Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Friday, 23 May 2008

Why H.M.S. Trafalgar Ran Aground

As a former naval officer with the 'Royal' Canadian Navy, this surprised me. According to the findings of an inquiry released yesterday, a British nuclear attack submarine crashed, hit the seabed, injuring three crewmen, during a training exercise in November 2002 - causing £5million worth of damage - because its navigators covered their charts with tracing paper in order to protect them from damage.

article-1021173-007ABF3D00000258-589_468x343Submarine commanders Robert Fancy, right, and Ian McGhie, rear left, at their 2004 court martial over the crash

I'm surprised by this because our longstanding naval practice has always been to plot the warships' course directly on the chart itself, and then to erase the pencil tracks afterwards for future reuse. Overlaying tracing paper could indeed obscure vital navigational details, or just be a plain nuisance, as it's difficult enough to see the chart's contours as it is. Constantly plotting track and position, taking visual, radar or satellite fixes, calculating speed through the water based on knots wrung on, strength and direction of current and wind, the busiest guy on the bridge of a ship is the gentleman hovered over the ship's chart. It cannot be overemphasised that navigators, or navigating officers of the watch, need to be able to clearly see what they are doing. The safety of Her Majesty's Ship, to say nothing of a submarine with its added dimension, depends on it. Sheesh, who cares about a few smudge marks on some prestine naval chart - are we that strapped for cash in the Royal Navy, gentlemen? Egad.

trafalgar_20060522154319The HMS Trafalgar, which ran aground during the exercise in 2002

Incidentally, HMS Trafalgar was the first British submarine to fire Tomohawk missiles in a combat theatre of operation, having successfully hit their targets in Afghanistan following 9/11. But there will be no more flying of the Jolly Roger now. The Trafalgar is set to be decommissioned in 2008.


Anonymous said...

Paper charts? I was under the impression the RN had gone to digital charts some time ago. Or is this not workable in a submarine for some reason?


Beaverbrook said...

Digital charts? I think you've been watching too much Red October, Mac, though who knows - they're probably using them now.

Anonymous said...

Well the RNZN are going digital; the LT sitting next to me who did an exchange with the RN mentioned they used digital maps exclusivley. However he was posted to a destroyer...but then I'm a humble officer of Artillery so it's not my area of expertise!


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