British Submariner Goes AWOL After Leaking UK Military Nuclear Secrets

Illustration for article titled British Submariner Goes AWOL After Leaking UK Military Nuclear Secrets

The British Royal Navy is searching for Able Seaman William McNeilly after he leaked an 18-page report called “The Secret Nuclear Threat.”


In the document, the submariner explained a wide range of insights relating to the UK’s submarine operations, reports The Independent. It covers everything from the mundane, such as food hygiene, to more worrying topics such as hydraulics failures that prevent submarines from launching missiles. In fact, he describes submarine floods during testing that would have killed if they’d happened at sea, and writes that he “learnt that HMS Vanguard is in the worst of the worst condition.”

Elsewhere, he claims that it’s“harder to get into most nightclubs” than into sensitive parts of the Faslane submarine base on the Clyde in Scotland. “I’ve gotten through a few times by just showing my pale white room key; looks nothing like a Green Area Pass,” he wrote.


He also explains that alarms on the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine’s missile control are often muted. “I could sometimes hear alarms on the missiles control and monitoring position while lying in bed,” he writes. “I later found out that I would’ve been hearing them more frequently if they hadn’t muted the console just to avoid listening to the alarms.”

McNeilly—who describes himself as “an engineering technician submariner for the UK’s Trident IID5 strategic weapons system”—didn’t return from leave on 11th April. In a press release, the Royal Navy explained that it is “concerned for the whereabouts and well-being of Able Seaman McNeilly and is working closely with civilian police to locate him.” [Independent]

Image by UK Ministry of Defence

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That vanguard isn’t in top notch condition isn’t particularly surprising, first of her class and up for replacement in this parliament. But I doubt it’s actually anything worse than the usual on an old ship, and she wouldn’t be allowed out of port if she wasn’t actually safe. Muting warnings on panels isn’t that weird, they are there for a reason, but often if you know what is going on and the ships engineer approves it’s safe to mute the warnings until you can do something about it(on a new or refitted vessel doing something may well just be changing your alarm set points).

All nuclear subs are dangerous, it’s why they go through rigorous testing, that one had an accident during testing isn’t affirmation of the state of the sub, it’s affirmation that testing was a good idea.

If this was from a ships engineering officer or even a senior NCO this would have a lot more credence. But this guy is basically not much better than a recruit. Most of it isn’t first hand accounts, and smacks heavily of ward room/mess banter. This guy sounds like someone that isn’t happy with his post or has an agenda, if he wanted to be believed he would have shut up and waited till he was more experienced and senior. And given the reliance on rumour rather than first hand accounts it doesn’t speak that highly of his mental state.

As to security, like most military facilities in the UK security is outward facing primarily and consists of multiple levels, it’s much harder to get on base these days(saying as someone that goes on bases quite often). Once inside you face much lower levels of security, however it’s still not easy to get into sensitive areas, you can certainly get close, but close ain’t no cigar. To actually board a vessel for example, you need to get past an armed sentry that isn’t going to let pass someone who isn’t on the crew. On the outward facing checkpoints security is pretty tight, but internally things probably could be tighter, but it’s a small community on bases and ships and security tends to focus on people that are outsiders and not someone you actually know is supposed to be there.