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  1. On my way home from Cornwall, I decided to divert off the M6 Toll and visit the new Submariner Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield. I expected to find a cemetery sort of place with few people visiting. I could hardly have been more wrong: it is a very large estate; there were overflow carparks (pre-booking of parking advised); and the place was mobbed, mainly with middle-to-older aged gents wearing Royal British Legion blazers and badges, though it is not exclusively military.

    Another surprise was to find literally hundreds of middle-to-older aged motorcyclists, resplendent in their biker leathers which were universally covered in badges and mottos informing the world of which service they had once served-in. I had arrived on the day of the Royal British Legion Motorcycle Association annual remembrance service. It completely flipped my image of ton-up kids.

    Submariner Memorial 1

    The Submariner Memorial was wonderfully conceived and created, and told its own story without the need for explanation. It stood on a grass plinth at the back end of the Royal Navy field and gave the visual impression of a nuclear submarine surfacing through the grass. The fin is split and inside stands a lifesize statue of a submariner looking upwards, as if towards the surface. On one side of the fin is a memorial to the submariners' families and loved ones; on the other is the submariners' dolphin badge and  Churchill's famous tribute to the Submarine Service in World War 2.

    Submariner Memorial 4

    Whilst every memorial - many merely single trees - was moving, two gave me particular reason to pause for thought. One was in memory of the 346 British soldiers who were executed by firing squads from their own side. Though some were guilty of murder, many were shot for cowardice, what today would probably have been diagnosed as traumatic stress disorder. The memorial portrays a seventeen-year-old soldier, blindfolded, and tied to a stake, arms tied behind him. The statue is surrounded by a semicircle of stakes bearing the names of all who were thus executed. This memorial only became possible when, in 2006, the British Government posthumously pardoned all soldiers who had been executed. War is ugly in so many ways. Best to be avoided. (That's why I was happy to serve in our strategic nuclear deterrent).


    The other particularly moving memorial was the remembrance garden for stillborn babies. They never had a life.

    I spent three hours in the arboretum and left with three words in mind:





  2. As a member of the Helensburgh Writers Workshop, I was able to enter the first 15,000 words of my draft novel, 'Torpedoes Galore', in the Unpublished General Novel category of the Scottish Association of Writers annual competitions 2023. I was delighted to discover at the awards ceremony that it had won a  'Commended'.

    The book was inspired by Compton Mackenzie’s ‘Whisky Galore’ and ‘Rockets Galore’ (‘Local Hero’ is in similar genre) and it has been an ambition of mine to write it ever since I served as a young officer on the RN Torpedo Trials Unit, which went up to Kyle of Lochalsh to set up a torpedo testing range. It's only taken me fifty years to write!!

    My story satirises the impact of the Navy’s arrival on a remote West Highland community where it is opposed by anti-nuclear protesters, the kirk, and Scottish nationalists. The tale set out originlly to be a pure comedy and still is laced with humour, some of it black, but is now a drama.

    The Adjudicator told me that she thought my manuscript was brilliant but could not give it first prize as she did not like the title or my synopsis, which she thought suggested a Carry On film type sex romp, which it is not. Based on her critique, I have now changed the title to 'Unofficial Secrets' and re-written the synopsis. The book is now complete, so I am about to search for an agent or publisher. 

    Lindsay Drummond, a fellow member of Helensburgh Writers Workshop, was even more successful. She won First Prize and a trophy in the Young Adult Fiction section. She has a real future as a writer.

    Jim McKean, a new member of the Workshop, entered a Short Story where the competition was massive (over 50 entries) but unfortunately did not win a prize this time. For me, the SAW competitions are not about winning; they're about getting the critiques from professional writers, a unique benefit from SAW membership. Few other competitions provide such feedback; so, one never learns. 

    L-R Eric Thompson, Lindsay Drummond (with trophy), and Jim McKean

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