Here is my Certificate of Merit and the complete shortlist of entries. (It was originally 38).
Now November and the book is on its way through the final editing process. The cover has been finalised, as shown below, and the book is in Casemate's Spring 2018 Catalogue. The link below should take you there; my book is on page 5.
Currently, Casemate are preparing the final proof manuscript for checking by me with an intended publishing date of Feb/Mar, earlier than I had expected. After that, it's on to the marketing campaign.
The moment every writer dreams of, on 30th June I met my publisher for the first time. Casemate (UK) are based in Oxford and specialise in military history. I met Clare Litt, the Publishing Director, and Tom Bonnington, the Marketing Executive, in the Ashmolean Museum - clearly I am viewed as an old fossil!
As they want to publish and sell my book and so do I, it was a veritable coalition of the willing and a very great pleasure. We hit it off straight away. They surprised me by pulling out a proposed cover and asking for my opinion. I attach a copy. I think it is a really dynamic cover, worthy of a thriller rather than a set of memoirs. That's where the skill of a professional graphic designer comes in; I would have gone instinctively for a photograph.
Getting the cover done is the first priority for a publisher as it has to go into the book catalogues well ahead of the actual publishing. After that, their team of professional readers will attack the manuscript and no doubt call for lots of editing. Then the advanced copies are sent to the ranks of book reviewers. After that, the print copy will surface (to use submarine terminology). The publishing date is scheduled for Feb/Mar next year (2018) which is five months earlier than I had expected.
After years of slogging away on my laptop, it's difficult to believe this is actually happening.
Things are now moving. I have signed my publishing contract and am meeting my publishing editor at the end of the month. All very exciting but a bit scarey; the contract holds me personally responsible for any defamation of character or breach of copyright.
Sorting out copyright on old photos is a devil of a job; two of the photographic companies listed on photos I wish to use are long since out of business but their copyright may have been sold to others or passed on in wills to family. All too difficult; I shall not use such photos. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the US Navy, however, have come up trumps and allowed me use all their photographs. (MOD has also given me security clearance on the manuscript without change; that was a pleasant surprise).
I have also written to all the people I can contact who are implicated in the book lest they have any objections. I'm delighted to say that none have although one or two have asked for slight changes. That has been a life re-affirming experience as I have entered into the warmest of e-mail exchanges with old colleagues, both junior and senior.
The publishing date should be by next August (2018).
On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service
My story celebrates the fact that I have lived through the second-half of the twentieth century and never known war. Had I lived through the first-half, I would have faced two world wars, the bloodiest in the history of the human race. I am from the luckiest generation and grateful for that but peace did not happen by accident; I have lived under a nuclear umbrella, through forty-six years of the Cold War.
After the horrors of the Second World War, Churchill said: 'It must never happen again.' To ensure it did not, the victors equipped themselves with nuclear weapons, weapons so devastating that they were the ultimate deterrent to a third world war. The principle was called Mutually Assured Destruction.
Inspired by the heroes of the Second World War, I joined the Royal Navy in 1961, volunteered for submarines and served 'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service'. My career spanned thirty-seven years and ended as Commodore in charge at Faslane, the operating base for the UK's 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. Heroes were not required but nor were we robots; we also had lives to lead. This is what life was like for me.
The book is a definitive inside story of a secret world, utterly authentic and, I hope, thought provoking, sobering and, on occasion, amusing. It is my statement of gratitude for the peace I have enjoyed.
* There were no women in our submarines during the Cold War.
Date due for publication: June 2018
Agent: Ian Drury of Shiel Land and Associates
Chapter 1 - On Patrol
'Nobody knows where the submarine goes. And nobody gives a damn.'
(Graffiti in a Fleet Tender)
June 1978 - HMS Revenge on patrol
The sudden roar came as a shock. It sounded like a jumbo jet taking off.
'Steam leak in the TG room!' a voice shrieked over the intercom.
The roar said it all. This was serious.
Frank Hurley and I exchanged glances. 'Whot-da-fock!' he exclaimed.
We were in the tail end of a nuclear submarine, locked-in behind the massive steel doors of the reactor compartment. Our space was filling with steam. I was Senior Engineer and on watch. My moment of truth had come.
I pressed the general alarm three times - baaaa baaaa baaaa: 'Steam leak in the TG room,' I screamed over full main broadcast. There were one hundred and forty men for'ard, not least the Captain. They needed to know; this was a whole boat emergency. In the heat of the moment I forgot to cancel full main broadcast. The entire crew would now be entertained by my new soprano voice - strange how panic reacts on the testicles.
I knew the emergency drill by heart: Shut both Main Steam Stops. That would shut off all steam to the Engine Room. At a stroke, it would kill the leak. It was no more difficult than switching off the bedroom lights but it would also scram the reactor, the pumping heart of the submarine; the plant would automatically go into Emergency Cooling and there was no recovery from that at sea. We would have lost our power source, be reduced to a dead ship. We would have to surface and signal for a tug. Unthinkable. Revenge was a Polaris missile submarine on Strategic Nuclear Deterrent patrol. She was the country's duty guardian. We were the nation's assurance that World War Three would not happen, not on our watch. We were in our top-secret patrol position. Our number one priority was to remain undetected. Surfacing and calling for a tug would mean breaching one of the country's most highly guarded secrets - where we were. It would mean national humiliation. The credibility of our Nuclear Deterrent was at stake.
If I got it wrong now, the political ramifications would be incalculable. Jim Callaghan's Government was riven by anti-nuclear sentiment. Many of his Labour MPs were proud to flaunt CND badges in public, none more so than Michael Foot, the left wing leader-in-waiting; this could be their golden opportunity. If the Deterrent were seen to fail, British nuclear strategy would be holed below the waterline. Britain could lose its place in the UN Security Council. The Americans could end our Special Relationship. These lofty anxieties flashed through my mind as I prepared to be poached alive.
The Main Steam Stops were operated by push buttons behind my head. I hit the starboard button first. Then a split-second thought occurred. There was a fifty-fifty chance I'd got it right first time. 'Which side?' I yelled into the microphone.
'Starboard,' came a strangulated reply, the voice of Leading Mechanic 'Bungy Mack', a twenty-year-old Liverpudlian on watch below.
Thank God I had not hit the port button; we could survive on half power. But the roar had not stopped. Holy shit! The leak was on the boiler side of the stop valve! One massive, nuclear-powered steam generator was discharging its steam into my airspace and could not be stopped. We were in a race against time. The boiler had to be emptied before it killed us.