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  1. 2020 will see the 75th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War in which some 80 million people died. That means that only citizens over the age of eighty have any memory of Britain being under attack. This lengthy peace has not happened by accident or luck. We have been living under a nuclear umbrella known as Strategic Nuclear Deterrence, formerly known as Mutually Assured Destruction. Initially, our deterrent posture was maintained by the V-Bombers of the Royal Air Force but in 1968, with the advent of intercontinental-ballistic-missile-firing, nuclear-powered submarines (SSBNs), the Royal Navy inherited the role. These submarines have now maintained continuous deterrent patrolling for over fifty years - there's one on patrol right now - but does anyone ever stop to think of the human beings involved? 

    SSBN Departure 


    In the bowels of a beast with a heart of steel,

    in Neptune’s black abyss,

    stand sixteen silent sentinels

    on watch o'er Britain's peace.

    And through the black abyssal deep, each day of every year,

    the Reaper ploughs the ocean,

    and sows the seeds of fear.


    In the bowels of the beast with the heart of steel

    where the nuclear cauldron boils,

    a hundred brave submariners

    attend their awesome toils.

    Whilst snug in quilted feather beds, full fifty million sleep,

    and spare no thought for those at sea,

    nor pray their souls will keep.

    (This poem, first published in my book On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service, was broadcast on United States radio by Donna Seebo, a book reviewer. It was the first time I had heard anyone reading one of my poems.)


  2. I have the good fortune to live in the country and my cottage is like a hide for observing my fellow creatures. I have now observed some sixty species of bird as well as the usual crop of mice, grey squirrels, hedgehogs, plus the odd fox or deer. However, my life has just been enriched by a new neighbour, Harry the Hare. He arrived one afternoon in front of my kitchen window and, completely unaware that he was being watched, began a thorough grooming before settling down for his afternoon zizz. He was completely relaxed and utterly free. Wonderful, a real feel good experience. Why would anyonewant to kill him?


  3. On Saturday 30th March, I appeared at Glasgow's 'Aye Write' Book Festival in the iconic Mitchell Library, one of Europe's largest public libraries, and it did feel good to be 'on stage' for something I had written. Even better, I had a full-house audience of about sixty in my venue. That may not seem a lot but the organisers were thrilled as a very well-known TV sports personality, flown up from London specially, had achieved an audience of only eight.

    A particularly pleasing aspect of the event were that a young university graduate (Nottingham, I think) who had applied to join the Navy and had read my book, turned up to meet me. How wonderful to think that an old git like me can still connect with a very much younger generation. (The young man has since been accepted into the Royal Navy and is currently undergoing officer training at Dartmouth). After my presentation, I was asked to autograph books sold - all very humbling. (Waterstones were selling the books).

    Glasgows Aye Write festival

     As I am accustomed to public speaking, facing an audience held no terrors for me. My only anxiety was whether or not my Powerpoint audio/visual slide show would run on cue on the Library's system. It did. Phew! I have nightmares about technical hitches in the middle of carefully constructed presentations. (I'm trying to find out how to put this slideshow into my website; watch this space).



  4. Sometimes phone calls bring good news. In early November, I received a call from the Secretary of the Maritime Trust, an organisation which spans all aspects of maritime activity ranging from fishing, commercial shipping, cruise liners, research vessels, yachting, lifeboats, harbours, wreck hunting, ship design, marine nature reserves and marine conservation through to the activities of the Royal Navy. In short, everything to do with the sea. My book, On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service, had just been shortlisted to the last four out of thirty-eight entries for the Mountbatten Best Book Award 2108. 'Could I attend the Awards Dinner in Drapers' Hall in London. Of course I could!

    This was truly a grand event with lords and ladies, MPs, industry VIPs and no less than three First Sea Lords in attendance, one being Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce who joined the Navy with me and provided the Foreword to my book, though that was pure coincidence. In the event I was runner-up to a brilliant book called 'The Wreck Hunter', and had to take the stage to receive a Certificate of Merit from the current First Sea Lord. I have to thank my old submarine colleague Command Rupert Best for having nominated the book.

    I have incuded the list of other entrants plus a copy of my Certificat of Merit under Publishing.

  5. Through my American publishers, I was interviewed about my book on US radio. The interview was live over Skype telephone and lasted an hour. Here is the link:

    The interviewer, Donna Seebo, was a most impressive lady who runs her own commercial radio station. I was being interviewed on a book programme called, 'Warriors for Peace'. I liked the title.

    Donna had clearly done her homework and read my book. Her questions were very well informed and penetrating but whe was clearly 'on my side' and was most complimentary about the role that I and my fellow submariners have and still are playing in the maintenance of peace.

    She ended the programme by reading a poem I wrote in honour of my fellow submariners. It was the first time I had ever heard this ot any other poem of mine being read by anyone and there it was going out internationally over US Radio. I was greatly moved by Donna's reading of it and by the power of my own verse (he said modestly). You can hear it at the end of the link above and it is in my book towards the end (page 258) but for convenience, here it is:


    In the bowels of a beast with a heart of steel,

    in Neptune’s black abyss,

    stand sixteen silent sentinels

    on watch o'er Britain's peace.

    And through the black abyssal deep, each day of every year,

    the Reaper ploughs the ocean,

    and sows his seeds of fear.


    In the bowels of the beast with the heart of steel

    where the nuclear cauldron boils,

    a hundred brave submariners

    attend their awesome toils.

    Whilst snug in quilted feather beds, full fifty million sleep,

    and spare no thought for those at sea,

    nor pray their souls will keep.



  6. Dear Reader,

    I have had a number of requests to add people to my website newsletter address list, which is flattering but, alas, the publication of my book 'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service' in February triggered such demands on my time that the website had to be ignored. I shall now try to update it for you but this may take some time.

    Thank you for your interest,


  7. In June, I was invited to be Chieftain of the Helensburgh Pipe Band Competition, which involved fifteen bands, four of which were school bands. My duties involved leading the parade at the start, presenting prizes and taking the salute at the end as the massed bands marched off. I have often been thrilled by watching the massed pipes and drums at the Edinburgh Tattoo from high in the stands but this time I was at eye level as the bands marched straight up to me and about turned within touching distance. It made the hairs on my neck stand up.

    Pipe Band Competition - massed band

    As I was not a clan chieftain and not entitled to wear eagle feathers in my hat, I decided to wear my submarine beret with my Submariners' Association cap badge. That seemed appropriate as the Submarine Service is in effect the local regiment in Helensburgh.

    Chieftain - Pipe Band Comp 2018

    By coincidence, a few weeks later, I happened to be visiting Aubigny-sur-Nere, near Orleans in France. This is where the Stewart kings lived in exile and the town is more Scottish than most Scottish towns. It was the weekend of their annual Fete Franco-Ecossais and the town was throbbing with people in all manner of kilts, including traditional plaid versions, but none of them were Scottish. This was the French end of the Auld Alliance. There was also a parade of seven pipe bands, none of which were Scottish. There were four Scottish-style bands from Paris, Geneva, Britanny and Aubigny as well as two traditional Breton bands and one from Asturias in Spain, the latter winning my prize for elegence as the ladies wore long skirts and seemed to float up the main street rather than marching. I was please to note that one traditional Breton band had pipes that were clearly 'Made in Scotland'.

    Asturian pipe badnd

    A Breton pipe Band

    Made in Scotland

    Aubigny sur Nere pipe band

  8. An analytical review of all information released by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization on the acoustic signal associated with the loss of the Argentina Submarine *ARA SAN JUAN* confirms the following:

    ● That acoustic signal originated near 46-10S, 59-42W at 1358Z (GMT) on 15 November 2017. *It was produced by the collapse (implosion) of the ARA SAN JUAN pressure-hull at a depth of 1275-feet*. Sea pressure at  the collapse depth was *570 PSI*. 

    ● The frequency of the collapse event signal (bubble-pulse) was about *4.4 Hz*.

    ● The energy released by the collapse was equal to the *explosion of 12,500 pounds of TNT* at the depth of *1275-feet*. 

    ● That energy was produced by the nearly instantaneous conversion of potential energy (sea-pressure) to kinetic energy, the motion of the intruding water-ram which entered the SAN JUAN pressure-hull at a speed of *about 1800 mph*.

    ● The *entire pressure-hull was completely destroyed* (fragmented/compacted) *in about 40 milliseconds* (0.040s or 1/25th of a second), the *duration of the compression phase of thecollapse event* which is half the minimum time required for cognitive recognition of an event.

    ● Although the *crew may have known collapse was imminent, they never knew it was occurring*.

    ● *They did not drown or experience pain. Death was instantaneous*.

    ● The *SAN JUAN* wreckage *sank vertically* at an *estimated speed between 10 and 13 knots*.Bottom impact would not have produced an acoustic event detectable at long range*.

     â– The open questionis: ... *Why was no corrective action - such as blowing ballast - taken by the *SS SAN JUAN* *crew before the submarine sank to collapse depth?* 

    According to Argentine Navyspokesman Gabriel Galeazzi, the Commanding Officer of the *SS SAN JUAN* reported a *"failure"* in thesubmarine's *"battery system"*, The time of that report was 0730 on 15 November, assumed to have been GMT. Subsequently, the problem was reported to have been *"fixed"*. 

    The *SS SAN JUAN* intended to submerged and continued its transit north. The*SS SAN JUAN* *pressure-hull collapsed at 1358 GMT on 15 November*.

    In the case of the loss of the US nuclear submarine *SCORPION (SSN 589)*, hydrogen out-gassed by the main battery exploded at 18:20:44 GMT on 22 May 1968 *incapacitating/killing the crew with an atmospheric over-pressure in the battery well, estimated to have been 7-10 times the fatal value*. The pressure-hull was not breached. This assessment was based on analysis of acoustic detections of the event and damage observed in pieces of the fragmented battery recovered from the wreckage at a depth of 11,100 feet by the *US submersible TRIESTE*, e.g., microscopic, spectrographic and x-ray diffraction analyses. (There was no flooding of the pressure-hull before the battery exploded.)

    *USS SCORPION (SSN)* lost power and sank slowly over nearly 22 minutes to collapse at a depth of 1530-feet at 18:42:34 GMT on 22 May 1968.

    There is the possibility that a similar sequence of events occurred aboard the *SS SAN JUAN*. If the wreck is located and efforts are made to recover components, emphasis should be placed on the battery system.

    Bruce Rule

    Lead acoustic analyst at the US Office of Naval Intelligence

  9. One unexpected pleasure from promoting my forthcoming book on Facebook, via the Submariners' Association and Friends of the Submarine Museum networks, plus on this website is that I have been contacted by an array of interested and interesting people.

    For examples, I have been contacted by the son of one of my father's shipmates in the ill-fated HMS Intrepid which was sunk by German bombers at Leros in the Greek Dodecanese and also been contacted by the grandson of another. They were both researching their father/grandfather's history which I share with them. I was in my mother's womb when Intrepdid went down and was given my father's name at birth, but he re-appeared later having been helped to escape by the Greek Resistance.

    I have also been contacted by the very man who appears on the after casing of HMS Repulse in a painting I commissioned and donated to the Wardroom of HMS Neptune at Faslane when I retired from the Navy. Repulse was the last of the Polaris missile submarines and the painting was of her leaving the Gareloch for the last time on her way to the scrapyard. I had provided the artist with a photograph and he had faithfully painted in the men on the bridge and the solitary sailor on the after casing who was holding the end of the long paying-off pennant. I had never really considered that these were real people. He was terribly pleased to have been immortalised in the painting.

    Another contact is Jim McCrum who was a reactor panel operator in HMS Revenge. He was sitting right in front of me when we suffered a major steam leak. The incident is described in my book. Jim did exactly the right things in the (literally) heat of the moment. I have not seen him since I left Revenge back in 1978. We're going to meet for a beer in the New Year.

    Finally, I was contacted by the wife of one of our Mechanics in Revenge and put in touch with the mother of Leading Mechanic James 'Bungy' McWilliams who was awarded a Queen's Gallantry Medal for his bravery in the steam leak emergency but tragically murdered later in a street fight in Liverpool whilst still a young man.

  10. Have now moved from writing to marketing! Here is the first sales flier (postcard size).


    By Eric Thompson

    The first memoir by a Royal Navy nuclear submarine officer, this is the inside story of the men who ensured that 'Mutually Assured Destruction' was maintained at all times during the Cold War and beyond.

    During the Cold War, nuclear submarines performed the greatest public service of all: prevention of a third world war. History shows that they succeeded; the Cold War ended peacefully, but for security reasons, only now can this story be told.

    Eric Thompson is a career nuclear submarine officer who served from the first days of the Polaris missile boats until after the end of the Cold War. He joined the Navy in the last days of Empire, made his first patrols in World War II type submarines and ended up as Commodore in charge of Britain's principal nuclear submarine base at Faslane. Along the way, he helped develop all manner of things from stealth technology to underwater guided weapons and the Trident ballistic missile system.

    This vivid personal account reveals what it felt like to be ready to obey the Prime Ministerial order to launch a nuclear counter strike. He leads the reader through dramas as diverse as top-secret patrols, hush-hush scientific trials, disobedient torpedoes, blocked underwater toilets, public relations battles with nuclear protesters, arm-wrestling with politicians, separation from loved ones and the changing roles of females and homosexuals in the Navy. It is essentially a human story, rich in both drama and comedy, like the Russian spy trawler that played dance music at passing submarines. There was never a dull moment for the men who stood their watch and helped maintain the 'Nuclear Peace'.

    Published by Casemate (UK) - Publishing date Feb 2018 

    Imperial War Museum: 

    Hardback Ÿ 336 pages Ÿ 32 illustrations Ÿ Publishing date Feb 2018

    OHMNS Cover



  11. Tragically topical: my book, 'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service', which is about to be published (Feb 2018) describes in some detail the multiple hazards faced by submariners without even going to war. When the Argentine Navy announced that their submarine, San Juan, was missing, my publishers (Casemate (UK)), a specialist military history publisher, asked me to write a 500 word article on what might have gone wrong. Here is the link to that article. (I've also posted a version of it in the Navy section).

    I have added some further information on the sinking in the Navy section of this wesbite.

  12. In the early autumn, I responded to an Imperial War Museum request, via the Submariners’ Association, for Cold War memorabilia, and so I contacted the Museum with the offer of some unique tape recordings of submarine concerts on patrol. Would you believe it, the curator who was seeking this stuff turned out to be the son of Petty Officer Medical Assistant ‘Doctor’ Proctor of my Revenge Port Crew.  As a result, I went down to the IWM to be interviewed and met up with the aforementioned Doctor Proctor - hadn’t seen him since 1978, only forty years ago! The upshot was that I was photographed, interviewed, classified, damn nearly mummified and filed in the National Archives. Yes, I am now a certified relic.

    Here is the link to the article in the Museum’s website. 

  13. Circa 1950, my father, grandfather and I climbed Goatfell on the Isle of Arran in the Clyde estuary. This year, I climbed it as the grandfather with three of my four grandchildren, having climbed it in the interim with both my sons and my eldest grandson. (I've also climbed it with my sister and both daughters-in-law).

    As my grandfather was born in the nineteenth century; I was born in the twentieth century and my grandchildren were all born in the twenty-first century, this family experience spans three centuries - and I am the link. I was so keen to complete 'the set' and most grateful to Isobel, Morven and Alfie for agreeing to climb it with me. (Alfie, aged seven, didn't actually agree. As a boy, he was given no option!)

    Goatfell is just under 3,000 feet and therefore is not a Munro - but so what? One climbs every single foot of it from sea level whereas in some Munros the climb begins at a much higher altitude (1,400 feet in the case of Bienn na Lap). Goatfell also offers one of the most spectacular views in Scotland, which is not obvious from the main road. I love it. It is my holy mountain.

    Grandchildren GoatfellGoatfell view

     Goatfell FGTx2Angus Goatfell

  14. My elder son is not actually prodigal. He just happens to work abroad and forgets that his Old Man is in fact an old man, but I am not yet about to surrender my place as the alpha male. So, when Richard announced that we were going to climb Ben Narnain, one of the Arrochar Munros, in foul weather, I was not going to admit defeat. Thus we set off in the rain, remained in the rain, saw nothing at the top except rain and returned in the rain, but it was good to see him (through the rain).

    Greetings, my son 1Greetings my son 2


  15. I find this age thing quite disorientating. My elder son will be fifty next year but doesn't seem that old. When I was fifty, his late mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The President of France is still in his thirties and his wife is in her sixties.

    In old age, one sees life retrospectively as if through a lens backwards; time is compressed. My thirty-seven years in the Navy seem to have the same storage space in my brain as six years at Coatbridge HIgh School. Thirty-eight years of married bliss seems like a brilliant one-night-stand - not that I would know anything about that. A twenty-five year old lad now seems like a teenager yet I was charge engineer of a submarine at that age.

    The good news is that, as President Macron has so ably demonstrated, a sixty-year-old woman seems like a twenty-something chick but with much greater depth. I have now reached the age when I can fancy a great-grandmother. 

    So, why the hell do people regard their fortieth birthday as a doomsday; it's only half-time. You may go to extra time and penalties. 

  16. An aged Scottish spinster cousin (who dressed like the Giles' cartoon of grandma) once said to me: 'You know, Eric, there is an old Japanese proverb which says: 'When your garden's complete, it's time to die.' That hit me hard at the time as my late wife, a keen gardener, had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

    When I had calmed down, I grasped it's profundity. One should never stop pursuing an aim. When one has no further aims in life, it really is time to die.

    In similar vein, when I was a teenage paperboy delivering the morning papers, I read the headline in the Daily Mirror: SLEEP WITH BRENDA. It was the winning entry in a reader's challenge to identify what one would do if one was given the Four Minute Warning of nuclear armageddon from the newly opened Fylingdales Early Warning System. (In the nineteen-fisfties, one really did worry about nuclear incineration). Ever since, I have made a habit of asking myself what I would do if I knew that I had only four minutes left to live but a good fairy would grant me a final wish.

    The point here is: if you know what you would wish to do in your last four minutes of life, why not do it now while there's plenty of time?


  17. Whilst at St Denis, I had a private tour of the magnificent Stade de France, built to host the FIFA World Cup in 1998. (France beat Brazil 3-0 in the final). It is a thing of beauty being perfectly symetrical. The separtely supported roof weighs more than the Eiffel tower.

    Things I never knew:- When the French won the World Cup, the team's communal bath was filled with champagne. There is a prison within the stadium for holding rowdy fans. Beyonce required both team dressing rooms for her wardrobe during a concert and Madonna refused to perform unless all the blue or bleu as the French say, carpets and paintwork were changed to pink (they were). President Sarkozy got stuck in the lift beacuse he was too small to reach the emergency button (an apocryphal tale, I suspect).

    It's certainly worth a visit.

    Photos top to bottom: The stadium; players' communal bath; police cell in stadium prison; me taking the field

    Stade de France 

    Jacuzzi Stade de France

    Cells Stade de France

    Players Tunnel 

  18. I have been absent from blog duties for the past three weeks because I have been on a grand tour of France. This included a visit to the magnificent Basilique de St Denis, the patron saint of Paris, on the outskirts of the city. St Denis is now a downmarket suburb but was once a town in its own right with huge historical significance for it is here that all but two of the French kings are entombed. Of the two mismusters, one died in Spain and the other, Philip 1, is buried in the Benedictine abbey of St Benoit-sur-Loire.

    Amongst the multiple tombs in the basilica are the humble sarcophogus of Queen Berthe the Big Foot; the majestic marble tomb of Henry 4 and Catherine de Medici, the latter being immortalised in what appears to be an erotic pose; and the superlative but sobering marble statues of Louis 16 and Marie-Antoinette who were guillotined by the French revolutionaries.

    Philip 1 chose not to be entombed in St Denis alongside the other kings because he had repudiated his queen, another Berthe, and taken up with another man's wife, for which misdemeanours he was excommunicated by the Pope. Philip therefore considered himself unworthy of being entombed beside his fellow kings and asked to be entombed beside Saint Benedict (Benoit) as he knew that the good saint would forgive him his sins.

    There is a lesson here for HRH Prince Charles who has also divorced his queen-to-be and taken up with another man's wife. As Charles is not a Catholic, the Pope cannot excommunicate him but when his time comes, there may be a question to answer over his entombment. He may have to be sent to Coventry - the Cathedral of course.

    In terms of tourist value, the Basilique de St Denis is virtually off the radar but it should be up there with Notre Dame, Versaille and the Eiffel Tower as a top four must-visit attraction. Apart from the tombs, the stained glass windows are breathtaking - and there are no queues.

    Photos top down: Rose window; tombs of French kings (some of); tomb of Louis 16th and Marie Antoinette; tomb of Philip 1 in the abbey of St Benoit-sur-Loire (on the right)

    Rose window Basilique de St. Denis

    The French Kings

    Louis 16 and Marie Antoinett

    St Benoit sur Loire