CHAPTER FIVE Cold War Morgan
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87 CHAPTER FIVE Cold War Morgan Adam Piette Och, och, there’s a monster in the loch And we dinna want Polaris. On 4 March 1961 the Scottish CND (SCND) and Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) organised a series of mass protests against the introduction of American nuclear submarines with their Polaris submarine-launched fleet ballistic missiles (FBMs) into Scotland, specifically to the submarine refit facility – known as FBM Refit Site One – at the Holy Loch near Dunoon.1 The submarine tender USS Proteus had arrived on 3 March with its store of reserve missiles. Submarine Squadron 14 welcomed in USS Patrick Henry on 6 March, escorted into position by the Proteus. Later that year, the floating dry dock USS Los Alamos was towed into the Holy Loch, fully operational by November. Harold Macmillan had announced the deal in November of the year before, the government arguing that this was not a base, just a refit facility – yet, as Alan Dobson has argued, ‘for all practical intents and purposes, a squadron of nine submarines operated from the Holy Loch with six on station and a maximum of three at any one time by the tender ship anchored in the loch’.2 On 21 May, the DAC sent boats out to try to board the Proteus, whilst on land a vigil was held on the pier at Ardnadam. In September, the Committee of 100 organised sit-ins, a 12,000-strong mass rally at Trafalgar Square, marches at Dunoon and Greenock. The protests had no effect, and harsh punishment was meted out to activists (Pat Arrowsmith, who led the September campaign, suffered three months of solitary confinement, hunger strike and forced feeding).3 This encouraged the authorities to go ahead with plans to create their own Polaris fleet. At Nassau in December 1962, President Kennedy and Macmillan signed the Polaris Sales Agreement whereby the US sold the missiles minus warheads to be housed in British-built submarines with British warheads. In 1963 88 HMS Resolution was built, and launched in 1966. Three other Resolutionclass subs, HMS Renown, HMS Repulse and HMS Revenge, were built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness over the next two years, each with an American-designed missile section, British Rolls-Royce pressurised-water nuclear reactors, and carrying sixteen Polaris A3 missiles. Naval facilities at Faslane were refitted to create a nuclear submarine base, with an armament depot at Coulport. HM Naval Base Clyde (HMS Neptune) at Faslane on Gare Loch even had its own Polaris Weapon System School, commissioned in 1966.4 So by the end of the 1960s, the heart of the British Cold War was in Scotland, with a half-American atomic heart. Concealed within the tranquil sea lochs west of Glasgow was this lethal technology designed by Lockheed, tested at Cape Canaveral, capable of striking targets 2,800 miles away, each missile having three warheads with a collective power of one megaton, roughly eighty times the yield of the Trinity test. The maths of megadeath force a pause for thought: sixteen times eighty – so each sub could theoretically inflict sixteen megatons of yield, notionally 1,280 times the force inflicted on Hiroshima. In Edwin Morgan’s 1968 collection The Second Life, he plays a Hamilton Finlay kind of game with the names of boats and shoreline places. ‘Boats and Places’ ends with this short section: VII Ardnadam Polaris Eve mother-felucca.5 The pier at Ardnadam was the pier used by the crew of the Proteus, and was the scene of the vigil against the base by the DAC protestors. Morgan picks out the ‘Adam’ from the Gaelic placename (Àird nan Damh, meaning ‘the headland of the ox’) and links it psychosexually to the missile on the submarines. This generates a third line through association with the boatyard at Ardnadam, conjuring a more peaceful, ancient and windpowered vessel to counter the nuclear machine out there in the Holy Loch. It also happens to sound a little like ‘mother-fucker’: an appropriately American cursing of the American FBM technology that is screwing up the world. The three lines re-enact the DAC protest, the felucca resembling the ‘pacifist navy’ that tried to disrupt the Proteus in 1961 (sixteen DAC canoes matching the sixteen missiles), feminising the male phallic technology at the same time as countering its lethal seriousness with direct action wit.6 There may also be an environmental edge to the triplet: adam piette 89 cold war morgan Adam and Eve represent...