Trident sailor reveals ‘disaster waiting to happen’

IssueJune 2015 - July 2015
News by David Polden

On 18 May, William McNeilly, 25, an able seaman who had served on patrol on Trident submarine HMS Victorious from January to April this year, handed himself in to police after publishing online an 18-page exposé of safety and security flaws on Britain’s Trident submarine fleet.

McNeilly said that the faults on Victorious were so severe as to question the UK’s ability to successfully launch a Trident nuclear weapon strike (which may of course be seen as a good thing!).

But he also says these faults meant its nuclear weapons could have been detonated through accident or malpractice. He also reported regular problems with the submarine’s atmosphere, drinking water and electrical equipment and high risk of fire in a compartment containing torpedoes which at other times was flooded.

These problems, he wrote, were exacerbated by ‘a chronic shortage of skilled and suitable manpower’.

McNeilly claimed he had raised concerns about the safety and security of the Trident weapon system through the chain of command on ‘multiple occasions’ but ‘not once did someone even attempt to make a change.’ As such, he felt the only choice left was to make these concerns public and risk the consequences, which might include a lengthy period of imprisonment.


McNeilly refers to the collision in the eastern Atlantic between Vanguard and the French nuclear missile submarine Le Triomphant in 2009.

He says the accident took a ‘massive chunk out of the front’ of the British vessel, threatening high-pressure air cylinders which, if they had exploded, would have sent the submarine ‘plummeting to the bottom’.

The ministry of defence said McNeilly will face consequences for being absent without leave but would not comment on whether he will face charges over his Trident report.

In response to these events, the Nuclear-Free Local Authorities called for an independent enquiry on McNeilly’s allegations, and the SNP secured a debate on Trident safety in the Westminster parliament on 28 May.