A £7 million project to save HMS Alliance has entered its final stages.
The project, which got underway in October 2011, was implemented to save and preserve the historic WWII era submarine, which is located at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hampshire. The project has so far seen the ship’s outer structure repaired and maintenance access around the site improved.
Phase One of the project, which reached completion in summer 2012 focused on the construction of a cofferdam around the base of the submarine, ensuring easy access for regular maintenance. Phase Two, meanwhile, restored HMS Alliance’s exterior which had corroded so badly that sections of the submarine were in danger of falling into the sea. Phase Two also included a number of associated infrastructure works.
The final phase of the project, which is currently underway is focusing on internal conservation, along with the installation of new interpretation facilities, state of the art lighting and soundscapes, all designed to bring the submarine back to life.
Royal Navy Submarine Museum, HMS Alliance Project Manager, Jason Lowe, said:
“HMS Alliance is listed in the UK’s historic ship’s register, sitting alongside the Cutty Sark, the Mary Rose, and HMS Victory in importance, and she is the only remaining WWII era submarine in the UK that is open to the public. Her conservation for the future will continue to have a major impact for the heritage and tourism in our area.”
“The submarine was brought to Gosport in 1978 at which point it was raised up onto two very large cradles which sit over the water outside the museum. The submarine has remained in this location ever since, which makes for a fantastic focal feature for anyone arriving at the museum, but has provided a few problems for the maintenance of the vessel.
“Maintenance over the water is a very difficult and very expensive exercise, which has resulted in minimal proactive maintenance over the years. In addition, over the last 30+ years that HMS Alliance has been housed here, the vessel has became home to more than 250 pigeons.
“Pigeon guano, mixed with sea air and regular exposure to salt water has created a natural corrosive environment, so we needed to act in order to save as much of the historic fabric of the vessel as we could.”
As well as the physical conservation of the ship, at the heart of the project is a new education programme and dynamic interpretation scheme, which will bring HMS Alliance back to life for all visitors. Improvements will include dressing the accommodation spaces to reflect the decades of Alliance’s service from the 1940s through to the 1970s with interactive soundscapes that reflect how the submarine looked and felt whilst on operations.
The museum will also be taking the project to the local community with an outreach programme featuring a range of fun and engaging events. It is hoped that volunteers will play an important role in all these activities as the project aims to clock up to 2,500 hours of volunteer time over its life span.
Explaining the new interpretation facilities, Jason Lowe, said:
“This is about creating an offer for different groups of people, ranging from the ex-submariners who have a lot of technical knowledge, to younger visitors who possibly know nothing about the submarine’s history. What we are doing is creating a feeling within HMS Alliance which not only brings to life the technical story of the vessel, but also the social side – what it was like to live on board the submarine. The inside will be presented and dressed as if it was ready to go to sea, giving visitors an experience which is as close as possible to the experience of being on board a real life sub.
“HMS Alliance was essentially a WWII build vessel which served, in various forms, until the 1970s. We are using interpretation in different areas to tell the story of each decade. We are even introducing a dynamic soundtrack in the background, so visitors will go through a depth charge experience too!”
ML UK Ltd is the main contractor on the restoration project, whilst Ramboll is responsible for the civil engineering design work. Fraser Nash has been involved with repair work on the submarine and Ian Clark Restoration is involved with the internal conservation aspects of the project.
Of the scheme’s £7 million cost, the Heritage Lottery Fund has provided £3.4 million. A further £3.45 million has been donated, with just £120,000 left to raise.
Discussing the importance of the project, Jason Lowe, said:
“I first came to see HMS Alliance with my dad in 1983. I was still at school at the time and I was absolutely struck by it. In the early 00s I was working for Heritage Lottery Fund, one of the funders of the scheme, never thinking that I would end up working on it.
“I assessed the project for Heritage Lottery Fund and recommended it for a grant, but to find myself in the position of being a project manager has been fantastic. I feel everything has come full circle and it is great!”
“There have been a few challenges on the project, but nothing that we haven’t been able to deal with. Thankfully we have a good team here and a fantastic contractor in ML (UK) Ltd.”
As the main contractor on the external steelwork replacement and restoration of HMS Alliance, ML (UK) Ltd were instrumental in bringing the vessel back to life. ML (UK) Ltd is a local steel fabrication & engineering company and has worked on many prestigious projects within the southern area.
Commenting on the project, ML (UK) Ltd Director, Martin Hobson, said:
“We have been involved with the museum trust since 2004, having carried out some minor repair works along with working with the trust to establish HLF funding for the restoration project.
“All the team at ML (UK) Ltd are proud to have worked on such a prestigious craft. We had some difficulties along the way, but there’s not many people can say ‘I rebuilt a second world war submarine’. It is something to tell our grandchildren!”
“I would like to thank all of the museum staff and especially the trustees for having faith in us as a team and I’m glad they now have a wonderful piece of engineering history preserved for many generations to come.”
HMS Alliance was designed during WWII for service in the Far East and was launched in 1945, as victory was achieved. The ship then began a distinguished career, spanning 28 years, until she was retired as the centrepiece of the Submarine Museum, where she stands as a memorial to 5,300 brave British submariners who gave their lives in service for their country.
The conservation project to restore HMS Alliance will be completed in Spring 2014. For more information on the Saving HMS Alliance project, please visit: www.submarine-museum.co.uk.