- Who studies for their submarine qualification exam on a pub toilet?
There have been quite a few weird leaks of military documents lately. People from all over the world keep posting classified data on the War Thunder video game forums. Meanwhile, America’s plans for Ukraine got leaked on Minecraft.
But you don’t need the latest video games to leak military secrets. A recent case from the U.K. shows that all it takes is a pub, a toilet, and a good old-fashioned drunk serviceman.
A pub-goer recently discovered classified Royal Navy diagrams laying on the wet floor of the establishment’s restroom. The papers detailed a critical part of a new $1.6 billion nuclear submarine, HMS Anson.
Anybody walking by could’ve picked up and pocketed the plans. It could’ve been simply a drunken British soccer fan — or a malicious foreign agent.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. The person who discovered the papers appears to have returned them to the Royal Navy.
Additionally, although the papers were classified, they weren’t all that secret. According to the Royal Navy, they were part of a training manual handed out to every crew member of the new sub.
We’re still fully expecting somebody to get chewed up by their superiors.
‘Anyone Could Have Found Them’
The papers were found on April 29. It was getting late and the Furness Railway pub in Barrow, Cumbria, was jumping.
“It was quite a lively night,” the documents’ anonymous founder told The Sun. “The pub was full of people from the docks — military and civilian.”
One of the military personnel must have bought something they shouldn’t have with them. When the witness went to take a leak, he noticed a pile of papers on the bathroom floor.
“I went into the toilet and the plans were lying on the floor of the cubicle with the lanyard [from the Royal Navy],” the source said.
The documents detailed the mechanical functioning of HMS Anson’s torpedo loading system. The dossier showed how the hydraulics controlling the torpedo hatch, steering, and buoyancy worked.
We don’t know whether the lanyard had an ID card attached. That would’ve made discovering the absentminded owner of the papers real easy.
But, it was good that the person to find the papers happened to be an honest one.
“Anyone could have found them. It was lucky it wasn’t some deep-cover Russian spy,” the founder mused.
The papers are by now back in the care of the Royal Navy. And according to them, the situation isn’t as bad as it might initially seem.
To being with, the papers are marked only Official Sensitive — the second-highest classification used in Britain. If they’d been classified Secret, the matter would be a lot more serious.
Additionally, it’s not like there’s only one copy of the papers that’s kept behind lock and key. According to Commander Ryan Ramsay, a former Royal Navy submarine captain, the files are part of a training manual handed to every individual intended to come aboard the vessel during missions.
“They are part of a book that covers all the systems on a sub,” said Ramsay. “When [new crew members] do their basic submarine qualification they have to walk around the boat to demonstrate they know all the systems.”
Although the papers were clearly in the wrong place, Ramsay does commend their owner’s enthusiasm.
“It looks like someone has taken the pages off the boat to study. It is good to see their commitment to training, but the pub is probably the wrong place,” Ramsay said.
A Soggy, Secret Pile
This isn’t the first time sensitive Navy documents have been found somewhere where they don’t belong. A similar incident happened in June 2021 — only this one was much more serious.
In that month, the Royal Navy air-defense destroyer HMS Defender was involved in a brief stand-off with a Russian warship. Remember, this was before Russia decided to start trying its luck in Ukraine.
Just a day before the standoff, a 50-page pile of Ministry of Defense documents was found at an unclassified bus stop. The wet paper, degraded into a soggy heap, detailed the expected Russian response to British ships’ entry into the waters surrounding Ukraine.
At least this classified document was found before any waterborne saber rattling.