navy.
'I got a letter from the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, who actually used to be my captain on HMS Splendid in 1987.
'It feels good to know I’m the holder and I’m excited to see if anyone else can break it, but I don’t think they will.'
Mr Wicking will now be spending a month off with his family and friends. His next deployment is next year in the Falklands.