Almost Armageddon – a short story

Almost Armageddon


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.

That changed.

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.


Opher 4.6.2018

24 thoughts on “Almost Armageddon – a short story

  1. Twenty years later in 2003, Tony Blair instructed the bombing and invasion of Iraq, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
    In 2010, Blair was awarded the Liberty Medal by the U.S., for his commitment to conflict resolution. He now works as a Middle East envoy and does lecture tours for half a million pounds per lecture.
    Blair also gives PR advice on a one-to-one basis for hard-line rulers with some embarrassing blood on their hands, for instance, President Nursultan Nazarbaye of Kazakhstan, including suggestions on how to improve Nazarbaye’s public image after his police murdered 14 unarmed protesters. It is unknown what sums of money changed hands in this instance.

    1. Well I’m no apologist for Blair. He was a watered-down Thatcherite. I think his venture into Iraq was an attempt to emulate her as is his lecturing.
      But he certainly did handle the economy well and fund public services as well as restoring inner cities.

      1. I don’t think you have enough info on the lecturing aspect. Thatcher lectured on business and women in business. Blair does nothing of the kind.
        Not too sure about the claims of handling the economy and public funding are quite so accurate. I think you’ll find your pension got skimmed off the top a bit, not that they wrote to you to confirm that.
        You mean he restored those cities of lesser importance that had not been tacked. I think you will find that the Tories had already done all the important cities long before Blair arrived.

  2. Done ’em in you mean. I think it was Cecil Parkinson who said they should leave northern cities like Liverpool to rot. Usual Tory compassion and understanding.

    1. Considering they did an excellent overhaul of Newcastle in 1982/83/84, that’s not entirely true.
      Parkinson’s comment of course comes fresh off the back of the 1981 Toxteth Riots – a complete shithole of a council estate built by Labour for believe it or not, real people to try to live in. That must have been an example of Labour compassion and understanding. Give `em shit, they’re used to it. They never learn.

      1. Are you saying she very much enjoyed living in Toxteth? I doubt it.
        Wasn’t Liverpool victim to one of the worst examples of corruption and nepotism ever in any Labour run city council?

  3. She lived in Liverpool not Toxteth. The council estates in deprived areas were not very pleasant but Labour did up the city and it’s really good now. You should have a visit. Lots to do and see. Some great concerts. It’s a vital place now.
    When you are starved of money and run into the ground you get riots.

    1. Liverpool? What does that mean? Could be anywhere as it has many districts. The council estates are nothing short of fucking horrible, not “not very pleasant”. You cannot shine a turd, so don’t.
      I was there working in the 80s. I saw it all and attended many functions these council crooks were free-loading at.
      I’m really not interested in concerts, but most interested in the horrendous conditions people are forced to live in because of corruption.
      The riots were about the impending poll tax. How can you charge people to live in shit? Call it Rates or Council Tax, it doesn’t matter. When a council sits on it’s selfish, greedy, fat, lazy arse for years doing nothing, as they did, people will eventually call it in. All they needed in this case was a change in the name from Rates to Poll Tax.
      Working class people took the law into their own hands over a quasi-working class city council. And not for the first or last time.

      1. Heswell.
        There are many nice areas of Liverpool and many nice people.
        The collapse of the economy of such a beautiful city was nothing to do with the council. It became a deprived area due to government policy and the huge loss of industry related to the loss of its port as a major economic factor. Exactly the same as Hull – another beautiful city bombed to hell and then subject to decline because of its decline as a port and fishing port.
        It is a great shame that governments have not properly invested in the North. With the decline of ports, manufacturing, mining, ship building and steel huge numbers of people were thrown on the scrapheap and ended up in places like Toxteth with no future. That is the reality – not your silly venting against Labour councils.
        The North needs investment.

  4. Hull was/is a very small city and nothing of the scale of Liverpool. They do not compare.
    As I said, I worked Liverpool so really don’t need your take. My “in actual fact because I was there” is all you need to know. Liverpool became toxic because of Labour. I even told Harold Wilson that to his face in the Adelphi Hotel in 1982. The little bastard just grimaced and shuffled off to the bar for yet another Gin.

    1. There you go again.
      Hull was a major port with a walled city. In 1901 it had 230,000 people and was thriving. It was a beautiful place with much commerce passing through and rivalled Liverpool.
      The centre of Hull is still beautiful with many great buildings though the extensive bombing during the war took its toll.
      Unfortunately the decline of the canals, whaling, fishing, ship-building and other industry took its toll.
      But Hull is now really doing well. The Labour council have got it going and it was justifiably the city of culture with lots going on. I go regularly to great theatre and gigs.
      As for Liverpool – I’d rather take the view of my relatives whose families have lived there for generations.
      I’d like to see Theresa May show her face in Hull or Liverpool. She’d get short shrift. Jeremy Corbyn was cheered to the rafters though in both places! At least he has the guts to show his face in public and not hide away in staged cameos.
      BTW – I see the Tories just suffered a loss of two billion more by selling RBS shares at cut-down prices to their buddies. And you support these bastards. Incredible.

      1. I would suggest that at some point by the middle of the century that it stopped thriving. What was beautiful about coal smoke and industrial pollution? You do wear a very strong pair of rose-tinted glasses.
        Hull was bombed to bits and there really can’t be much left from pre-war. Most of what I have seen of it is 1950s/60s architecture with many very obvious rebuilds to try and establish some form of originality. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s a terribly boring little place with very little by way of good quality entertainment. When we lived in Yorkshire, I think I got there once in seven years for something. Otherwise everything comes to Leeds and Sheffield, especially the bigger events and concerts.
        I think at the end of the year and you see the P&L of what it cost to put on these events for UK City of Culture, you will be tremendously disappointed with the net result. The UK marketing has been abysmal.

        Sorry, but you didn’t bother to explain your relatives view of Liverpool. Not that I would have cared. I know what I saw in the flesh and what my fellow workers told me.
        Labour were toxic for Liverpool. End of story.

        Who cares about banks and shares and any of that shit. That’s their problem, not yours. Your worry is your index linked pension and what you’ll be getting in five years and will you still be able to afford to live as you live today. Wait till the day you might need medical help and ponder yourself at the wealth of the queues formed by immigrants and free-loaders who never contributed a penny towards it. I can hear you now, muttering obscenities under you breath. Enjoy.

      2. Nothing good about coal smoke and pollution. I went round Scotland and saw the blackened buildings. Not nice. But the same everywhere until 1956 Clean Air Act.
        The city of Hull is a great little city now thanks. You should have been there for the year of culture. Victoria Square is magnificent. A city to be proud of even though I do not live there and don’t come from it. Why the bitchiness for somewhere you don’t know? There’s certainly nothing boring about its music scene, architecture, art or drama. Sorry – you’re totally out of touch.
        You’re too opinionated for your own good. Labour are the only party that make sense and you’ve tied your flag to a bunch of toffee-nosed Eton toffs who represent the rich and wealthy and are screwing ordinary people into the ground. Very sad. You might not care that they’ve just sold on RBS shares to rich chums at a loss of two billion quid of your and mine money but it’s a scandal. Two billion here and a billion to the fucking DUP to keep them in power you’re in bed with some nasty people.
        The immigrants don’t worry me. What is a far greater threat is the privatisation and fund cutting. There won’t be an NHS before too long and that’s nothing to do with scroungers and immigrants ; that’s Tory policy.
        You be riddled with fear and loathing. Hey move to LA.

      3. Opher, I look at the back pages and scour the music press for gigs. Once in a blue moon does anybody who is anybody ever visit Hull. Why the extreme deficit I don’t know.
        I look at all the tours as advertised on the internet and again a complete lack of dates as advertised for concerts in Hull.

        No shit, Sherlock! Obviously blackened buildings were all over.
        So you “went around Scotland”, what all of it? What a daft comment. Incidentally, you wouldn’t have seen any blackened buildings in Cambuslang, Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Irvine, Kirkintilloch, Lenzie, Livingston, Milngavie, New Cumnock etc.
        But you wouldn’t be able to tell me why that was.
        Where they burned coal, they had black smoke, so no second guessing what the effects were. Not exactly a problem confined to Scotland and very much perhaps the world over. Christ, for a guy that regards himself as some kind of scientist (although I don’t think school teacher level quite qualifies for such an exalted qualification) you don’t half come out with some very daft and naive stuff at times.
        That 1956 Clean Air Act was an unmitigated disaster. What did they go and do?
        They built more and more homes with fucking chimneys in them, didn’t they.
        Do you have your finger on anything at all?

        As I said, I made it over there to Hull once in seven years.
        OK, you tell me the last major visiting attraction at a concert in Hull. I’m all ears.

        I already told you, I’m really not interested in banks and that stuff. I couldn’t care less.
        I make money in shares. Am I going to feel guilty about my profits?
        Were it Corbyn, he’d have probably given the DUP double that.
        So who else is in power in NI? There isn’t any other party other than some scattered independents. Your comments only promote ignorance and stupidity. You need money to run parliaments and since NI falls under the UK umbrella it’s UK responsibility to see that that happens. It’s really not rocket science.

        You misunderstand about immigrants. What I’m saying is you will find yourself way, way down at the back of the queue upon arrival because of the large numbers of them up before you. They never contributed anything like what you did throughout all those years of your income tax and national insurance deductions. But as long as you regard that as a fair deal for yourself, I’m as happy as Larry, for you, too.

        Sorry Opher, but I wouldn’t touch Labour, not even with yours.

      4. Stranglers
        Arthur Brown
        Robert Plant
        Wilko Johnson
        Chris Spedding and Sharks
        Jake Bugg
        John Otway & Wild Wille Barret
        Al Stewart
        Joan Armatrading
        Dave Graney
        Andy White
        Nick Harper
        Bruce Barthol
        Barry Melton
        Joe Solo
        Richard Strange
        Maggie Bell
        Dave Kelly

        Some off the top of my head over the last year and just coming up.

      5. So, some tribute acts of old bands reformed for a final hurl. Pass. I never go to these gigs.
        Not a very exciting list I’m afraid, all a bit one dimensional.
        Robert Plant is the only thing of any note on that list. I saw him just a couple of months ago.
        Where’s the good bands like My Morning Jacket, Hawkwind, Nick Cave, Jonathan Wilson?
        Definitely no Rolling Stones or Roger Waters coming your way anytime soon!

  5. Well you are obviously unfamiliar with a number of them to call them tribute acts. I didn’t mention the brilliant local bands. You wouldn’t know them.
    No – no Rolling Stones.

    1. I’d put in a formal complaint to the town council if I were you.

      Stranglers – no thanks, not without Hugh. He left in August 1990 and never been anything of interest since.
      Buzzcocks – reformed and regurgitated.
      Vibrators – they were crap then and crap now.
      Arthur Brown – lost his voice years ago, a parody of himself.
      Robert Plant – worthwhile, at least he’s on a forward and creative path, good band.
      Wilko Johnson – horrible singer, music very one-dimensional.
      Chris Spedding – good guitar player, it’s just pub rock, nothing original.
      Jake Bugg – bored me to death
      Otway & Barrett – I think the joke’s worn a bit thin. Heard it all a million times already.
      Al Stewart – seen him many times, not so good as solo and prefer with a band.
      Joan Armatrading – no thanks, only ever wrote two songs I liked, extremely boring.
      Dave Graney – no thanks
      Andy White – hasn’t written anything of interest since 1985. Saw him then don’t need to see him today.
      Nick Harper – I’ve heard the same 15 songs for the last 15 years. Don’t need to see him again either.
      Bruce Barthol – bad pub singer that can’t hold a note. horrible to listen to.
      Barry Melton – yeah, the guy that sings Willie & The Hand Jive with all the blues credentials of my grandmother. He’s completely crap.
      Rutles – wrong section, move to comedy.
      Joe Solo – never heard him
      Richard Strange – can’t stand him, no identity at all, sounds like dozens of others and ruined by that saxophone.
      Maggie Bell – a tribute act to her former self with only a quarter of the power.
      Dave Kelly – solo no thanks – too much of the same thing, much better with a band, but do I need to hear a tribute to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac?

      1. Well thanks for the breakdown. Apart from showing that you don’t know who Barry Melton is it was quite farcical. Shows your lack of musical taste. Never mind. We’re all different.
        There really is no end to your arrogance is there? Never mind. You’ll grow up one day, maybe.

      2. I do know who Melton is. I thought nothing about Country Joe then and think even less of them now. I thought Country Joe was diabolically lousy. About 5 minutes of him and I’m done. The music was shocking. Their drummer was absolutely all over the place. They recorded two decent instrumentals in `66, and the rest was hippy bollocks.
        Gimme a F… Once you heard that once is all you’ll ever need. Immature brain-dead shite.

        It’s not about taste! You’re trying to relive 1968 or something. I’ve seen nearly all of them down the years and today wouldn’t touch nearly all of them. They just aren’t interesting. I don’t need to hear their most popular songs performed in a watered down half-hearted manner. I want the real deal.

        That’s why The Rolling Stones are so worth seeing because they play their fucking socks off and it’s tremendous. They play these old songs even better than the records were. The guitars are going mental.

        Go and see Jonathan Wilson or something retro like The Damned.
        Way better than nearly any of than boring lot you list.
        Joan Armatrading? sorry pal, I ain’t dead yet.

  6. I’ve seen Jonathan Wilson thanks. The most boring act I’ve seen in the last five years.
    Yes I’ve seen the Stones a number of times and they were superb. So what?
    So you don’t like them all. Big deal. You asked about what was going on in Hull. I told you – lots.

    1. Thanks Charlie – I appreciate that. I too knew someone called spud. I think it was to do with the shape of his head!

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