We had annual passes to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and visited regularly last year, but there was one site we never quite got to – the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, which is situated over the water in Gosport.
This weekend we finally got there and what a treat it was!
With free parking, the museum is located on the waterfront on the former site of HMS Dolphin; home to the Submarine Service for 100 years.
There is plenty to see as soon as you arrive with dive suits for the kids to clamber inside, a small explorer submarine to admire, a giant propeller and torpedo’s to clamber on.
Of course we were there to see HMS Alliance, Britain’s only remaining World War II submarine.
The Submarine Museum itself is family friendly with plenty of hands on fun for the kids to get stuck in to.
There were challenges for them to try such as identifying submarine noises, learning how to make submarines dive and achieve a neutral buoyancy (more difficult than it looks) and even take part in a daring rescue mission.
There is also the chance to get onboard HMS Alliance for a tour with a submariner to hear his stories about living beneath the waves.
You enter the submarine through a door that has been made in the side of the submarine and head inside the torpedo compartment where you are introduced to your guide.
Although the submarine looks huge from the outside, it is extremely cramped onboard and storage space is minimal. The submarine has been dressed as if it is going to sea with items stored wherever they could fit. It was surreal to see boxes of custard and tins on the floor and fruit hanging from the ceiling next to the torpedoes!
The kids were fascinated by the living quarters, which have been reconstructed as they would have been back in the 1950s, with snoring sounds coming from the bunk beds and the sound of men eating and drinking.
The submariners had minimal personal space whilst on board with a system of ‘hot-bunking’ as there wasn’t sufficient space for everyone to have their bed.
The highlight for us was the engine room with its realistic noises and the submariner even let of the dive alarm, which was surprisingly loud!
All the kids adored looking through the periscopes which offered great views over Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the Spinnaker Tower.
The tour takes around half an hour and the guide points out what some of the equipment can do and what it would have felt like to work on board.
HMS Alliance is the main draw at the museum, but it’s not the only submarine.
We also looked around Holland 1 which was the first submarine to be commissioned by the Royal Navy back in 1901. She was decommissioned in 1913, but sank whilst being towed to the scrapyard. Since being salvaged she is now displayed at the museum.
Also on display is the WW2 midget submarine, X24.
In the downstairs part of the museum you can also learn about the covert missions and see a replica of the Turtle, world’s first submersible with a documented record.
There is also a good section devoted to the incredible role that submarines played in both WW1 and WW2 with memorabilia on display.
Admission to the Submarine Museum is included in the all attraction ticket for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which includes the Harbour Tours, the Mast Climbing experience and entry to the other off-site museum, the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower. You can travel to all sites via the Waterbus Service.
We spent a good three hours exploring the Submarine Museum and you could easily make it a full day out by including the other sites.