The Sword of Damocles spans the 42-year Royal Navy career of Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Mackenzie. Stirring patrols in his World War Two commands HMS Thrasher and HMS Tantalus are described with clarity and often humour.
In 1942 two unexploded bombs from enemy aircraft struck Thrasher, leading to the awarding of Victoria Crosses to the two crewmembers that released the bombs from the submarine’s casing. Their heroism saved Thrasher from almost certain destruction.
HMS Tantalus operating in the Far East, conducted the longest World War Two patrol of any British submarine. She was also involved in the controversial Operation Rimau, when an allied Special Forces Group, landed by another submarine, was “bounced” by the Japanese. The truth about Tantalus’ involvement in the sad story is finally told.
Even before the war, Admiral Mackenzie had his share of hair-raising incidents. As a cadet at Dartmouth he nearly lost his life bird watching on a cliff, and as a young Lieutenant his submarine HMS Seahorse was rammed by a destroyer in accident, during exercises.
After the war, Admiral Mackenzie held several important appointments including Commander of HMS Liverpool, Captain (D) of a destroyer squadron and Commander of HMS Ganges, the boys training establishment.
In 1961 he was promoted to Flag Rank and appointed Flag Officer Submarines, the satisfaction of a lifetime ambition. After only eighteen months he was appointed Chief Polaris Executive and was tasked with putting Britain’s nuclear deterrent underwater. The first Polaris submarine, HMS Resolution was launched within five years.
From 1969 to 1974 he was chairman of the Navy League. In retirement he devoted his time to the Atlantic Salmon Trust and to dry fly fishing, at which, unsurprisingly he was no mean expert. This then, in his own words is the life of one of Britain’s most famous submariners.