RSS Feed

» Listings for 2017

  1. 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.

  2. 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



  3. 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.

  4. 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. 

  5. 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

  6. 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


  7. 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. 

  8. 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?


  9. 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 

  10. 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

  11. Here I am in France, sitting under a parasol quoiffing a Martini and Perrier when in comes a most distressing e-mail from Tim Farron. He has resigned as leader of the Lib Dems; nothing abnormal in that except for his reason. Tim is a devout, orthodox Christian who during the recent election campaign was hounded by the media to admit that he considered homosexual sex to be a sin; that is what the Bible and the Quoran teach as I understand them; at least that is what the Christian and Muslim faiths have traditionally taught. But for Tim to confess to such a belief as leader of a modern, mainstream political party would have been, he thought, politically suicidal. And so he has resigned because he cannot reconcile politics with his faith. What nonsense. Had he been a devout Muslim, the media woud not have dared to hound him over his faith beliefs.

    Tim and I are Liberal Democrats. He is a Christian; I am an atheist. We share a belief in liberal democracy, tolerance and co-operation with those who do not share our views. He has never attempted to impose his religious principles on Party policyIn mainly Catholic France, religion has long since been separated from the State. All Tim needed to do was include in his public biography, Wikipedia or such like, that he was a practising Christian - end of.

    So what were the motives of the media in hounding him? I suggest that either they sniffed some lurid copy on homosexual sex, wished to undermine him as a political opponent or else gay activists were at work. Whatever the reason, it was immoral, illiberal and anti-democratic.

    For my own part, I don't give a monkey's over what another's faith or sexual practises are - as long as they don't impact on me. Tolerance is the key word.

  12. For some years now, SNP has portrayed itself as the voice of Scotland. The recent Council elections and Theresa May's snap General Election have thoroughly demolished that notion. SNP have won more seats in both elections than any other party and congratulations to them for that, but they have not won the popular vote. Indyref2 would be suicidal for Nicola Sturgeon and she knows that. She would lose again. SNP speak only for SNP.

  13. I was listening to a feminist debate on the radio last night. What a load of piffle! Apparently the female leaders of our political parties - Tories, Scottish Tories, Scottish Labour, Scottish Nationalists, the Democratic Unionist Party (Ulster) and the Green Party - are doing badly because their female leaders are trying to emulate male role models. Eh?

    Margaret Thatcher should be remembered as the ultimate icon of female success in a male dominated world but feminists have never identified with her nor she with them. Theresa May on the other hand, has worn a T-shirt with the motto, 'This is what a feminist looks like' - and they don't identify with her either. Today, we have Angela Merkel as Chancellor of Germany, the most powerful person in Europe; Christine Lagarde as Head of the IMF and Cressida Dick as Chief Constable of the Met etc etc. The glass ceiling is well and truly broken.

    Women of ability succeed; women without, winge. Actually, ladies, exactly the same is true for men but men who don't succeed can't wave the shroud of feminism. As a man, I fear it is young men who need to be worried. Women seem to be taking over.

  14. Who needs a scriptwriter when we have Theresa May as UK Prime Minister, Donald Trump as President of America and Emmanuel Macron as President of France - all new to their jobs? Have I died and gone to Disneyland?

    Theresa, a Cruella de Vil lookalike, has just cut her own throat. Trump becomes more and more ridiculous by the day, an ogre with a buffoon hairstyle; whilst young Prince Macron has ascended to the the Imperial Throne and is leading his people to the promised land.

    Never judge a book by its cover. I have never voted Tory but with Brexit to be negotiated, I truly thought that Theresa May was a godsend; she was the only strong national leader on the horizon; she has a sense of duty engraved in her heart; she is not motivated by personal glory and, I thought, was tough and decisive. Alas, the book told a very different story. She was pressurised into calling an ill-fated snap election against her own instincts; she allowed politically naive aides to produce a suicidal manifesto; and has been seen to weak and wobbly while promoting herself as 'strong and stable'. Now she has been emasculated (metaphorically of course) and is being universally vilified. What a tragedy. She is a good woman.

    When you are down, the mob will kick you - it's a blood lust thing. But putting things into perspective; in this election she beat the Corbyn-led oppostion by a healthy margin and her party won the popular vote as well as most seats. Nevertheless, she lost her overall majority and has had to go into coalition with the DUP. Nothing new there; David Cameron in his first term had to go into coalition with the Lib Dems - no big deal (it was for the Lib Dems). And Theresa has just received more votes from the public than the fragrant Tony Blair did in his first landslide. I repeat, what a tragedy for her. Had she done nothing, she would still be cooking on the proverbail gas.

    Now comes the test of character: she has been described as a 'dead woman walking' but right now, the country needs a strong Prime Minister; Brexit negotiations begin next week. So, despite her mortal political wounds and utter humiliation, the good woman's sense of duty has remained intact. When most others would have thrown in the towel, she will continue to serve her country until her own party finds a Cassius and Brutus to deliver the coup de grace. For the sake of the country, I wish her well.

    Meanwhile, across the pond, Trump is sitting in the White House 'gathering his brows like gathering storm; nursing his wrath to keep it warm' (to quote Robert Burns). He has made the error of sacking James Comey, Director of the FBI, a hugely experienced lawyer and prosecutor with all the inside information his FBI job has provided. Now the poor, inarticulate, legally ignorant, under-educated President has discovered that bullying the Director of the FBI is not the same as sacking one of his waitresses or 'grabbing her pussy,' to quote him. He seems a dead cert for impeachment before too long.

    Vive la France! On the other hand, the brilliant young Macron has read the French tea-leaves with immaculate precision. Sensing that the French public were tired of the political class who have been running his country, last year he created a new political movement, En Marche, and a few weeks ago was elected President by a huge margin. This weekend, the French have been voting for their MPs and Macron's new party seem set to win something like 75% of all parliamentary seats with a bunch of novice candidates - utterly sensational. Hail the new Napoleon. But wait; he is ultra pro the EU. Theresa will be up against him in the Brexit negotiations.

    No, I did not write this script. This is actually happening.





  15. Here we are approaching a snap General Election intended to give Prime Minister May the opinion-poll-predicted landslide majority she needs for negotiating Brexit.

    On becoming Prime Minister, Mrs May assured us several times that she would not take political advantage of her massive lead in the opinion polls but has. Now, she and her advisors have so cocked-up her election campaign that Labour's previously 'unelectable' Jeremy Corbyn is closing the gap sufficiently to allow the Scottish Nationalists to hold the balance of power. How on earth did we arrive in this unintended situation? 

    Gordon Brown inherited the Labour leadership from Tony Blair but failed to win a majority at his first General Election. That let in a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition under David Cameron; a coalition that virtually wiped out the Lib Dems. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown's heir-apparent, David Milliband, was stabbed in the front by his brother, Ed, who became Labour's new leader; but Ed was a political wonk, lost his first General Eleciton and David Cameron was returned with an overall majority. Ed then resigned leaving Labour with a leadership crisis - it had no obvious leader - and so the 'you-cannot-be-serious-ultra-disloyal Labour maverick', Jeremy Corbyn, became a 'no-hoper' Labour leader. The Tories licked their chops.

    David Cameron then called a Brexit referendum intended to shoot UKIP's fox and shut up his own euro-sceptic backbenchers, but the great British public had other ideas. They voted for Brexit; so Cameron had to resign as Prime Minister. The Tory pro-Brexit conspirators then stabbed each other in the back, front and sides leading to the anti-Brexit Theresa May unintentionally becoming Prime Minister and having to lead the Brexit charge.

    Now, she has so mishandled her snap General Election that the 'unelectable' Corbyn now seems to be electable with the anti-Brexit Scottish Nationalists holding the balance of English power.

    As Robert Burns famously remarked: 'The best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft agley (to cock)'


  16. The older one gets, the more fascinating life seems to become. I happened to be in France today and watched the inauguration ceremony of the new French President, President Macron. At thirty-nine he is the youngest President since Napoleon and is clearly a man on a mission. He created his own centrist party, En Marche, only a year ago - most impressive.

    Two things marked the difference between such a ceremony in France and the equivalent in the United Kingdom. The first is that France being a Republic and having decoupled the state from religion, there was neither the serried ranks of aristocrats who would pack out Westminster Abbey at a coronation nor was there even a church service. This was a purely political ceremony with the military very much to the fore - the President is their Commander-in-Chief - with pride of place being given to military veterans.

    The second peculiarly French difference was that of the President's love-life. The outgoing President Hollande had not believed in marriage. He had four children by a female politician from his own party but dumped her in favour of a Paris Match journalist when he moved into the Elysee Palace. Then he two-timed her with a young actress, his infidelity being exposed when he was caught riding pillion on a scooter, like a pizza delivery boy, to his secret love nest. (Goodness knows where the nuclear button was)! President Sarkosy before him, divorced his wife whilst President to marry Cala Bruni, an Italian pop singer. Before that President Mitterand had a mistress and a secret love-child etc etc.

    President Macron has brought a new dimension to the presidential love-life saga. He has married his former drama teacher, a schoolboy crush. She is twenty-five years his senior and divorced her husband to marry him. She arrives as First Lady at sixty-four. So that's one up to the cougars! However, it seems to me that the Macron marriage is one of the great love affairs of history; I don't see him having a-bit-on-the-side; he is clearly madly in love with his wife. I heard one Frenchman proclaim unkindly that he was the first President to take his mother to the Elysee Palace.

    No one batted an eyelid over seventy-year-old President Trump having a wife who is twenty-five years younger than he; so why is it so strange the other way round? Older woman are so much more interesting. 

  17. In an earlier blog, I mentioned the uplifting sight of a lamb being born in front of my kitchen window. There are now about twenty lambs in the field and tonight they were joined by a fox; I saw it from my window and phoned the shepherd.

    So who is for the fox and who for the lambs? 

    I eat meat and cannot deny that animals are killed to feed me (occasionally) but I cannot comprehend the mentality of people who take pleasure out of killing animals; who even call it 'sport'. That to me is sick.

    This fox was shot. Alas, it was only wounded and escaped to die a slow death somewhere else. Would it be better had it been pursued by a pack of hounds and ripped apart? I think not.

    Life  is tough.