Category Archives: UK Submarines

News, views and stories about UK submarines

Video – HMS Opossum – Cobwebs 1989

HMS/M Opossum Cobwebs Day 1989.
Featuring Lt Cdr Tom Herman and OERA Nobby Clarke

Click on the picture of follow the link beneath

 

Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLLrgch4OMI

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‘People were going to die’: submarine crew trapped in searing heat after catastrophic systems failure

Dozens of crew members were trapped on a Royal Navy nuclear submarine in 60C heat after the air conditioning system failed, forcing HMS Turbulent to dive to 200m to cool down

HMS Turbulent

Temperatures on HMS Turbulent soared to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity Photo: SWNS

Dozens of sailors were overcome by heat exhaustion when temperatures soared on board a British nuclear submarine after a “catastrophic” air-conditioning failure, it has been disclosed.

Eight submariners were left in a “life-threatening condition” as temperatures on HMS Turbulent rose to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity, while engineers battled to fix the fault.

The previously undisclosed incident in the Indian Ocean has come to light three years later, after the commanding officer at the time gave a dramatic account of the crisis and revealed the situation was so critical he thought crew members were going to die.


Commander Ryan Ramsey (SWNS)

Cdr Ryan Ramsey, the submarine’s commanding officer, said: “I genuinely thought there was going to be a loss of life on board.

The 44-year-old, who recently retired from the Royal Navy, said the extreme temperatures left crew “just collapsing everywhere, many at their work stations”.

The hunter killer submarine was only three hours from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on May 26, 2011, when the incident took place.

The boat had surfaced and Cdr Ramsey was on the bridge when engineers told him the air conditioning plants had “catastrophically” failed.

As he went below he was met by an “incredible blast of heat,” and the first casualties soon began to be taken ill.

Within hours many areas of the 275ft submarine had become makeshift sick bays, as 26 of the crew were taken casualty, he said.

“We had casualties in the control room, the engine room, the bridge, the wardroom, cabins, and the toilets and showers. It was absolutely terrifying, and I’m not afraid to say I was scared.

“Walking around the boat I saw true fear in my crew’s eyes.

“I saw genuine concern because we simply did not know how we were going to get through it.

“I felt like the world was against us.

“I was looking up and asking ‘when are you going to give me a break to gain the upper hand here?’

“People were crying, and it was all about survival.”

Cdr Ramsey said it was the first time such a malfunction had been reported on a vessel of this type – and the crew didn’t understand the exact cause of the problem. The heat meant the crew couldn’t reach the problem areas because the equipment was too hot to touch.

A decision was made that it was impossible to return to Fujairah with a “broken” nuclear submarine because of the political fallout. The crew opened two of the submarines hatches to release some of the heat and put some of the casualties outside, but with temperatures on the surface reaching 108F (42C) there was little respite.

The air conditioning system was used to cool sensitive equipment on board, which began to shut down.

A decision was made to dive to cooler water to reduce the heat.

“It was touch and go before we dived as to what might happen to us and the submarine,” he said.

“We couldn’t do anything. I could have radioed for help but it would have taken hours for anyone to reach us. In that time people would have died.

“We were alone in our steel tube. There really was no-one to call.”

Diving to a depth of more than 200 metres, the temperatures finally began to drop and within 24 hours systems had returned to normal and the crew were recovering. HMS Turbulent, based in Devonport, resumed her deployment.

Cdr Ramsey told the Plymouth Herald: “There’s not a day that goes by that I do not think about what happened. The pain of seeing my crew like that.

“But when I think back to that time I quickly remember how fantastic they all were in dealing with the situation.

“We recovered from it. They did exactly what they had to do, and looked after the team.”

Cdr Ramsey left the Royal Navy in March after 25 years’ service and said he had chosen to reveal the incident to highlight how “incredible” the secretive submarine service is.

He said: “The medical team was made up of one Petty Officer medic, another medic, and six or seven first-aiders and they did an unbelievable job under intense pressure.”

“That particular experience brought out some amazing actions from people who are rarely recognised, if ever, for what they do.”

HMS Turbulent, a Trafalgar Class submarine, was decommissioned in July 2012 at the end of a career of nearly 30 years.

A Royal Navy spokesman said the submarine’s nuclear reactor had never been at risk.

He said: “In 2011, a technical issue in HMS Turbulent resulted in a temporary rise in temperature on board the submarine.

“The problem, which caused no damage to the submarine or its reactor systems, was resolved by the crew after a few hours using standard operating procedures.

“A number of personnel who showed signs of heat related symptoms were treated by the submarine’s medical team.

“All recommendations resulting from the investigation into the incident have been fully implemented.”

Source – The Daily Telegraph

HMS Tireless returns to Plymouth for the final time before being decommissioned

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

NUCLEAR-powered Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless has returned home to Plymouth for the last time.

The service’s longest serving nuclear-powered hunter killer sub is due to be decommissioned after nearly 30 years of service.

The vessel, base ported in Devonport, operated as one of the Cold War “warriors”, a Navy spokesman said.

“Out of sight and mind, she deployed for long, secret and often dangerous missions out into the Atlantic,” he added. “She patrolled for months at a time searching for and stalking her enemies.

“Renowned for her stealth and many successes she enjoys a strong reputation to this day.”

The sub returned home tonight after completing the first deployment by a Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine to Australia in seven years.

HMS Tireless had also been assisting in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

HMS Tireless was launched in 1984 and commissioned a year later.

She surfaced at the North Pole in 1991, 2004 and 2006, and between 2010 and 2011 took part in a 10-month deployment, the longest continuous deployment by a UK nuclear-powered submarine up to that date.

This year she has been on East of Suez deployment, which included her searching for Flight MH370.

Source – Plymouth Herald

HMS Thetis submarine tragedy: Memorials mark 75 years

Ships join the rescue operation in 1939 Ships join the rescue operation in 1939

The 75th anniversary of the sinking of a submarine with the loss of 99 lives has been marked.

On Sunday wreaths were dropped into the sea off Llandudno to remember the Royal Navy’s worst peacetime tragedy in 1939 involving the HMS Thetis.

A memorial was also unveiled in Birkenhead with the names of all those who died.

An accident happened during sea trials for the new vessel which had sailed from Wirral.

There were 103 men on board on 1 June 1939, twice the usual number, with the Royal Navy crew swelled by engineers from ship builders Cammell Laird.

Due to a combination of unfortunate circumstances, sea water flooded in and the boat nosedived and was unable to resurface.

“Start Quote

After the war ended and the loss of life, it became forgotten about”

End Quote Derek Arnold Son of survivor Walter Arnold

Because the boat was crowded and air in shorter supply, time was of the essence but the rescue operation was hampered by delays and communication problems.

The men were left fighting rising levels of carbon dioxide, 12 miles off the Great Orme.

Derek Arnold’s father Walter was a stoker on board and one of just four survivors.

He was experienced and had been well drilled in what to do during an emergency and eventually escaped through a hatch.

“He was there overnight and was rescued by a ship,” said Mr Arnold.

“What was worse for him personally was how he was treated afterwards.

“He didn’t have his pass book – all their gear was on the submarine – and he wasn’t paid for six months. He relied on help from workers at Cammell Laird and the Salvation Army to put food on the table.”

The wreath-laying by the Llandudno and Moelfre lifeboat crew was at the accident spot.

HMS Thetis
Those who died on the Thetis either drowned or were poisoned

“As lifeboat crew we are all aware of the power of the sea,” said Rod Pace, Moelfre RNLI operations manager.

At 13:40 BST, the exact time the Thetis signalled her intentions to start the trials, both lifeboats lay wreaths to remember the 99 men.

Mr Arnold has been the instigator of the memorial for Birkenhead on the River Walkway.

It carries the details of those lost and the few who survived.

“It happened three months before World War II – the Thetis actually grounded on Anglesey on the day war was declared,” said Mr Arnold.

“So after the war ended and the loss of life, it became forgotten about.

“But there’s been great interest in what happened and I saw them putting the finishing touches to the memorial, and they’ve done a wonderful job.”

Source – BBC News

UK – Look inside a nuclear submarine during dockyard open days

HMS Courageous

HMS Courageous

THE GENERAL public will have the chance to see inside a nuclear submarine during two dockyard open days.

Devonport naval base will throw open its doors this Sunday from 10am to 5pm and on May 26 during the same hours.

Commodore Graeme Little, the commanding officer of the base, has agreed to the base being opened to the public in support of Plymouth’s History Festival.

The days are being run by Friend and Volunteers of Devonport Naval Heritage Centre.

As well as having a tour of a decommissioned submarine, HMS Courageous, the public can also visit the model ship gallery, take a look at the ships figureheads, visit the police museum, look around Gilroy House (the former home of the senior police officer) and enjoy fascinating talks throughout the day.

One of the talks will be given by Peter Holt form the SHIPS (Shipwrecks and History In Plymouth Sound) project.

Bob Cook, from the naval museum, said: “Everyone is welcome to come along. HMS Courageous is set out for visitors but you have to be fit enough to go in and out of the tubes, like going down a manhole, so as long as you don’t have a heart condition, vertico, claustrophobia or are heavily pregnant, you’re more than welcome – but wear trousers.

“We will have a formal opening by the Lord Mayor and we are hoping the commodore will come along too.”

A programme of events will be available on both days to boost museum funds.

Anyone going should head to the Naval Base Heritage Museum off Granby Way (postcode PL1 4HG). Car parking is available.

For more details contact 01752 554200

Sailing into the history books: the Navy’s first women submariners: Trio complete months of training to earn their ‘Dolphins’


  • First females in the 110-year history of the Navy’s Submarine Service
  • Ban on women serving in submarines lifted in December 2011
  • During training the three women conducted operations on nuclear-powered Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant
  • ‘Dolphin’ is the name give to the clasp worn by qualified submariners

Three women have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy.

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray have completed months of specialised training to earn their ‘Dolphins’ – the clasp worn by qualified submariners – becoming the first women in the 110-year history of the Navy’s Submarine Service.

For years women were unable to serve on submarines because of possible health risks but, after an independent review found that only pregnant women should not serve, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, lifted the ban in December 2011.

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy

Today, Mr Hammond said: ‘This is not only a huge personal achievement for these three outstanding officers, as they take up their new roles supporting the ultimate safeguard of our national security, but also an historic moment for the Royal Navy and our armed forces.’

Following the arrival of woman officers, female ratings (non-commissioned personnel) will start training later this year with a view to serving on Vanguard submarines in 2015.

Female personnel will also be able to serve on Astute-class submarines from around 2016.

Ring ring goes the bell: After 110 years of the Silent Service, pioneering Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alex Olsson and Penny Thackray have become the first women to serve onboard a Vanguard class submarine

Ring ring goes the bell: After 110 years of the Silent Service, pioneering Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alex Olsson and Penny Thackray have become the first women to serve onboard a Vanguard class submarine

During their training, previously only undertaken by men, the three women officers conducted operations on nuclear-powered Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, passing their rigorous final exams with flying colours, and will now embark on careers in the Submarine Service.

Lt Stiles, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, said: ‘I wanted to be able to say that I had made the most of every opportunity that I had been given in the Navy.

‘It’s very intense and very challenging but that’s what makes it so rewarding. At the end of it, when you get your Dolphins and are accepted into the submarine community, it’s great.’

Describing the reception from the 165 male members of the 168-member crew, the 29-year-old, who has been in the Navy for four years, said: ‘As long as you can do your job and you’re good at what you do, I don’t think they cared whether you were male or female.’

HMS Vigilant's (pictured) commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw the training, said: 'I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board'

HMS Vigilant’s (pictured) commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw the training, said: ‘I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board’

A life under the ocean wave: Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have completed months of specialised training to earn their 'Dolphins' - the clasp worn by qualified submariners

A life under the ocean wave: Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have completed months of specialised training to earn their ‘Dolphins’ – the clasp worn by qualified submariners

Ever vigilant: Lt Penny Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, will become an education oficer

Ever vigilant: Lt Penny Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, will become an education oficer

Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead.

She said: ‘I kept volunteering and volunteering until it came in.’

She admitted that the three women might have ‘stuck out’ on board, but said: ‘They were really receptive. Having a slower process of introducing a few females first in the officer cadre and then ratings has helped. We haven’t just knocked on the door of a submarine and said ‘Can we come to sea please?’

‘I felt like a little sister to 165 brothers. You live as a very strange family. Once we got qualified they were glad for us the same way they had been glad for hundreds of submariners before.

‘At the end of the day manpower is a big thing for the Navy – as long as you can do the job, it doesn’t matter.’

Maxine Stiles will serve aboard HMS Vigilant as a logistics officer

Maxine Stiles will serve aboard HMS Vigilant as a logistics officer

 She added: ‘We did a long patrol, we’ve come across most things people want to know about, like how you live and how the guys get on with you.

‘I know there’s people who are interested but they haven’t been able to make an informed decision.

‘Of course it’s been challenging, but women are absolutely capable of doing this job. I think that change can always be a bit of a shock, but I look forward to seeing more and more women getting on board.’

Describing the living conditions on board, she said: ‘It’s slightly more cramped that you would be used to.

Actually you bring your perspective in so you don’t see the lack of space anymore – you see the space that’s there.

‘It’s a bit of an odd place to live – everything smells the same, it all has this diesel oily smell which you have to get used to. But it’s not a horrible place to live.

Always a rover: Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead

Always a rover: Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead

 ‘I managed to have a shower every day, we had laundry facilities. There was gym equipment. And food becomes a massive part of your day, it’s a routine you get into.’

Lt Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, said: ‘You limit your horizons. I found I just forgot about the existence of some things – someone asked me if I missed bananas. I hadn’t even noticed until they mentioned it. I just forgot the outside world, you get a whole new world.’

After their training, Lt Stiles will continue her logistics officer post on board; Lt Olsson is undertaking deputy weapons engineering officer training; and Lt Thackray will become an education officer.

HMS Vigilant’s commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw their training, said: ‘I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board.

‘They qualified without any difficulty and two of them even completed additional training whilst at sea.

‘As I would expect, they were accepted as integral members of the ship’s company by the rest of the crew and have really paved the way for women on submarines to be business as usual from now on.’

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel said: ‘Women have been serving in ships at sea with the Royal Navy for more than 20 years and integrating them into the Submarine Service completes their inclusion into all seagoing branches.

‘This is a proud day for the Royal Navy but equally a major personal achievement for these three officers, as it is for all those qualifying.’

Source – Daily Mail.

HMS Onyx – Bid to make former Navy submarine Clyde exhibit

SHIPPING enthusiasts have launched an ambitious scheme to buy a former Royal Navy submarine and berth her on the Clyde as an exhibit.

They are seeking to buy HMS Onyx, the last Oberon-class sub, and bring her back to Greenock, where the undersea craft was assembled.

But since 2006 the sub has been languishing at Buccleuch Dock in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, after being part of a plan to build a Submarine Heritage Centre which never materialised.

Eleven Oberon-class submarines were built at Scott’s Drydock in Greenock, six for Royal Australian Navy, three for Royal Navy and two which were purchased by Chile.

The group members, which include former submariners, have been to inspect HMS Onyx and say she is in good enough condition to be put on display. A feasibility study is currently under way to establish if the plan could go ahead, while a number of local businessmen are backing the scheme.

HMS Onyx saw action during the Falkland Islands conflict and helped smuggle members of the Special Boat Service into the warzone.

The group’s spokesman, Bill Mutter, said: “Greenock has a proud heritage of shipbuilding but at the moment all it has to show for it is the (Paddle Steamer) ‘Comet’ and it is positioned in Port Glasgow.

“Onyx is display ready, as for many years she was located in Liverpool and it was only due to harbour regeneration around 2007 that the then museum had to be broken up.

“We narrowly missed out on acquiring her then, and she went to a Barrow business man, supposedly as a gift to the people of Barrow, but when his planning application for a hotel he proposed building was refused he promptly sold Onyx to a scrap dealer with whom she presently languishes.”

He added he felt the old Scott’s Dry Dock would be the ideal location for Onyx as it was in this dock that the Oberons built by Scott’s were fitted out. He said the dock itself is also historic.

Source – Herald Scotland