William McNeilly

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Person.png William McNeilly   FacebookRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(whistleblower, mariner)
William McNeilly.jpg
Born10 August 1989
Blew the whistle on manifold failures of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Arrested. Dishonourably discharged.

William McNeilly is a former Royal Navy weapons engineer on HMS Victorious, a Trident nuclear-powered submarine, who blew the whistle claiming its security lapses and technical faults exposed the UK nuclear deterrent to potential terrorist attacks. McNeilly wrote that there was a “massive cover-up” of the HMS Vanguard submarine colliding with a French nuclear submarine, Le Triomphant, in the Atlantic in February 2009.[1]

Wikileaks reported a senior officer who was on HMS Vanguard at the time as saying:

“We thought, this is it, we're all going to die. The French submarine took a massive chunk out of the front of HMS Vanguard and grazed down the side of the boat. The High Pressured Air (HPA) bottle groups were hanging off and banging against the pressure hull. We had to return to base port slowly, because if one of the HPA bottle groups exploded it would've created a chain reaction and sent the submarine plummeting to the bottom. Luckily the boat made it back safely for repair. There was a massive cover up of the incident. For the first time the 'no personal electronic devices with a camera' rule was enforced."[2]

The Secret Nuclear Threat

In 2015, after 4½ years as a communications and IT specialist, William McNeilly published online "The Secret Nuclear Threat", an 18-page report alleging a catalogue of security failings at the Trident nuclear base at Faslane and claiming the UK's nuclear deterrent was a "disaster waiting to happen".

McNeilly claimed it was more difficult to get into some nightclubs than to gain access to Britain’s nuclear programme facility and, referring to a chronic shortage of personnel, suggested it was “a matter of time before we’re infiltrated by a psychopath or a terrorist”.[3]

"Extremely worrying"

Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, was urged to investigate McNeilly’s claims by Brendan O’Hara, the SNP MP for Argyll and Bute, which includes Faslane. He said the security lapses described appeared to be “extremely worrying” and merited further investigation. O’Hara said:

“As an SNP MP implacably opposed to Trident but also as the local MP, I am extremely worried by these allegations, even if only half of what the report claims is true. The issue of safety is absolutely paramount, especially when the base is so close to a major centre of population.”


On 18 June 2015, William McNeilly was arrested after he broke cover with a lengthy Facebook statement in which he said he was preparing to turn himself over to the authorities. He said he lacked “the resources to remain undetected” after days on the run, in which he claimed to have moved between countries and swapped locations daily while using multiple aliases to maintain his cover.

A Royal Navy spokeswoman said on 19 June 2015:

“We can confirm that AB McNeilly was apprehended last night and is now in the custody of the Royal Navy police at a military establishment in Scotland where he is being afforded the duty of care that we give to all of our people. The Royal Navy disagrees with McNeilly’s subjective and unsubstantiated personal views but we take the operation of our submarines and the safety of our personnel extremely seriously and so continue to fully investigate the circumstances of this issue.”[4]

Speaking out

The charges against McNeilly were dropped, but he was given a dishonourable discharge in June 2015. He explained:

“When I joined the Royal Navy, I had no idea that I was going to work with nuclear weapons. When I found out, I was happy. I used to think they were an essential tool in maintaining peace, by deterring war. It wasn’t until I saw the major safety and security issues that I realised the system is more of a threat than a deterrent.” Security must be tightened “above its current highest possible state until the missiles are removed,” he argued.

According to McNeilly, people were lied to about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq War:

“Now you’re being lied to about how safe and secure the nuclear weapons on your homeland are.”[5]