Plans discovered for remotely controllable model of the original Dreadnought submarine
A model submarine gifted to a young Prince Charles in 1959 has been reunited with its original long-lost operating instructions after they were discovered in a cupboard at BAE Systems' Cumbria site.
At first, Naval Architects Simon Newby and David Ritchie weren't sure what they had come across in a storage cupboard at the company's Barrow shipyard.
The site is renowned as the home of UK Royal Navy submarine building but the documents did not refer to an actual submarine, either past or present.
The wording on the typewritten cover referred to 'Dreadnought', but the diagrams inside bore little resemblance to the cutting edge Trident submarine replacement being designed and built at the Barrow site.
The pair quickly realised they had the plans and operating instructions for a remotely controllable model of the original Dreadnought, the UK's first ever nuclear-powered submarine, designed 60 years ago. They handed the operating manual in at the company's annual Heritage Amnesty, hoping for more information.
David says: "We found the documents in the departmental archive, at first we weren't really sure what they were, but the instructions had been written up very neatly.
"We discovered they related to a model submarine given as a present to Prince Charles at the time the Duke of Edinburgh laid the keel on the first Dreadnought submarine in 1959."
Barrow is a town enormously proud of its international shipbuilding reputation and heritage. The BAE Systems Submarines site has close ties to the nearby Dock Museum, so museum staff were told about the new discovery. They were able to quickly identify the instructions as belonging to the 1959 model, which had itself been returned to Barrow by the Royal Family many years ago and is now displayed in a cabinet at the museum.
David says: "We believe the submarine had been at Balmoral and the Prince had a few goes with it on a loch near there. We know the model has been in a display case at the Dock Museum for years."
Sabine Skae, Dock Museum Collections and Exhibitions Manager, says: "The model has been in our stores since 2004 and was put on display in 2010 to mark 50 years since the launch of the original Dreadnought submarine."
Despite now having the submarine and the operating instructions together, there are no plans to try out the model submarine.
Sabine explains: "We'd be too worried about losing it. The model is only intended for display. It's the centrepiece of our display case."
After the discovery of the operating instructions, Beth Kirkby, Corporate Responsibility Advisor at BAE Systems Submarines, said: "This is an example of why the Heritage Amnesties are so important. The shipyard has been at the heart of Barrow since 1871 and, partnering with the Dock Museum, allows us to celebrate our story and ensures that our assets are protected."
The shipyard has been Barrow's largest employer for decades. Even in today's modern engineering world, more than 9,000 people work for BAE Systems in the town. The company is quick to recognise it has a responsibility to preserve the town's industrial heritage for future generations.
The handover of the Dreadnought model plans is just the latest illustration of that collaboration. BAE Systems recently placed a significant portion of its photographic archive into the hands of the museum. The company and the museum have agreed a joint strategy to help preserve Barrow’s shipbuilding past.
With the shipbuilder as its project partner, the Dock Museum is in the process of a major National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) application, and the handing over of part of the photo archive is a key piece in the jigsaw.
The museum plans to employ a digitisation officer to scan, clean and catalogue the images so they can illustrate the story of Barrow’s rich ship and submarine-building history. If successful, the NLHF bid will result in a major refurbishment at the Barrow Council-run free museum.
The museum’s shipbuilders' gallery, children’s learning zone and play area and entrance area will be revamped, and a research room built. In addition, an education officer will lead a free education and skills programme aimed at helping students learn more about Barrow and its history through curriculum-based activities.
The museum wants to develop a range of educational projects for secondary schools and Furness College students. This is already taking shape, with Furness College computing students working on a project to develop a Dock Museum app for smartphones and tablets as part of their degree course.
Also part of the NLHF project, the museum has recorded 11 oral histories of past and present shipyard employees. This will help museum visitors and the Furness community gain a better understanding of the changing working practices and culture of ‘the yard’ down the years.