Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Submaries, charm, faith and deterrance

HMS Resolution (courtesy Wikipedia)
Very much enjoying The Silent Deep an excellent book by Peter Hennessy and his former student James Jinks about the RN Submarine Service since 1945.

There is a nice incident when the highly irascible but utterly pivotal Admiral Rickover visited the UK in 1957 to inspect the British nuclear design team at Rolls he was “at his obnoxious worst”. After one particularly difficult morning Rickover was introduced to the Chairman Lord Hives.
‘A lord eh? Chairman eh? And what are you then, a banker or a lawyer or what?’ said Rickover. ‘What me? No, no, no, no, no! Me, I’m just a mechanic, just a bloody plumber.’ said Hives, with a big board smile on his face. Rickover was thrown, he had not expected that kind of answer. When Hives explained that he had known Henry Royce himself, had worked for him, and had absorbed from him his passion for engineering excellence Rickover’s mood an attitude started to improve. Hives spent much of the lunch telling a captivated Rickover about Royce’s obsession with achieving perfection.

He then took Rickover on a personal tour of the word, not in a Rolls-Royce or Bentley but in a very modest Hillman. …when Hives returned after showing Rickover around… the Admiral was a changed man, subdued, pleasant, cooperative, uncritical, and no further put-downs or denigrations of British engineering escaped his lips...

That hour of dialogue… changed everything in the British nuclear submarine programme. 
 I'm also very struck by the way in which Captain Michael Henry, one of the first commanders of a UK SSBN, composed a 'Prayer for Polaris'
Lord thou command us saying 'thou shalt not kill'. Thou knowest that we prepare ourselves constantly tio kill, not one but thousands, and hat by this preparation we believe we help to preserve peace among nations. Do thou, who gave man the knowledge to fashion this terrible weapon, give him also the sense of responsibility to control its use; so that fear for the consequences may indeed maintain peace until that day when love, not fear, shall control all men's actions. Give us the will, but never the wish, to obey the order to fire. O God, if it is thy will, grant that that order may never need to be given. Amen.'

No comments: