Cold War Museum’s nuclear submarine HMS Courageous could open to the public next year


A former nuclear hunter-killer submarine that is set to be the centerpiece of a new Cold War museum in Plymouth could be open to the public as early as next year – but a visitor center could take up to a decade to end.

These were the findings of a report on the feasibility of a Cold War center in the South Yard of Devonport, recently presented to the Board of Trustees of the National Museum Royal Navy (NMRN).

The report, funded by around £ 40,000 in donations, ruled that HMS Courageous is the most suitable submarine to consider for long-term preservation, while Bonaventure House in South Yard would be the best site for a center. reception.

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HMS Courageous, which was previously open to the public for limited periods, may welcome visitors to Basin 3 after its current maintenance period, which is expected to end around April next year.

It would then be dry docked in about four to five years, with no modifications needed to the boat or dock.

But funding of around £ 15million would be needed to complete future phases of the project, including the visitor center, which could also focus as a STEM center and support the city’s booming maritime industries. .

The renovated Bonaventure House would also house the historic Devonport Naval Collection alongside the Cold War center, according to the report.

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HMS Courageous pictured in 2002 at Devonport Naval Base

The report was led by a former naval base commander, who was tasked with studying whether Plymouth can host an ambitious Cold War museum that could boost business, tourism and jobs.

It was previously reported that Commodore Ian Shipperley would be investigating whether the project could secure the funding and, more importantly, keep the money coming, if necessary.

Given the working title of Cold War Center, the goal is to defend the role of the Royal Navy, the City of Plymouth and British Engineering and Technology to help ward off and ultimately eradicate the Communist threat between the late 1940s and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.



The nuclear submarine HMS Courageous photographed in September 1976

A spokesperson for the project said: “Working closely with the Department of Defense, Naval Base Devonport and other key stakeholders such as the Courageous Volunteer Group, the study concluded that the project is both feasible and achievable.

“By tapping into the five million plus visitors to Plymouth each year, the study demonstrated that a tourist attraction can be sustainable and appeal to a wide cross section of the public.

“In particular, the focus on STEM and support for the booming blue tech industries in Plymouth would give the Center an important societal role.”

The spokesperson continued, “The Board of Directors was impressed with the work that had been done and agreed to support the first phase of an implementation program which aimed to place Courageous in a permanent facility at 1 Dock, South Yard, with a visitor center located nearby. in a restored Bonaventure house.

“In essence, this first phase will see Courageous reopen to the public in Pool 3 after its current maintenance period (likely around April 2022) as detailed work continues to establish a business case to help make a decision on the phases. futures. .

“This initial phase which could last up to five years will also help raise funds (estimated at around £ 15million) and agree on detailed infrastructure plans.

“Assuming Phase 1 is successful, the Cold War Center (more than likely under a different name by then) could be fully open in 10 years.”

A detailed work program outlining the first steps of the project will now be agreed, involving the Courageous Volunteer Group and the naval base.

The spokesperson added: “Clearly, there is still a long way to go before the dream of a permanent display of the UK’s only preserved nuclear submarine becomes a reality.

“However, there are now more reasons than ever to be optimistic that this will happen.”

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