German Navy Biber Class One-man Submarine
One exhibit dominates the Royal Navy Submarine Museum above all others, HMS Alliance (see below), the only British Second World War era submarine to survive.
Three other craft are also displayed: Holland 1, the tiny, four-man HMS X24 and the even smaller German Navy Biber Class one-man midget submarine.
The later is in the Weapons Gallery which is opposite the Ticket Office by the entrance; Donʼt miss it, I nearly walked past it.
For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see the official site listed below.
HMS Alliance is the last remaining British Second World War era submarine. Although she did not enter service until 1947, the keel was laid down on 13 March 1945 just three weeks before VE Day, and five months before the end of the war in the Pacific for which she was designed.
She performed many different roles during her 26 years of service. In 1958 she was comprehensively modernised, making her quieter and more streamlined to meet the needs of the Cold War Era.
She was paid off in 1973, and went on display to the public in 1982 after a three year preservation project.
A Mess Room
The museum used to offer regular guided tours, but these were abandoned in favour of atmospheric background noises and mocked up scenes. The old submariners who used to be the guides still try to give an introductory talk, but these are almost drowned out by an imaginary conversation between the bridge and the forward torpedo bay that goes round and round on a loop until you are forced to move on or lose your sanity.
When asked by one of the visitors they could turn the volume down, the guide sympathised but said they had been told that people like it that way. Well not everybody does. It seems sad that a ship that was preserved as a memorial to the over 5,300 Royal Navy submariners who lost their lives has been turned into a theme park ride, but still.
Whilst their had been earlier attempts to produce underwater craft, the inventor of the modern submarine can be said to be John Philip Holland. He was born in Ireland in 1841 and emigrated to America in 1873. He launched his first successful submarine, the Fenian Ram, in 1881.
He continued to improve his designs until his Type 6 was adopted by the US Navy. A version of this was taken up by the British Navy as the Holland Class.
Holland 1 was the first of the six boats in this class. The keel was laid down 4 February 1901 at Barrow-in-Furness. She entered service in September 1902 in Portsmouth.
She sank about a mile and a half off Eddystone lighthouse in 1913 while under tow to the scrap yard following decommissioning, and was recovered in 1982. The original plan was to fully restore her but, fortunately wiser councils eventually prevailed and she was preserved as found.
She now sits in splendid isolation in a purpose-built climate-controlled building that was opened in 2001 on her centenary. It is blessedly quite as well, although I have to admit I was just about the only person in there.