Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Ambitious Cold War museum plan unveiled for Plymouth

Ambitious Cold War museum plan unveiled for Plymouth
11 September 2020
An ambitious ten-year plan has been launched to create a Cold War naval museum in Plymouth with the hunter-killer submarine HMS Courageous at its heart.

The Cold War Maritime Heritage Museum aims to give voice not just to the Silent Service, but also the surface fleet, RAF Maritime Patrol Aircraft and other units and formations who were in the thick of the action until the last days of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The museum, planned for the naval base’s historic South Yard as part of the city’s Oceansgate regeneration project, also intends to celebrate Plymouth’s rich naval history and the work of the dockyard to support ships and submarines, and dispel many of the myths around nuclear power.

The centrepiece would be nuclear-powered hunter-killer HMS Courageous, in service between 1971 and 1992.She’s been opened to the public on a limited basis for nearly two decades, with tours offered by volunteers who have also painstakingly restored her over that time to reflect how she appeared in the 1980s at the height of the Cold War.

At present she hosts around 5,000 visitors every year, but the team behind the Cold War museum believe she could draw 150,000 people annually – as the only other decommissioned nuclear submarines, FS Redoubtable (in Cherbourg) and USS Nautilus (New England), do.

A small team, led by Rear Admiral John Weale, who retired as head of the Silent Service earlier this year, is working with Plymouth City Council, the Royal Navy, MOD, the Courageous Association and National Museum of the Royal Navy to look into the feasibility and cost of the project – for which they need an estimated £40,000.

If successful, the project team believe the museum will give tourism and employment in Plymouth an important boost, underline the case for nuclear power (both in the Navy and civilian life), the skills, engineering and technology it brings to the region, and generally raise the profile of the Royal Navy in the South West.

The museum will explore the Cold War role of submarines, the surface fleet and maritime aircraft with relevant artefacts, photos and personal stories with a library and archive for future reference. It would also cover the wider theme of nuclear power at sea in submarines; HMS Courageous is an iconic piece of 20th Century technology and engineering – and would complement the planned Oceansgate Maritime Technology Innovation centre.

Admiral Weale

The team have set Christmas as the deadline for initial fundraising for a comprehensive study to be drawn up next year which will determine whether establishing the new museum is feasible – and if it is, how much it will cost and how long it will take to build. In the current climate, it could take up to a decade to complete.

You can support the fundraising by clicking here.

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.