IN DEPTH – HOW DID IT ALL START
By Dave Barlow
First Published in Issue No: 77 of the In Depth Magazine, July 2022.
Edited by Webmaster for publication on website.
Our Association Newsletter ‘In Depth’ is 20 years old this issue, but how did it all start
I started the In Depth in 2002 to follow on from a glossy publication called SUBMARINERS NEWS (previously SOCA NEWS) which was edited and published by Ray Gritt – a past Chairman.
In March 1983 Issue 1 of SOCA NEWS was produced and printed by Ray Gritt as PRO to SOCA. This was funded by SOCA for SOCA. Initially it was intended to print it every 6 months and distributed to each secretary, funded by SOCA and be available to all members at a cost of 20p per copy. This newsletter was obviously ‘hard copy’ as email hadn’t come on the streets back in 1983. It was a very professional glossy magazine and mainly in colour.
At Issue 2 the price was adjusted to 25p to cover the outlay. Ray Gritt then started adverts to assist with the costs with this cash going to SOCA. At Issue 8 circulation was up to 1,500 copies, now at 30p per copy and was going out to 45 branches on regular orders for their individual subscribers.
At Issue 13 the SOCA GPC (now called the NMC) decided that the Association was losing too much money on SOCA NEWS and decided to discontinue production at that issue without any warning to the branches or members. Ray decided to continue producing SOCA News from Issue 14 by himself for SOCA after gaining the consent of the GPC.
At Issue 15 the cost rose to 80p to cover costs but still the circulation stayed stable. At Issue 24 (June 89), after over six years of publishing the cost rose to £1 to the increased costs of publication. We were now printing 4 times per year.
In June 2001 at Issue 72 Ray had to increase to £1.50 per copy (the first increase in 48 issues or 12 years. There were so many members moaning that he decided to cut the free at Issue 75 after 19 years of publishing SOCA NEWS – renamed SUBMARINERS NEWS when the association name changed.
The end of the magazine
After many years, in 2001 Ray Gritt decided to call it a day. It was a good magazine but due to the increased costs the distribution was falling to the point that Ray decided he couldn’t continue as it wasn’t cost effective.
This came out of the blue so no contingency plan was in place.
At the National Management Committee meeting on 6th April 2002, it was debated how we were going to fulfil our obligation and ensure that you, the members, are kept informed of Association business. Several ideas were discussed, and it was decided that it was imperative that a National Newsletter of some sort be produced and distributed free of charge to all branch secretaries, boats, inboard messes etc to ensure that the submariner both serving and retired are kept abreast of what the Submariners Association is up to.
I, Dave Barlow, volunteered my services on the understanding that it was kept relatively simple, could be produced cheaply and most importantly could be produced whilst still holding down a normal job. I suggested using the same style as for my own Scottish Branch newsletter – ‘Tartan Topics’. This was agreed and the first edition was published in May 2002.
Where did the name In Depth come from
I researched various branch newsletters to find a suitable title that wasn’t being used but must admit I was struggling a bit to find a unique but relevant name. A chap some of you may know who has a grand title of Maddog came up with IN DEPTH and so it was born. It was sometime later that we discovered the New Zealand Branch’s newsletter was also called In Depth and I apologised profusely to them. It is sad that they have since disbanded. Naturally, I blamed Maddog.
As you will be aware and, for those that knew the Submariners News, it is not a nice glossy publication. It was intended as simply a news medium with the target to publish an issue during the month following each NMC meeting i.e. four or five times a year.
What should I include?
The important thing was to make sure that all association news and information is disseminated to you the members. Initially it also included members letters, but as time went on this fell by the wayside. Any we do get does get an airing. I also intended to include the activities the branches were up to. Advertise your branch functions, that sort of thing. Again, the feedback was poor and this fell on stony ground too but any information we do get is included.
The first few pages included news and items that you need to be aware of and the rest included dits, stories of yesteryear, and current articles from the serving submariner. It is your way of letting off steam, within reason, telling us what you want, telling us what you are up to, but most importantly it is our way of keeping you the members and potential members what is going on nationally.
Also included was a regular article from the Squadron, or Flotilla as it is now called, sometimes from the serving member of the NMC but usually directly from Faslane. Basically, the idea is that the Newsletter is for Submariners by Submariners.
A new editor
I was elected as the National Chairman in 2003 and coupled with a new job on the Astute Class Submarine in build I was finding it more difficult to devote the time to produce the In Depth. By Christmas 2007 Barrie Downer said he would step in and edit the newsletter and his first was April 2008. This was a great deal off my mind although as Chairman I did contribute a fair bit. Barrie has continued to edit and publish In Depth to this day and I am indebted to the work he puts in to make it a very interesting read.
The newsletter has evolved quite a lot since those early beginnings, especially as Barrie is a Naval Historian so it now includes articles of Submarine History and a Crossed the Bar section.