After leaving school I spent a brief period working in a factory at a local engineering works. Here I learned first principles about engineering.
It was interesting but going nowhere so I joined the Royal Navy as Weapon Engineering Mechanic (Radio) and trained to maintain electronic equipment such as communication equipment from VLF to Microwave frequencies, Radar, Sonar and Electronic Warfare equipment.
Selected for submarine service I served onboard HM Submarines Walrus, Churchill, Courageous and Conqueror.
Onboard a nuclear submarine, technology and engineering is part of your life and is what makes the vessel live and breathe. In order for the submarine to remain a fully-functioning warship at all times, everyone has to have an in-depth (no pun intended) knowledge of all of the ship's systems and this can only be achieved by a thorough grounding in the basic principles of each and every engineering system onboard.Hydraulic systems, high and low pressure air systems, electronic equipment, electrical circuits from 24v to 440v, pumps, motors, control and instrumentation, nuclear propulsion, batteries - each and everyone of these technologies is taught to each and every person serving on a submarine.
In this environment and also in shore establishments, maintenance workshops and on training courses I continually developed my technical knowledge and advanced to rank of Petty Officer at which point I was posted to the Royal Naval Submarine School. Here I worked as a training course designer during which I produced and managed an extensive suite of training documentation including documentation for 25 training courses for Communications, Radar and Sonar technicians and operators and 13 high profile submarine training courses intended for sale to foreign navies.
This was where I learned my craft as a technical author, supplemented by studying at Highbury College for two evenings a week to gain the City & Guilds Certificate 536-01 and 02 in Technical Authorship. Following on from that I enrolled on a distance-learning MA course in Technical Authorship with Sheffield Hallam University.
Continually applying my writing skills and technical experience to my training design role I was described in one report as 'The Submarine School's premier training designer' (no really, I've still got the report!) and thanks to this I was selected for early promotion to Warrant Officer (WO).
As a WO I was appointed to serve at HMNB Clyde as manager of the Trident Submarine Jetties (responsible for managing the berthing and slipping of all nuclear submarines and vessels using the facilities), which were designated an authorised nuclear site and thus subject to the rules of the nuclear regulator. As luck would have it, there was a requirement for a nuclear safety case author to produce all the nuclear-related documentation deemed mandatory to support the safety argument of the site.
I put myself forward and found myself in the role of Nuclear Documentation Engineer during which I worked as part of a small team of authors producing and reviewing safety case documentation and writing O&M documentation for a wide range of electrical and mechanical plant and equipment in use within the nuclear site.
I left the navy after 22 years and during my second career as a technical author I have written documentation for:
- Installation of communications and HVAC systems into military vehicles
- Installation of secure IT network racking and equipment into the computer hall of a high profile government agency
- Intelligence analysis software
- Joint UK / US venture developing intelligence analysis software
- Shipborne engineering monitoring systems
- Nuclear fuel management process for Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGR)
- Hydrogen Gas Dryer Units on a nuclear power station
- Cooling pond fuel handling machine on a nuclear power station
- HVAC systems on a nuclear power station
- After-market product for articulated HGVs