Arrow-Leftarrow-down arrow-left-small arrow-leftarrow-right-small arrow-rightarrow-up arrowbig-left-arrowbig-right-arrowclosefacebookinstagramlinkedin markscroll-arrow search speech tripadvisertwitter-inline twittervideo-iconyoutube
Warship Wednesday3rd July 2024


“Our Last and Best” CHURCHILL Completes

Periscope newspaper, Front Page Headline, June 1983

The completion of HM Submarine CHURCHILL’s refit in 1983 marked the end of eight decades of submarine work at Chatham Royal Dockyard. CHURCHILL was the ninth SSN major refit completed at Chatham since the first, HMS VALIANT in April 1970.

The concluding stages of the refit were achieved against the background of a dockyard doomed to closure and workers to lose their jobs.

This refit was CHURCHILL’s second major refit at Chatham, her first was completed in November 1975.
The refit began on October 13th 1980, however, planning for the refit started 18 months before CHURCHILL arrived at Chatham on 10th September 1980.

Measured in manhours, the refit and modernisation of CHURCHILL was the largest and most complex work package undertaken on a submarine. Work included updating the propulsion system and weapon system to improve her fighting capacity.

The refit was carried out in No 6 Dock, then a part of the Nuclear Complex at Chatham. CHURCHILL was docked on 12th September and pre-refit activities commenced. The major refit was planned to last for two years, but it took longer.

At the end of the refit, the Project Manager stated:
“The task of this completion in all the difficulties caused by earlier financial restrictions; the 1981 national non-industrial dispute; serious stores delays; a host of technical problems; and, above all, the wide-ranging demoralising effect of the Yards closure for 70% of the refit, was not only far more difficult than any earlier project but was as difficult as anything attempted by anyone anywhere…..”

CHURCHILL was re-dedicated at Chatham on 7th May 1983, the guest of honour was Mr Winston Spencer Churchill MP and his wife. Dedicating the submarine seemed a family affair because before Churchill’s grandson attended the rededication, his aunt and Churchill’s daughter Lady Soames was the guest of honour at the launching ceremony when it was originally constructed by Vickers Ltd Shipbuilding Group in Barrow, Cumbria.

She was 285 ft long x 33.2 ft wide and displaced 4 500 tons submerged. Powered by a pressurised water-cooled nuclear reactor which gave a max speed of 28 knots dived. Compliment was 103 (13 officers and 90 men).
Armed with 6 x 21-inch bow-torpedo tubes with which CHURCHILL could fire either: Sub-Harpoon, a sea-skimming anti-ship missile; Mk 24 wire-guided torpedoes or, carry mines in place of torpedoes.

Launched on 20th December 1969 and commissioned into the RN on 15th July 1970. CHURCHILL was decommissioned in 1991 and laid up at Rosyth Dockyard for disposal.

Sign up to our newsletter