Cold War Under the Sea: Andy Benford

Episode 15,   Jan 12, 2023, 11:41 AM

In this episode host Iain Ballantyne talks to Andy Benford, a Cold War undersea warrior who saw service in diesel ‘dirty boats’ of the British and Australian navies and aboard nuclear submarines, not only in hunter-killers but also the UK’s Polaris deterrent force.

Aside from Andy’s brush with death during a notorious 1972 hovercraft accident in the Solent, they also discuss what inspired him to join the Royal Navy and become a submariner.

Starting with service aboard the HMS Finwhale in 1970 - operating out of Singapore, including an exciting encounter with the Special Boat Service (SBS) - by 1977 Andy had graduated to the nuclear navy.

As a young officer in HMS Sovereign, he played a key role in Operation Agile Eagle in the late 1970s. This was reputedly the longest trail of a Soviet Submarine in the Cold War, with nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine HMS Sovereign stealthily following a Yankee Class ballistic missile submarine for weeks in the Atlantic. 

After that, in 1980 came the famed, and ruthless, Perisher submarine command course - also discussed - after which Andy was posted ashore to work in a nuclear blast-proof bunker at the Fleet HQ of the Royal Navy.

Next Andy commands the Australian diesel submarine HMAS Oxley, with his exploits including taking part in a Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise off Hawaii in 1984, during which his boat ‘sank’ a US Navy carrier.

After all that excitement in diesels and attack submarines, Andy became second-in-command of a Polaris missile submarine, deploying in HMS Revenge for five nuclear deterrent patrols between 1986 and 1990.

Overall Andy provides a deeply fascinating insight into the life in a steel tube packed with cutting-edge tech and weapons.

In addition, our guest has distinguished himself in recent times by devising a board game inspired by his life under the sea, called ‘They Come Unseen’, prototypes of which were ‘road-tested’ under the sea on submarine patrol.

• Andy Benford is on Twitter @Perisher80

• Iain Ballantyne is the Editor of WARSHIPS International Fleet Review 
magazine. He can be found on Twitter @IBallantyn

• For more details on the magazine
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