What are the Letters of Last Resort?

The Nuclear Deterrent – the rules on when it’s to be deployed

Defence for Dummies

Somewhere out in the North Atlantic, every hour of the day, every day of the year, a lone submarine glides through the ocean with no real destination. Since 1969, one of the four boats of the UK’s Continuous At-Sea Submarine Deterrent has always been on patrol. Its location known to only a handful, even many of her crew will have no idea where they are.

While many Royal Navy captains hold responsibility for their crew, Trident submarine commanders also bear a far more macabre role: the duty to play Britain’s final political and diplomatic hand possible. Within the bowels of each boat lays two safes, an outer and an inner, and within that inner safe sits the letter of last resort.

One of the first tasks of the Cabinet Secretary on the appointment by the Queen of a new Prime Minister, is to have the new leader write that very letter. After the elation of…

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