Mellow Mummy: Days Out in Hampshire - Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport : Taking life as it comes...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Days Out in Hampshire - Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport

On saturday we were lucky enough to be treated to a day out in Hampshire at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum courtesy of Beko who are one of the largest charitable donators to the museum's campaign to save the HMS Alliance.

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum can be found on the harbour front in Gosport, Hampshire.  It makes a great family day out in Hampshire even for children as young as Lara (I suspect that Holly at 4 months took something away from it too).  The museum is home to the HMS Alliance, Britain's only remaining world war two era naval submarine which, as you can see, is in need of a little TLC.  The work to restore the HMS Alliance is planned for completion in 2014 at a cost of £6.75m but throughout the works the submarine remains open to visitors to get on board and get a taste for life onboard an active WW2 submarine.

HMS Alliance is being restored to its former glory

The museum surprised me.  I was braced for a musty, bleak room packed with black and white photographs and a series of rusty torpedoes.  Thankfully, the museum was nothing like this (apart from the weapons gallery, which also had an action-stations simulation so I shall forgive them).  Instead, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum is surprisingly modern and engaging with lots of exhibits to keep the whole family occupied.

Learning about how a submarine floats and sinks

As a family, we particularly enjoyed the hands-on science exhibits which taught the physics of submarine technology in a way that fascinated both myself and Mr. B (who has in the past dabbled in sonar) while teaching Lara the basics about buoyancy, sonar, pressure and the chemistry behind the generation of water and fresh air on board a submarine.  The museum offered history and science at equal levels and a fascinating background to prepare us for the tour inside HMS Alliance.

Twirling propellers to learn about propulsion

We were very impressed with the facilities for young children, specifically access for the buggy and baby changing facilities.  There was a small children's play area (very small) and also a cafe on site which offered a lovely range of cakes and hot drinks as well as a small selection of light lunches.

Alongside the HMS Alliance sits a purpose-built building that houses Holland 1 - the first Navy submarine built in 1901.  It's vast steel hull is an impressive sight to behold.

After lunch we took our guided tour inside the HMS Alliance which is included in the price of the ticket.  The tour guide was a former submariner;  he was passionate about the history of the vessel which was one of the last submarines to be built for the Navy during WWII.  Once inside, the doors were shut and we were able to get a taste of the cramped, gloomy conditions for submariners inside the submarine.  Holly seemed absolutely fascinated by the new sights and sounds.

I loved the fact that all of the descriptions of the functions of the submarine and its battle torpedoes were accompanied by real sounds recorded during active service.  The vast noisy engines, the "dive" alarm and the eerie sound of sonar waves from a passing battleship bouncing off the outside of the submarine shortly before releasing a depth charge.  The sounds and smells added to the atmosphere of the tour.

All of the children on the tour seemed totally absorbed as we explored the cramped living quarters.  Lara, at 3 years old, was perhaps a little young to take it all in and began to tire by the end of the tour but she has talked a lot about it since so it obviously left an impression.

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum offers free parking which is well sign-posted from the M27.  A family ticket for two adults and upto three children costs £30.60 if you buy it online in advance.  There is also access to the Portsmouth harbour water bus which can take you across the harbour to Portsmouth town centre.

For us, because we have two young children, the Submarine Museum was plenty to keep us entertained for one day but if you were looking for more to do then there are lots of other attractions in the area to make a full day out.  The Explosion! museum is just down the road in Gosport and there are several museums on the other side of Portsmouth Harbour.  We checked out before we went and saw that they currently had discount vouchers for the Blue Reef Aquarium, Spinnaker Tower and the Royal Marines Museum.
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