How do you contact loved ones when they are away?
The Navy recognises the importance of maintaining contact with your loved ones when they are deployed. The information that follows is aimed to help you maintain contact at a level that matches the circumstances in which you may find yourself. Operations may sometimes prevent or delay (up to several days) all forms of communication including telephones and E-Mail. This would include the use of personal mobile phones. Such restrictions may happen without warning. For units such as submarines, personal communication generally has to be limited to when the boat is alongside.
All other mail posted in the UK to Service men and women overseas is dealt with by the (military) Post and Courier Depot located at Mill Hill in North London where there is a special section for the despatch of mail to HM Ships and Shore stations abroad.
More Information: Postal Services
More Information: Ships BFPO Numbers
Globe trotting - Royal Marines' Deployments
By their very nature each RM deployment is unique and specialised so their ability to communicate will vary. Lots of things affect communication with RMs: the type and length of deployment, time spent in ships and their operational distance away from radio and satellite systems. In fact of course it is this distance and challenge, which makes the job interesting, but they are still hard to talk to!
Ask your serving RM family member for the communications details that have been given for a particular deployment. And try to be patient! If in doubt contact their RM Welfare or RMR Unit.
If you have an urgent message for someone away at sea or far from home then it is best to call Naval Personal & Family Service/Royal Marines Welfare as they have access to military communication systems allowing them to get in touch directly with Unit Commanders and Ships more effectively and efficiently than the standard forms of communication.
Out of working hours urgent enquiries are normally dealt with by the Officer of the Watch / Duty Naval Base Officer of the main shore establishment who will pass information to the Duty NPFS staff member to action as necessary. Where YOU live (if you are the Next of Kin) decides which NPFS office can help you. If you are still not sure, call any one of them and they will tell you!
More Information: NPFS & RMW Contact Information and Interactive Map
Ship/Unit - Base Port Numbers
Ships and Units have regular telephone numbers when in base ports which are available from the Ministry of Defence Telephone Exchange on:
Phone: 023 9272 2351 - Portsmouth
Phone: 01436 674321 - Faslane
Phone: 01752 553740 - Plymouth
Please note that the MOD Exchange can only connect you to the permanent ship's telephone numbers held on record. This is no guarantee there will be a unit on the end of the line. So if you find yourself hanging on the line for some time it is likely the ship has not arrived in port yet!!
Ship/Unit - Non-Base Port Numbers
In a UK (other than Naval Base) or a foreign port, ships have 24 hours to register their telephone numbers with Fleet Operations. Naval bases/establishments can provide details of the numbers. During working hours Help Desk can also obtain these numbers. Remember some countries outside the UK have very poor phone systems, lines are not always connected for brief visits (e.g. re-fuelling) and sometimes ships are unable to go alongside so no phones can be connected.
At sea in coastal waters and on some phone contracts it is often possible to use your mobile telephone to phone and text your loved one. This is permitted by ships' COs although the use of phone cameras is usually not allowed. However, there will be times when the use of mobile phones is forbidden due to safety or security reasons so do not be anxious if you are unable to get through. Service personnel and families are advised to check out their phone provider's conditions of use and the associated cost of calls abroad. There have been occasions where personnel have incurred considerable debt due to mobile phone usage.
Messages...from a Ship at Sea or Royal Marines Unit
If deployed the Operational Welfare Package permits 30 minutes of free phone calls home a week on the PARADIGM CARD satellite system (subject to the ship's safe operation) when outside UK waters for more than two months. More time can be bought on a personal credit or debit card, or on prepaid cards obtained from the NAAFI. So it may be possible for those at sea to call home.
More Information: Paradigm
Or a Radio Telex Letter (RTL) or Greeting Telex Letter (GTL) may be sent from the ship. There is a choice of presentation card for GTL; details are available from the ship's communications office. The cost for both RTL and GTL is the same and the message will be forwarded by 1st Class mail on arrival in the UK receiving station.
Royal Marines embarked in ships have access to this but, when ashore, depending upon the nature of their task, can sometimes make a great deal of difference as to how easy it is for them to phone home.
MOD MAIL "Shipgram/Familygram" for Nuclear Deterrent Submarines
Familygram messages are sent to the Submarine's Squadron Office or 'support' crew and despatched to the Submarine on the Submarine broadcast. Familygram's are limited to two x 40 word's per week, exceptionally for the Submarine on Christmas patrol messages are increased to two x 80 words per week. The boat issues Familygram forms and the conditions for usage to the Service person's Next of Kin, these can then be e-mailed to the address on the familygram form for action.
Due to improved technology and availability E-Mail has rapidly become the primary method of communication to and from ships at sea and deployed units.
For most of the time, except under certain operational conditions, ships can send and receive e-mails via satellite. All you need on shore to send a message is access to the Internet and an e-mail account. That means you have to have a screen name and a messages page for it (usually known as an electronic 'mail box'). Any computer store will help you with this or you can call RNcom Help Desk for further advice. The RNcom Help Desk, HIVEs and Community Centres all have e-mail facilities.
The most important thing then is to get the e-mail address of the individual you want to e-mail and/or the e-mail address of the ship and the name and rank of the intended recipient.
The majority of individuals will have their own personal e-mail address onboard which will look something like – email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
If for some reason they do not have a personal e-mail address or do not pass it on to you, you can still contact them through e-mail by sending it to the ships e-mail address. For example, for a ship whose BFPO number is 550 the e-mail address will be email@example.com .
Remember - YOU DO HAVE TO GET THIS EXACTLY RIGHT or the message may go to another ship!
You must then put THE RANK/RATE AND NAME FOR WHOM IT IS INTENDED in the Subject Box to enable the ships communication staff to forward the e-mail on to the intended recipient.
Whilst e-mail is a secure system no system is totally safe, subsequently there are times when very sensitive concerns would be better placed in a private letter or, if in an emergency, help can be sought from NPFS/RM Welfare or RNCom Help Desk to contact the ship directly.
Due to the amount of e-mail traffic received by ships and variable satellite time it is advised that e-mails are restricted in length to 2.5 kilobits but you have to write a lot to go over that limit! The sending of photographs is not advised, as with many hundreds of e-mails going to and from a ship, photos take a long time to download through the satellite. This issue should however be addressed with the intended recipient in light of ongoing technological developments and improved satellite communications.
You can usually send an e-mail every day, but at times when the ship is very busy you may find this reduced, although this is unusual.
Royal Marines if embarked in HM ships will have access to this service. Once deployed ashore a similar e-mail facility will be set up if possible
When the British Forces are deployed on operations they are entitled to free aerograms (colloquially known as "blueys" because of their colour) to and from their families and friends. This service has been in place for a considerable time. Blueys as we know them today were issued for the first time during the early days of the Northern Ireland deployment. More recently BFPO, working in conjunction with SuperLetter.com, has pioneered an electronic form of the bluey known as ' e-bluey '.
The e-bluey is a hybrid mail system that allows family and friends to log on to the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) web site and type a text message of up to four pages to service personnel on operations. The number of ships and units participating in the scheme is limited to those covered by the Operational Welfare Package which can be checked via the drop down menu on the BFPO website.
The process of sending an e-bluey is quite simple and is explained in full on the BFPO Website. Once typed the message is sent to a server, where it is stored prior to being down-loaded by the Forces Post Office (FPO) in the appropriate operational theatre or ship. It is then printed and enveloped before being passed into the local FPO mail stream. The system is private and personal as the text is only seen by the originator and the recipient.
Web site: British Forces Post Office
When I'm feeling blue...HM Forces Aerograms - "Blueys"
The cheapest and easiest way of writing to those in Ships/Units abroad is to use the blue flimsy HM Forces Aerograms, free from all post offices.
These can be posted using 2nd Class postage stamps. Postage is not required for units in Northern Ireland and those on deployments covered by the Operational Welfare Package.
The top right hand corner of the Bluey must be marked with the name of the Operation or "HM Ship in Foreign Waters" for ship deployments out of UK area over 2 months (whichever is applicable).
You cannot send Blueys to civilian addresses in Northern Ireland or Eire or any firm or organisation; being aerograms you can't send any enclosures.
Access All Areas - BFBS
Access All Areas keeps you in touch with Family and Friends around the Forces world. Wherever you are - make someone smile… send a dedication through BFBS Radio 1.
Access All Areas every Sunday - check the website for details.
A direct link to BFBS is available through the BPBS link in the tool bar on the right of this page that will not only put you straight onto the BFBS site but will also allow you to play BFBS and listen into your dedications online within RNcom.
BFBS is also available to listen to via Sky TV Channel 0211
Web site: http://www.ssvc.com/bfbs/radio/dedications.htm
Phone: 08701 202121 (calls charged at national rate)
Text: 07740 377377 (start your message with AAA)
We can come to you. BFBS Radio has a team of presenters around the world, ready to visit your unit to gather dedications. For details: