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People Making Changes Issue 12 -
From Trained Nuclear Killer to
Peace Activist

- Dorothy - 10/4/97

“Trident: A Cuckoo in the Naval Nest”

This is the second of five articles about Commander Rob Green's transition from trained nuclear killer and to a leading international peace activist. Be sure to read the first article in the series, before you read this one.

Next came promotion to Commander, and to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall as personal assistant to an Admiral who had the job of recommending the replacement to Polaris. The nuclear submarine lobby, known in the Navy as the 'Black Mafia', went ruthlessly for Trident, even though it might mean that the rest of the Navy was starved of funds. A Trident submarine is twice the size of Polaris, with twice the potential firepower, and much greater missile range and accuracy. Rob was not alone in seeing that Trident threatened the future of the Navy as a balanced force - but Mrs Thatcher, who was addicted to all things nuclear, forced the Trident decision through.

Photo of Rob Green
Rob Green
Irresponsible Underwater Sports Cars
By now Rob regarded nuclear submarine propulsion and nuclear electricity generation with strong aversion because of the influence of his aunt, Hilda Murrell, an amateur environmentalist who had become his guru after the death of his mother when he was nineteen. Hilda pointed out the irresponsibility of putting a nuclear reactor in a submarine, and the fact that the nuclear industry did not know what to do with the waste from the normal operation of nuclear power plants, or how to decommission nuclear submarines. It wanted to dump them in ocean trenches, but was rumbled. It was not concerned about the environmental catastrophe that might follow torpedoing a nuclear submarine in its reactor; and it played down the consequences if one went aground, for instance, at the entrance to a port. All this seemed to Rob to be totally irresponsible. There were adequate alternative conventional submarine designs, which were much cheaper and environmentally safer. Building these "underwater sports cars" - lethal 'toys for the boys' that can go round the world submerged at thirty knots without refuelling - was a sign of the nuclear addiction of the decision-makers.

This made Rob realise that he could not stay in the Navy with Trident. Also his next career move would have been to command a frigate, but his rapid promotion meant that he had never served on one. He could not have accepted such a posting and retained his professional integrity. When the government announced a Defence Review in 1981, Rob took the chance and applied for redundancy although he had no qualifications for any other type of career.

Falklands War and Polaris
He got approval to go one week into the Falklands War, when he was Fleet Intelligence Officer in charge of round-the-clock intelligence support for Polaris and for the rest of the Navy, working in the bunker near London from which the war was conducted. He was not allowed to go until after Britain had won the war.

Afterwards, there was a lot of controversy over the alleged deployment of a Polaris submarine within range of Argentina in case the British forces were defeated. This made Rob wonder what Thatcher would have done if the Argentinians had managed to sink a troop ship with an Exocet missile before the troops were ashore. The British would probably have been defeated. The result would have been an enormous crisis for the whole military system in Britain and political disgrace for Thatcher. It would have tempted her to threaten Argentina with a nuclear strike - but Galtieri, already undeterred by Polaris, would have publicly called her bluff. Rob went on to do a critique of the whole doctrine of nuclear deterrence, and found it deeply flawed.

Thatching Therapy
At first, on his discharge Rob wanted to get away from the nuclear and military scene, work with his hands, and sleep at home every night. He had some money from the Navy, he had no children, and his wife worked. They had converted a small barn in an idyllic area in Dorset. So here Rob began a new career as a roof thatcher. The work in the open air was therapeutic, even though he made no money, and he was away from the stresses of his former life.

Then in 1984, his aunt Hilda was murdered. It remains unsolved. Rob has reason to believe that her death was associated with the nuclear industry. This tragedy catapulted him into the anti-nuclear movement where his involvement has steadily grown.

Read the next article about the developments which followed...

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