An Idiot's Guide to Submarine TerminologyWritten by Billy Dobson with Nick in mind!

Billy Dobson
Billy Dobson

Billy, with support from Miles, Matt and Terry, is writing an epic "dit" describing HMS Resolution from one end to the other and including some revealing dits about her crew. It should be pointed out that he has gone to great trouble to explain this to the non-submariner types like myself, Nick. Terry is working on the Nav Centre, Missile Compartment, and Missile Control Centre - coming soon?

Editing by Matt and Nick; formatting by Nick - a work on progress!

A number of images on this page are the property of The Imperial War Museum and included under licence

The Official Secrets Act has been respected at all times - hopefully!

Never one to take himself too seriously, he has taken a few liberties here and there with the rest of the crew!

This dit divide the boat up into sections between watertight bulkhead so browse through and take a "grocer's" view of the world where he lived:

Conventional Submariner's titles / nicknames differ somewhat to that of the Polaris Submariner as does he to the newer Trident Submariner.

Polaris (SSBN) - SS stands for Ship Submersible, the B stands for Ballistic and the N for Nuclear.

First Things First - The Captain and Crew:

Starting with the Captain, he is the 'Gaffer', the Skipper and his word is law. If he's in the control room with the periscope raised, no-one other than he speaks unless he's spoken to by the Captain. The reason is that a submarine is at its most vulnerable state whilst coming up from deep to PD (Periscope Depth), whilst at PD, or that of leaving PD. The Captain, for instance, might be observing a surface contact such as a lighthouse on shore, to confirm his position on a chart (sea map). Whatever it is, he must be heard by one and all.

The Captain sleeps in a single man cabin, usually eats alone unless invited into the Wardroom (Bunhouse/Bunrun) by the Senior Officer who will be the Executive Officer (second in command) also known as the 'Jimmy', 'Jimmy the One'. The XO will normally have had his own Command on a conventional submarine and is capable of taking over the duties of the Captain if the Captain is taken ill or has decided to take a few hours off to get his head down (sleep).

The Captain's needs are catered to by a capable 'Underwater Plate Layer', a nominated leading steward. The "leading" bit of his title means that he's climbing the ladder of promotion, having served some time as an ordinary or able steward learning the basics of grovelling round an Officer's Messdeck (Flunkey) (Soup Jockey) and adept at using his crumb brush cleaning the tables. Once he passes his promotion exam, he takes on the mantle of mentor to his juniors in his charge and he becomes the right hand man of the Petty Officer Steward if one is carried as part of the ship's company.

In general, each department on board is comprised of a HOD (Head of Department Officer), Senior Rates, Artificers, Leading Hands, and AB (Able Bodied) sailors who have trade specialisation for a specific department such as electrical, engineering, sonar, etc.

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Part 1 – The Fore Ends - Fwd Dome to Watertight Bulkhead 35:



We'll start from the sharp end/front (Fore-Ends). The lower level is where the torpedoes are stowed , loaded and fired from the torpedo tubes.

The Upper Level is a designated escape area so much of the space houses life support equipment - oxygen generators, absorption units, oxygen candle burners. There is a two man escape tower, BIBS (Built in Breathing System) with pipework and connections for portable Breathing Units (B Us) to be plugged into during a rush escape; you plug the male connector into the female receptor and place the B U mouth piece into your mouth and breath air normally as the air in the compartment may well be under pressure and be lethal to breath in. During an emergency, the men form a line, all plugged into the BIBS System pipe. Someone first of all prepares the escape tower, taking off clips, dropping the twilled trunking etc; then, as each man exits the tower, everyone moves one place nearer to tower following the BIBS pipework. What you must ensure is that, whilst holding your breath, you pick up the next in line B U and test that it's working before releasing the one you've been using; this is called Fleeting.

Torpedo Room In this area are SSE's (Submerged Signal Ejectors), a library with books and games. The upper area is, also, a recognised messdeck for junior rates. In the fore ends there is an equipment space which receives data from the Control Room Fire Control Computer for setting the torpedoes range and bearing before firing. The Control Room section explains this well.

Having said all before on torpedo firing, it's highly unlikely that a Polaris boat would fire at a Skimmer/Target (Surface Fleet Ship), I've not heard of one, but HMS Conqueror, S48, an SSN - Ship Submersible Nuclear, did sink the Argentinean Navy's General Belgrano during the Falklands conflict and drills are still practice regularly.
Torpedo Room

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Part 2 - Electronics - Watertight Bulkhead 35 to 55


There were three decks in this section. The layout from for'ard to aft was:

1 Deck

Port Side

Starboard Side

electronics bays

Main Access Hatch: to gain entry into the submarine whilst alongside in harbour, you first have show your photographic ID Card and area pass to get through various police check points. Once on the boat, on the upper deck you have what's called an Upper Deck Trot Sentry. He will allow you onboard if you're on his access list for that particular day.

An eight step, vertical ladder leads down into the boat joining with a sloping set of steps which brings you to the deck outside the Sound Room and WT Shack - almost opposite each other. When a fully fledged submariner (not a Part 3) enters the boat through the hatch he goes down with his back to the ladder. Civillians, on the other hand, go down stairs backwards holding on to the handrails and this can be a major promlem!

If there was an incident onboard and the Fire Brigade were called out to assist with the emergency, the Upper deck Trot Sentry would give the Firemen directions to, let's say, a fire onboard. The Trot sentry says “Down the Hatch turn right” the said Fireman goes down the hatch (backwards), into a smoked filled boat, turns to HIS RIGHT and ends up in the Sound Room not the WT Shack - confusion then reigns. To ensure that this doesn't happen, the duty watch of the day would, as part of their routine, rig a fire retardent rope from the Accommodation Hatch, as it is known, down through the boat to the scene of the incident. It, also, ensure that anyone can find the exit and safety.

Be warned - when comming through the hatch NOT to catch any rings on finger on the rim; there's been many an accident of this particular injury and the Sick Bay staff get plenty of practice in stitching fingers back together again!

SONAR (Sound) Room: This name was a true misnomer! It should have been called "The Silent Room" . Signals from the Sonar Console Space were sent to the Silent Room which, unless it was emitted from a Sperm whale in D flat minor, were totally ignored. It was generally accepted that shore-side bragging rights for such signals merited much sippers (a slurp of someone else's rum). The downside of manning the Silent Room was "all round sweeps" or "Clearing the stern arcs" (maneouvering to spot anything that might be following masked by the propeller). The order term chosen, "All round sweeps" or "Clearing the stern arcs", was indicative of the rank ordered, "clearing stern arcs" being more regular for the OOW (Officer of the Watch) in the Control Room. General shakes all round (someone had to wake everyone else up) was required to accomplish this. The Silent room treated this as a necessary evil.

Abaft of the Silent (Sound) Room was the Switchboard. According to the two LEM's (Leading Electrical Mechanics] here were trillions of relays. They were responsible for it all working and were daymen (never kept a watch ). The core of it all was SINBAD, the internal telephone system. S.I.N.B.A.D. was a favourite part III question (the final exam to qualify as a submariner) only asked to remind the person asking the question what the initials really meant. To all crew other than the LEM's, Sinbad was a Skimmer (a surface sailor) and therefore totally unimportant!

Abaft of the Switchboard was the Radar shack housing the radar transmitter. Outboard of this was the ECM equipment. Radar was rarely used unless the skipper was going to miss Rhu Narrows (the entrance to the submarine base in Gareloch) when it would be ordered to be flashed up in double quick time, frying the magnetron, giving it the reputation of being totally useless! However, many a would be skipper doing their Perisher course (submarine captain course) would curse it when the training officer would use it to correct their mistaken target distance!

The ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) equipment was a technological marvel! It was so advanced that only the person trained to use it fully understood it's capability and was, therefore, totally ignored by the remainder of the crew! It had it's own dedicated mast, the size of a dustbin, which was easily detected by a so called enemy navigation radar and, therefore, was never raised by a sensible skipper unless he was doing a Perisher course with the intention of impressing the training officer!

SONAR Console Space: The singularly most important compartment on the whole boat was the Sonar Console Space. The most for'ard space from 1 deck. This compartment housed banks of forced air cooled sonar gear. If one was lucky, it was possible to observe a visitor from the Nav Centre whose sole purpose was to confirm that no one had changed Ohms Law while they had been asleep!

On occasions it would happen that there would be a "For exercise, for exercise, FIRE FIRE FIRE!" in the sonar console space and one would have to pretend that the extinguisher nozzel was ready to force foam into to Sonar Gear, that is if one broke the aluminium plate stopping air escaping. It was not unusual for the Jimmy (1st Lt) to demand the nozzle to be pushed in to break the seal and equally it was not unusual for the CREA to demand the seal not be broken as there were spares carried. In the ensuing brawl, if was not unusual for the said Jimmy to be covered in foam as the LREM had oft removed the safety pin (much like a grenade) to ensure realism as far as safely possible. Needless to say, fire drills became rare for the Sonar Console Space!

Wireless Office: Leaving the Sonar Console Space and travelling aft, one came upon the Wireless Office. This was a highly restricted space except for the LREM who had to, on occasions, change one of the teleprinters due to the RO's (Radio Operator) allowing the chad (waste from a ticker tape) to block the teleprinter.However, if one turned to Port, (that's left, Nick) one came upon a small bench with a miriad of test equipment on it. This was perhaps (absolutely, if one talked to Yogi) where the heart of the submarine was located. The teleprinter test and repair bench manned by one lowly LREM (Leading Radio Electricians Mate) ensured that those in the W/T (Wireless Telegraphy) Office were never disturbed because of breakdowns in their long slumbers.

However, even the LREM was kicked out when the Familygrams (short message sent from love ones) began to be received. It would not do for the lowly LREM to read that the CREA's wife was expecting triplets especially that, at the time of conception, the said CREA was supposed to be at sea! (Allegedly, according to Yogi).

Now, it was common knowledge that no familygram was distributed to the recipient until it was vetted by the Skipper. Part of each skippers training was a 3 month intensive course on familygrams. A smile, a knowing look to the recipient was notice of an instant fail and no message would be delivered!

Abaft (behind, for Nick) the W/T shack on the starboard side was a small caboose for the H/F (High Frequency) transmitter. This was the singularly most unimportant place on the whole boat because it was common knowledge that it was never used under any circumstances, unless it was the skipper who got the familygram saying it was his wife expecting triplets while he was supposed to be at sea!


2 Deck

Port Side


Starboard Side

We have now come down to 2 deck. Starting at the for’d end we have the watertight door leading to the torpedo compartment upper level. We are standing in the junior rates mess, the living / dining area for the mere mortals of the crew. In the evening this doubles up as one of the 3 cinemas on board. Now something very important to remember here, when we are submerged at sea, the submarine is nice and stable and you can eat your meals at the table as you would at home, however when we are on the surface the submarine will roll, due to being circular in cross section, this means put a non slip mat on the table before you eat dinner, otherwise it will slide away from at a rate of knots, I am sure someone would not appreciate your pie and mash on his meat and two veg.

Note also, the fridge on the right hand side of the door. Notice that it has a seat belt! Why you may ask? The answer is simple; when the boat is on work up the skipper likes to throw it around a bit, steep nose down dive, followed by a rapid nose up climb. (I am sure the captain feels that he is now the equivalent of a fast jet fighter pilot) However, if you look directly aft from the fridge you will see the main corridor, and a clear direct run to 72 bulkhead. If the fridge was not belted down during these manoeuvres (Angles and Dangles) then it would start heading for 72 bulkhead at a rather alarming speed, with a whole lot of mess afterwards.

Keeping our back to 35 bulkhead, we are now looking aft. On our right hand side, in the deck, we have a small hatch which leads down to 3 deck but only to the deep freeze and cool room. The deep freeze served two purposes. Not only did it store the frozen food, but also hold any crew member who was unlucky enough to die during a patrol! This where the body would be stored until the submarine returned to port. Even for the dead, the submarine never surfaced during patrol.

Back on to 2 deck and happier topics. We have the following:


3 Deck

Port Side

Starboard Side

Finally, on to 3 deck. The most for’d you can go here again is 35 bulkhead. Here it is a solid wall and standing with our back against it we have the senior rates bunk space on the left and on the right we have the deep freeze and cool storage as mentioned before. Moving aft on the right hand side we have the laundry showers and toilets, whilst on the left, we now have the junior rates bunk spaces.

Going abaft again led to the Control room.

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Part 3 - The Control Room - Watertight Bulkhead 55 to 72

control room

Again, there were three decks in this section.

1 Deck

Port Side


Starboard Side

2 Deck

Port Side


Starboard Side

3 Deck

Port Side

Starboard Side


Now we're at sea and dived, and we're on two deck coming up the ladder next to the Galley. A pipe over the tannoy system has been made that the “Control Room is in red lighting,” this simply means that the Control Room has switched from daytime "white" lighting to that of night time "red" lighting.

But there's no windows so who knows and who cares!

The Navvy (Navigating Officer) has worked out when sunset is. Moving from White Lighting to Red Lighting is a precautionary move in case we happen to have an unscheduled excursion up to or near to the surface. If we did, then it wouldn't take as long for the Captain's, the XO's (second in command, Jimmy), or even the OOW's (Officer of the Watch) to adjust to the lighting level of the outside the submarine. If the manoeuver is scheduled, prior to going up to PD (Periscope Depth), the Control Room goes to what's called Black Lighting. The boat is at its' most vulnerable at PD so that's when there's complete silence in the Control Room; only one voice should be heard and that would be the person manning the periscope, usually the Captain. The Control Room hangs on his every word until the handles on the periscope are folded up which indicates to the periscope hoist operator that the Captain has finished having an All Round Look, Half Round Look, taking a bearing or whatever and he wants the periscope back down in its' well (hole in the deck).

To help with changing over watch-keeping positions at red lighting (no change over was allowed at black lighting for safety reasons), there are black-out curtains rigged along one deck passage, at the top of the ladder near the galley, part way down the passage, and one just before you enter the control room. You'd be well advised to be early on relieving your buddy on change over of watch as your eyes need to adjust to the red lighting before entering the Control Room. If you don't, you just might cause an accident because your eyes haven't had time to adjust to the darkness.

We now enter the Control Room. Immediately on your right hand side is the small access to the SCOOW (Ship Control Officer of the Watch) domain. Foreward of this box is where the Helmsmen sit. Imagine the cockpit of a plane where the pilot and copilot sit facing a huge array of dials and indicators. This box of tricks is like that with the after planesman on the right hand side and the fore planesman on the left. The after planesman, a junior rating, steers the submarine with a joystick, religiously correcting his horizontal indicator for course - left to port, right to starboard - and vertically for depth - back to surface, forward to dive. The fore planesman, usually a senior rating, provides a finer control of depth by watching the "bubble"; you'll have seen a spirit level, well liken it to that as it looks the same. On changing depth, the after planesman helps the fore planesman keep the ordered amount of "bubble" by monitoring a perpendicular graphic sectioned off in degrees and a static bow shaped inclinometer which indicates the roll of the submarine. On an order of “Full rise on the foreplanes, ten up, keep 300'”, the fore planesman would pull back on his joystick and watch his indicator go up to 30/35 degrees whilst the after planesman would push down on his joystick to ensure that they between them achieve 10 degrees of upward bubble and that they arrive at 300' in a safe state.

In between these two positions is the One Man Control or the One Man Band, a silver box with two mushroom shaped buttons on the front and two winding dials on top. Moving the mushroom handles upwards engages a fixed depth and bubble angle; adjustment is made by turning the appropriate dial. Simply put, it's a form of autopilot.

There are three ways of operating the Fore and After planes to ensure fail safe operation in case of equipment failure:

Sitting to the right and slightly behind the fore planesman is a junior rating of the watch. He keeps what's called the "Control Room Log" where every order from going to Harbour Stations, throughout the patrol to that of getting back alongside FWMMASFOHSB (finished with main motor and steering, fall out from harbour stations below) is recorded. The log, along with a trillion zillion other bits and bobs are packaged up for analysis down in London after the patrol. On the left shoulder of the after planesman is a Flood Alarm Panel with buttons that light up red and make a scary noise if there's an ingress of water in the submarine, It gets exciting if you're below a certain depth and there's an alarm goes off! Spurious or not, the SCOOW will give the order to the Manoeuvring Room “Make the Battle Short Switch” which will instigate the safety settings of the machinery power to be overridden. Orders for "Full Ahead", "Blow Fwd", "Blow Aft", "Full Rise on the foreplanes", "Keep whatever degree of Bubble to the after planesman" are piped by tannoy to the ship's company along with “Shut bulkhead doors!”, “Shut bulkhead doors!”, "Submarine surfacing in emergency!", “Shut bulkhead doors”. The SCOOW will then coolly turn his attention to the planesmen and oversee their performance to the roof (surface) having, at the outset of the excitement, switched the engine room speed dial to the Full Ahead position. The main object for the planesmen is not to break through to the surface with too great an angle (bubble) because it's been known that too steep an angle could well see the submarine go back under the surface backwards - not recommended! Meanwhile, the Fwd Outside Staff (see below) on the panel will at the same time leap into action by following the order of “Blow Fwd, Blow Aft” by reaching up above their heads to open up the Fwd Blow Valve first, followed by the After Blow Valve, shutting the Main Vents. Air from the ALAs (air loaded accumulators) will pump air into the ballast tanks making the submarine positive buoyant (light in weight) and it's 'Hang on to your caps lads'. The "Shut bulkhead doors" bit is in case there's any ships that have not been picked up by the sound room team, say like a fishing vessel with its' nets just drifting; always expect the unexpected.

Now just to the left of the Flood Alarm Panel is the start of the Outside Staff's panel. This is quite a sizable length of very important equipment, too deep to go into detail, but I'll touch on some of the more basic but still vital equipment. Usually two men man the panel and one extra man is floating doing checks, etc.. There is:

Back at the entrance to the Control Room, still facing aft, there's a circular drainage grill on the deck directly below a huge, tube-like opening. Looking upwards, you'll observe that there's a massive lid with locking handle. It can be in the open position or the shut position.

Now, why didn't I say closed position? Because every submariner coming through training has the word closed wiped from their memory bank! The word shut can not be misinterpreted, misconstrued or mistaken with any other word (safety rules again), “If something is to be shut, then shut it will be by using the word shut. Got that, boy?” “Yes Chief”.

This "tube" is known as the Tower. It's the link between the Control Room and the Bridge. It has a lower lid and an upper lid and both lids can be left open whilst operating on the surface. Control of "Who's in the Tower" is between the OOW up top (the bridge) and the helmsman below. When the submarine is running opened up (surfaced), there's an OOW and two lookouts of the watch on the bridge. The lookouts are placed one on the port side and one on the starboard side of the bridge. Their duty is to keep a keen eye from dead ahead right down their respective side of the submarine with the aid of binoculars. If they spot anything, it's to be reported to the OOW immediately and given as a report in a particulary naval manner, ie; whatever the object is ship, whale or yacht state it's bearing (Red 60) and movement (left to right) - as easy as that. The OOW will have read the Captains Order Book for the day and will advise the Captain accordingly. Extra bodies on the bridge would be allowed on request via the helmsman to the OOW for crew to get fresh air, commonly known as 'Goofing'. There are times when you are on the surface and transiting areas with both lids open and the sea is a bit lumpy. Water/waves can and do sometimes find their way down through the tower. To stop the water cascading down through the decks to the main battery compartment (not always successful), the 'Elephant's Trunk', a thick canvas device shaped like a sock without the foot (tube) with an access hole to go through called is attached to the bottom of the tower.

Back to the entrance to the Control Room again, only this time we turn to your left which is, you remember, the Starboard side of the Control Room as you're walking aft. Directly to your left there's a glass topped table called an ARL Table (Admiralty Research Laboratory). Whilst on the surface there's usually the OOW on the Bridge in overall charge, down below, in the Control Room Starboard Side, there's a POOW (Petty Officer of the Watch) who's duty it is to take navigational fixes via the periscopes if in sight of land. He keeps the submarines progress and position up to date and informs the OOW of his findings. His chart (sea map) will be on the ARL Table and he will be given SINS (ships inertial navigational system) fixes and use a gizmo machine called Loran-C Signal CHARACTERISTICS STATIONS. Loran-C transmitters are organised into chains of 3, 4 or 5 stations. Within a chain, one station is designated "Master" (M) while the other "Secondary" stations identified by the letters W, X, Y and Z with differing colours.

Outboard of that in the front corner, starboard side, is the UWT (Under Water Telephone 183/185). When on patrol and left switched on, you could hear a lot of what's going on outside the submarine such as biologics - whales, different types of fish chattering, prawns clicking; it's amazing the noises you hear. The one noise you don't want to hear is that of a ship passing over you with the screws churning ten to the dozen! Anyone who's been on a submarine conducting Commanding Officers Qualifying Course (COQC),a training course for naval officers preparing to take command of a submarine, informally known as the Perisher because of its low success rate, will know what I mean.

Just aft of that, there's a second ARL table, but this one has a different set up to it. As it's used by the POOW when dived, it has a graticule working on latitude and longitude giving off a light projected up to the glass surface representing the submarines position on a chart. It is generally used in 'Attack Teams' (war games). Approximately 18 inches behind this table and attached to the bulkhead (wall) is a gadget called a Bathythermograph. One sensing element of this device is located on the keel and the other on the top of the fin. This bathy is a velocimeter and it actually measures the velocity of sound in the water around the sensing element and finds thermoclines ( A thermocline is the transition layer between warmer mixed water at the ocean's surface and cooler deep water below - a good hiding place). The equipment is a cylindrical drum into which a specially designed card is fitted. When switched on, it takes a record of water temperature whilst changing depth, so if you're near the surface, having taken a satellite fix, you put in a fresh card, switch to the lower soundhead recorder in the machine and, on the way down to your ordered depth, the bathy records the water temps indicating where there's any layers of changing density. The same is true of surfacing, of course.

This information is used in deciding the best listening depth or best evasion depth of the submarine. It, also, indicates to the trimming OOW if he can expect to be heavy or light as he changes depth due to the change in water density outside the submarine. This was very handy during the war when evading searching enemies. You simply got below a layer allowing you to sit/float/drift/hide from the surface vessels 'Pinging' you with their ASDIC. ASDIC, or SONAR, is a measuring instrument that sends out an acoustic pulse in water to measure distances in terms of the time for the echo of the pulse to return; "Sonar" is an acronym for SOund Navigation And Ranging, ASDIC is an acronym for AntiSubmarine Detection Investigation Committee.

Also on the starboard side was a time / bearing plotter called the CEP (Contact Evaluation Plot) which charted contact bearings provided by the Sound Room against time. Each new contact was numbered and it's bearing relative to the boat marked at a given time then joined to any new points by a line so allowing the tracking of any contact (interest). The information was used by the OOW to determine rough courses of contacts and by the CO to evaluate tactical situations. Accuracy and thorough, neat recording were of paramount importance.

Still on the starboard side, just aft of the second ARL table, there was a brass tube going through the deck into a tank below on two deck in the Cox'n's Office. When rum rations were allowed, rum was poured down this pipe for the issue of the daily ration.

In the early days, pre DCB, we had, as part of the Fire Control System, a visual aid box named GARTU (Gyro Angle ReTransmission Unit) which accepted the MGA (mean gyro angle) from the TCC (Torpedo Calculator Computer) or “Fruit Machine”. The TCC, itself, was fed with information from the Sound Room, ARL Table Plot's best solutions, sightings from periscopes etc. for it to calculated the target's best course, speed and range and the required spread the Mk 8, straight running torpedo salvo - some of the torpedoes in the salvo would travel to the right and some to the left of the MGA for greater target coverage in case the target was travelling faster or slower than was estimated. Adjacent to this was the TOFI (Torpedo Order Fire Instrument) which controlled the state of readiness of the torpedoes including synchronous or non-synchronous settings. Indicator lights illuminated when the required settings were accepted by the torpedo (DATA SET) and when the tube is ready to fire. Finally, the torpedo is fired from the TOFI. Later, the more sophisticated torpedoes were wire guided making most of this equipment obsolete.

Communication from the outside world was via the ALT, a floating cable fed out from a drum next to the TCC, through a conduit, exiting the back of the fin. On patrol there was the constant requirement to be in contact in case a genuine fire signal was transmitted. The length of cable streaming was controlled to ensure that it was not snagged by the boat itself or by other craft. The boat's speed was limited to ensure that the cable was not snapped or pulled too deep to receive signals. A spare ALT Reel of wire was stored at the back of the Control Room next to the aft ladder to two deck. The captain used this ladder to access the CR from his cabin through a hatch above which were the main ventilation fans. In calm weather the wire would float on the surface and it was possible for a flock of shitehawks (seagulls) to be bobbing along, sitting on the line, so giving away the boats position. The solution was to use our other communication device the ALP Bouys.We had two of them stowed under the rear end of the casing and we floated them was dragging along with wires some 10 – 15 feet below the surface. This was a great soluition until time came to pull it back into its stowage and we often had problems with launching or retrieving a bouy. The Systems Console controlled the ALP buoys although the streaming and recovery could also be controlled from the missile compartment because we always had a backup method. The systems console also controlled a cable cutter mechanism to jettison a buoy that was misbehaving. We were better off with a slightly rough ocean to hide in but still keep our second mission task of remaining in communication on VLF (Very Low Frequency).

Training: there is a pecking order on every submarine from the captain down to the lowest of the low 'Part Three'. Having said that, each and every one of the crew had a part to play so the submarine is only as safe as the least educated / trained person onboard. It was in our best interests for our survival that we passed on experience and taught all for them to pass exams and gain his much coverted 'Dolphins'. In the submarine world, we had a far more relaxed way of life whilst at sea but were still ever mindful of rank and respected it.

There are two types of boat - hunter / killer or deterrents. The former seek out the enemy to destroy them while the latter are the opposite. The SSBN's were designed and operated to avoid and evade detection so to maintain a platform that could bring and fire missiles within a specified time but that didnot mean that the hunter / killer skills could be forgotten and they were not. There was training at the submarine bases on simulators and training at sea to simulating various exercises by the Attack Team.

During an exercise, the Attack Team were spread throughout the submarine linked by various communication systems. Movement throughout the submarine restricted to reduce noise and all non-essential equipment is shut down. To remain undetected to the enemy, an Ultra Quiet State is the order of the day. In the Polaris world, this is how it started:- we would be informed through intelligence reports that there could be an "interesting item" coming through our designated moving haven (an operating box of sea space where we're allowed to be in at a given time). If one or boats did not send a predetermined surfacing signal a procedure called “Submiss” would be instigated and, if did not report in a given time this would escalate to “Subsunk”. At this point a massive search would start to try to find the stricken submarine. In this example, however, the intel would be warning us of "one of theirs" transiting our haven. We might pick up a strange contact that we want to investigate a little more for future reference and analysis. "Attack Teams" would be piped for over the tannoy system sending crew to their allocated stations in the fore-ends, the Sound Room, and the Control Room where it got a little crowded. Next, an Attack Log was commenced recording every single event and order given with its time. Here the Fwd Staff Panel Watch Keepers would be joined by a dedicated Periscope Operator who's job it is to hang on to the Captain's every periscope order.

To keep the wash from being seen when raising these periscopes and mast there's a restriction in speed but the speed can be increased once they're raised although this risks damaging the watertight seals.

The Attack Periscope was monocular and was very small at the top making it difficult to detect visually or radar. It was slightly longer than the search periscope by 4 feet which enabled the submarine to be slightly deeper when attacking, a tactical advantage in case of aircraft, and enabled the submarine to save valuable seconds if forced to go deep by an escort (conventional submarines practice). It was fitted with an artificial horizon sextant, an action broadcast microphone, a split image range finder, feeds range and bearing to the Fire Control Calculator (FCC), and, for the colder climes, it possessed a top window de-icing heater. The magnification at low power was 1.5 and 6 at high power.

The Search Periscope was binocular and had a much larger diameter making it a good visual and radar target. It was fitted with ranging radar – very short transmission, an action broadcast microphone, a split image range finder, camera aperture, bearing transmission to the FCC and the bearing indicator above the chart table, top window de-icing heaters, and light filters. It could be fitted with a power rotation foot controlled, seat roundabout. The magnification was the same as the attack periscope.

The Captain's periscope reader would position himself opposite to the Captain at whichever periscope was being used. Although the Captain had push button facilities to transfer bearings/range findings to the FCC, he still had to mentally calculate the range. To accomplish this he turned a dial to adjust a split view to superimposed two images of the target in the sight. The periscope reader then read the dial and used a slide rule calculator to determine the range so confirming the captain's calculation. This was repeated several times to provide the course setting.

The Sound Room would have been busy passing information through to the CEP. Another plot, the TBP (Time Bearing Plot), a larger scaled plot than the CEP, gave early indication of target's course changes (Zigs) which were later confirmed by visual sightings and plot solutions. you can calculate ranges from zigs too, this is a two man plot, one at the front working out range, course, etc., and one at the back writing in reverse with his trusty chinagraph pencil to plot bearings.

Everything would now be in place for the captain to track the contact at a distance or, if absolutley necessary, take more drastic action!

It was amazing to be part of a simulation, hearing the explosion noises of your weapons finding the target as the culmination of the team's hard work, then hearing the tannoy pipe “Fall out from attack, teams.” and celebrate a fine job done.

At the rear and centre of the control room was the ACIP panel (Attack Centre Information Panel). This had a load of lights that showed the status of each of the missiles and you could see how they were being ‘spun up’ and when they were ready to fire. At the bottom of this panel was a key switch. This key was normally held by the Captain, and only ever shared with the XO (Executive Officer or First Lieutenant – pronounced Leftenant). When we would carry out a countdown – normally during a WSRT (Weapon System Readiness Test) - the Captain would announce over the ship broadcast “You have permission to fire” and at that moment he actually made the key. This avoids any idiot getting onto the ship broadcast and impersonating the captain’s voice.

Over at the Port side of the control room and aft of the Systems Console was a small door which was the entrance to the NAV Centre. This compartment was a restricted area because it had sensitive information about the patrol location etc. The compartment actually extended across the whole boat, Port and Starboard with loads of kit in it that we will discuss with the Missile section. That compartment brings us up to 72 bulkhead, and there is a door at this bulkhead opening into the MC (Missile Compartment) This door was rarely used because the Nav Queens preferred to keep to themselves.

We have already explained how the boat was navigated using the plots in the control room in a traditional manner and using Decca, LoranC, and periscope sighting. The Nav Centre was not really there for navigation, it was part of the missile system, although it could help the ship control watch by telling them very accurately where they were in lat/long (latitude and longtitude) at the push of a button. Obviously the Navigation Officer had access to the Nav Centre, along with the Skipper, Executive Officer, and all of the MCC staff (who had the same information transmitted to the MCC (Missile Control Centre) down on 3 deck.

On patrol the control room staff could not use these other navigation devices and were just told to remain in a certain area and so it was a good exercise in navigating using dead reckoning. Some Skippers would give the junior watch officers tests like “starting from my mark you are to do certain manoeuvres in this box and exactly 30 minutes later you must arrive back at your starting point”. He would then take a record in the Nav Centre (kept secret), and would calculate a miss distance for the officer 30 minutes later. On patrol in an area it was more important for the fore end staff to keep a listening watch on what was going on and for the boat to remain undetected. This could lead to quite a laid back attitude to navigation. Words like:
“ Port 10, steer 270”
“Don’t you mean Starboard 10?”
“…..Oh go that way if you want!”

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