Built in No.7 Slip, Ocelot represents the last phase of shipbuilding at Chatham and she was the last Royal Navy warship built here. In this blog we will uncover the history of this iconic O-Class submarine in celebration of Ocelot’s 60th Birthday.
We will also dive into the lives and perspectives of those who have a connection to Ocelot and O-Class submarines from John de Rose helping to build O-Class submarines, to our Chairman, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL Captaining Ocelot and Alan Bates being part of the team who renovated Ocelot ready for visitors to experience.
About HM Submarine Ocelot
Launched in 1962, Ocelot was one of 57 submarines built at Chatham between 1908 and 1966. Equipped with a stealthy diesel electric engine, Oberon class submarines such as Ocelot made for the perfect surveillance vessel and were selected to undertake missions in the deep waters of the world’s oceans.
The Ministry of Defence has yet to release in-depth papers relating to the specific operations and campaigns that Ocelot was involved in, however the fairly routine navigational records of her logs provide an overall idea of her history. After being commissioned on 5 January 1964 Ocelot joined the Third Submarine Squadron based at HMNB Clyde at Faslane. It is known that in the first three years of commission Ocelot sailed over 90,000 miles, engaged in exercises and trials around the Clyde and Londonderry areas as well as in the Mediterranean, and in 1965 the Baltic.
Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL
Our Chairman, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL, rose through the ranks to command the Royal Navy as Commander in Chief, but his first command was as Captain of HMS Ocelot in the late 80s. During his time in command, the Berlin Wall was yet to fall, Noriega was in power in Panama, and Britain was still at war with Argentina over the Falklands.
As the submarine’s captain, Lieutenant Trevor Soar was in charge of Ocelot’s final deployment which saw an 80 strong crew spend July until December 1989 on a lengthy voyage that included a covert mission that patrolled the Falklands exclusion zone as well as passing through Panama during a military coup.
Listen to Sir Trevor’s memories of life onboard Ocelot:
Chris Reynolds has his feet firmly on dry land now but HMS Ocelot was the first submarine he served in as a qualified submariner having previously qualified in another diesel submarine. His love for Ocelot is evident when he speaks about his time onboard and in the service which saw him go on to Captain her sister submarine HMS Otter.
Chris says: “As a Lieutenant my role as fifth hand and Torpedo Officer meant that I was responsible for the forends and torpedo movements on board HMS Ocelot. I would stand on the casing controlling the crane which loaded and offloaded the torpedoes. The torpedo loading hatch is now used for guests to access the submarine.”
John de Rose:
Starting at the Dockyard as a shipwright apprentice in 1962, John de Rose was involved with the building of O-Class submarines.
On the 12th December 1993, a very wet Sunday, members of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service Thames and Medway were shown around the Dockyard, they were disbanded by the Ministry of Defence as their role in the UK was no longer needed due to a change in the Russian policy. The service consisted of Seamen, Engineers, communicators and operatives trained by the Royal Navy.
They were looking for projects that they could be involved with as the newly formed Chatham Historic Dockyard Volunteer Service (CHDVS). They were welcome by Admiral Sir William Staveley, previously First sea Lord and then the Current chairman of the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, and Richard Holdsworth, Curator, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust.
As there were members of the CHDVS who had served on the Oberon-class submarines, it was felt they were ideally placed to help with alteration and renovation to open Ocelot to the public.
Our Heritage Engineering and Historic Ships Manager James Morgan has been working hard along with his team of Ship Keepers and volunteers to make Ocelot shipshape ahead of the 60th Birthday.
Do you have an Ocelot story to share?
We are collecting oral histories from those involved with HM Submarine Ocelot. If you have a story you would be willing to share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org