Tag Archives: HMS Onyx

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


Save HMS Onyx!

HMS Onyx returns from the Falklands with special ops daggers on Jolly Roger

Save HMS Onyx – a guest post by John Tait on the diesel sub used by the SBS during the Falklands war

Nothing quite prepares you for entering a submarine down the main access hatch.  The common visitor catchcry is ‘You would never have got me in one of those things!’ or ‘I couldn’t believe there was so little room.’

Such statements sum up the general reaction of ordinary visitors as they clamber with difficulty through a succession of bulkhead openings and stare at the narrow bunks and peer into the cramped messes and wardroom, the tiny galley from which the cook fed upwards of sixty men, and the miniscule cabin that passed for the skipper’s quarters.   They pull faces at the cramped toilet facilities, look bewildered at the innumerable pipes, hand wheels, levers and gauges in the Control Room, and file past the huge diesels, now mercifully cold and silent – all wondering how any crew could have coped with 6 to 8 weeks at sea in a steel coffin like this.

The visitors have never been privileged to see the boat ready to sail either, with every space crammed full of food, torpedoes and other stores, nor hear the order from the Coxswain for ‘Diving Stations!’ that precedes the shutting of the Conning Tower hatch to seal the crew in their narrow cylinder as the submarine submerged with the familiar smell of sweat, sewage, diesel, damp clothes and cabbage.

The submarine community is a great club, into which no one can buy his way.  Membership can only be earned, and once a submariner you are always a submariner and they see themselves as a breed apart, an elite.  Its characters, stories and personalities are legend.  Winston Churchill described operational submarine life as the most dangerous of all occupations: “Of all the branches of men in the armed forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than submariners.”

HMS Onyx an Oberon Class submarine, was built in 1966 at Cammell-Laird in Birkenhead and was considered a leap forward from the previous Porpoise Class who were the first post-World War 2 submarine design.  Noted for their clean welded hulls, and for the first time in a Royal Navy submarine, plastic and glass fibre was incorporated on part of the bridge superstructure and casing.  She was fitted with improved detection equipment and the ability to fire homing torpedoes.  This class of boat was known for their reliability and quietness and many Oberons were sold to overseas buyers including Australia, Chile and Canada.

Onyx was decommissioned and listed for disposal in 1992 after some 26 years service.  She was purchased by the Warship Preservation Trust in Birkenhead and was on public display and ran at a profit. Then she was subsequently sold to a Barrow in Furness businessman Joe Mullens in 2006 as the basis for a Submarine Heritage Centre.  This venture failed to get off the ground because of grant funding reasons and Onyx was then sold to a Mr Peter Davis and the boat has sat in Barrow awaiting towing to the scrapyard.  However Maritime Coastguard authorities have not been happy with her sailing condition under tow, and she has therefore remained alongside in Barrow for the foreseeable future.  Lying forlornly at Buccleuch Dock she looks externally a bit shabby and rusty, but internally it is good condition.  With some tender, loving care it could be the centrepiece of a maritime museum.

Onyx saw active service when she was the only diesel submarine sent to the Falklands in 1982.  The 116 day war patrol began with the 8,000 nautical mile trip from Portsmouth to the Falkland Islands.  This was a feat in itself including what was probably the first submarine refuelling at sea from a tanker in forty years.  A complete ‘false deck’ of canned food and stores throughout the submarine reduced the headroom from six to four feet in some places.  Even the showers were full of stores.  A 16-man team of Royal Marine Special Boat Service (SBS) plus a mountain of their equipment were also stored onboard.  Onyx was deployed to undertake covert insertion and extraction of Special Forces plus intelligence gathering reconnaissance and SIGINT operations.

Because of their stealth, Oberon’s like the Onyx were regularly used for “sneakies” or “mystery trips” as they were colloquially known.  This was the trailing of Russian submarines leaving their bases in the Barents Sea and transiting the Iceland-Faroe Gap to their assigned patrol areas in the Atlantic.  “Under-hulling” of new Soviet warships was also a strategic objective.  Similarly, trailing Soviet AGI spy trawlers who were always a ubiquitous presence in NATO exercises and who loitered near operational ports was carried out.  Cameras were fitted to the submarine periscopes to record close encounters with the enemy and communications monitoring equipment fitted to record radio traffic. Submarines were also deployed to follow the arms trail from Libyan sources to the IRA.

Boats like the Onyx would take over from patrolling RAF Nimrod aircraft in the SW Approaches and follow the gun-runner to its drop-off point off the coast of Ireland whilst reporting position and situation reports back to UK authorities.  The most famous of these was the ‘Claudia’ incident in 1973 and the ‘Casmara’ and ‘Villa’ incidents’ in mid 1980’s.  Covert and clandestine submarine surveillance was an ideal operational implementation in tracking the arms smugglers.

This is the secret work of Britain’s submarine Fleet.  HMS Onyx is one of the boats that undertook such deployments.

As she now languishes in Barrow with her future uncertain, a considerable number of former crew members have begun to lobby for her preservation.  It is understood Onyx may be up for sale for $100K.  From social media sources, it would appear that many former submariners are individually willing to contribute a considerable amount of money towards the purchase and ensure the preservation of this unique warhorse.  It was considered by former crew members that she was always a “happy boat”.

There are also rumours of a Naval Heritage Centre to be built on the Clyde in two years time commemorating submarine history in the UK under the stewardship of Inver Clyde Council. HMS Onyx would provide an appropriate centerpiece as she has operated from the Clyde Submarine Base in Faslane.  It is essential that the profile of HMS Onyx be raised by the UK media.  Preservation of this submarine offers a marketing opportunity to an enterprising organization that would be willing to protect a unique piece of British History.  HMS Onyx needs to be rescued now and not turned into razor blades.

Source – The Telegraph

‘Sub should go on show in Greenock’ – HMS Onyx

CALLS for a submarine to be exhibited in Greenock have resurfaced – following news that a new ‘silent service’ museum is to be opened on the other side of the Clyde

HMS Onyx

SAVE SUB: HMS Onyx could be scrapped if no-one comes up with the money to buy the submarine

Source – Greenock Telegraph


Barrow submarine heritage dream hits rocks after news HMS Onyx to be scrapped

DREAMS of a submarine heritage centre in Barrow have suffered a blow as the proposed centre piece is due to depart for the wreckers’ yard.

HMS Onyx has been sitting in Barrow since May 2006 when a group of submariners, led by Terry Spurling, helped bring the boat back to Barrow.

The group had hoped the boat would become an interactive centre piece at a submarine heritage centre but the plans ran into trouble after the group could not secure funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund without the backing of Barrow Borough Council or Cumbria County Council.

As the boat is prepared to be towed to Hull, where it will be dismantled, Mr Spurling said the dream of using a submarine is no longer possible.

He said: “It’s sad for Barrow that it’s going but there’s now no chance of getting a submarine.

“It was the last O-class (Oberon) class submarine available and it’s about to be made into razor blades.

“It’s the end of the dream based around a submarine but I still believe there’s a heritage story to tell.”

Mr Spurling said the decision had been taken after HMS Onyx had been sitting in Buccleuch Dock for the best part of seven years – which has led to rusting and corrosion.

He added: “When the climate is right and when there is money available I think there will be some-thing.

“We have a paintings collection at Barrow Town Hall, a large book collection and a lot of hardware and materials that have been loaned to Faslane.”

Mr Spurling said he understands the reasons Onyx is to be scrapped but added he is sad the heritage centre has lost its centre piece.

Source – North West Evening Mail

RN – Cox’n(SM) Joe Shield MBE crosses the bar


Cox’n (SM) Joe Shield MBE crossed the bar today after a battle with ill health. Cox’n of HMS Onyx & HMS Opossum (Amongst others). Joe will always be remembered enjoying himself on the one hand with a tin of cider in his other – Resurgam.