Cdre Eric Thompson standing by the gun in HMS Andrew in 1969
Feature

COMMENT: Submariners Maintaining Continuous At Sea Deterrence Are True Peace Campaigners

Former Commodore and author Eric Thompson sets out why he believes submariners, not anti-nuclear protesters, are the true peace campaigners....

Cdre Eric Thompson standing by the gun in HMS Andrew in 1969

Cdre Eric Thompson's career in the Royal Navy spanned nearly 40 years, during which he served on HMS Vigilant, Hermes and Barrosa and HMS Andrew, Otter, Osiris, Conqueror and Revenge. He was in charge of Clyde Submarine Base at Faslane, Scotland and was also awarded an MBE for leadership during an emergency on patrol.

One of the unseen crosses servicemen and women have to bear is that of not being able to defend their role in public.

That is the job of politicians and, on their behalves, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) press office.

The MoD, however, tends to issue bland, defensive and non-controversial press releases, e.g. "The Ministry can neither confirm nor deny", Rule 1 being that: The Minister must never be embarrassed.

As a submarine officer, I found it galling to drive past a so-called 'Peace Camp' at the gates of Faslane and having to suffer (along with other law-abiding citizens) from the traffic jams caused by CND 'Peace' demonstrations forming roadblocks, the latter being attended by left-wing politicians hoping to create a photo opportunity of themselves being arrested at the main gates of the base.

Eh? Have this lot failed to notice that we have had peace in the United Kingdom throughout the seventy-three years since the end of the Second World War - courtesy of nuclear deterrence?

Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde primarily sited at Faslane
Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde primarily sited at Faslane, where the protests took place.

These anti-nuclear protesters are anything but 'peace campaigners'.

It is the submariners maintaining 'Continuous At Sea Deterrence' who are the true peace campaigners.

The facts are quite simple. In the first half of the 20th century, there were the two most horrific wars in the history of the human race and that was before nuclear weapons were invented.

The First World War was dubbed the War to End All Wars yet a mere 21 years later, we had the even greater horror of the Second World War in which 60 million people were slaughtered. World War 2 was terminated by the first use of nuclear weapons, not begun by them.

In fact, the rifle has killed more people than nuclear weapons.

Trident, Britain's nuclear deterrent
Trident, Britain's nuclear deterrent

At the end of the Second World War, our war-weary leaders reached immediately for nuclear weapons as the only conceivable method available for preventing a Third World War, not to begin one.

The principle was called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), an utterly persuasive deterrent.

The Cold War followed hot on the heels of the Second World War. In this, the free Western democracies had to confront the expansionist ambitions of Soviet Communism.

It was NATO versus the Warsaw Pact, both sides armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons.

With the advent of nuclear-powered submarines capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles from an unknown position, the principle of MAD was further reinforced, as these underwater launch pads cannot be pre-emptively taken-out.

A US military base built under the Greenland ice sheet is being exposed as ice melts
A US military base built under the Greenland ice sheet is being exposed as ice melts.

The success of this policy has indisputably been proved twice.

First, in the Cuba missile crisis of 1962 when the Soviets had secretly smuggled intermediate-range nuclear missiles into Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba, missiles capable of targeting the whole of the USA.

President Kennedy had an election to face and had to be seen to act tough; President Kruschev had the prestige of International Communism at stake and could not be seen to back down.

The world went to Red Alert. This was poker for the highest stakes.

In the end, Kruschev backed down, claiming correctly that "human reason had won".

There would have been no winners in a nuclear world war.

The second clear proof is that after forty-six years, the Cold War never did degenerate into a third world war.

I would argue that a third proof in today's world is President Putin of Russia did not simply invade Ukraine to reclaim the Crimea.

He could have done so easily but did not want to risk things escalating out of control into a third world war. So, he reclaimed the Crimea by stealth and subversion.

Ukraine soldier
A solider in Ukraine

A further explanation of the effectiveness of strategic nuclear deterrence is that an intercontinental ballistic missile can take out the leadership of the enemy regime.  

Monarchs and dictators can no longer fight their battles by committing millions of foot soldiers to slaughter in distant fields.

One Trident missile could have taken out the whole of Berlin, Hitler and all.

That would have made him think again about invading Russia and France. (Both these nations now have nuclear counter-strike capability).

Trident HMS Victorious

I hear anti-nuclear campaigners argue that one Trident submarine would pay for two new hospitals.

I would counter-argue that the NHS and society itself would collapse completely if there were to be a third world war.

Nuclear deterrence is the price of peace.

Nuclear deterrence, however, prevents only world war.

It will not stop fighting in the streets, rebellions, regime changing, religious or proxy wars such as Vietnam, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq etc.

These conflicts are the justification for our conventional forces.

The bottom line is clear. Pacifists and anti-nuclear protesters have done absolutely nothing to safeguard our peace.

It is the submariners on Continuous At Sea Deterrent patrol who are the true peacekeepers.

Cover photo courtesy of Cdre Thompson

Cdre Thompson's book, On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service, about the secretive life of submarines and the men who served on them will be launched on March 13.

It is already available for purchase on Amazon and at Casemate Publisher's website: https://www.casematepublishing.co.uk/on-her-majesty-039-s-nuclear-service.html

Cdre Eric Thompson's career in the Royal Navy spanned nearly 40 years, during which he served on HMS Vigilant, Hermes and Barrosa and HMS Andrew, Otter, Osiris, Conqueror and Revenge. He was in charge of Clyde Submarine Base at Faslane, Scotland and was also awarded an MBE for leadership during an emergency on patrol.

On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service
On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service by Cdre Thompson