Brian Reed – HMS Repulse

HMS Repulse (Photo Courtesy: NMRN)

I joined submarines in 1963 served for eight years in diesel boats and left in 1971. I re-enlisted in 1973 and entered the Polaris programme, with my first boat being HMS Resolution (S). Even though I was a seasoned submariner, I was a Part 3 (beginner) in this class of boat.

I joined the boat during a maintenance period in between patrols. During this maintenance, all the domestic tanks had been emptied, scraped and cleaned by an outside cleaning company. We set out on patrol and that night during domestic routines, where all the domestic tanks were blown overboard, it was found that the Sewage Tank (shit) could not be blown. It was assumed that during the maintenance clean something had been left behind in the tank and was blocking the outlet pipe. A volunteer was required to enter the tank and find out what was blocking it. Enter yours truly, I was dressed in a plastic hazard suit, fitted with an EBS mask and a wandering lead (light) and entered the tank. The sight of a tank full of piss & shit is not a pleasant sight. I slipped and slithered in the tank over to the discharge pipe and found the blockage a piece of plywood that had been used as a scraper was jammed under it.

During this period of cavorting in shit, I realised that the plastic suit they gave me for protection had breathable feet which to my surprise also let in liquids, so apart from being covered in shit on the outside I was being topped up on the inside of the suit as well. The language when I got out of the tank was as ripe as the smell, and all the attendants were all curled up laughing because I had a turd sticking on my ear. That was my introduction to my Polaris life. Mind you the large TOT of rum I was given did compensate.

Brian Reed

Photograph of HMS Repulse is courtesy of the National Museum of the Royal Navy