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Posted on Jun 14, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Royal Navy Submarine Museum

Armchair General

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum is located next to what used to be the main base for British Submarines – HMS Dolphin.

The museum sits just inside the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour , opposite Portsmouth itself. Portsmouth has been the main Naval base in the UK for the Royal Navy for centuries. The natural harbour provides superb protection and defence for the fleet.

Although HMS Dolphin has since closed and the submarines are now based elsewhere, the museum maintains its links with the region and the strong Naval flavour of the area in general.

As usual with these sorts of Museums, there are activities for children to undertake, as well as a small café if you fancy something to eat or drink.

The following photos were taken using a Sony DSC-P12 Cyber-Shot digital camera at 5.0 Megapixels, although since reduced in size for this article.


You will find the following link of interest:

RN Submarine Museum –


Occupying a relatively small and irregularly shaped area of what used to be a large Naval base, the museum is not laid out in a particularly logical fashion, with the exception of the historical displays in one of the halls. However, you tend to overlook this point when inspecting the actual exhibits, since they are so interesting.

It took a long time for the Royal Navy to come to terms with Submarine warfare ? the use of Submarines used to be regarded as "dirty" and "unfair" by senior RN commanders, however once they got used to the idea and accepted Submarines as part of the Fleet, they embraced the concept whole-heartedly.

As a result of this, there is a strong tradition and history associated with RN Submarines and this is evident as you walk around the site.

This is the second time I have been to this museum, and it’s changed a bit since my first visit. The facilities have been improved, and some of the exhibits have been renovated. This is clearly an ongoing process and I understand that they have some exciting projects in hand ? including the renovation of a British X-Class Midget Submarine.


Before my visit today, I was unaware that, apparently, Alexander the Great once descended to the "bottom of the sea" in a glass bottle.

However, I think it’s generally accepted that the true era of the submarine began much later.

This is a picture of a full-sized replica of the "Turtle" ? an American man-powered submersible that was used against British ships in the Revolutionary War. Designed by David Bushnell, it had a drill attached to the top, which would be used to plant explosives in the bottom of enemy warships. Sneaky eh?

Since this is a Royal Navy museum however, we won’t dwell on the "Turtle" too much, we’ll move straight on to the very first British Submarine to enter service ? the Holland 1.

The Holland 1 was designed by Irish-American, John Philip Holland, who had originally envisaged the design as a vessel intended for use AGAINST Britain and the Royal Navy. Apparently he had no problem with selling the rights to the British themselves, and Holland 1 was launched in 1901. Here’s a picture looking towards the stern.

The Holland 1 was petrol-powered with batteries below its single interior deck for travelling underwater. It had a riveted hull 7/16s of an inch thick. Here’s a shot of the propeller.

Having been sold for scrap and foundered in 1913, she was found in 1981. She’s been restored beautifully and, despite the observation and access holes cut into the sides, she looks pretty much as she did when in service. This picture was taken from the stern looking forward.

You can actually go inside this historic vessel ? although it’s incredibly cramped, and this was without a full load. Here’s a picture looking forward. You can see the single torpedo tube.

And here is a picture looking aft. I don’t think they had the plasma screen TV on board when she sailed though (!).

Holland 1 now sits in a custom-designed hall paid for with money from the British National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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  1. Would it be possible for you to grant us a reciprocal link to our website at our site was set up as an Information/News website for ex-servicemen/women and serving forces around the world and also includes UK/US/NATO/UN/coalition-military armed forces many thanks Allan Dawling(GSM/bar)

  2. Has anyone seen on the net where France is going to disclose all their information on UFO’s? This coming Friday 6/12/2009.

  3. have you any infomation on H/MSubmarine Cachalot running on one main engine in the 60’s

  4. Greetings, I was wondering if the musem would be interested in acquiring the Japanese I 400 submarine collection that have? It is quite a rarity. Best Regards, Eric Blohm