Museum Reviews Hms Alliance Portsmouth UK

In September 2009 the British National Lottery granted the museum submarine HMS Alliance a major multi million pound grant to maintain the submarine and preserve it for future generations to come. Since the submarine was first put on public display many hundreds of thousands of tourists and naval enthusiasts have clambered around inside the claustraphobic interior of this remarkable Second World War submarine.

HMS Alliance was one of the numerous A class submarines built by the Royal Navy during the Second World War with the construction order for Alliance being placed with the famed shipbuilder Vickers Armstrong of Barrow in Furness in Cumbria. Vickers specialised in building submarines (and continue to this day with the nuclear powered Astute class of hunter killer submarines being produced there) and built many of the A class boats.

In design the submarines had a surfaced displacement of 1200 tons rising to 1,620 underwater. Each was powered by powerful diesel engines for surface operations and electric motors for submerged work, the latter being capable of a speed of just 8 knots. Each submarine was armed with one 4inch gun, one 20mm anti aircraft gun and three .303 guns in addition to the main armament of ten 21 inch torpedo tubes, four of which were mounted aft the and four outside of the submarine’s pressure hull. Twenty torpedoes were carried for each deployment.

Alliance was launched on 28 July 1945 too late for actual war service in the Second World War, but she was a valuable new addition to the Royal Navy fleet which needed new vessels to replace war losses and worn out warships after six years of continuous warfare.

On 1 October 1947 HMS Alliance set out from her home port of Portsmouth at the start of a record breaking cruise. She called at Gibraltar before heading out into the North Atlantic on 9 October and remained submerged until 8 November 1947, a new record for a submarine of that time utilizing the remarkable German Snort technology. Later in her career she served in the Far East and was used to trial a new camouflage paint scheme in tropical waters.

On 29 July 1971, whilst alongside at the navy base at Portland in Dorset, a battery exploded on board causing extensive damage to the submarine. She was repaired but eight years later in 1979 she was decommissioned and became the last conventional World War Two submarine in Royal Navy service and the last to mount a gun on the foredeck. On 15 August 1979 the submarine was towed from the Gosport submarine base to Southampton where she was preserved by the shipbuilder Vosper Ship Repairers Ltd. Two years later in 1981 she was opened to the public at a special area in the Submarine Navy Base at Gosport on specially constructed concrete pillars that saw the submarine being raised high above the water.

Whilst the hull of HMS Alliance is the most impressive visual sight at the museum, visitors must also take a look at the Royal Navy’s first submarine the X1, which is also on display, and the wonderful collection of documents and photographs in the museum buildings too.