Silent submarines keep popping up in my life

Joe Garcia

In my early student days with the MOD, I ended up at the naval base and dockyard at Chatham, and among other activities, I spent a year in the main drawing office there which included a top security area where drawings were prepared for modifications to the submarine fleet. 

On another occasion I was detailed to go onboard a submarine berthed in the huge docks area there, to try and trace a problem in an electrical/electronic part of a submarine which was not working properly.

I am not going to say that I know submarines in and out, but I wonder why submarines keep popping up in my life, nowadays from a journalistic perspective.

My latest encounter with one of the silent subs was to do with HMS Ambush, when I asked Headquarters British Forces a simple question of public interest: "Can you provide the reasons for the prolonged visit by HMS Ambush?"

Came the curt answer from the MOD: "It is policy not to comment on submarine operations or operational movements."

With places like Venezuela on the verge of blowing up into an international confrontation, one can understand why they want to remain as silent as a submarine, which had its departure from Gibraltar changed more than once - and finally brought forward to Friday.

A handful of years ago, we published a picture of a submarine which carried a mini-sub on top of it. The CBF at the time gave me a call as to why we had published such a picture, whereupon I asked him to contact a UK daily paper which had also published a similar photograph.

There appears to be a colonial penchant in the MOD to try and knock the Gibraltar press when in the UK they face continued bombshells from the press there. The press there and here are just doing their job, in the public interest.

Further, in Gibraltar, submarine operations are carried out in the open for all to see, so if anyone is to blame for what transpires to the public domain, it is the MOD itself, if indeed anyone is to be blamed.

Certainly, those who deal with the press here ought to be more cooperative and understanding with the press, because the press here can be most cooperative and understanding when sensitive issues are brought to their attention.

Like the day, long ago, when a bored soldier on duty at the frontier hurled a rotten tomato at the guard on the other side, and all the top brass at military headquarters got nervous about it, requesting that we kept as silent as a submarine about it, which we all did.

Today one can ask the pertinent question if such cooperation should be forthcoming from the press, when the top boys in the military command seem to hate newspapers, and should perhaps be sent back to school to learn good manners in the interest of Her Majesty the Queen, which is our beloved Queen as much as theirs.