By Kim Hardie

SUBMARINE Commanders of the future have been given the chance to learn from the past thanks to the generous donation of submarine related books from a retired Submarine Commander.

Former submariner, David Parry, recently donated over 280 books – around 120 of them sourced from the Royal Navy Submarine Museum’s archives- to the Submarine Command Course (SMCC), the intensive training course for submariners also known as ‘Perisher’.

During his Royal Navy career, David served with submarines HMS Amphion, Narwhal, Andrew and Conqueror. It was following his time on HMS Conqueror that he was selected for Perisher and after successfully completing the course he took command of HMS Opportune in 1980. David then joined HMS Swiftsure for a short time before leaving the Navy due to an injury.

David went on to enjoy a career in the high-tech and space industries and it was on his retirement that he rekindled his interest in the Submarine Service, choosing to research the history of the Perisher course as part of his PhD at King’s College London in 2017, in line with the 100th Anniversary of the course.

During his research, David, pictured left,  visited Faslane a couple of times and was pleased to meet with two classes of Perisher students. While he was immensely impressed by their maturity and professionalism, he thought that their knowledge of the history of the Submarine Service could be improved.

“I was extremely grateful to the SMCC staff and students for allowing me to visit and wanted to do something to show my thanks.” explained David.

So with this in mind and taking benefit from his interest in the history of submarines, David returned from his visits and began collecting submarine related books to send up to Faslane and so far, has donated a total of 282 titles.

The books are mainly autobiographic, biographic or technical, and while most are about the Royal Navy there are also many about the German, American and Russian submarine services as well.

The collection of books range from the very early days of submarines with auto-biographies like Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon’s From 1900 onward – David describes Bacon as the first inspecting Captain Submarines and the midwife to the Submarine Service – through to The Silent Deep written by Peter Hennessy and James Jinks which provides the history of the Submarine Service from the end of the Second World War to the present time.

The collection also includes many titles covering the Second World War from which Perisher students can gain an understanding of how submarine Commanding Officers coped with the pressures and stresses of operations in places like the Mediterranean and Far East.

He particularly recommends Periscope View an autobiography by George Simpson who was Captain Submarines in Malta during the heaviest of the fighting and who’s work gives a valuable insight into both his leadership skills and those of his Commanding Officer’s. David suggests that it is best read in conjunction with John Wingate’s The Fighting Tenth who tells the same story but biographically.

The former submarine commander has an extensive knowledge of the history of the Submarine Service and he is enthusiastic that others have the means to expand their own knowledge if they wish to.

“If Perisher students do not know their historical birth right there is little chance of other submariners of any rank or rate knowing the stories of those who have gone before,” said David.

” I hope the books I have provided may go some way to improving that situation.”

HMS Audacious, the fourth of the Royal Navy’s Astute-class submarines, at HM Naval Base Clyde.  

Staff at the Submarine Command Course at Fleet Operational Sea Training North are delighted with the generous donation which has come at just the right time as the staff there have been working on improving the facilities to provide the students of this world-class leadership and command course with the appropriate study aids.

Commander Ben Haskins, Commanding Officer of the SMCC, known as ‘Teacher’ said: “ Thanks to David’s kind donation – with more books to follow -we now have in the heart of the Clyde a remarkable collection of rare and fascinating titles to allow all submariners the opportunity to research, understand and appreciate their rich and often astonishing and humbling heritage.

“Once COVID restrictions permit the library will be open to all members of the Submarine Community, not just Perisher students, as it is such a valuable resource for everyone in our Service.”

As well as David’s donation of books, and a further collection of titles which he sourced from the archives of the Royal Navy submarine museum, SMCC staff have also taken the opportunity to improve the IT and digital footprint of the course with a view to celebrating the history and ethos of the Submarine Service as well as providing better digital support to the SMCC students through the SMCC Defence Learning Environment site.  This site is open to all Service personnel and provides a resource of academic articles pertinent to the Submarine Service and aspiring leaders including sections on Human Factors, Leadership, Ethics and doctrine.

David is hopeful that soon his own work – “Perisher: the making of a submarine commanding officer” will join the other titles already on the shelves of the SMCC library when it is published.

Top picture: Commander Ben Haskins OBE, “Teacher” and Warrant Officer 1 Marc Greggain with the selection of books donated by David Parry.

Leave a Reply