The original title for this book was 'Children of the Nuclear Age'. I wrote it because the Nuclear Age, unlike all other 'Ages', had a very definite start date durng the Second World War, namely in the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb. That is when I was born. I was amongst the first children of the Nuclear Age and have spent my entire life under a nuclear umbrella. Anyone alive today under the age if 75 (in 2019) is also a child of the Nuclear Age. I changed the title to 'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service' when the book was complete, as that better reflected the story of my life (at least up to retirement).
I joined the Royal Navy in 1961, only sixteen years after the end of the Second World War, and I joined to defend my country. Like all of my generation, I grew up in the afterglow of the War and was weaned on stories of heroism, hardship and death. The new dimension was that I faced the terrifying prospect of nuclear obliteration in the Cold War, which was my generation's war. We grew up in the knowledge that we would have only four minutes notice of incoming Soviet missiles and nuclear obliteration. (The Fylingdales radar station in Yorkshire was built to provide that warning). Hitler's Fascist threat had simply been replaced by the Communist threat.
Nuclear submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) were invented when I was at school and, conscious that Hitler's U-boats had almost starved Britain into defeat, I recognised that nuclear-powered submarines were best equipped to hunt and kill enemy submarines, but another type of nuclear-powered submarine was also developed. This one could launch Intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads from an unknown position beneath the waves, and it could launch them at fifteen minutes notice if Britain were to suffer a nuclear attack. This latter type of submarine was known as the Strategic Nuclear Deterrent in what was called the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Both the Soviet Union and the West had the power to destroy each other and both sides understood that. There would be no winner in a Third World War. Terrifying though that prospect is, it is what has underpinned the 74 years of peace in our land since the Second World War ended.
The First and Second World Wars combined lasted 10 years with 80 million killed. The Cold War lasted 45 years (1945-1990) and did not descend into a Third World War. There were only 21 years between the First World War, 'the war to end all wars', and the Second. Why, after the carnage of the First World War, did mankind rush so quickly into a Second World War? The answer is that there was no nuclear deterrence then; the instigators of war expected to win. After 74 years, history has shown that nuclear deterrence has been a real force for peace.
My career in the Navy spanned thirty-seven years and ended as Commodore in charge at Faslane, the operating base for our Strategic Nuclear Deterrent submarines. I was but one of thousands of men engaged in this peacekeeping mission. We were all anonymous, quietly doing our duty and far from the public eye. Yet, by preventing the Third World War, we were doing the greatest public service of all. But we were 'The Silent Service'. The British public knew virtually nothing about us; it was all top secret. In this service, heroes were not required but nor were we robots; we also had lives to lead. My other reason for writing the book was to leave a public record of what life was like for the men who served in submarines during the Cold War.
'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service' is a true, inside story of a secret world. It spans the 55 years of fast changing world from 1943 to 1998. It is utterly authentic and, I hope, thought provoking, sobering and often amusing, indeed ridiculous. It is my statement of gratitude for the peace I have enjoyed.
Below, I have posted the fifteen minute video I present at book festivals. It is my story in pictures.