Meet Royal Navy Reservist Jonathan James

June 21, 2023
Reserves Day logo

Reservists give up their spare time to serve in the Reserve Forces, balancing their civilian life with a military career to ensure that should their country require them, they would be ready to serve as part of the military.

The Reserve Forces make up approximately one sixth of our Armed Forces personnel and as such are integral to protecting the nation’s security at home and overseas, particularly providing capability in specialist areas such as medical and cyber.

Wednesday June 21, 2023, is Reserves Day – the day Reservists can wear their uniform to work – and we’re paying tribute to their hard work and dedication. After all, it’s not easy holding down two careers.

Sub Lieutenant Jonathan James is a 31-year-old Royal Navy Reservist based at HMS Scotia in Rosyth. He lives in Dunfermline and is an MSK (musculoskeletal) and Sports Physiotherapist.

Slt Jonathan James
Sub Lieutenant Jonathan James.

Tell us about your career as a Reservist, when and where did it all start, what’s your current role, and what made you want to join up?

“I initially applied to join the regular Service. I visited HMS SCOTIA during the recruitment process and was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and drive of the Ship’s Company. I realised I could have a full naval career, doing the job I wanted in the regular Service while growing my civilian career. Following initial training, I opted to join the Diving Branch, but this was not possible with restructuring, so I transferred to Submarine Operations. As a Submarine Controller, I am a part of a team who assesses, analyses and disseminates information and intelligence to submarines. It is a mentally demanding, fast-paced, and highly pressured role; a mistake could be critical for the boat. I also act as SCOTIA’s Unit Adventurous Training Officer and facilitate opportunities for the Ship’s Company to participate in a range of training from skiing to sailing.”

What’s the best part of being a Reservist?

“The opportunities that are available to Reservists are exceptional. You have access to a range of adventure training courses and can access learning credits which give you £175 a year towards a civilian qualification. We run an annual trip to the Royal Navy Wintersports Festival in France. You can be paid to learn to ski or snowboard; if you are good enough, it’s a selection ground to be placed on the Royal Navy Ski Team.”

Where has your Reservist career taken you?

“As mentioned, I have been to France skiing, where I learned to Telemark Ski alongside regular Royal Marines and Royal Navy officers and rates. Since joining the branch, I have been to Cyprus on exercise. I am going to Norway to participate in a NATO joint warrior working alongside foreign navies, testing our deployability.”

Do you have a favourite moment?

“Parading in SCOTIA’s guard at Edinburgh’s Remembrance Day parade is a highlight. The atmosphere is palpable, with hundreds of spectators seeing a Reservist unit leading the Army and RAF down the Royal Mile was exceptional. I also feel that passing Fleetboard (an exam at the end of Initial Naval Training) was an achievement and a milestone that gave me a good deal of confidence to perform in the unit and branch.”

Slt Jonathan James in his day job.
Jonathan in his civilian job.

Tell us about your civilian job.

“I am an MSK and Sports Physiotherapist in my civilian life. I work at a private clinic helping the general public with their injuries, aches and pains. I also work with Dunfermline Athletic Football Club Academy to help the next generation of elite footballers.”

Being a Reservist requires time off work, how does your employer support those demands?

“The private clinic is a small organisation, and the Service has been very accommodating. The clinic understands the demands on my time and gives me additional leave to facilitate the training I need. I intend to deploy within the next couple of years, and work are content with this and are happy to have a dialogue to help me achieve my military goals.”

What skills have you gained as a Reservist that enhance your civilian role?

“The leadership skills I have learned have been invaluable. They have improved me as a Physiotherapist and helped me better understand people, their needs and how to approach them. The high-pressure environment in Submarine Operation has helped me deal well under incredible time constraints and react with a reasoned and thought-out plan. Working in a sports medical team can be challenging; everyone has outcomes they wish to achieve for the athletes, and I now have the skills to focus everyone and drive the team towards a common goal.”

What would you tell a colleague who was interested in becoming a Reservist?

“Do it.

“It’s fun, rewarding and gives you skills you would never gain in civilian life. The RNR is a fantastically deployable force, and the opportunities to go overseas and work with other services and nations are open to you. It’s a great way to make a difference in this world.”