In memory of Alan
So, Trident is to go ahead at a cost of £31 billion (until we are told different) by an overwhelming Commons verdict of 472 in favour and 117 against. I have to admit to mixed reactions, caused by personal experience of having stayed at our nuclear submarine base at Faslane in Scotland on several occasions.
My cousin, who was my best man and my best mate worked in maintaining the power plant on the nuclear submarines and after 15 years of hard work it eventually killed him when he was exposed to a nuclear leak. He left behind a wonderful wife and two kids and I still miss him 30 years on.
He was content with the life he led because naval families are a close community on this and every other base, supporting each other in a way that didn’t seem to happen in civvie street, in his opinion and he had tried both.
Of course the work was dangerous but he took pride in knowing that British nuclear submarines were the best in the world on any and every NATO exercise. Silence is the critical thing with submarine warfare and we ran rings around the opposition.
There were embarrassments, like in the age before nuclear and when the navy still issued its daily tot of rum to sailors.
A diesel driven sub had just returned to its base in Devonport after exercises and had to be refuelled. The unlucky sailor who drew the short straw to stay and oversee the refuelling was compensated by the remainder of the crew donating their tot to him.
The trick to refuelling a diesel sub was to make sure the weight of fuel being pumped in at the rear was compensated for by releasing sea water from the ballast tanks at the front.
On this occasion the sailor was not up to the job and the rear half of the sub sank and had to be transferred to dry dock for a complete overhaul. The press received a government D notice not to publish the story.
The second story he told me was of two nuclear subs returning from NATO exercises and one commander challenged the other to a race around the Isle of Wight. The upshot was that one submarine took a shortcut and beached. A cub reporter from the local press got down to the scene and captured a picture of this monster, beached by a ‘No Waiting’ sign with a dog cocking his leg against it. That got a D notice as well!
Happy memories of a time in my life that I really enjoyed, now tempered by yesterday’s vote that again signifies how barbaric we remain as a species. Human ingenuity has created a monstrous weapon that hangs over us like the sword of Damocles. It’s terrifying power available to the call of human fallibility.
I look around an ever more unstable world and particularly the candidates now running for the White House, one of whom is lacking in any forms of diplomacy and the other who is openly labelled as a ‘warmonger’, with a hideous track record that lacks any integrity whatsoever.
As I see it we have a choice. On the one hand we should not allow these people anywhere near the ‘red button’ and on the other hand there is a certain reassurance in knowing we have the best deterrent force on the planet.
We left the EU to become masters of our own destiny and as long as there is leadership who pose any threat whatsoever to world peace and God knows the US is pushing Russia and China to the limit these days, I want to know that my country will not have to lay belly up and exposed without the ability to effectively defend itself.
It is not a satisfactory situation by any stretch of the imagination but until we have a new breed of global leadership, who are not in the pockets of financiers and corporations and who accept and admit to the mess we are in, from environmental disaster to religious manipulation and constant warfare, we must be able to stand our ground and Trident fits this bill.
Whilst global banking sprint from one form of financial abuse to another, wrecking the lives of millions in the process and without any form of remorse or change of direction, the same cannot be said of our submarine programme.
Apart from the amusing stories above and the tragic experience of my cousin, which illustrate mistakes and human error, our Trident force act with utmost integrity and without the slightest hint of abuse or threat to world peace.
With what is now unfolding in Turkey we should feel confident we live in a Society where the silent professionals have not distressed the innocent and certainly have not cost the taxpayer anywhere remotely near what the toxic banking system has and still is costing us.
We do not live in a perfect world but to act responsibly with this devastating capability is something Britain can hold its head up high to and pray we find new leadership who also reflects that level of integrity and will work to its eventual abolition.
Until the next time.
Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes