Another boat in the series was HMS Alliance. To experience life on board a submarine, head for the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, where Alliance is open to the public. I had an excellent guided tour from a retired submariner on my last visit.
You can also climb on board the Royal Navy’s first ever submarine, ordered 110 years ago. The Holland 1, UK-built to American designs, has been fully restored and well worth a visit.
Visiting them really brings home how cramped life on board a submarine must be.
The latest nuclear boats are bigger, though, as they’ve plenty of power. The latest Astute will replace HMS Trafalgar, now retiring after more than a quarter-century of service. Her nuclear reactor produced enough electricity each year to power a town the size of Swindon.
Switching it off has been a real wrench for the crew. One engineer said, ‘it’s like putting your best friend to sleep – the lads have built up this fantastic machine, kept it going … suddenly, you’re ending all that.’
It may have felt sudden, but the boat will be crewed for many months yet – it takes a long time for a nuclear reactor to cool down after 26 years of fission!