Royal Navy ID card of British hero Able Seaman William McNeilly.
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Trident nuclear accidents and terrorism are the greatest threats we face
Able Seaman William McNeilly
18th May 2015
The UK's Trident nuclear missile system and the nuclear submarines on which it depends represent a massive danger to the UK due to faulty equipment, gross security lapses and ignorance of operating procedures, writes William McNeilly. This leaves the system open to accidents and terrorist attack, and apparently unable to even fire missiles should the need arise.
The worst fear for me isn't prison or being assassinated, it's the fear of sacrificing everything I have just to warn the public and yet never be heard.
My name is William McNeilly. I am an Engineering Technician Weapons Engineer Submariner for the UK's Trident II D5 Strategic Weapons System.
I sent this report on the 05/05/15 to every major newspaper, freelance journalists, and whistle-blower I could find. It is now the 11/05/15. I've had zero acknowledgement from anyone.
The penalty for releasing this will be life prison if I'm lucky. I'm supposed to be being watched for Top Secret Clearance yet after sending a report containing information about how close the Nuclear Weapon System is to a disaster, I've made 3 flights and returned to the UK with still no acknowledgement from anyone.
The worst fear for me isn't prison or being assassinated, it's the fear of sacrificing everything I have just to warn the public and yet never be heard.
My leave expires today, I will be haunted down for not turning up. When I'm found I will confess and will no longer be able to keep trying to warn the public. Please release this information in whichever way you can.
I need you to publish this document
This is bigger than me, it's bigger than all of us. We are so close to a nuclear disaster it is shocking, and yet everybody is accepting the risk to the public. If we don't act now lives could be lost for generations.
This is document will enlighten you to the shockingly extreme conditions that our nuclear weapons system is in right now, and has been in the past. It describes different threats and events that have happened and are threats that are highly likely to happen; each one individually should raise maximum concern.
I need you to publish this document or send it to someone who will; please, for the safety of the people.
This will jump between things like food hygiene and a flooded toilets, till describing the complete lack of security, floods, and a blazing inferno in the Missile Compartment etc. My aim is to paint an overall picture of what I've seen, and to break down the false images of a perfect system that most people envisage exists.
I gathered the information by: Listening to O Group meetings, reading documents, conversation, briefs, listening in to conversations and seeing with my own eyes. O Group meetings are meetings that discuss the incidents onboard and plan all boat evolutions. They are held in the Navigation centre, which is a Top Secret compartment.
A Swiss cheese of security holes
My Top Secret clearance is only in the pending position. I shouldn't have been able to gain entrance to that compartment, but part of my job is Strategic Weapon System navigation, so they gave me access for training purposes.
At the beginning of patrol I was kicked out of the Navigation centre when O Group were about to begin, but I found a way to stay. There's a computer down the back that I worked on. Out of sight, out of mind. I could hear everything, and no-one told me to leave when I was there.
This contains references to CB8890: The instructions for the safety and security of the Trident II D5 strategic weapon system. I'm sure all the Strategic Weapon System (SWS) personnel are scratching their heads and wondering how I'm writing this on my personal laptop and referencing a book, which is contained within a safe in the Missile Control Centre (MCC).
The MCC is the compartment used to control the launch of the nuclear missiles. It can only be accessed by people on the access list, and no personnel electronics are allowed. I was on the access list but how could I have gotten a copy of every single chapter on to my phone? A hidden camera? No. Smuggled the book out then filmed it? No.
What I did was walk into a room where no recording devices are allowed. I sat down; took my Samsung Galaxy SII (white) out of my pocket, and recorded the entire book word for word. I held the phone still, about a foot in front of my face and anyone who looked at the screen or used common sense, would've seen I was recording.
There were other SWS personnel in the room; in the video you can see a SWS JR about 3 feet in front of me talking to another SWS JR sitting right beside me. You probably think that's impossible but I've got the evidence to prove it.
The complete lack of concern for security worries me. The fact is it would've been even easier for me to cause a nuclear catastrophe than to gather that information, and gathering that information was actually quite simple, due to the amount of ignorance. We are at war, with a new kind of enemy.
The terrorists have infiltrated every nation on our planet. Our nuclear weapons are a target that's wide open to attack.
To survive we must adapt
You don't have to be Alexander the Great to see we must adapt our strategies. The Cold War is over; are we still in situation where we must invest billions upon billions into a system that puts our citizens at risk? NO! We must adapt to the evolving world in order to survive!
Here's an example of how little people outside of the Trident Program know about the Trident Program: I was part of a squad that had went through basic training, and had almost finished our Phase 2 weapons engineering training before we knew we would be joining the SWS department (Strategic Weapons System).
We came into contact with a lot of instructors and there was only one person who knew anything besides the names of the Vanguard class submarines (Trident). The only reason he knew was because he served on them. There is a strict need to know policy for the HMS Vanguard class submarines; Regardless of military rank or political authority.
I had envisioned a system with strict security and safety. I didn't see how wrong I was until I arrived at HMS Neptune, (Faslane) and started doing the dry phase of the submarine qualification (SMQ Dry). My class sat in a room that overlooked the submarines.
We all looked at the defences and contemplated how any enemy might take one out. We thought of multiple ways that one could be taking out but they all required military grade equipment. I still thought it was as safe as it gets; no alarms bells were ringing in my head until the first boat visit.
In the classroom we were told to take all electronic devices out of our pockets, and warned that we might be searched. We headed down to the final access gate to the Green Area; the last security check point. Unless you count the Quarter Masters; (QM) I've walked past them so many times without showing ID that I don't consider them a line of defence. I'll explain those situations later on.
Harder to enter a nightclub than Faslane Green Area
At the gate the guard barely looked at my pass, which was a paper sticker with my face on it; mounted onto a piece cardboard. The whole group throw their passes into the security office without the security officer examining them or even showing an interest in having a look to see if their faces matched the pictures. It's harder to get into most nightclubs than it is to get into the Green Area.
There's still the pin code system to get through the gate! Oh wait, No there's not, it's broke, and anyone standing there that has thrown their security pass in or NOT, will get buzzed through. If you have a Green area pass or any old green card you can just show it to them from about 3 metres away (if the boat's on the first berths; if not 1 metre) then get Buzzed Through!! That's the toughest part of the security!!
There are some security guards that will expect you to put the pass to the window so they can inspect it, however the vast majority of them don't. We approached the QM's box to get our security brief then headed down the boat. No search at all. It wasn't because we're Royal Navy personnel, it was because that's the standard procedures.
100's of contractors go down the boat when it's alongside. Their equipment isn't searched and they are not pat down. All it takes is someone to bring a bomb onboard to commit the worst terrorist attack the UK and the world has ever seen.
A perfect example of how pure the security is, is when I first got my Green Area Pass I was assigned to a boat which was in the ship lift. It was a rainy dark winter's morning. The bus took us down to the gate and about 10 people were about to gain access to the Green Area at once. We All throw our Green Area North (GAN) passes into a pile in the box; without showing any ID. Then we all got buzzed through. Anyone without an ID or a GAN pass could've easily gotten through in the group.
This was not a one time occurrence, it happens every morning. Sometimes when it was windy and raining I kept my face looking in the complete opposite direction from the guard so they couldn't see my face; I was still buzzed through. Anyone can catch that bus from the Yellow Area (normal base area/ area before Red Area).
IDs are checked on the way into the Red Area (Area before Green Area) on the bus; by a guy who just walks up and down barely looking. I've gotten through a few times by just showing my pale white room key; looks nothing like a Green Area Pass. Also if you just walk into the Red Area from the Yellow area most of the time they will look at in your ID from about 4 metres away then till you to go on through the road part (especially if it's raining).
At a Base security brief we were told that thousands of Royal Navy IDs go missing every year. A terrorist can use them, or create counterfeits with them and easily gain access down the submarine. Considering most of the guards barely look at them from a few metres (couple of feet if they're the rare ones) away the fakes wouldn't have to be too perfect. I've shown a room card or nothing, at least once at every check point.
I got feet away from the nuclear missiles without an ID check
I had gotten into the Green Area in a cluster of about 10 people and then I found out I needed to go to the boat that's in the ship lift. I was in a group of six personnel that was going to do BSS on the boat. Which is basically walking around every compartment onboard learning about the boat. We went through the ship lift, past the QM, down to MC (Missile Compartment) 2 deck, set our bags just feet away from the missiles and no-one had stopped us.
Keep in mind, this was our first time on the boat. No-one in the crew knew who we were but they still didn't stop us. I done the same thing every morning, for the next four days.
I went through into the Red Area without my ID being checked for facial resemblance, through into the Green Area in a cluster of people, then walked straight down to MC 2 deck and sat my unchecked bag beside the missile. I done it for almost a week before we a QM stopped me to see if I was on the access list.
He told me that I should be handing my ID into the QMs box so they know who's on board if there's an emergency. One QM for one night done his job, all the whole time I was there. Accessing a boat which isn't in the ship lift is just as easy. People very rarely get stopped by the QMs unless they're in groups or look like their lost.
You can carry anything through the security check points without it being checked! When I helped with storing ship, I brought things of all shapes through and none of it was checked. Before sailing I brought my own stuff onboard in a huge grip bag; it wasn't checked. There were 31 BSQ's + ships staff + civilians = over 180 people bringing huge unchecked bags onboard.
If you've been through airport security after 9/11 you'll have seen how thorough the security is nowadays. If airport security and Nuclear weapon security were both compared to prisons, the airport would be Alcatraz and Base security would be house arrest.
Touch what you want - none of the equipment works anyway'
Jumping back to my first time down the boat (SMQ Dry). I was far from impressed with the security and I was about to be extremely disappointed in the conditions of the equipment. We went to the control room; the instructor said don't touch anything.
A crew member responded by saying "it doesn't matter none of it works anyway, you can touch what you want." Everyone laughed. They also complained in the Missile Control Centre (MCC) about how their equipment is "F**KED!".
There were a lot of red tags on equipment in most of the compartments we went into. I highly suspected a lot of them were for defect rectification, rather than standard maintenance Tagouts.
Seeing the condition of the security and equipment made me more than concerned, for the safety of the people. It was at that point I realised I needed to gather as much safety and security information as I could. My intentions at that point were to make the changes by reporting through the chain of command.
In SMQ dry I learnt that HMS Vanguard is in the worst of the worst condition. Countless times it tried to sail but had to come back in; forcing the other boats to do extended patrols.
In one of the lessons the instructor mentioned they found a problem with one of the nuclear reactors on one of the boats. He said all boats might need to get their reactors replaced. The instructor didn't give away much information.
'Playing dumb comes easy to me'
I knew I had to get assigned to a boat and go on patrol as soon as possible in order to gather this information. Fast Track to a Leading Engineer was the answer. If I got fast tracked I would be on the first available boat after training. I worked hard day and night, and at the end of the 10 week course I had the achieved the highest test result on average out of a 20 plus people on the SMQ course.
At the end of SMQ dry training No-one received fast track. However the achievement went onto my JPA record. There was just one course left, one last shot. The Trident Training Facility (TTF).
At the end the course I was told I had more SWS (Strategic Weapons System) knowledge than most of the supervisors onboard. It was a nice compliment but I doubt it. I was awarded Fast Track to Leading Engineering Technician and received an award for best student.
Just weeks after passing out of training I had a draft for HMS Victorious. My work mates started calling me a terrorist robot because I remembered everything and I have a Northern Ireland accent. This reputation would have undoubtedly made it difficult for me to gather information. I needed to create distance between them, and create a new persona; I aimed for mixture of dumbness and eagerness to learn for simple curious reasons.
Within days of being on patrol I was no longer the terrorist robot, soaking up all the information for terrorist reasons. Playing dumb came easy for me, I've been doing it and been it most of life. It makes people open up and explain a lot more.
If someone assumes you know something they might leave that part out of the conversation, meaning you've just lost information which might have been valuable. It also helps with getting out of certain situations. I watched a lot of Columbo when I was a kid.
A shambles in the galley
Stores Ship - The crew was getting ready to sail; I was assisting with storing the supplies on the boat. This day gave a good indication as to how the patrol was going to be: disorganised and a risk to health. Nobody took charge of storing ship.
Most of the crew that was supposed to be helping us left early, there was food on the ground, food thrown in skip / bin, with wrappers busted and people throwing food at personnel on the casing and a lot of food to still waiting to get brought onboard.
We had started in the morning and it wasn't until the night that the PO came out to take charge. He ordered us to bring onboard the meat which was laying on the floor and in the bin for a good part of the day. There was meat which had dirt on it because the wrapper was busted; it was still brought onboard for us to eat on patrol.
The firefighting equipment was brought on broad at the last minute and stowed away in a rush by BSQs (non-submarine qualified personnel); most of them didn't know where to put the gear.
If the suits were stored incorrectly it could dramatically affect the response time to an incident. I also don't like the idea of removing a lot of the firefighting equipment from the submarine whilst in harbour. Their reasoning is, it's for re-entering the submarine from the casing if there's a fire.
How about having sets onboard and sets at the fire dump for re-entry, so the other PPI Gold teams have the option of getting dressed anywhere onboard or from the casing?
I said that to a PO and his response was "it's a good point, they probably don't do it for money reasons." Considering the Billions that's poured into these submarines, I doubt and hope it's not for money reasons.
Day one of patrol
It was a dark, rainy and windy morning I made it through the Gate to the Red Area with my helmet on and looking down so the guard couldn't see my face; he never asked me to look up.
I made it through the Green Area checkpoint by keeping my face away from the guards, I didn't show my ID, and I never handed any ID in. I got buzzed straight through with the others. A roll call was done for the BSQ's (Basic Submarine Qualification).
It turns out there were too many people onboard and a bunch of people weren't actually supposed to be there. A few of them got asked to leave but they still kept too many. Which meant there would always be two people sharing one bed (Hot Bunking) because they didn't have the space.
They also set up new beds, one of which blocked a major hydraulic isolation and another two blocked the Port & Starboard DC switch boards.
Three things that we need to gain access to in an emergency. The risk was recognised after about a week , and two the beds at the switchboards were taken down. There were 31 BSQs on the boat. 31 extra people to get in the way of the damage control teams in an emergency. 31 people to distract watch keepers with their task books.
Initial dive - a black comedy of errors
On the first dive there was loud continuous bang being heard by everyone. It was down the forward starboard side. The next day in the junior rates mess, I heard people complaining amongst themselves about it being ignored. After all patrol objective No.1 is to remain undetected except by forces allocated in direct support.
They suspected it might have been the fore-planes. The fore-planes is a control surface that is used to alter the depth of the submarine.
There were jokes about the fore-planes being defective throughout the entire submarine. They joked about getting them stuck in dive mode. The aft-planes on full rise would compensate, if that did happen.
However would you feel safe having a plane fly over our cities that had a problem with getting stuck in dive mode? When the boat was on index they shut off from diving and stayed on the surface for safety concerns due to the fore-planes.
We need to dive whilst on patrol to remain undetected; the safety concerns were as always, dismissed. We are down to two boats that are available for patrol. Both of which have major defects. Question is what does it take for us to stop the Continuous At Sea Deterrent CASD? CASD forces there to be one submarine at sea on patrol all time.
A problem occurred with the Main Hydraulic Plant. I stood at the laundry where the mechanical engineers (ME's) hangout; to gather information. Somehow sea water was getting into it. The amount of actual hydraulic oil in the plant had fallen to 35% the rest was sea water. An ET ME SM called the officers plans to deal with the situation "stupid".
Weeks had past and the problem was still there. I then heard a Leading ME say there's an estimated 400-500 litres of sea water in the main hydraulic rep tank. The problem was there until the end of the patrol.
Hydraulics is used to open the muzzle hatches. This defect stopped them from doing a Battle Readiness Test (BRT) which proves that the muzzle hatches could have opened whilst on patrol, and that if we needed to we could've launched.
Throughout the patrol there were constant problems with both distillers. One distiller didn't work at all; the other one would produce half of the recommended output until it would also stop working, at random times. The distillers are used to turn sea water into freshwater. You would expect one of the "most advanced submarines on the planet" to be able to provide fresh water.
Missile control & monitoring left unmanned
I could sometimes here alarms on the missiles' Control and Monitoring Position (CAMP) while lying in bed. I later found out that I would've been hearing them more frequently if they didn't mute the console; just to avoid listening to the alarms. This is the position that monitors the condition of the missiles, and they muted the alarms.
One of the watch keepers told me and laughed about how they would deal with any issues; they would deviate from set procedures because the procedures can be "long and winding." He said "sometimes you just know that you can adjust a valve slightly and that would solve the problem. Following the procedures might take you down a long and winding path."
You might think that's no big deal, just an engineer using his engineering skills; if he was caught doing this kind of action on an American submarine it would cost him his job and possibly his freedom. If you work on the Strategic Weapon System you must follow the procedures, mistakes can be catastrophic.
CAMP for obvious reasons is a position that requires constant manning. This is another rule that isn't followed. This time it's not always the CAMP watch keepers fault. During the captain's rounds period for example, they're forced to clean a massive compartment. This draws them away from the monitoring screen and if the alarms have been muted ...
Most of the time they sit talking in a tea area; the screens aren't visible from this position. Sometimes the MC patrol and CAMP watch keeper completely disregard the rule of constant manning.
I was in the Missile Control Centre when I heard a pipe saying "could the CAMP watch keeper please report to CAMP." They got caught out that time. There were 31 BSQs (Unqualified submariners) running around and distracting people that are in these crucial monitoring positions such as the nuclear reactors Main Control Desk (MCD), the nuclear missiles Control and Monitoring Position (CAMP), the control room Panel etc.
These are positions which require permanent manning and permanent attention. However those rules aren't followed. When I was doing my BSQ I could see the lack of attention they were paying. It was only a matter of time before a mistake was made, and of course a mistake was made.
Serious electrical fire narrowly averted
A mistake was made on the Panel in the control room. A small mistake from this position can cause a disaster. The fixed firefighting system Weapon Stowage Compartment (WSC) fog spray was accidentally activated by the control room panel operator.
None of the electrical isolations that are required to be made were made; creating a high risk of fire in a compartment which contains torpedoes.
It sprayed seawater over everything in the compartment; torpedoes, lights, torpedo monitoring panel; everything. I was called down to help with the clean up by the coxswain; the place was flooded. Lucky there was no fire, this time.
The coxswain exclaimed "I wonder why anyone wants to work here, everything is dangerous; one little thing and we're all f**ked!" He also expressed concern about water spraying on electrics.
Someone then said "lucky it's your last patrol then." We all laughed. The general consensus is there's no set person for senior survivor. However the coxswain in an emergency sub sunk situation is the expert in escape, and I've read documentation that says he is the senior survivor.
Hearing those words come from his mouth means a lot. As far as I know the control room panel operator got away with it. People were saying things like "we all make mistakes" and "he's completely shaken up about it".
It confuses me how someone could make an almost disastrous mistake and get away with it that easily. Anyone who turns up late for a shift gets a MAA and a day's wages deducted. Almost kill everyone and its aww poor guy he's shaken up.
How a Trident sub was almost lost
That wasn't the only mistake made by the control room panel operator during my patrol. The panel also accidentally shutdown the hydraulic pumps. Momentarily we lost all main hydraulics before the emergency pump kicked in. There may have been all incidents that I didn't hear about. All it takes is for them press one wrong button in that position to cause a disaster.
A Fire Control Supervisor seen my interest in submarine disasters, so he gave me a book that contained detailed information about Submarine accidents. A lot of submarines have been lost due to simple accidents.
If one simple mistake is made it can be all other. You can find some of the information online but most of it is covered up. It's only a matter of time before one of the Trident submarines are lost.
HMS Vanguard a Trident submarine makes an appearance in the book for the deep depth incident. The submarine exceeded 300 meters (safe depth is 65 meters). They under estimated the weight of the submarine and didn't have enough speed for the Aft-planes to create raise.
The further the submarine descended the more the weight of the submarine increased due to pressure. The rate of weight increase was greater than the rate that they were pumping out water. The submarine was extremely close to being lost.
HMS Vanguard - cursed or lucky?
There was another incident on HMS Vanguard that did not appear in this book. Possibly due to the date of the book or the fact the tried to cover it up, but everyone who serves on the Trident submarines knows that it was HMS Vanguard that crashed into the French submarine.
I was talking to a Chief who was on the submarine at the time. He said they told him if he told anybody about it he'd faced a prison sentence. However there was an atmosphere in the room were people felt like telling their stories of near misses, plus he knew that we knew it was HMS Vanguard.
He said "We thought, this it we're all going to die. I was laughing my ass at the time; I think it must have been the nerves." He went on to explain what happened.
The French submarine had took a massive chunk out of the front of HMS Vanguard and grazed down the side of the boat. The High Pressured Air (HPA) bottle groups were hanging off and banging against the pressure hull. They had to return to base port slowly, because if one of HPA bottle groups exploded it would've created a chain reaction and sent the submarine plummeting to the bottom.
Luckily the boat made it back safely for repair. There was a massive cover up of the incident. For the first time the no personal electronic devices with a camera rule was enforced.
The HMS Vanguard crash didn't appear in that submarine disaster book but there's a book it will be in. I was talking to a SWS Navigation supervisor. He told that HMS Vanguard has had so many crazy incidents that they've got their own book filled with them. He said he's read it himself, and some of the of things that's happened on that boat are insane.
A lot of people think the boat is cursed and try to avoid being drafted to it, but maybe it's blessed, after all It has survived all of these incidents and yet somehow it's still classed as operational. It won't be long now before HMS Vanguard makes its way to America.
Floods and missile compartment fire
In another conversation with the SWS Navigation Supervisor, I got him to tell me about his experiences onboard. He has experienced four floods and fires onboard. He told me the worst was a flood in the DC equipment space. The whole back section was submerged in electrified water, from the 10 kW motor generators.
He said they were lucky they didn't follow the normal emergency operating procedure for that incident. Due to where the flood was coming from if they had followed the normal procedure the submarine would've been lost. He also explained in detail the time he was the attack BA for a fire back aft.
When he got back Aft he couldn't see a thing yet the fire was just a small one that was out before he got there. He explained how the new safety culture has created a relaxation of heaves; we no longer have heaves/drills with a blind folded EBS. This means most people aren't prepared to be blinded by smoke, which is what happens in a real incident on a submarine.
Fire in the Missile compartment, in harbour - One morning I standing in the Missile Control Centre waiting for a heave/drill. The fire control chief started to tell everyone about the time they had a scheduled heave for 10am and a real incident happened before the safeguard rule pipe was made (SGRIF). After the safeguard rule is enforced the pipe's for fires etc, so they don't have to say "for exercise"; it injects realism.
The pipe for the fire on Missile Compartment 4 Deck was made. Everyone was waiting on the safeguard rule so they assumed the person making the pipe had forgotten to make the safeguard pipe first. They thought it was an exercise and he laughed at how they were "tabs out" and in no real concern.
He said once they arrived there they shit themselves. 4 deck was filled with smoke. There were reports of smoke on 1 deck before it reached 2 deck and 3 deck because the smoke was so thick it had created a smoke cloud that travelled up sides then down through those decks.
The chief said if it had been at sea there would've been about 50 dead bodies on 3 deck because of the amount of people struggling to find an EBS coupling in order to breath.
There were then jokes about how people struggle and fight to find an EBS coupling during a heave / drill let alone a disaster with no ability to see. Plus take into account there were 31 BSQ's on this patrol, getting in the way.
Some of the BSQs would've been useful but most of the BSQs have never experienced it before and undoubtedly would have gotten in the way. They would've been using EBS couplings and blocking the path of experienced personnel; this happened a lot during heaves / drills. The chief said they used all the SFU 90 fire extinguishers that could reach the fire, and they were running out a portable extinguishers.
The fire control junior rate said "did you not consider using N2 drench?" The chief replied "we were less than minutes away from N2 drenching the compartment." He said they finally got the fire out after using almost every portable extinguisher onboard.
The cauuse of the fire - mis-stowed toilet rolls
The fire was caused by the ships toilet roll being stacked from deck to deck-head they whole way along 4 deck (right beside the missiles and firing units). They reckon it was the heat from the cables that caused the fire.
Nowadays due to environmental concerns we don't ditch trash / rubbish at sea. In numerous compartments on the boat you'll find plastic bags filled with rubbish sitting on top, underneath and beside electrical cables and equipment that generates heat.
I made my concerns clear to a leading hand, a chief and a warrant officer. I said "There's Plastic bags filled with cardboard touching cables and equipment that generate heat." I reminded them of the time the toilet rolls went on fire.
The first responded by agreeing then laughing because I said plastic and cardboard are both great materials for starting a fire. The second agreed but said there's nothing we can do about. The third one agreed but then explained the operational advantage of not ditching rubbish; the enemy might find our rubbish on the seabed.
Well. It's not funny, I can at least try to do something about it, and I think a fire on a nuclear submarine is a bigger threat to the safety of the people, than some Russian boat detecting our rubbish. It's only a matter of time before they cause a fire.
Risk of igniting missile propellant
Most people that I talked to who were leading hand and above had experienced a fire of some kind on board. The Warrant Officer had experienced multiple fires. A few times he mentioned how the belts in the fan room are just waiting for a fire.
He said we'll all shit ourselves when the submarine fills with smoke in a matter of seconds. He's probably the hardest working most switched on guy I've ever meet, but even he can't stop the inevitability of a fire.
CB8890 (0214) - "If the HE charge is exposed to excessive heat without burning, it may become more sensitive and could cook to (non-nuclear) detonation, releasing radioactive materials and aerosols over a wide area."
(0219) - The chief potential hazard associated with a live missile is the accidental ignition of the first, second or third stage rocket motor propellant. If this were to happen in the missile tube with the muzzle hatch shut and locked, the pressure hull and bulkheads of the MC would burst within a matter of seconds.
Water and electricty don't mix
In addition the missile contains a number of subsidiary propulsive and ordnance items that could cause damage to the missile and/or release toxic gases into the MC if initiated prematurely. In some cases, this could also result in ignition or detonation of one of the rocket motors.
There was a leak coming through the roof in the junior rates mess beside electrics. I asked them "are you going to isolate it?" They replied "It's happened before, we didn't make any isolations last time and there was no fire."
Even though water was travelling through the lights they didn't feel it was necessary. It took over 8 hours to stop the leak. It then returned on a few other occasions.
In the riders mess there was an extension cable attached to an extension cable, with clothes touching them and sometimes wet towels were hung above them. Anyone who has passed out of nursery can spot that hazard straight away. All personal electronic devices needed to be PAT Tested to see if it was safe for use. This rule was never properly enforced.
There was only one guy onboard who PAT-tested the equipment. Two people in my mess got caught on week 7. I personally never got mine PAT Tested so I could see how sloppy their enforcement was. I never got caught the whole patrol, even though I'd sit in the JRs mess with an unmarked plug on display for all of them to see.
Standard procedures bypassed to avoid triggering fauly alarm
CAMP isn't the only place where alarms are ignored. In the Missile Control Centre there is a CAMP Fault alarm that appears quite frequently. Due to it appearing frequently if the alarm is sounded most of the time people won't even bother looking at the screen because they assume it's that same fault. I heard there was a problem with the Starboard TG.
I then found a letter in the bin telling the Aft engineers "Starboard TG combined emergency trip stop valve. Don't follow standard operating procedures (SOPs). Open it a little instead of fully so that indications are correct on the Propulsion Service Panel (PSP)."
Basically they avoided the standard operating procedures so they didn't have any alarms on their panel. There was a problem with one of the TGs. We only have two TGs onboard. We need them to generate electricity from the reactor. If we lost both TGs we would've been down to using the battery.
Problem with that is there was also a problem with one of the MGs (motor generators). One MG was dysfunctional. They had problems with it before and when it went faulty instead getting a new one, they "fixed it" and sent the same one back. Which obviously hasn't been fixed properly. There was a lot of problems of the electrical generation equipment. Losing power could result in losing the submarine.
Sewage among the missiles
A good communication system is said to be the most important thing onboard. Yet we have an old speaker system that no one understands most of the time. Take into consideration that during most emergences they talk through a breathing mask and you have a disaster waiting to happen. If you've never seen a missile compartment before you probably have a picture of a glistening high tech piece of equipment in your head.
Before Captains rounds or a VIP visit it is pretty glistening but during most of the patrol it's far from it. Missile Compartment 4 deck turns into a gym. There are people sweating their asses of between the missiles, people rowing between a blanket of s**t because the sewage system is defective, sometimes the s**t sprays onto the fwd starboard missile tubes and there's also a lot of rubbish stored near the missile tubes. Not an image you would expect of the "most advanced weapon system on the planet".
There were a few incidents of people in the gym dropping weights near the nuclear weapon's firing units. I heard one person joke about how he accidentally threw a weight and it nearly hit a missiles firing unit. A person was caught using a Bluetooth speaker to play music on MC 4 deck. The captain found out and a warning issued over Full Main Broadcast (FMB) all personal electronics would be banned if anyone else was caught using Bluetooth in the Missile Compartment.
This is a quote from CB8890 (0430) - "With live missiles embarked, the only portable radios authorised for use in the MC / AMS 2 are Cromwell Radios and Fire Fighter helmets with built in communications (FFHBC)."
Personal electronics ban unenforced
E. Electronic equipment in the MC other than that required for safety and security must not be operating.
Personal electronics should be banned yet the policy isn't enforced. You can bring whatever electronic devices you want onboard: laptops, phones, pads etc. Almost everyone onboard sleeps on a level of the Missile Compartment. They use their own personal electronics right beside the missiles.
Simple rules like no e-cigs and no shaving are also not obeyed. With the ventilation constantly circulating air around the submarine it is possible for the hairs to be picked up and cause short circuits. In the Missile Control Centre a Power Alert Alarm kept appearing and disappearing. A possible cause is something like dust or hair creating a short.
Living with toxic fumes
I was working in the senior rates mess for a week. I heard them complain about the atmosphere not being in spec. For a while everyone was sleepy and then there were times people couldn't sleep. Too high or to low O2 or CO2 levels can cause this. Around the time of Captain's rounds people were complaining about being sleepy all the time.
It could've been because of the extra work but a lot of people were saying it was the atmosphere. Most people onboard were using a cleaning solution which was supposed to be banned onboard. People were also mixing the cleaning agents together to create a super cleaning agent.
Someone told me they made a cocktail of cleaning products which evaporated instantly when they added hot water. I had a headache that lasted for the whole cleaning period; it went away shortly afterwards.
We had to start cleaning again for the VIP visit. The person I was cleaning with brought a bucket which had the banned substance in it, and within a few minutes my headache was back. I told him it was banned but he just cracked on. The product had a distinct smell, and it didn't take long before it was picked up.
The medical assistant walked past and recognised the smell. He said "said that smells like Terry's chocolate orange, you know that's banned." then walked off. Yet again the rules weren't being followed.
Top Secret? Who cares?
I was in the Navigation centre listening in to a conversation between the Navigation supervisor and a Sub LT. They started talking and joking about how there's a complete lack of concern for Top Secret information. They shared their experiences; the Sub Lt talked about someone she knew who'd just leave Top Secret information laying on his bed for anyone to see.
When the guys in the Navigation centre got used to seeing me, they let me see Top Secret information such as: PBNZs and the current location. There were also times were the Navigation supervisor and the JR would leave the compartment.
One time the supervisor was of somewhere and the JR was cleaning the outside the compartment; I was only in the compartment for about 5 minutes with the PBNZ folder and Top Secret laptop nearby. It would've been easy for me to gather the PBNZ information. To the right buyer this information would sell for millions.
However I wasn't interested in it. Releasing that information would show the positions the submarine would travel to on patrol. Any enemy could use it to help them find the submarine. It is possible for a foreign enemy to eliminate one of our submarines and get away with it.
The information I have released in this document has been carefully selected. I would never release information that I haven't considered the implications of. An idiot may say that releasing information about how open to attack we are will invite terrorism and create an increased risk to security.
The truth is the threat already exists. I can sit on my ass hoping they don't find out about how ridiculous the security is or I can let our Government and people know so they can make a change. I tried to make the changes from within. I expressed my concerns too many times without any action being taking.
The reason the Navigation supervisor let me see the information was they knew there was a chance that I would come back as a Navigation supervisor on my next patrol. However I don't have that level of security clearance yet.
So easy to trigger missiles to land on UK
There was another incident more disturbing. I was with seven other new SWS personnel on that patrol. None of us have DV security clearance, none of us had our bags checked, all us got to see inside the missile and a few of us got to climb inside a nuclear missile which could have had up to 12 nuclear warheads on it.
At the end of patrol we remove the missile inverters. In order to get parts of our task books signed of we had to witness the removal. After the removal was complete I was asked "do you want to have a look inside?" I climbed the ladder, put half my body inside the missile and had a look around. They pointed out explosives and said "when you're doing this procedure don't touch them."
If any of us were terrorist we would've been given the perfect opportunity to send nuclear warheads crashing down on the UK. A Vanguard class submarine can carry up 12 warheads on each missile and has 16 missile tubes which means there could be up to 192 nuclear warheads on a single boat at one time. Due to Nuclear agreements the number would most likely be around 48 nuclear warheads; still enough to poison our atmosphere.
CB8890 (0215) - "If RB containment is breached, several radioactive and/or toxic materials may be exposed to the atmosphere. These include plutonium, uranium, lithium compounds, tritium gas and beryllium. If mixed with water, fumes or toxic gases will be generated. When installed in a Trident II D5 missile, RBs clustered around the Third Stage Rocket Motor are at risk from a rocket motor propellant fire."
(0216) - "The RB could become physically damaged due to collision or fire in peacetime and in war could be subjected to splinter attack or the effects of detonation from enemy projectiles. This type of damage could also result from a successful terrorist attack."
(0217) - "An accident or enemy action may cause rupture of the RB, burning or possible detonation of the HE and release of radioactive contamination."
The port team removing the inverters from inside the missile, had removed them at almost twice the speed of the starboard team. When the port team started to work on the starboard missiles, the starboard team called them cowboys, they laughed about how much of a rushed job they done.
I didn't get to observe how the port team removed them so fast, but I did get to observe the starboard team for two missiles. Even the starboard team wasn't following the correct procedures. Normal reader worker routine was completely ignored; the worker carried out the operation from memory instead of doing it by the book.
They also joked about how the Americans do it. They said the Americans lay on top of each other and if one hand goes out of site from the other person there will be a lot of shouting their head off. I think that's better than letting a bunch of non-security cleared people climb inside for nosey.
It's only luck that none of us were terrorists
Luckily none of us were terrorists. However the rate at which people are getting pushed through the system because of man power shortages is scary. SWS is so short on man power it's unbelievable and people are getting pushed through at an alarming rate. There are leading hands doing the jobs chiefs used to do.
There is a SWS leading hand who still hasn't got his DV clearance and he's in the position of a launcher supervisor. If I ignored the threat and stuck with my job I'd be on course to be a leader in the SWS department with a matter of months. 30% of my entire SWS task book got signed of inside 10 minutes without me talking over or performing any of it. This is a task book that has a limit of 18 months, 12 months for fast track.
A guy that was in my squad completed his task book alongside in less than three months. He is now fully qualified to watch-keeper who may have to carry out emergency operating procedures in the MCC as a fire-control JR even though he has never been on a patrol, and hasn't even completed BSS or BSQ. BSS being the complete basic understanding of the boat.
It's just a matter of time before we're infiltrated by a psychopath or a terrorist; with this amount of people getting pushed through.
A psychopath in charge of nuclear missiles
Some of the personalities onboard are already alarming. Probably the most worrying is the SWS Junior Rate whose hobby is killing small animals. He also expressed his interest in watching dark porn, like crush porn. Which is basically women stomping kittens to death while a guy masturbates. I have no idea how that guy isn't mentally discharged.
There's other people onboard that should be raising suspicion in people's minds, especially after that guy went on a shooting rampage on the A-Boat. One guy specifically. I don't want to name any names in this report, so for now I'll just refer to him as Pole.
During the morning of captain's rounds Pole physically attacked someone because they started cleaning too early. It happened in front of my bunk. The poor guy was verbally assaulted by Pole, and when he asked Pole "Who do you think you're talking too?" Pole jumped out of his bed and attacked the guy.
After the fight Pole threatened to kill the guy. I witnessed Pole get aggressive with five different people; he threatened to kill two of them. I was one of the people, but he never lived up to his promises of attacking me.
Pole also snapped at a leading hand on the last day of patrol. Pole was promised early departure on the first boat transfer because of his situation at home, but command decided his situation at home wasn't as demanding of early release as some of the other guys in the crew. Pole took a position in the queue for food ahead of the personnel who were next on watch.
A SWS leading hand said to him "you're not even next on, get behind me." Pole snapped at a leading hand in the dinner line, he called him a "F**KING C**T", then stood behind him like a demented pit bull ready to attack. The leading hand said "what's your problem? Get to the f**king back, now!" but Pole didn't move until one of the JRs escorted him to the back.
After my breakfast I went up to see what the leading hands response would be. With my usual dumb curious look I asked him "What happened in the dinner line?" He responded "He tried to get in front of me, even though he's not even next on watch". I said "He shouted at you, didn't he?" His reaction was "he's just on edge because he never got the boat transfer".
That was that. If threatening everyone, attacking someone and calling a leader a F**KING C**T whilst looking at them like your about to kill him, doesn't make you a suspected as a threat to other personnel then I really don't know what does.
It appeared most people had breaking points at some point on patrol. There was one guy who presented a prime example of how someone could go from saying things like "back to back patrols won't bother me" and "patrols aren't that bad." Till completely losing it over a missed placed pair of flip flops. This guy smoked electric cigarettes which are banned onboard. His supply ran low and that's when he became aggressive.
After losing his flip flops he went berserk, he was throwing things everywhere, looking for them. He shouted "everyone on this boat is a bunch of f**king re***ds." he punched lockers and went on shouting and banging for over ten minutes. Not once did the CAMP watch keeper come over to see what the banging on his compartment was.
When someone trying to sleep said "what's your problem?" he responded by verbally assaulting him. He told him "get back in your f**king bed now you ... "
If this is how people react to a lost flip flop after a tiny adjustment to their nicotine intake, then what else are people capable of doing once the electric cigarette ban is properly enforced? If the Captain was to catch anyone with electrical cigarettes he would have most likely enforced the ban.
Coffee in the nuclear missile launch keyboard
I heard the Launcher and Fire-control Supervisors whispering to each other in the MCC. The Firecontrol supervisor spilled coffee on the missiles Data Entry Subsystem keyboard. It set of an alarm. That's all the information I gathered on that incident because they were trying to cover it up so the Weapons Engineering Officer (WEO) wouldn't find out what happened.
One of the BSQ's told me he was contemplating leaving after his first patrol. He went to see the coxswain; the coxswain took him into his office. The coxswain recommended he should leave; he said "it doesn't get any better. You might as well leave now before you waste your life here." A hydraulic leak was found on a missile's valve.
During a battery clean the BSQ's were sent down to help out. Afterwards one of them was complaining about how his fingers went numb, but little sympathy was felt by everyone because he nearly blinded someone by throwing a rag at his face. The rag just missed his eye, but that was enough to irritate it enough for him to require medical assistance from the doctor.
This incident highlights the lack of concern for safety. There was no safety brief, the appropriate PPE wasn't worn and a careless action was performed.
When to raise a nuclear weapons safety for a radiation alarm - The SWS Navigation Supervisor role during a missile radiation alarm is, Command Advisor. In order to learn what I need to as Command Advisor the Navigation Supervisor asked me to watch him during a heave / drill.
One thing I picked up on was people I different ideas of when the nuclear weapon safety alert should be raised. Most people think you alert inboard straight away; whilst some people think you don't alert inboard until the radiation alarm has been confirmed as an actual leak and not a faulty alarm.
On my BSQ board I was asked "what would you do if The Sun or someone like that got your number, and asked about the problems with the reactors or humidity, stuff like that." I told them "I would just hang up."
Reactor problems could take out a submarine
The reactor situation is something I've been trying to gather information on for over a year now, but nobody wants to talk about it. If I pushed too hard for information people would've become very suspicious; which they probably already were since they asked me that question on a BSQ board.
I felt I couldn't say "So what's the problem with the reactors then?" I did ask them about the humidity problem though, because I had seen how bad it was. Forward dome and 1 deck WT flat were the worst; there was water dripping from the roof onto all sorts of electrics.
They told me that there's a problem with the system and the condensation levels are 15% higher than they should be at. I then told them "There's a pump in AMS1 that sprays water on an electrical distribution box." One of them said "that's a bit of a design flaw." They laughed and changed the subject.
At one point on my board I was told the best way to take down a submarine. He said "nobody ever things of it, but if they targeted that it would take out the whole submarine." I'm not going say how on here, that's information nobody should talk about. A lot of people have had conversations with me about how easy it would be to take down the submarine.
It's disturbing to know that the people serving on these boats are aware of many ways to destroy them from within.
One of the biggest threats we face is suicidal attack from within. There have been suicides onboard, and on an A-boat we had a shooter kill his own work colleagues. There were some people that I served with on that patrol, who showed clear psychopathic tendencies. The odds favour destruction, if no action is taking.
Nitrogen pressure below minimum
N2 bottle group pressures dropped below 3625 psi, the stated required minimum. N2 drench is used to extinguish fires in the missile tube or in a compartment:
CB8890 (0438) - "In the event of a fire within the MC or AMS 2 that cannot be brought under control by conventional firefighting methods, the MC/AMS2 can be nitrogen drenched using the procedures contained in DC documentation."
(0441) - "Nitrogen bottle group pressures must be maintained above a minimum of 3625 psi in order to safeguard the nitrogen drench facility."
The reaction to the N2 drench falling below these levels was, there's nothing we can do whilst we're the on patrol SSBN. The cause of the leakage was still unknown when we got back from patrol. The last time I seen the pressure it was over 100 psi below the ordered minimum.
I listened in to a conversation between the port and starboard crew CAMP watch keepers. The Starboard crew Camp watch keeper said "We had a problem with ours on Vanguard, and they found a massive hole on the back of one of the Missile Gas reducing stations."
Total ignorance of Emergency Operating Procedure
I went to Camp to learn about their EOP (Emergency Operating Procedure) actions for a missile emergency. Two Camp watch keepers and a MC patrol were in the tea area, near CAMP. They wanted to know what I knew about their EOPs for a missile emergency. I told them what the book says they do.
They disagreed with me; they were all convinced that it doesn't say in the (EOP) book for a missile emergency in harbour, they need to check the Tam 73 fixed radiation monitor. One of them said "I bet it doesn't say that, we never do that."
I said "Okay £20 it says that." I could see in his eyes he started to worry that he might be wrong, but that didn't last for long and he accepted the bet. I got the book out, and proved them wrong.
Maybe they don't check it but this was about what their EOP book says they do for a missile emergency. This is a book they should know word for word. Their list of actions isn't even that long. It was shocking how none of them new what the book said.
There were 2 prank 999 phone calls whilst on patrol. A 999 phone call sets of an alarm in the control and the whole boat has to carry out phase 1 damage control checks.
A CB8890 exam was coming up; to test people's knowledge on the safety and security of SWS. I was asked "Have you read CB8890?" Instead of saying "yes, I have read it twice and I have a copy of it on my phone." I said "I read through it quickly once and I skipped the annexes." Playing dumb worked out again. One of them began to tell me how to read the book.
He said "no one fully reads the book, they just know which parts are going to be questions, and they learn them." I Launcher supervisor disagreed, he said "everyone should know that book, especially SWS."
Fiddled safety examination
I agree with the Launcher supervisor; it's a book containing information about the safety and security of SWS and we're SWS. The exam was a total farce. They told everyone most of the answers, and any answers people didn't know they just copied from the person beside them.
I was in the MCC and I saw the launcher supervisor ringing up people who had missed the exam. He asked them "pick a number between 27 and 30." The number they picked was their test result.
I could've got the code for the WEO's trigger safe. I was standing just a couple of metres behind him when he opened the safe. I didn't pay attention to the combination but the point is they seem to forget I'm not DV security cleared.
After I was asked "what do you do if you find the Firing Unit or Jettison Panel key?" They told me the correct procedure and what they actually do. They told me about a few occasions where this has happened. If someone gets their hand on both keys, they can jettison a missile.
Jettisoning without following the proper procedure to list the boat or turning off power to the Variable Energy Eject Panel (VEEP) would send the missile out of the tube at full force and it will fall back down onto the submarine. What they actually did when they found the key was they handed them back to the person who left it laying around. The normal reporting routine was aborted.
There was an excessive amount of Trouble Failure Report's (TFRs) being filed in SWS department; due to operator and defective equipment. An example of one of the operator errors: They allowed a trainee to carry out a procedure he had never seen done before. It was a simple procedure, all he had to do was click Yes when he was told to click Yes, but he clicked No.
CB8890 (0207) - "Authorised personnel work to carefully controlled and documented working practices."
There's a board with a list of SWS defects on it in the MCC. It is very close to being full. When we were passing in as a fully qualified submariners they told us we couldn't drink the shot of Rum with the dolphin metal / badge in the glass. Considering everything that was happening around us it made me feel like Harry Houdini getting forced to wear an extra pair of socks encase his feet get cold during a stunt.
The other crew's WEO came on our boat after the patrol. People mocked him behind his back; they didn't like him because he showed keenness to do his job properly. There's an attitude common to most people onboard; they show hostility to anyone who works too hard.
Willam McNeilly is an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy who has served on the UK's nuclear submarine fleet. He is currently in hiding following his publication of this report. Follow him on Facebook.
This article represents Willam McNeilly as written barring minor corrections and the insertion of sub-headings. The report was ignored by UK mainstream media until the story was broken By Rob Edwards in the Daily Herald. The original report is available here as a PDF.
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