You think I'm joking!
Meeting at Whitehall a few years ago
with Chiefs of Naval Staffs and boffins.
Chairman: "Let's discuss our nuclear
I want to be really sure we get to use
it if things don't go too well.
Hands up if anyone knows where our subs
"Please sir, at the bottom of the
sea sir (from head boffin)".
"That's right Commander Blenkinsop,
waiting at the bottom of the sea; and how do we tell them if
they have to fire their big pyrotechnic devices if they're at
the bottom of the sea?
Does their radio work down there?"
"No! Well jolly well find out how
we can talk to them and let me know!"
(at the next meeting); "very
low frequencies you say".
"Oh really; very, very low frequencies,
even.. extremely low frequencies.
Well, we'd better build a transmitter
and make some ELF receivers and equip the subs hadn't we.
Then they can hear us tell them to fire
Later (at another meeting), "Everything's
working well now sir, we can talk to the subs and we can let
them know when to launch their bits and pieces."
"Hang on, not so fast!
What if the enemy finds out about our
ELF transmitter and knocks it out before we can get round to
putting the subs in the picture?
Anyone got any ideas?
What's that Commander Blenkinsop?
That sounds a good idea.
If the subs DON'T hear from us they
can do their own thing.
All we have to do is keep talking to
them and if we stop because the enemy has knocked out the ELF
transmitter, they should just go ahead regardless.
You ops wallas, let me have a plan and
I'll sort something out".
Later (at another meeting at Northwood),
"OK, every hour on the hour we'll talk to the subs.
That way if we miss a slot they can
fire their things.
That sounds foolproof.
I'll organise a chap to talk to the
subs on the hour every hour, rain or shine.
What do you propose we talk to them
"Well sir if the subs are at the
bottom of the sea we can send them their mail."
"That'll do for starters but it'll
only take a few minutes; what else can we do?"
"Have someone type out the contents
of the Sun sir?"
"That'll keep them busy.
They can read the Sun, courtesy of the
.what if a fuse blows
or something really innocuous?
Will the subs launch their things?"
"No sir we'll switch over to a
"Sounds good to me; you'd never
get two fuses blowing!"
"Sir, what if the chap gets fed
up sending bits out of the Sun, or even worse gets bored out
of his mind reading the Sun every day, and decides to tell the
subs to go-ahead anyway?"
"Oh I don't know.
Tell you what, we'll have another chap
with a Tommy gun stand behind the first one so he doesn't do
"Rightho that's agreed
ops fellas arrange that then".
Next, at another meeting (at Whitehall)
to discuss staff cuts...
"What did you say he does?
Just sits there all day typing out bits
from the Sun?
We'll definitely get rid of him and
anyway as far as the other fellow's concerned, guns are really
We can sack him as well.
While we're at it why don't we computerise
the whole thing?
We certainly won't need a man to send
the Sun and we won't need a man with a Tommy gun either.
That's saved us a packet.
We can't afford much though with all
We'll rig up a PC and have it do the
job for us.
You technical chaps sort something out;
use something really well proven and reliable, and for goodness
sake don't bother putting it out to tender we can't afford it!
Do it yourselves
on Windows 98
Later that year, at precisely 9:55am,
back at Northwood, the brand new SCMS ASS (Automatic Sun Scanner)
had just frozen.
The 10:00am Cost Cuts (Navy) meeting
is about to start, a bit late, in the third sub-basement of MoD
"Pass another chocolate biscuit
Blenkinsop before those Cabinet Office chappies get here and
scoff them, and for goodness sake tell that irk knocking at the
door to go away will you!"
and from outside .. up at street level
The nuclear exchange, which commenced
at 10:01am is already 4 minutes old.