H.M.S. Courageous, SSN06, was the last of the Valiant Class submarines. She was built by Vickers (Shipbuilding) Limited at Barrow-in-Furness. Her keel was laid down on the 15th of May 1968 and she was launched on the 7th of March 1970 as S50 (SSN06). At a ceremony held at Vickers, she was commissioned into the Royal Navy Submarine Flotilla on the 16th of October 1971.
Courageous was a formidable underwater weapon. Her time submerged was limited only by the food that could be carried and the endurance of the crew. Her nuclear reactor was a virtually limitless power supply driving both the propulsion and the life support systems onboard. Making fresh water and even oxygen from the sea water around her, she could remain beneath the surface for months at a time.
Her sonar, the best sensors of their time, allowed Courageous to listen quietly for the sounds made by other ships and submarines and her weapons meant that she carried a real sting with which she could both defend and attack. The small nuclear reactor (about the size of a household dustbin) provided heat to produce steam to drive the turbines which drove the single
propellor as well as for driving the turbo generators which produced enough electricity to supply a small town. Courageous was based at Faslane Submarine Base situated on the Gareloch in Western Scotland throughout her operational career as part of the Third Submarine Squadron. She conducted many Cold War patrols, mostly in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. Her crew named her “The Mean Machine” and the nickname was to remain with her throughout her service. Many of the T-shirts bore the cartoon designed by the crew. T shirts and polo shirts bearing the design are available to purchase in the online store.
Her ship’s journal, many editions of which are classified, bore the ship’s mascot, Hissing Sid also known as The Werm derived from the snake depicted in the ship’s badge. Although we would love to publish those newsletters here, we are unable to do so because of their content and the Official Secrets Act. During her first commission Courageous completed six long patrols and, in addition, a Mediterranean patrol, winning the “Hook ‘Em Award” from the United States Navy for her excellent surveillance work. She also completed numerous shorter North Atlantic Cold War
patrols and made visits to, among other places, Corfu, Gibraltar and Liverpool, Barry Island, Hull and Bergen. As you can see, there was not a great deal of time for the crew to enjoy foreign visits during the boat's very busy first commission.
Courageous underwent a major refit in Chatham from September 1976 to August 1978 following which she returned to operational duties. She was then to become the trials submarine for the Royal Navy Sub-Harpoon missile and was based at San Diego in the USA for nine months. During the Falklands Conflict of 1982 Courageous served in the South Atlantic.
The boat’s vital statistics are impressive.
DISPLACEMENT SURFACED: 4300 TONS
DISPLACEMENT DIVED: 4800 TONS
LENGTH: 285 FEET
BEAM: 33 FEET
DRAUGHT (depth in the water): 27 FEET
SPEED DIVED: 28 KNOTS PLUS - SPEED SURFACED: 18 KNOTS
COMPLEMENT: 13 OFFICERS AND 103 RATINGS (Variable)
ONE NUCLEAR REACTOR AND ENGLISH ELECTRIC GEARED STEAM TURBINES
SIX 21 INCH TORPEDO TUBES WHICH COULD BE USED TO LAUNCH MK 8 OR MK 24 (WIRE GUIDED) TORPEDOES, MK5 AND MK 6 MINES AND ROYAL NAVY SUB HARPOON MISSILE
Courageous was finally paid off at Devonport in April 1992 where she was fully de-fuelled and laid up.
In 2002 she was removed from mothballs and moved to No. 3 Dock where she was open to the public as a unique exhibit in the UK. Ongoing problems with the caissoon, which seals the dock, necessitated her move back to 3 Basin in 2007 where she is currently once again open to the public.
In 2022 Courageous celebrated 20 years service as the only nuclear submarine on public display in the United Kingdom, and one of only 2 in Europe (the other is the French ballistic missile submarine Redoubtable in Cite de la Mer museum in Cherbourg).
The Covid lockdowns caused Courageous to shut as an exhibit, temporarily, and work is currently under way to return her to her previous state so she can reopen to visitors.
Although the boat is currently not available for physical tours, with gratitude to the XR and Telepresence Department of the University of Birmingham and Emeritus Professor Bob Stone, we are able to offer you a virtual tour of the boat as she currently is. The virtual tour and instructions on its use are now available via the links below.
INSTRUCTIONS VIRTUAL TOUR HOW IT WAS MADE
YOU CAN SEE MANY MORE PICTURES OF THE SUBMARINE, EXTERNAL IMAGES, INTERNAL IMAGES AND PICTURES OF THE CREW AS WELL AS PICTURES OF THE BUILD PROCESS AND THE REFITS IN THE GALLERY PAGE BUT TO WET YOUR APPETITE, HERE ARE A FEW IN A SMALL GALLERY (BELOW)