PATROLLING in Britain’s first submarine armed with nuclear weapons, 18-year-old Keith Hannond had no idea where he was in the globe.
But what the young submariner was all too aware of was that if his boat, HMS Resolution, was called to fire its devastating payload, it would be ‘the end of everything’.
‘It was the Cold War,’ said Keith, now 62. ‘Everything was very secret.
‘We didn’t have a clue about where we were. The chart was in the control room, all behind a curtain and you weren’t allowed to look there.
‘Only the captain and the officer of the watch knew where we were, nobody else had a clue.’
The retired Petty Officer is speaking out about his time on board the first Polaris submarine ahead of tomorrow’s 50th anniversary of the boat’s historic first patrol.
His story is part of a raft of untold tales from the crew of the Resolution-class sub to feature at Gosport’s Royal Navy Submarine Museum.
Keith, who grew up in Shoreham, qualified as a submariner at 18. He completed two patrols in Resolution from 1974 to 1975 and was submerged for 65 days.
Working as an electrician in the motor room, he said life on the boat was cramped but enjoyable. But he added there were regular firing tests in which the crew had to be able to arm their 16, 200 kiloton missiles.
‘We would bring the missiles to within one minute of firing,’ said Keith, who now lives on Hayling Island. ‘You always think to yourself “we’re never going to fire it” because once you do that would have been it.’
The new display, called Silent & Secret, opens tomorrow. It features a range of artefacts, from parts of the Polaris missile, to personal messages from families, and tales of the men who served on the Resolution-class boats.
Curator Alexandra Geary said: ‘We’re shining a light on what, until now, has been a very secretive world.
‘In World War Two the role of the submarine was really obvious, their sinkings and successes were in the papers everyday and submariners were awarded medals.
‘But post-war it’s been a very secret service. People don’t know what has been going on, it’s been very classified. So it’s about time that we honour submariners and talk about what they have been doing.’
She added one Resolution-class submarine ‘carried more explosive fire power than all the bombs dropped during the Second World War’.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy – which runs the site – has pumped £60,000 into the new permanent display.
For details on the exhibition see: www.historicdockyard.co.uk