My name is Spud, better known as Rating John Densmore, one of the back-afters on the Conk – HMS Conqueror – a key nuclear sub in our fleet. We were the ones who sunk the Belgrano. I was there for that. I remember it well. They played us the tapes of those poor devils screaming as they were scalded to death when the boilers blew. Our whole crew were all drinking a toast and laughing their heads off. I wasn’t. It horrified me; nearly sent me wibbly. I still have nightmares about torpedoes chasing me through the boat or the big kettle melting down and scalding us to death, just like those Argies.
That’s why I did it.
They call me Spud because I eat a lot of chips. They reckoned I’d grow into a potato. But I don’t get too much time to eat chips these days. Our diet is carefully controlled. With 136 men on board it can get pretty whiffy back aft. They carefully manage what gasses we exude by feeding us the right things. Life on the boat does get to you. Being at sea for three weeks at a time sends you loopy. There are things you get used to. You don’t go to the loo when the ship dives deep. The bulkheads bend and the door doesn’t open. You could be in there until the ship comes back up. You learn fast. You can feel the metal bend and sense the pressure. It presses on you. It presses on your mind.
I’m a hero. At least that’s how I see it, though you’d never hear about it. They hush it up. It never happened, and, at the court-martial, they believed me that it was an accident.
It was Thatcher that did it for me. She knew that Belgrano was heading away but she still gave the order. Captain Cranse was up for it. They all were. They couldn’t wait to press the button. They murdered 323 of the poor bleeders. Not that they saw it as murder. You’d think we’d won the world cup! Talk about triumphalism.
Thatcher was so full of it. All the way back she was egging us on. That’s when I think it changed her. She thought she could take on anyone. We even flew the Jolly Roger when we got back to port.
I think that’s when she went mad. I’m sure of that. She was a complete megalomaniac.
The Conqueror had been upgraded with 16 ballistic missile tubes but we only ever had 8 tubes loaded at any time.
I remember thinking back then in port that something was up when we took the extra Trident missiles on board. All sixteen tubes were loaded up.
I’m sure Cranse and the exec officers knew, but I reckon they were as hypered up as much as Thatcher. They wanted it as much as she did. There was madness at work.
We were ordered to sail the boat deep and silent. I watched the charts because I was on the command deck. My job was serving the cocoa. We were heading for Russia.
I lay on my bunk in the missile room. I always slept there. There was more space to breathe. It all got clausto back aft. It was too hot and there was no room. They allowed those who wanted to bunk up with the missiles. It was a mixed blessing. There was plenty of time to think and those missiles certainly got your mind turning.
I was serving up the cocoa when we hit battle stations. I was frozen as they smoothly went through the procedures just as if it was another exercise. We were seconds away from a launch. We were going to blow all the tubes. But I knew those sixteen missiles each with their eight warheads were aimed at Russian cites and nuclear sites.
It did not take me too long to realise that Thatcher thought she could get away with a preemptive strike. She really thought she could take Russia out.
My mind was whirring. The Generals obviously thought they could also take out all the Russian subs. They imagined we had a window. They believed we could sneak in under the radar. Perhaps she’d made a deal with Reagan? He’d jump in too as soon as we started.
We were really going to launch. Seemingly we were the lead boat. The others would follow us and loose off their missiles. They really believed they could take Russia out.
The procedures were followed. The countdown was going. That’s when Thatcher chortled and brought me out of my trance. The Belgrano was bad enough but this could be millions, whole cities. I could see it – millions of screaming people – women and children. And Russia would react. We’d never knock out all their silos. British cities and American cities would burn.
But those fools did not seem to care.
That’s when I tripped and accidentally dumped the whole tray of cocoa into the computer works and blew the system.
World War Three never happened.
It was Thatcher who saved the world.