HMS Alliance is an Amphion-class submarine built at Vickers Armstrong, Barrow in Furness for the British Royal Navy and launched in 28th July 1945.
The requirement for the Amphion-class came in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and a perception that the Navy required a submarine class suited to long-range patrols in the Pacific Ocean. This type of operation appeared to be beyond the capabilities of existing submarine classes both in service and under construction. The class was ordered under an emergency war programme and the initial requirement for 46 boats was issued in 1943. Only 16 boats would actually be built, of which two would not be fully completed.
HMS Alliance was the seventh boat of the class to be built but although she was laid down during the latter days of World War II, she would not be commissioned into service until two years after the war ended. She was one of seven Amphion-class boats fitted with a snorkel mast at launch, which enabled submerged running on diesel power.
As built, Alliance was 85.8m long, with a breadth of 6.8m and a draught of 5.2m. She displaced 1,590 tons submerged and was equipped with two 2,150 horsepower Vickers supercharged eight-cylinder diesel engines and two 625 horsepower electric motors, driving twin screws. This enabled a speed of 18.5 knots on the surface and up to 8 knots submerged. Her crew complement initially numbered 61, comprising 5 officers and 56 ratings.
Her armament consisted of six 530mm torpedo tubes, two of which were mounted externally, four stern tubes of the same diameter, two of which were also mounted externally. HMS Alliance could carry twenty torpedoes although the external tubes were 'single-shot' and could not be reloaded at sea. The internal tubes could be used to launch Mark V sea mines.
In addition to the torpedo tubes, HMS Alliance initially had two deck guns, one 4-inch Quick Firing (QF) Mark XX11 deck gun on an S2 (submarine) mounting and a 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun on a Mark VII mounting. She briefly had twin Oerlikon guns also fitted.
HMS Alliance’s launch date meant that she was too late to see active service in the theatre she had been designed to serve. Her first major operation was to undertake a prolonged study into living conditions when submerged for long periods. She undertook this task in autumn of 1947, when she dived off the Canary Islands. She then proceeded for 3,000 miles submerged towards Cape Verde, then towards the Equator before turning north and surfacing in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The 30-day patrol was at that time a record-breaking period submerged!
Post- World War II, the Submarine Service’s primary role began to shape into anti-submarine warfare and intelligence gathering against the increasing Soviet threat. For HMS Alliance, along with the other Amphion-class boats in service, her original design would hamper her ability to conduct these tasks. As a result, she underwent a major refit at Devonport Naval Base from 1958 to 1960.
Here she would see the removal of the external torpedo tubes and all the deck guns. Most extensive was the substantial rebuild of her hull and fin to create a more streamlined form, reducing her noise signature and increasing her underwater speed. She was also fitted with sonar for the first time.
This refit would increase her displacement by 30 tons to 1,620 tons and her submerged speed increased to 10 knots. The refit increased her crew complement by an additional 7 ratings to 68.
The following year after refit, all Royal Navy submarine pennant numbers were reissued, instead of the existing P number, a new list of S numbers were assigned from S01.
HMS Alliance’s new pennant number was S67.
HMS Alliance served in the Far East in the 1960s, during the Indonesian Confrontation. This was a conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia that formed part of the creation of modern day Malaysia, HMS Alliance conducted patrols that included placing British marines ashore.
During this time, HMS Alliance was also used to test one of a number of camouflage schemes, her upper parts were painted in a black and white scheme intended to help her blend into the surrounding waves. Unfortunately, friendly helicopters easily spotted her and her crew were quickly deployed to repaint her black.
HMS Alliance served the Royal Navy well during her career, however she did experience a couple of incidents later in her life. She ran aground off Bembridge, Isle of Wight in January 1968, although only minor damage was incurred and she was safely refloated with the assistance of two Admiralty tugs.
In September 1971, a more serious incident occurred when hydrogen gas built up whilst the batteries were charging and exploded, killing one crew member.
By 1973, HMS Alliance had been superseded by the Porpoise and Oberon classes of submarine, which now formed the bulk of the Royal Navy’s submarine fleet. Both classes saw examples being built by Vickers at Barrow. As a result, HMS Alliance was transferred to HMS Dolphin, the shore based home of the Submarine Service at the time in Gosport. Here she would act as a static training boat until 1979.
By then, she was the last remaining Amphion class boat in existence and the last submarine built during World War II. A decision was taken to permanently loan HMS Alliance to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum which was opening new facilities on the former site of HMS Dolphin.
Here, HMS Alliance would serve as both a museum ship and as a permanent memorial to the 5,300 British submariners killed in service.
HMS Alliance opened as a museum ship in 1981, where she was held in a series of cradles suspended over the water, having had her keel strengthened to allow her to be lifted out of the water and mounted in this way.
This method of display was have a profound effect on her however, as being suspended over water made it difficult to maintain her and exposed her to a greater risk of corrosion. This coupled with problems caused by hundreds of pigeons nesting in accessible areas of the hull, with droppings causing further serious damage and corrosion.
By 2011, HMS Alliance was in a very poor condition and in dire need of help. Funding was raised via public donations, a grant from the National Lottery plus BAE Systems contributed £20,000 per year between 2011 and 2013. This funding enabled a complete restoration to be undertaken, which was completed in 2014.
This not only virtually rebuilt the exterior of the submarine but also rebuilt the interior of the vessel, adding sound and lighting effects to bring the boat to life to visitors. Outside, ground was reclaimed underneath HMS Alliance’s keel, and a concrete pier constructed allowing easier maintenance access and letting visitors get closer to her than they ever had been.
She is now the jewel in the crown of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.
In 2020, HMS Alliance starred in a television advert for breakfast cereal Weetabix. The functional elements, including the lighting introduced in the restoration enabled her interior to be used to film the crew of a submarine who are surprised by a disturbance from the surface, revealed to be a young girl at the beach who has had her Weetabix! A brief exterior shot of the bridge on top of the sail was also used, but the captured submarine is revealed as a CGI insert.
Specification (Amphion Class)
1,590 tonnes (Submerged)
|Engines and propulsion||Vickers supercharged 2,150 hp eight cylinder diesel engines and two 625 horsepower electric motors, driving twin screws.|
18.5 knots (surface) / 8 knots (submerged)
|Crew||61 (5 Officers / 56 ratings)|
Number built (18 Amphion-class)
|Vickers Armstrong, Barrow||10 vessels (Amphion, Astute, Auriga, Aurochs, Alcide, Alderney, Alliance, Ambush, Anchorite and Andrew.|
|Cammell Laird, Birkenhead||3 vessels (Affray, Aenas and Alaric)|
|Scotts Shipbuilding, Greenock||2 vessels (Artemis and Artful)|
|HM Dockyard, Chatham||1 vessel (Ancheron)|
|HM Dockyard, Portsmouth||2 vessels ( Ace and Achates)|
National Submarine Museum, Gosport, Hampshire