A junior submariner has gone AWOL after publishing a detailed list of complaints about life in the Senior Service. His grievances include allegations about the poor state of repair of Britain’s nuclear submarines, lax security in what should be the most secure nuclear sites and even the poor quality of food at sea.
The 18-page ‘dossier’ posted on-line makes series claims about the state of Britain’s 20-year-old nuclear submarines, which are presently the focus of a national debate about the future of the deterrent, and whether Trident weapons should be replaced.
Belfast-born Able Seaman William McNeilly, 25, who believes he may be assassinated by the government for making public his claims, mentions his opposition to the existence of an independent British nuclear deterrent on several occasions over the course of his on-line rant. Posting pictures of his MOD 90 Royal Navy I.D. card and passport to prove his identity, he has since gone on the run abroad, but has told the BBC he plans to return and hand himself over to police.
In his report, McNeilly admits to deliberately disobeying orders so he could eavesdrop on secret meetings held by senior officers on his submarine, in which he claims safety failures by the navy were discussed candidly by his seniors. He also claims to have taken his mobile phone into restricted compartments on his submarine and used the camera to take photographs of every page of a top-secret book governing the use of the Trident nuclear weapon system.
He also wrote about the problems with his submarine, HMS VICTORIOUS while on patrol, including bad food, water ingress into hydraulic systems potentially rendering the missiles on-board unable to fire, and warning alarms being muted to avoid listening to them going off all day.
On his motivation to expose these easy breaches of security, McNeilly wrote: “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. 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!”.
On entering the strictly controlled ‘green area’ at the Faslane nuclear base, McNeilly complains the key-code access system is broken and most security guards don’t even bother checking ID cards for clearance. He remarks: “it’s harder to get into most nightclubs”.
The Royal Navy has confirmed the man, Absent Without Leave (AWOL) is a genuine submariner and they were working in cooperation with civilian police to ensure his safe return, but completely rejects his allegations, remarking his document “contains a number of subjective and unsubstantiated personal views, made by a very junior sailor”. Despite that, they said all of his claims would be investigated.
A spokesman said: “The Royal Navy takes security and nuclear safety extremely seriously and we are fully investigating both the issue of the unauthorised release of this document and its contents.
“The naval service operates its submarine fleet under the most stringent safety regime and submarines do not go to sea unless they are completely safe to do so.”
Responding to his revelation that a security vetted submariner could, if he desired, use the weapons for evil, one sailor on a noted military form responded in typically colourful tone: “So all a terrorist needs to do to access the missile control centre of a nuclear sub is to join the Royal Navy. I bet they are kicking theirselves [sic] over not figuring that one out”.