Under Pressure by Richard Humphreys

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Flying as a method of transport is not the most thrilling way of moving around the world. You are stuck in a metal tube, but not for long and you do get to look out the window. The thought of being cooped up in a black metal tube, an unspecified depth under the sea for months at a time has no appeal at all.

But this is what the elite submariners do day in, day out in the oceans of the world for us. They have a fixed day, not one clue where they are and have no personal space and bugger all privacy. They are crammed into a 430ft x 33ft steel tube with 140 other smelly sweaty bodies and need to be able to work under pressure constantly. If that isn’t enough, there are nuclear weapons on board and it is powered by a reactor…

Richard Humphrey’s joined when he was 18 and served at the end of the 1980s. It was this time when no one knew if the cold war would suddenly go hot. The threat of being discovered by the Soviets was a real and the thought would chill his bones regularly.

My father was in the Navy and joined at the age of 15. When I was younger he tried to persuade me to sign up too, but it had no appeal at all. He never went into submarines, staying above the waves for a number of years. Having read this I think that I made the correct decision. In Under Pressure, Humphrey’s account of his time spent deep in the Atlantic Ocean has a lot to commend it. To begin with, you don’t have to go down in one of those boats and he gives a fairly decent account of life under the waves.

The balance of detail and atmosphere is about right too, I guess a certain amount has been withheld from the narrative as these are part of our nuclear security, but he is an entertaining writer. He is honest too, telling what he liked about this career and the part of navy life that he detested. There were even certain parts that made me laugh. If you have ever considered the submarine service, or want confirmation that this is never going to be for you, then you should read this.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    Ooh that gives me the horrors! I don’t even think I could read about it!

    • Paul

      Well if you want to, I can send this one on!

      • Liz Dexter

        No thank you!! Argh!

        • Paul


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