Saving HMS Alliance - April news

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Monday, 22 April 2013. Posted in Blog


The rebuild process is well under way and our Project Manager Jason is delighted by the quality of the steelwork restoration. Twenty sections of aluminium casing along the top of the submarine are currently being reinstalled ready for the final repainting of the entire submarine in the next few weeks. It promises to be quite a sight for visitors when the covers come down at the end of June.








We have now started the painstaking conservation of the internal areas through a detailed programme of corrosion treatment, deep-clean, repair and refurbishment. This work will run through until early 2014. The biggest challenge is undertaking the work whilst maintaining public access to the submarine. On the plus side, it’s clearly something very different for visitors to see and there is plenty of questions and interest being shown. 

The photos are showing progress this month as the rebuild is under way with the casing going back on and spraying of the internal tanks well progressed.


BBC News Coverage

Royal Navy Submarine HMS Alliance restoration under way




Bow Wow!

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Thursday, 28 February 2013. Posted in Blog












The picture says it all the really – the bow is nearing completion and we are very pleased with the standard of work – it’s a work of art or more aptly put great craftsmanship! 





The following picture illustrates a number of things. To the left in the background you can see the extensive amount of plate that has had to be renewed at the base of the fin in order to support it and the CO’s cabin. In the foreground are main vent valves from two of the main ballast tanks that have been removed for refurbishment. To the right is the gun tower which is under- going extensive repair.


Down the Hatch!

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Friday, 04 January 2013. Posted in Blog


In December blasting the interior of the fin was finally completed. It took a lot longer than had been anticipated. Now that we can get inside you see why it took so long; it has a complex internal support structure combined with all the masts rising up through it. At the base is the CO’s cabin which uniquely to A-boats was a barrel like cylinder welded on top of the main pressure hull.

The contractors have had to cut three temporary holes in the side of the fin so that work can be carried out inside. In the picture you can see the upper hatch tower that leads down to the cabin and the control room; behind it you can see the shiny post blasted aluminium plate of the inside of the fin.     


Unfortunately there’s not much left of the steel supports that hold the cabin in place so it going to be the subject of a lot of welding. The problem with welding onto the cabin is that like the rest of the pressure hull although it is very think plate the heat from the welding rapidly starts to burn anything flammable on the inside starting with the paint. Inside the cabin the joiner Gavin has been tasked with carefully removing the bunk and other timber fittings prior to the welding starting. With all the banging and grinding to the outside of the cabin going on this has been a memorable if not entirely pleasant task!          

It’s all about the Bow!

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Monday, 05 November 2012. Posted in Blog

Saving HMS Alliance conservation continues.  With the amidships area and the fin out of bounds due to the grit blasting much of the action is centred on the bow. The first photo shows the top section of the steel brace that has been constructed to support the bow. We didn’t want it falling off before have had chance to survey it!  This upper section of the bow is the best preserved and some of it can be retained. The second photo show the dramatic wasting that has occurred to the scantlings lower down. The contractors are in the process of measuring the surviving structure so that it can be accurately rebuilt out of new steel. At the centre of the picture is the now exposed lower starboard torpedo tube. All forward bow tube doors have been carefully removed. Though structurally sound, the inside of the tubes are a bit of a mess. The guys on the job are drawing straws for who goes up them to clean them out.

HMS Alliance – The Future is Orange!

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Thursday, 18 October 2012. Posted in Blog

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The future is orange but not for very long!  Now that most of Alliance has been blasted back to bare metal the predominant colour is orange as the steel quickly oxidises. However the blasting contractors are quickly following up their work with high pressure water and grit with a holding coat of red primer. The first image shows how dramatic a change the blasting can bring, this is the forward tip of the ballast keel showing the original asdic transducer housed behind the grills – this was an area where we feared the corrosion would be very bad but as has often been the case with the blasting Alliance is in better shape than we expected.  pigiron. compressed

Something no-one on the project anticipated was the sheer quantity of pig iron ballast that was installed in the keel and in the bottom the ballast tanks. The ballast is predominantly made up of hundreds of “Toblerone” shaped iron blocks which were carefully placed in interlocking forms inside the tanks and then strapped in place with strips of steel. They all have to come out if we are to preserve the spaces they occupy. Given that they are all fused together this has to be done with a jack hammer. It’s the short straw job on every shift for the guys working on the boat! We don’t intend to put any of it back so if anyone has any clever ideas about what to do with 50 tons of iron Toblerones let know!

Saving HMS Alliance – Latest Update - Ducks and Lichen

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Monday, 24 September 2012. Posted in Blog


The stern section of the “A” class boats was affectionately known as the Duck’s Arse. There was not a lot left of Alliance’s arse so it has been carefully rebuilt using the old section as a template. Creating the multiple curves has not been easy. The contractors were worried about the bow but after the stern they think it will be far easier! We think they have done a superb job.



Most the of the vessel has now been blasted back to remove many layers of paint and rust. In the thinnest and most corroded areas the blasting guns have frequently blow clean through the weakened plate. One area we were concerned about was the gun tower just forward of the fin which appeared to be in a particularly poor state. However in the event it survived the UHP with no holes. In the picture you can see the gleaming aluminium shell plate of the fin which has also been blasted back. So it’s goodbye to a dozen different type of lichen that had covered the portside of the structure.   

Saving HMS Alliance - Latest update

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Thursday, 30 August 2012. Posted in Blog

Underneath the casing.


As the summer has progressed the pace of work on HMS Alliance has quickened. With the casing now removed from bow to stern, the Museum and the contractors have been busy making sure that all the below casing kit that is coming off is properly documented and recorded. Long stretches of exhaust, induction and battery venting pipe will be removed and put into permanent storage so it is very important that this spaghetti like jigsaw is fully understood and identifified. Former submarine engineers who served on “A”’s have been invaluable in helping us to do this because plans and drawings for so many of the later modifications to Alliance no-longer exist. 

 In July the contractors were planning to remove the fin (conning tower) in a single section and lift it clear of the hull so that they could begin restoring it in the compound that they have establishes on site. However, repeated surveying now suggests that restoring the “fin” in situ will be easier and less risky.  


Meanwhile, the scantlings or framework for the stern, amongst the first things to be tackled,  is now 80% rebuilt. At the bow the shell plating of the bow section has been stripped away and the scantling is currently being assessed, but like the stern there is less steelwork left in good condition than we had hoped. 

There is cutting and grinding going on right across the vessel with over a dozen workers beavering away. One unexpected discovery was that the plating beneath the two amidships compensation “o” tanks had big corrosion holes in them and there was precious little let hold the tanks in place.

So, in order to carry out the necessary repairs the tanks have been lifted out in their entirely and will be refitted at a later date. Much of the focus overall is on preparing for whole boat for the comprehensive high pressure water blasting that will begin in mid September and will seen the boat entirely shut down for 5-6 weeks.

Saving HMS Alliance - July News

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Thursday, 26 July 2012. Posted in Blog

Cutting and welding in the July Sun

Alliance’s free flood stern section was in a pretty sorry state and in the end it all had to come off with a view to rebuilding it from scratch. The picture show the new centre line plate been welded onto the bulk head of tank five with the stern torpedo tubes either side of it. The name of the game is to minimize the loss of original material and wherever possible to repair the old. We hope to preserve much more when we get to the bow.

Starting at the stern the casing has gradually been removed. The octopus like mass of the snort induction system is now revealed. Much of this 10 inch bronze tubing will be coming off permanently in order that we can properly preserve and inspect the pressure hull. However along with a number of other components we will be putting the tubing into storage. The view from the top of the scaffold over Portsmouth Harbour in the July sunshine is just stunning.

The base structure of the fin is now exposed and we are starting to think than rather than dismantling the fin into component parts we may detach it and take it off whole. The bets are off as to whether that can be done.

Phase 2 of HMS Alliance starts

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Friday, 01 June 2012. Posted in Blog

Free Jazz to celebrate phase 2

We are delighted, here at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum with how the project is progressing. The first stage of building the coffer dam around HMS Alliance is near completion, so the second stage of conserving her body work can now start in earnest.

Sometimes it seemed like the filling in stage of phase 1 would never come to an end and that the end goal of saving such a historic submarine was never going to happen. But now, we are getting somewhere, as the scaffolding goes up and some of the casing starts to come off! 

The £6.75m conservation project to restore HMS Alliance is starting the second phase of conservation project. The first phase works which is near completion will provide access for low cost maintenance. Land underneath the submarine has been reclaimed and a cofferdam has been built to create a new, dry hard standing will allow access to the whole vessel for routine exterior maintenance and in th future give visitors the opportunity to view the underside of the hull.

The second phase which has just begun will involve stripping off Alliance’s body work to restore her to pristine condition as close as possible to when she served during active service. As much as possible of the original fabric of the boat will be preserved and like-for-like features and materials will be used.

A free jazz event on Sunday 10 June has been organised to celebrate the next stage. HMS Alliance was commissioned in 1945 so the jazz music will fit perfectly with the atmosphere that this historic submarine evokes.

HMS Alliance remains open for the summer, so visitors can still go onboard with a submariner to find out what life was like living under the waves.


Saving HMS Alliance Update - Piling Completed

Written by Bill Sainsbury on Tuesday, 22 November 2011. Posted in Blog

Piling work completed

Vibro piling work has just been completed, 4 days ahead of schedule. Work has now started on preparing the inside of the cofferdam for backfilling with a lightweight granular aggregate. Works over the next few weeks include trimming of the sheet piles to design finished level, insertion of a reinforcing capping beam and tie bars, as well as pouring of the aggregate infill.


Two raised sheet piles in the vicinity of the bow of Alliance have been left in order ensure that an equilibrium is maintained between the water pressure on the inside and the outside of the cofferdam. Once the tie bars are in place these remaining piles can be redriven into place.   


We have now raised £6.19m and now have £420,000 left to go.  Fundraising carries on in earnest.