A Story for Sea Sunday

Text of a speech prepared but not delivered at General Synod of Nuclear Non-proliferation – July 2018

Today is Sea Sunday and so a good day to tell a story about an old sea dog.

I was named Andrew at birth not because I am the first born son of a proud Scot, nor even because my father spent 45 years serving at sea in The Andrew Miller, but because on the day of my birth he was in New York onboard HMS Andrew, a vintage submarine famous for being used in the nuclear apocalyptic movie ‘On The Beach’.

My father’s life in the Silent Service continued with a deployment to Malta, where my brother and I were baptised onboard the depot ship HMS Narvik.  She went on to become the flagship of the flotilla that witnessed the atomic bomb tests off the Monte Bello Islands.

Later he was part of the first Royal Navy submarine crew to surface at the North Pole – not an easy task in a conventionally powered boat – and then repeated his trip in our first Nuclear Submarine, HMS Valiant.  Being the Royal Navy, of course he played cricket on the Artic ice on both occasions.

It was while he was Master at Arms of HMS Vulcan in Thurso that his hardest task fell to him. While at the Dounreay Fast Breeder Nuclear he assisted two staff who had suffered a radiation breach during which he himself received an overdose leading to his early death.

His ashes now rest on the seabed at the mouth of Gareloch just past the shipwreck of the Sugar Boat where traditionally our submarines have submerged to go on patrol.

My mother has received an enhanced war widow’s pension for 28 years (an amount that is several multiples of my stipend) but money does not replace the man.  Nor can it buy cuddles for grandchildren and great grandchildren who have very little proof of a man who served his nation in a secret service hidden under the waves.

My father and I talked often of the need for and danger of  nuclear weapons, after all as Coxswain of HMS Valiant his job was to seek out and limit the activities of USSR ballistic missile boats.

With the end of the Cold War it was hoped that the insanity of Mutually Assured Destruction would come to an end. Strategic Arms Limitation Talks had been replaced by Strategic Arms Reduction Talks.  The USSR unravelled, South Africa became the world’s first former nuclear power (though the smoking gun as to how they acquired ‘the bomb’ has yet to be found), Polaris was replaced with Trident but this was to be our final ‘hurrah’ for nuclear weapons of total world destruction.

What went wrong? Why are we as a nation still determined to possess an ‘independent’ deterrent? (Which is neither independent nor usable). If the wealthy and powerful had kept to their plans and promises the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would not ever have been needed.

Increasing nuclear weapons are an apocalyptic game of bluff and there is no shame in saying ‘enough’ and walking away from the table.

I support this motion in its unamended form as it sends a clear message to Her Majesty’s government that we support what we as a nation have already signed up for under the Non-Proliferation treaty and says, Oliver like, ‘Can we have some more please?’

…and in so doing we will demonstrate that we indeed worship the Prince of Peace, look for the time when swords are beaten into ploughshares, and bring a smile to the face of a lonely widow who each day looks out to sea from a balcony on Ipswich Waterfront.

© Andrew Dotchin 2018

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