The end of battleship construction marked the dawn of a new era for Chatham as the Royal Navy began to embrace the submarine as a new weapon of war. In 1906, the Admiralty, having had two small classes of submarines built by Vickers of Barrow-in-Furness, were sufficiently confident to order the construction of 38 coastal submarines. To ensure that the Royal Dockyards kept abreast of this new technology six were built at Chatham, the first of which, C17, was launched from No 7 Slip on the 13th August 1908.
The construction of C17 heralded the start of a new shipbuilding era for the dockyard with a specialism in submarine construction which would span two World Wars, enter the nuclear age, and provide continued work for at least two of the Historic Dockyard’s Covered Slips (Nos 6 & 7) until the mid-1960’s.
In all, 57 submarines were built at Chatham between 1908 and 1960. Significant vessels included the giant ‘X’ and ‘M’ class boats of the inter-war period; ‘T’ class submarines such as Torbay and the highly successful post war ‘O’ or Oberon class boats, six of which were built at the yard, including Oberon, the class leader, Ocelot, the last warship built for the Royal Navy at Chatham (and now preserved by the Trust), and three for the Royal Canadian Navy, Ojibwa, Onondaga and Okanagan.