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Closure threat for naval college

A naval training college which helped start the relationship between a young Princess Elizabeth and her future husband the Duke of Edinburgh could be closed because of armed forces spending cuts, according to a leaked memo.

Britannia Royal Naval College was where the current Queen, aged just 13, met the then 18-year-old Prince Philip of Greece in July 1939 during an official engagement with her parents, George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Though they had met each other years before, they began exchanging letters after the visit and a relationship blossomed which led to their marriage in November 1947.

The memo from the Maritime Estate Rationalisation Programme, which has been seen by the Press Association, says that the officer training centre near Dartmouth, Devon, could merge with the other ranks training centre HMS Raleigh in Cornwall to become a training base for all naval personnel.

Last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review saw the Ministry of Defence make swingeing cuts to the Royal Navy's operational capabilities due to heavy budget cuts. It led to the decommissioning of surface vessels but also forced all the Armed Forces to look at other ways of saving money, including looking to sell off or reuse under-utilised land facilities.

The memo says: "In the post Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) environment, we - along with the other Services - have been developing options to address the challenge of maintaining or, where possible increasing the effectiveness of our estate, whilst at the same time minimising the cost of running it by reducing the estate footprint."

It adds that its work is focused on "collocation of Initial Naval Training at either of the existing locations, HMS Raleigh or BRNC Dartmouth, or an alternative brown field site". It adds that basing training in Portsmouth had been ruled out on cost grounds. The MoD said it would not comment on a leaked document.

Other members of the Royal Family to have trained at Britannia, which was created in 1863, include Kings George V and George VI, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and the Duke of Cambridge.

Iain Ballantyne, editor of Warships International Fleet Review magazine, said that he believed it was unlikely that either Britannia or Raleigh would close, although they may see some change to their roles when British Army units return from Germany in 2015.

"There is a great sentimental attachment to Britannia but it is also important that the Royal Navy has a prestigious training establishment," he said. "The RAF has Cranwell, the Army has Sandhurst and the Navy has Britannia, I don't see it closing. It is one of the Navy's crown jewels."

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