Work has begun restoring the Silent Service’s most treasured relic as a £6.5m revamp for HMS Alliance gets under way.
The wartime-era submarine is the centrepiece of the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport, but has been ravaged by the elements and is desperately in need of repairs.
Workman prepare to get to grips with restoring Alliance's bow
WORK has begun on the Silent Service’s most treasured relic as a £6.5m project to restore submarine HMS Alliance gets under way.
HMS Alliance – centrepiece of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport and visited by around 50,000 people every year – is badly corroded and sorely in need of a complete overhaul.
As well as being the museum’s main attraction, more importantly Alliance serves as a memorial to 5,300 men ‘on eternal patrol’.
But in the three decades she’s been on show to the public the elements and birdlife have taken their toll of the boat – museum staff were concerned that parts of the submarine might literally fall into the harbour which she sits above in a cradle.
So the museum’s chairman, Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement, donned hard hat to ceremonially begin the restoration project: driving piling into the sea bed to construct a platform for workers.
The first stage of the challenging project involves building a permanent floor beneath Alliance which means visitors will be able to walk underneath her at last – and from a conservation viewpoint makes it much easier for experts to work on her severely-corroded outer hull.
Alliance's weather-worn stern
“As the memorial to all submariners who have fought and died in the Service, it’s so important that she is conserved – and brought to life – for future generations,” said Sir Tim.
“It means they can have the opportunity to understand and learn about the Silent Service which has been in operation for more than 100 years, protecting our nation.”
Earlier this year the Heritage Lottery Fund announced it was prepared to pump £3.4m into the restoration project; more than £2.5m has been raised through fund-raising and donations, but a further £1.5m is required to create a new Alliance gallery.
For in addition to the physical conservation of Alliance – expected to take until the summer of 2013 – the aim is to bring the boat ‘back to life’ for visitors.
Built to wage war against Japan, the conflict in the Far East ended before Alliance could enter service. Instead, she became a Cold War warrior, serving from the late 1940s until the 1970s.
Inside, the messes will be kitted out to reflect the decades in which the boat served and what museum staff call ‘interactive soundscapes’ installed to reflect how Alliance looked and felt on operations.
As for the proposed £1.5m gallery, it is intended to tell the Alliance story, as well as that of submarine weaponry, to add to the existing exhibition halls on the site.
You can continue to support the Alliance appeal via www.submarine-museum.co.uk or by calling the appeal office on 023 9251 0354 x 244.