James Lybrand - Delivering bad news

Running time
2 min 4 sec
Date made
Place made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


As the CO, you have the only place on the submarine that somebody could escape to and be silent. So some of the real leadership difficulties is telling people that they've lost a child or a parent which is a very delicate thing you must do because the person is not getting off the submarine at least not immediately, and potentially not at all and I've had to do both of those things in my time in submarines.

So you sort of choose an opportune time and you let the watch leader the person in charge know, I got to talk to, you know, person X at the time so get him to come and see me. You'd always do that at the start of their watch, basically. So you would literally come in and have them sit down and, you don't go to the COs cabin for no particular reason, so you'd prepare yourself, glass of water, box tissues, and you just, you know, have to deliver the message basically and it's best delivered, in my view.

In a straight manner, "I've got bad news, I gotta tell you. This happened". And, of course, there's the initial grief to get through, you talk to the person and my approach was always to say and I'd say that most of my CO compatriots would say, that you would then just leave them there, say, "Hey, look, I'm leaving now, when you're ready to come out, you know, come out." But then they would get that watch off and actually be back on watch 12 hours later, you know, from their normal procedure.

So it's quite a difficult environment from that respect because you can't let him make a phone call, at times, and then you got to try and organize how you might get them back or if they're getting back at times at all. And for some people, it was totally out of the blue and that was obviously the hardest to do but when you told them that, you know, particularly parents had passed away that may not have been a surprise in some cases.

So yeah, there's some of the challenges that you don't necessarily get on a surface ship or any other type of ADF service actually, that you've always got contact as some kind of communication device or a welfare sort of device you can call back on.

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