Thetis Down, UK First Edition, 2006
Subject of the book
The submarine HMS Thetis sank on 1 June 1939 during diving trials, in what was at the time the worst peacetime submarine disaster that the Royal Navy had suffered. 99 men drowned or suffocated in the accident off Liverpool. The crucial story is that the men did not die instantly, but were trapped in the sub for many hours, while rescuers first searched for it and then, when it was located, tried to raise it from the water. In the end, only four men could be rescued. No-one was ever officially held accountable for the loss of life; this book tells this story for the first time in detail.
Deighton writes about what a shock the unfolding tragedy of the sinking was to the close-knit nation of Britain, and identifies that many people regarded Thetis as an unlucky ship - for example, in sea trials it was identified that her steering mechanism had been fitted in reverse. Many of its crew were not over enthusiastic about spending time on the least glamourous part of the Royal Navy. The real issue with the Thetis he identifies is the attitude of the Admiralty over the loss and the secrecy surrounding it, exploring the theme in a lot of his own writing about the disdainful attitudes of the 'high-ups' to the men on the ground, or in this case under the sea. No doubt he chose to write this foreword as the subject matter appealed to his long-standing belief in the importance of the technological developments in changing the course of military history.
'Warships of any shape or size are self-contained dictatorships. And self-contained dictatorships shroud their troubles in secrecy. It is not surprising that navies - such as those of Britain, France, Spain and Russia - have in recent times been the focus of mutinies and revolutions.'