Our submariners deserve a place in National Arboretum

This is the piece written by Lord Boyce for The Times Thunderer column which was printed on Monday 9 November. It is reproduced by kind permission of the newspaper and can be read in the original version here.

No one arm of the services is better or more worthy than any other: the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force all call for courage, endurance, intelligence and self-sacrifice, and on deployment no serviceman or woman is ever far from personal danger.

The threats of being shot down  in hostile territory or entering a potentially booby-trapped building  to search for terrorists are obvious to the public, but less is known of the Submarine Service, the silent service.

Submariners operate in a hostile environment every time they go to sea, whether or not an enemy is present. A submarine has only a 10 per cent reserve of buoyancy, so very little water needs to enter the boat before it is no longer able to surface. This single fact has led to submariners becoming something of a breed apart. They need absolute trust in each other and all must have a thorough understanding of their boat’s complex systems, which any one of them might be called upon to operate in an emergency. So, no matter your rank, if you haven’t earned the coveted dolphin badge then your voice carries no weight.

This is as true today as ever: it applies to the Vanguard class, Trident missile-armed submarines, which for over half a century have maintained the UK’s nuclear deterrent without a break, conducting long patrols that call for the highest standards of vigilance and engineering skill. And to the nuclear attack submarines of the Astute and Trafalgar classes which deploy around the world, from the North Pole to the Far East.

Submarine patrols are carried  out in radio silence so submariners, unlike most other service personnel, do not have the luxury of email or mobile phones to talk to their loved ones — and they can be away for six months at a time. This puts a huge strain on the families who have to cope with the  problems of day-to-day life without the help and advice of their partners.
Our submariners are the latest generation of a service that has been secretly protecting our country for 119 years. Some 5,500 Royal Navy submariners have perished serving their country in this time,  a significant proportion of what is a relatively small service.

Whatever my other achievements, I will always consider myself, above all else, a submariner. As such, I am proud to be the patron of the Submariner Memorial Appeal (submarinermemorial.uk), aiming to raise £300,000 to build at the National Memorial Arboretum a fitting memorial to submariners who have given their lives in service and to mark the sacrifice of their families. They deserve to be remembered in a fitting way, all the more so at this time of year.

Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce is patron of the Submariner Memorial Appeal