On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service

Eric Thompson

The first ever memoir by a Royal Navy nuclear submarine officer, this is the inside story of the men who ensured that 'Mutually Assured Destruction' was maintained at all times during the Cold War.
Date Published :
April 2018
Publisher :
Illustration :
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781612005713
Pages : 336
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
In stock


During the Cold War, nuclear submarines performed the greatest public service of all: prevention of a third world war. History shows that they succeeded; the Cold War ended peacefully, but for security reasons, only now can this story be told.

Eric Thompson is a career nuclear submarine officer who served from the first days of the Polaris missile boats until after the end of the Cold War. He joined the Navy in the last days of Empire, made his first sorties in World War II type submarines and ended up as the top engineer in charge of the Navy’s nuclear power plants. Along the way, he helped develop all manner of kit, from guided torpedoes to the Trident ballistic missile system. In this vivid personal account of his submarine operations, he reveals what it was like to literally have your finger on the nuclear button.

In his journey, the author leads the reader through top-secret submarine patrols, hush-hush scientific trials, underwater weapon developments, public relations battles with nuclear protesters, arm-wrestling with politicians and the changing roles of females and homosexuals in the Navy. It is essentially a human story, rich in both drama and comedy, like the Russian spy trawler that played dance music at passing submarines. There was never a dull moment.

Behind the lighter moments was a deadly serious game. This, the inside story of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, reveals the secretive life of submarines and the men who served on them; they kept their watch, and by maintaining the threat of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ helped keep Britain and the world safe.

· Eric Thompson goes into detail about the two American nuclear submarines Thresher and Scorpion which sunk with no survivors during the Cold War – he explains how they sank and what the Americans did to improve the safety of the submarines
· Thompson talks about the history of submarines, mentioning the Hunley, a submarine of the Confederate States of America during the U.S. Civil War, which was the first sub to ever sink a ship - though it did so by ramming into the Housatonic with a bomb so it was actually a kamikaze
· American submarines regularly went in and out of the Clyde to get to the Royal Navy’s Faslane base, hence why the submarines sent a spy trawler to the estuary
· The author describes the American submarine base in Holy Loch, Scotland
· Thompson worked on submarines that were often tasked with US requests – on Conqueror the Americans wanted to flush out a Soviet submarine in the Mediterranean which they succeeded in doing and were given a crate of champagne by the Americans for their efforts
· Britain bought both the Polaris and Trident classes of submarine from the Americans – the author worked on Polaris subs and was Commodore at Faslane when the Trident subs arrived
· The torpedo Eric Thompson helped develop, Tigerfish, was tested at the American testing facility in the Bahamas
· As Trident was both an American and British operation, the author worked at the Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia

About The Author

Eric Thompson was born in Scotland during the Second World War. He won a scholarship to Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth at sixteen, was streamed as an Engineer Officer, volunteered for submarines and thirty-seven years later retired as Commodore of Britain's principal nuclear submarine base at Faslane. A creature of the Cold War, he served in five submarines, two squadrons, the staff of Submarine HQ and the Ministry of Defence. In addition to being a nuclear propulsion specialist, he took a Masters degree in Acoustics and became a lead officer in the ultra-secret world of underwater warfare and stealth technology. His MBE was awarded for leadership during a submarine emergency on patrol.


“A revealing book and essential reading for those wanting to understand the chilling detail of how Britain's nuclear deterrent is operated.”

- Britain at War

“Overall, I would thoroughly recommend the book. It was an interesting, sometimes thought provoking, but above all an entertaining read.”

- Nuclear Futures

“One wonders now if the "mutually assured destruction" threat has any real meaning with respect to Britain's nuclear deterrent. Fascinating slice of cold war history.”

- Books Monthly

“…an engaging, thoroughly entertaining read, which also serves up contemplation (and education) about the unthinkable.”

- Warships International Fleet Service

“After so often reading of accidents and problems afflicting Britain's nuclear submarine fleet in often sensationalised articles in the general media, it is refreshing to learn what really happens directly from a knowledgeable and reliable source.”

- Baird Maritime

Presented with humility, humour, and political and technical awareness, this remarkable book provides a succinct insight into the daily reality of maintaining nuclear deterrence.

- Mountbatten

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