Home » Dock Life » Submarines in Shadwell Basin – 1939 and 1951

Submarines in Shadwell Basin – 1939 and 1951

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Whilst researching the Pamir in Shadwell Basin article, my attention was taken with a Pathe News report of a couple of Royal Navy submarines to the Basin in 1939. For all the ships that come up the Thames to London, it is very rare a submarine makes the journey.  That is why, when a Dutch submarine come into West India Dock a couple of years ago it created quite a bit of attention.

Local writer Alfred Gardner also remembers a couple of submarines after the war arriving in Shadwell Basin and quite a number of local children were allowed to look inside and tour the boat.

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The visit in 1939 involved the Royal Navy submarines,  HMS Otway and HMS Osiris. The short film shows the submarines on the Thames near Wapping and shows one of the submarines entering the Basin and moving to its berth. Both the submarines seem very different to the more streamlined modern models.

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The HMS Otway was a Odin-class submarine built by Vickers Limited of Barrow-in-Furness and launched in 1926, she was actually built for the Australian Navy and made the trip to Australia setting the record  for the longest unescorted voyage undertaken by a British submarine. However the cost of maintaining the submarine led to the Australians giving them back to the Royal Navy . Although expensive to operate the HMS Otway did see service during World War II , after the war the submarine left RN service in 1945 and was broken up in Scotland.

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The HMS Osiris was also a Odin-class submarine of the Royal Navy and built by Vickers-Armstrongs in Barrow-in-Furness and  launched in  1928, in 1939 she was sent to the East Indies Station in Colombo. By 1940 she was transferred to the British Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria where she saw quite a bit of action. Once again, at the end of the war, the submarine was considered surplus to requirements and  she was scrapped in South Africa.

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The visit of the two submarines in 1951 was to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Submarine Service. Both HMS submarines Auriga and Acheron were open for public inspection in Shadwell Basin.
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HMS Acheron was an Amphion-class submarine of the Royal Navy,built-in HM Dockyard, Chatham and  launched 25 March 1947 , HMS Auriga (P419), was also an Amphion-class submarine of the Royal Navy, built by Vickers Armstrong and launched 29 March 1945. Unlike their pre war cousins, these two had a longer shelf life lasting  until the mid 1970s.

Seeing Shadwell Basin today, it would seem inconceivable that it was the berth for submarines, but the evidence is there is you look for it. If you would like to watch the short Pathe News Film, you can find it here.

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