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On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service

by Eric Thompson

Biography / Autobiography History

LoveReading View on On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service

A well-written book offering readers a fascinating glimpse into the little-known world of the modern Navy and its submarine service. 

Littered with amusing stories and anecdotes, Thompson’s writing entertains as well as informs. 

I was a little surprised some of the content isn’t covered by the Official Secrets Act but we must be grateful that its time constraints allow us to now read what was actually going on beneath the waves and how these dedicated people helped prevent the Cold War becoming more.

Matt Johnson

On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service Synopsis

A journey inside the submarines that patrolled beneath the surface to keep the peace during the Cold War, from a Royal Navy officer and engineer.

During the Cold War, nuclear submarines quietly helped prevent a third world war, keeping watch and maintaining the deterrent effect of mutually assured destruction. For security reasons, very few knew the inside stories—until now. Eric Thompson is a career nuclear submarine officer who served from the first days of the Polaris missile boats until after the Cold War, ending 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.

He 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 changes surrounding gender and sexual preference 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—but it was always a deadly serious game. Among other subjects, Thompson discusses:


• The two American nuclear submarines Thresher and Scorpion, which sank with no survivors during the Cold War

• The history of submarines, including the Hunley  a Confederate submarine during the US Civil War, which was the first sub to ever sink a ship—though it did so kamikaze-style

• What a submarine base is like

• How a Soviet sub in the Mediterranean was flushed out, earning the crew a crate of champagne from America

• The author’s personal experience with the Polaris and Trident classes of submarine, and more

On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service Press Reviews engaging, thoroughly entertaining read, which also serves up contemplation (and education) about the unthinkable. --

Warships International Fleet Service

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

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

It is written in a delightfully understated, humourous style with some quirky turns of phrase, which forms an unusual didactic prose but nevertheless makes it an absorbing read --


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

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

Nuclear Futures

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



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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781612008943
Publication date: 28/09/2020
Publisher: Casemate Publishers
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781612008943
Publication date: 28th September 2020
Author: Eric Thompson
Publisher: Casemate Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 288 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, History,
Categories: Autobiography: historical, political & military, Naval forces & warfare,

About Eric Thompson

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. ...

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