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 Hitler's Fascist threat in the Second World War had simply been replaced by Communism, another enemy that sought world domination.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.