Barrow Represented At Nuclear Deterrent Service
4 May 2019, 08:23 | Updated: 4 May 2019, 08:26
Protesters were also outside the ceremony at Westminster Abbey
Barrow representatives were out in force at a special Westminster Abbey service marking fifty years of unbroken nuclear patrols from Royal Navy submarines.
Managing director of Barrow shipyard Cliff Robson, local MP John Woodcock and trade union shop stewards joined Prince William and new defence secretary Penny Mordaunt as attendees of the packed service.
The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, used his sermon to thank the submariners who have maintained Operation Relentless - the name given to the UK's nuclear deterrent submarine patrols - for 50 years since Barrow-built HMS Resolution set out to sea carrying Polaris nuclear missiles in April 1969.
The crews of Trident missile carrying 'bomber patrols' typically spend many months under the ocean without any contact with family members. Families can send short weekly messages but submariners do not transmit a reply in order to protect their location, which is not revealed to anyone outside the vessel.
Independent MP Mr Woodcock has launched a campaign for a new service medal for all submariners taking part in Operation Relentless. Currently, crew serving on ballistic missile submarines receive a 'bomber pin' to wear below the dolphin insignia of the submarine service but there is no specific medal recognising their contribution.
Speaking after the service, Mr Woodcock said: "It was a privilege to attend this special event and great to see Barrow so well represented at the service.
"This was a moment to give our thanks both to the servicemen and women who risk their lives under the waves to keep us safe and it was good to past and present Naval top brass rubbing shoulders with existing crew. But the service also focused on the many thousands more who make Operation Relentless possible, from the family members who sacrifice contact with their loved ones to the shipwrights of Barrow-in-Furness whose unsurpassed engineering and manufacturing skills put these incredible vessels into service."
Anti-Trident demonstrators were gathered outside the abbey to call for the immediate abolition of nuclear weapons and protest against the service. Addressing the controversy, the Dean acknowledged the strong feeling and controversy surrounding the Church of England's decision to allow a religious service connected to weapons capable of devastating destruction. But he insisted it was right for the event to go ahead.
Mr Woodcock added: "I believe it is profoundly mistaken to think that the world would be made safer if the UK gave up its deterrent while others retain the capacity to threaten us with nuclear blackmail - the UK's nuclear deterrent is specifically designed to prevent a nuclear atrocity like the one inflicted on Japan at the end of the Second World War. But people have a right to protest and I am grateful they did so in a way that did not disrupt the solemnity of our desire to thank the men and women whose sacrifice has made the country's deterrence posture possible over fifty long years.
"Whether or not you agree with the UK retaining nuclear weapons as long as other states have the power to threaten us, we should all be able to pay tribute to the dedication of those who have served their country on this national endeavour, both in naval uniform and as civilians like the population of Barrow."