Former Student now a Commanding Officer in the Royal Navy

David Vail, a former student of The Henley college, recently got in touch to talk about his time at the college and how this shaped and helped him on his journey to joining University and ultimately, becoming a member of The Royal Navy.

With the creation of mottos for Naval ships becoming ever more popular, former student David Vail got in touch with his former Latin and Ancient History teacher to provide some inspiration. This gave us the brilliant opportunity to speak to David and find out more about his time at Henley, his career in the Navy and to learn some Latin!

“I chose to attend The Henley College as Henley College was the only place that offered the varied choice of A levels I wanted to take, two Arts and two Sciences. Also, all my friends were going there so it made sense from a social aspect as well as academically. All the other Grammar Schools were offering much more limited choices in terms of different A levels.”

“A particular standout moment during my time at the college was a trip for one of the A-Levels I studied, Ancient History. As part of that course we went on a trip to Greece. We visited many ancient ruins and archaeological sites, whilst also being allowed to explore Athens ourselves. The trip also consisted of a cruise around the Greek Islands which seemed unbelievable at the time and still does now to be honest! Whilst we were in Athens, the Icelandic Volcano exploded, meaning we couldn’t fly back to the UK, this extended our trip in Europe for almost another week! We had a great time and ended up seeing much more of Greece/Italy then we had initially planned to.”

“I didn’t always want to join the Royal Navy, there were many times at University that I considered cancelling my application. However, during final year when everyone was frantically searching for a job, I already had one lined up, so it made concentrating on finals much easier.”

“I went to Gillotts Secondary School and then to Henley College, where I studied 4 A-Levels. Economics, Maths, German and Ancient History. I then proceeded to Cardiff University where I read Economics with German, a four-year course consisting of a year abroad in Germany. During my time at College I applied to join the Royal Navy (RN), I passed the Admiralty Interview Board and received a Bursary to attend University. This Bursary effectively guaranteed a place at Britannia Royal Naval College after graduation. I joined the RN in September 2014, commissioning as a Warfare Officer in 2015. I have, since commissioning, served on six different types of ships, sailed to and from the Arabian Gulf and visited numerous Mediterranean ports as well as the Falkland Islands. I am currently serving as the Commanding Officer of HMS TRUMPETER, as P2000 Archer Class Patrol Vessel based in Ipswich.”

Attending The Henley College does not necessarily mean you go on to study A Levels and then attend University for three years and look for work based in that subject area afterwards. As David’s story shows, there are many different possible routes upon graduating from The Henley College that can provide incredible opportunities and open doors you never knew existed. Henley aims to set you up to transition into this next phase of your life and we always love to hear of former students doing well and following their own unique path in life!

“Vox Victoriae is the motto for HMS TRUMPETER that my A-Level Ancient History teacher was kind enough to translate for me."

David’s former teacher has also excelled since being a student and then a teacher at The Henley College. Tristan Arnison is now a member of our Senior Leadership Team, Head of Faculty for Business, Humanities and Languages.

"It means The Sound of Triumph. HMS TRUMPETER’s crest is that of a trumpet, with a red banner hanging from it, embossed with the naval anchor. Whilst I am in Command of TRUMPETER now, the motto is very much the ships and not mine. I wanted a motto that fitted in with our name, crest and ideals. When ships are brought into service, the creation of a motto is not routinely part of the commissioning ceremony. They (mottos) have become more popular in recent times with the creation of challenge coins. Since taking Command in April 2019 I noticed that HMS TRUMPETER did not have one and so set about creating one. Mottos for RN ships have historically always been in Latin, although they do not have to be. My family came up with the idea of The Sound of Triumph and I thought it worked very well. I asked Tristan on the off chance that he would be willing to spend some time translating; he was very kind enough to do so!”

“If I had any advice for 15/16 year olds thinking about their future, it would be to try and study whatever interests you. If you attempt A-Levels or a degree which you think you should take just because that’s what everyone else studies, or because they’re ‘the right ones’ to study, then you’ll end up wishing you’d never started.”

“Henley College certainly gave me the opportunity to start shaping my future the way I wanted it, whilst also providing support in areas that I wasn’t sure on. If I learned one thing from College, it was that it forced me to work to my own standards. If I set them low, then I would be the only one disadvantaged. If I set them high, then I would gain the rewards. The ownership and responsibility given to me at 16 genuinely allowed me to see for myself how important it is to drive your own future.”

The Henley College is the perfect institution to bridge the gap between school and your future. You will be given more responsibility to take your own path into your hands which we believe is crucial in setting you up for the next steps that you wish to take in your life. If this is of interest to you, sign up to our next information event through following the link below.

Why not apply online today and secure your place?

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