Cold War Centre – Update

As previously reported, your generous donations have enabled a comprehensive study to be undertaken looking into the feasibility of setting up a museum to tell the story of the Cold War with a preserved nuclear submarine at its core; all going under the working title of the Cold War Centre.  In what is the most comprehensive piece of work yet done to examine the issues associated with the long term preservation of a nuclear submarine for display to the public, the study has employed rigorous analysis techniques and been peer reviewed by recognised experts in the field of submarine, nuclear, business and museum disciplines.   Working closely with MoD, Devonport Naval Base and other key stakeholders such as the Courageous Volunteer Group, the study has concluded that the project is both feasible and achievable.  By tapping into the 5 million plus visitors to Plymouth each year, the study has demonstrated that a visitor attraction could be sustainable and of interest to a wide cross section of the public.  In particular, a focus on STEM and support to the burgeoning blue-tech industries in Plymouth would give the Centre an important societal role.  In summary, it has concluded that:

  • HMS Courageous is the most suitable candidate to be considered for long term preservation.  
  • 1 Dock together with Bonaventure House in South Yard, Devonport, would be the optimum location to house the Cold War Centre. 
  • Courageous could be dry docked in a restored 1 Dock within 4-5 years with no alterations required to the boat or dock.  
  • Once renovated, Bonaventure House would host the Devonport Historic Naval Collection alongside the Cold War Centre.

The conclusions were recently presented to the National Museum Royal Navy (NMRN) Board of Trustees. The Board was impressed with the work that had been done and agreed to support the first phase of an implementation programme that aimed to place Courageous in a permanent facility in 1 Dock, South Yard, with a visitor centre located close by in a restored Bonaventure House.  In essence, this first phase will see Courageous re-open to the public in 3 Basin following her current maintenance period (probably around Easter 2022) whilst detailed work is undertaken to establish a business case to enable a decision to be made on the future phases.  This initial phase which could last up to 5 years will also allow time for funds to be raised (estimated at circa £15M) and detailed infrastructure plans to be agreed.  Assuming a successful outcome to Phase 1, the Cold War Centre (more than likely under a different name by then) could be fully open with 10 years. 

The agreement by NMRN to accept the challenge of placing the UK’s only preserved nuclear submarine on permanent display to the public represents a very significant step forward in the long road towards what many had thought an impossible dream.  By addressing the issues such as ownership of the vessel and the at what point she may go for eventual disposal, the Project Team has provided NMRN with the means to mitigate the key risks that have always placed success for this project just out of reach.  Equally, as a respected 

national organisation, NMRN’s ownership and leadership of this project has been crucial in winning the support of both MoD and Plymouth City Council to preserve Courageous and make the CWC feasible.  However, whilst a credible 10 year plan has been mapped out that everyone agrees is feasible, it would be wrong to think that it will now just happen.  NMRN must be comfortable that it can create and sustain a going concern that can form part of its national offering linking digitally with other museums (Hartlepool, Portsmouth and Gosport) that it manages whilst also fitting in with the local heritage scene in Plymouth.  The City Council has indicated its intent to integrate the CWC into its strategic plan for Plymouth and work closely with NMRN.

The next step is to agree a detailed programme of work with the NMRN Executive Team to cover Phase 1 involving the Courageous Volunteer Group (without which the project would not have been possible), the Naval Base and other local stakeholders to ensure that it is a success.  It is expected that NMRN will appoint a senior member of staff to lead the project and to press ahead with the early priorities.  These will no doubt include the creation of an improved website, booking arrangements and administration of visitors, closely followed by 3D virtual reality mapping of the interior of the boat and recording of the experiences of Cold War veterans. 

Clearly, there is still a lot to do before the dream of permanent display of the UK’s only preserved nuclear submarine becomes a reality.  However, there is now more reason than ever to be optimistic that it will happen.  Thank you for your support and we will keep you posted on progress as Phase 1 starts to take shape.

For further details contact:

Commander Ian Whitehouse –

One comment on “Cold War Centre – Update”

  1. Jonathan says:

    Given that the UK Nuclear deterrent is based at Faslane, this new centre should be based there or nearby.

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