The Story of the Book

WHY I WROTE IT

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 was when I was born (1943). I was amongst the first children of the Nuclear Age. I changed the title when the book was complete to reflect better the naval content.

I was weaned on stories of heroism, patriotism, hardship and death. The new dimension was that my generation faced the prospect of nuclear obliteration. We grew up in the knowledge that we would have only four minutes notice of incoming Soviet missiles and nuclear armageddon. The Fylingdales radar station in Yorkshire was built to provide that warning. Hitler's Fascist threat in the Second World War had simply been replaced by Communism, another enemy that sought world domination. 

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. However, the Americans were also developing another type of nuclear-powered submarine, one which could launch Intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads from an unknown position beneath the sea. This created an invulnerable nuclear counter-attack capability, ready 24/7 at fifteen minutes notice to launch. This was the submarine-launched strategic nuclear deterrent, a force for peace. However, these submarines, SSBNs in the jargon, would not enter service until 1968. Until then, it was the V-bombers of the RAF which carried Britain's nuclear deterrent.

I joined the Royal Navy in 1961, only sixteen years after the end of the Second World War.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

In the first half of the Twentieth Century, the First and Second World Wars together lasted ten years. 80 million people were killed. There were only twenty-one years between these wars. The First World War was called the 'war to end all wars'. So why, after the carnage of that war, did mankind rush so quickly into a Second World War? The answer is that In those days, instigators of war such as Hitler, expected to win. They were quite content to commit millions of troops to fight in far off lands. There was no nuclear deterrent then to discourage them.  

In the Cold War (1945-1990), both the Soviet Union and the Western Allies (NATO) had the power to destroy each other and both sides understood that. 'There could be no winner in a third world war.' (Kruschev, the Soviet leader said that). Terrifying though the prospect was, it is what has underpinned the 75 years of peace Britain has enjoyed since the end of the Second World War.

The Cold War lasted 45 years  and ended peacefully. History now shows that nuclear deterrence has been a true force for peace. We should be grateful for that.

My career in the Navy spanned thirty-seven years (1961-98) and ended as Commodore in charge at Faslane, the operating base for our Strategic Nuclear Deterrent submarines.

By preventing a third world war, the thousands of colleagues engaged in this peacekeeping mission were providing the greatest public service of all: maintaining peace. But submarines are 'The Silent Service'. The public know virtually nothing about us. So, my other reason for writing the book was to leave a public record of what life was like for those who served in our submarines during the Cold War.           

'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service' spans 55 years of a very fast changing world.

PUBLISHING CONTRACT

TMy agent, Ian Drury of Sheil Land, sent me my publishing contract for signing and I arranged to meet my publishing editor. All very exciting but a bit scarey. The contract holds me responsible for any defamation of character or breach of copyright or other litigious content. 

Sorting out copyright on old photos was a devil of a job; two of the photographic companies listed on photos I wished to use were 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 did not use those photos. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the US Navy came up trumps and allowed me use all their photographs. For this type of book, I had also to ensure that I was not breaching the Official Secrets Act. That was not a problem. I was well aware of what information should not be divulged. MOD gave me security clearance without challenge.

As this was an autobiography, real people were involved and I had to ensure that I was not guilty of libel. That was more sensitive. This was not a kiss-and-tell story and I had no desire to stab former colleagues in the back. That was not the point. Where I felt that offence may be caused, I used fictitious names. (That did not change the story). However, the book was about my personal character development and so it was necessary to describe difficult inter-personal experiences. I tracked down, as far as I could, all the people I had mentioned and sent them copies of the relevant manuscript pages. Quite a task and a bit of white knuckle effort when writing to people with whom I had crossed swards.

This process could have raised real problems if too many of my 'victims' demanded major changes. In reality, few did and several offered extra tit bits for inclusion. It was a life re-affirming experience. I found myself entering into the warmest of e-mail exchanges with old colleagues and former bosses. The most touching was a thoroughly generous reply from a former Captain who had sacked me in my first job; he had been a bete noir for about thirty years. Turned out that he was kindly but was probably under his own pressures then. This taught me a bit more about myself and my own weaknesses.

WARNING: Putative memoir writers beware: one former senior officer with whom I had once crossed swords, despite his name not being given in the book, took exception to my description of our clash (I had sent him a draft for comment) and subsequently wrote a character assassination of me disguised as a book review in the Naval Review. That entirely vindicated my description of him in the book. Two others who were not mentioned by name, recognised themselves and gave me adverse comments on Amazon feedback. Fortunately, they were a tiny minority. I have received more than fifty five-star ratings on Amazon at the last count.

MEETING MY PUBLISHER

The moment every writer dreams of: on 30th June, 2017, I met my publisher. Casemate (UK) is based in Oxford and specialises in military history. I met Clare Litt, the Publishing Director, and Tom Bonnington, the Marketing Executive, in the Ashmolean Museum - clearly I had been categorised as an old fossil! We hit it off straight away. 

On first contacting me, they had asked me for a suggestion for a cover and I had sent them a photograph. Now they surprised me by pulling out their graphic artist's design and asked for my opinion. I thought it was brilliant. It is a really dynamic cover, worthy of a thriller.  That's where the skill of a professional graphic designer comes in; I would have gone simply 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 actual publishing. My cover  appeared in Casemate's Spring 2018 Catalogue. After that, professional editors/readers attack the manuscript and may call for lots of editing. (Mine did not. My manuscript had already been very well edited). The advanced copies are then sent to the book reviewers. After that, the print copy will surface (to use submarine terminology). My publishing date was scheduled for Feb/Mar 2018, five months earlier than I had expected. Then it was on to marketing.

After years of slogging away on my laptop, it was difficult to believe that this was actually happening.

 

Once a book is published, it has to be promoted. That is another task in its own right. Very large publishers may have a marketing department. Smaller publishers do not. Ultimately, the author has to much of the marketing.

In my case, I had some previous experience of media management and my younger son was in that business. Thus, I did achieve some excellent coverage in the Scottish media including TV interviews but was unable to penetrate the UK national broadsheets or TV channels. I did however get a full page spread out-of- the- blue in the Mail on Sunday. Casemate's US office also set me up for a one hour live radio interview on a US Radio book programme.

Book festivals seem to be difficult to break into because they want well-known authors to bring in the crowds and make the festival financially viable. From my point of view, the economic benefits of attending book festivals at the other end of the country, don't add up. I did manage  to gain a place in Glasgow's Aye Write lierary festival and the Berwick-on-Tweed Literary Festival. Both were most enjoyable and I was well recieved by full audiences (very humbling).