Dishonourable discharge for Royal Navy submariner who made Trident claims

The Royal Navy's 16,000 ton Trident-class nuclear submarine Vanguard
The Royal Navy's 16,000 ton Trident-class nuclear submarine Vanguard
Leading WEM Phil Phillips, from Fareham, waves to his wife, Lynne, in the crowd as HMS Liverpool returns home after seven months on duty

THIS WEEK IN 1997: Volcano veteran back with a bang

  • Submariner says he was given dishonourable discharge
  • The 25-year-old had published claims online about the safety of the Trident fleet
  • But the Royal Navy rejected his allegations and took action
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A Royal Navy submariner who criticised safety and security procedures around the Trident nuclear programme has revealed he has been given a dishonourable discharge.

Able Seaman William McNeilly, 25, went absent without leave last month after producing an 18-page report containing a series of allegations about the Trident submarines based at Faslane on the Clyde.

He handed himself into Royal Navy police after his claims made headlines and he was held at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth.

His report alleged 30 safety and security flaws on the Trident submarines, describing them as a ’disaster waiting to happen’.

The Royal Navy said it disagreed with Mr McNeilly’s ‘subjective and unsubstantiated’ views and said it takes the operation of its submarines and the safety of its personnel extremely seriously.

The 25-year-old from Belfast has put up a new seven-page online post thanking people for their support and said he had been given a dishonourable discharge.

The submariner said he refused to sign a document discrediting his allegations which would have led to an earlier release from the service.

Mr McNeilly wrote: ‘Most people know that I acted in the interest of national security. However, I was still given a dishonourable discharge from the Royal Navy. On the claim that my sole aim was to discredit their public image. The truth is, I view the Royal Navy as the greatest navy in history.’

He added: ‘Some people within the Royal Navy have been maliciously spreading the rumour that most of the information in my report is just hearsay. People should read the report before they judge it.’

The claims became a major political issue and were raised in the House of Commons. Defence secretary Michael Fallon said the whistleblower’s concerns about Trident nuclear submarine safety have not been proved and were either ‘incorrect or the result of misunderstanding’.

Mr McNeilly believes more staff concerns will come to light.

He added: ‘I must point out that I’m not suggesting everybody should release every bit of information they can get their hands on. Some people have no understanding of what should and shouldn’t be released.

‘Don’t be like those guys who just put everything on a pen drive and release it all. All of my charges were dropped because I carefully selected information.

‘There is a line between increasing security and damaging security. You must never cross that line.

‘You should always start by raising your concerns from within the system. If that doesn’t work you can file a representation. I raised my concerns within the system first, but the staff never took the complaints seriously. They all thought they were salty sea dogs who knew best.’

Mr McNeilly said his time in detention ‘wasn’t that bad’ and he ‘was relaxed because I knew I couldn’t do anything’.

A Royal Navy Spokeswoman said: ‘We can confirm that AB McNeilly has left the Naval Service the details of which are a matter for the individual and his employer.

‘Throughout the process Able Seaman McNeilly was still being afforded the duty of care that we give all our personnel, as was his family.’