As the last segment of the sun dipped behind Beinn Mhor on the west coast of Scotland, HMS Vigilant slipped her moorings at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde. Vigilant and her crew were heading out on a six month patrol of the Atlantic as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent. As they sailed out of the base, the crew were on high alert. This was because the threat of terrorism or anti-nuclear protesters disrupting their progress was always present.
The joint control centre of the emergency services covering the Firth of Clyde area of Scotland was a busy place today. A major incident exercise had started that afternoon and looked as though it would continue into the evening. After the exercise started and while senior staff members of the main emergency services were in the control room liaising with their staff, the ground commanders from each service had gone into a meeting room next to the control room.
As Vigilant sailed out of the Gare Loch. A group of three men were sitting in a cafe within the marina in Inverkip, on the east bank of the Clyde. They had arrived at the marina earlier in the day after travelling from Glasgow on the train. While the men were sitting in the cafe, a mobile telephone belonging to one of them rang. The male answered the phone and said.
a voice at the other end said, “The fishing is getting better.”
This call was coming from another member of the team who had joined the peace camp near the naval base and told the group that one of the nuclear submarines was leaving the base and sailing along the Clyde towards them and they should put their part of the plan into action.
Besides the emergency service staff, there was an unusual face in the control room today. This person was Reece Leach. The control room commander introduced Leach to the control room staff as a government observer who had travelled from London to see the exercise. This intrigued the staff in the control room as the emergency services involved in the exercise where controlled by the Scottish Government under devolved powers. A few of the staff had noticed that besides the unusual presence of someone from London during this exercise, Leach showed no real interest in what was going on in the room. In fact, if it were not for a single call he had received late in the afternoon on his mobile phone, his presence could have gone unnoticed altogether.
The men that had been waiting in the marina cafe were now boarding a motorboat moored at the end of a jetty within the marina. The first aboard was the group leader and as the others boarded, he asked.
“You sure you know what to do?”
Each member of the group replied,
“Yes, I am ready.”
No sooner had the group leader made his way to the cockpit of the motorboat, the team member who was there started the motorboats engine. Two other men cast off and stowed the ropes used to tie the boat to the jetty. The motorboat then moved away from the jetty and headed towards the marina exit, which led to the river.
Parked near a slipway on the west bank of the river was a small van containing two men. The two men were wearing wet suits and were preparing electric sea scooters which were hand-held motors with a propeller that enabled divers to cover distances quicker and with little effort. Once they were ready, the two men emerged from the van and entered the water. They started the scooters and once they were heading out into the river they submerged so they could move unobserved.
Vigilant was now entering the deeper waters of the Clyde and was preparing to dive to a shallow level in order to make final equipment checks on its way to the open sea. The officer in charge of a small group of submariners that were standing on the deck of the submarine gave the order they should make their way below deck. As he gave this order, the men standing on the deck turned and moved towards an open hatch in front of the control tower and then descended the ladder located there into the submarine. At the same time as the sailors were going below, two fast inflatable rib craft that had provided an escort to the vessel were moving away to a safe distance, where the wake from the submarine could not affect them as it submerged. Once the crew members that had been standing on the deck were below, and the hatch they used was closed and sealed, the vessel submerged.
As the submerged Vigilant proceeded along the Clyde, the two men that had entered the water from the west bank approached her from the side. Attached to their sea scooters were magnetic charges with timers they planned to attach to the hull of the submarine. As they moved closer to the submarine, they unclipped the charges from their sea scooters and the first diver attached his charge to the side of Vigilant. As the first diver moved away, the second diver moved in close enough to attach his charge to the side of the vessel. Once the divers had attached both charges they moved away. Checking their wrist mounted compasses, they used their sea scooters on full power to head towards the east bank of the river.
The timers on the charges were set to sixty minutes which gave the divers plenty of time to move away from the submarine before the charges detonated.
The motorboat was now passing through the marina exit and heading out into the river. As it reached deeper water the sound of two small motors could be heard heading towards the boat. Moments later, the two divers who had attached the charges to the side of the submarine had emerged from the water and were assisted aboard by two of the men in the motorboat. Once the two men were aboard, the boat turned and headed up river. Their plan was to cruise up the river to a jetty near Port Glasgow where a van and driver was waiting to meet them and aid their escape back to Glasgow.
Back in the emergency services control centre, Leach’s phone rang for the second time since he arrived at the control room. The call lasted only a few seconds and then he placed the phone back into his pocket. He then walked towards the room where the commanders were and entered, closing the door behind him.
“Ladies and gentlemen. can I have your attention, please?”
“The charges should have been placed by now, and the bombers will be heading up the river.”
At this point the commander of the Scottish Specialist Crime Division, said.
“The driver at the Port Glasgow jetty was under surveillance and the firearms squad tasked with taking him into custody where standing by to move in.”
Leach reached for a pocket inside his jacket and pulled out a walky-talky radio, which he turned on and raised to his mouth and said
“Operation Clyde is go.”
The radio crackled and a voice from within it said,
“Operation Clyde is go, sir.”
As the men in the motorboat approached the jetty, they heard the sound of engines approaching from behind them.
Within seconds, two large inflatable boats, each containing eight Special Forces personnel came into view and seconds later were right beside the motorboat. Although the men in the motorboat where armed, they were so stunned by the two inflatable’s they did not raise their weapons before the motorboat was being boarded by the special forces. As the motorboat was being boarded, the firearms squad tasked with taking the van driver into custody moved out of their hiding places near the jetty and surrounded the van. One of the firearm officers shouted to the driver to inform him that armed police surrounded him, and ordered him to get out of the van, keeping his hands in view of the officers. The men in the motorboat were bought onto the jetty one by one and handcuffed. They were then taken along the jetty to dry land and ordered to lie face down on the roadside with the van driver.
The commander of the special forces squad approached the police firearms squad commander at the scene and said to him.
“That’s all of them accounted for,”
The police commander replied, “Thanks.” and in a louder voice said, “Well done everyone.”
The police commander reached for his radio, he brought it to his mouth, pressed the send button and announced,
“Operation Clyde completed with no casualties,”
“Operation Clyde completed with no casualties.”
Back in the meeting room at the control centre, the commanders welcomed the news that the operation had been completed with a sense of relief.
That there were no shots fired, and no one had been hurt during the operation was even better news.
One commander turned to Leach and asked him
“How long will it be before the bombers realise the charges they had planted were not going to detonate?”
Leach looked towards the commander and said, “About three quarters of an hour.”
Leach then left the room and thought about the journey back to his office in London. His next task would be to carry out the controlled extraction of two people. These people had rendered this attack as useless. The first was a member of the bombing team who had decided that blowing up a nuclear submarine was a step too far. He had replaced the detonators in the charges with dummy ones just before he and another member of the team headed out to attach them to the submarine. The second person to be extracted was a member of Leach’s own team. He had not only infiltrated the organisation planning the attack, but also the peace camp near the naval base at Faslane. Where, after telling the bombers, they should put their plan into operation, he called Leach and told him the attack was taking place now.