The Lieutenancy of Dunbartonshire

Scottish Submarine Centre - John Street, Helensburgh

On Saturday 11 November 2017 Lord Lieutenant Rear Admiral Michael Gregory OBE was invited by Brian Keating to officially open the Scottish Submarine Centre.   In his introduction Brian said:

'We are here tonight because for over a 100 years brave men and women have been engaged in protecting us and the values we believe in, by risking their lives and dedicating their careers to the Royal Navy's Submarine Service.   These unsung heroes turn up to keep the watch, maintain the kit, and have in the past been called upon to take unreasonable risks to defend our liberties.

When we set out in 2013 to develop an education centre in Helensburgh about the Royal Navy's Submarine Service we made a conscious decision to develop a centre that used state of the art technology to tell stories using video; a language young people understand.   This room has 22 digital laser installed projectors above your heads.   Each of these low energy high resolution projectors casts the same light and resolution as a regular cinema projector.  We have installed 2 miles of fibre cable; the biggest array of video mapping media servers in Scotland.   According to NEC, our projection supplier and sponsor, this will be the most projected space in Europe, which given that we are 500 yards from where John Logie Baird was born and raised, seems appropriate.

Over the next ten years we hope to annually release a blockbuster presentation which pushes the envelope on the installed technology.   We have challenged ourselves to surprise, delight and inform our audiences. We believe we can bring STEM (an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math) subjects to life for students, both in the stories we can tell and how we tell them. We believe this space creates a new place to explore heritage, culture and the arts, leveraging technology and the power of a massive 360 video experience.

This Scottish Submarine Centre is based in the very centre of Helensburgh, which is now  the new home of the fleet. I believe the best way to make decisions about the future is to learn from the past.  This project is long overdue and we need regular powerful reminders to ourselves and to teach our children about the cost of conflict and about the sacrifices of others to bring about peace.  Recounting the past as truly as we can is part of our task and our promise here at centre. 

Over the past 4 years we have interviewed or surveyed nearly 8,000 people and worked with the local secondary schools to establish what civilians' principle interests are in submarines.   Deciding on what to talk about and how to present it has taken a significant amount of time.   Our first presentation is called 'X CLASS’ which takes the submarine here before you, the Stickleback (X51), and uses it to explain how submarines work.  This 1950’s miracle of engineering above my head is the best surviving example of the most decorated class in  submarine history; the X Class.   Our presentations will explain not only how it works, but unlike most exhibiting museums, will show it working.   To show how a submarine works we needed to re-build this X51 from scratch digitally, using original architectural drawings and plans, electrical schematics, and then meticulously photographing and cataloguing each and every object inside it.  We have, so far as possible, been able to rebuild the boat for her new life as a video cast digital artefact.  By building automations of crew and cross referencing accounts with submariners from the Submarine Association as to how the X51 worked, we are able to develop a working digital artefact; one that can flood ballasts, dive, manage power and simulate the real thing, creating an unparalleled educational tool. 

I'm very proud of the team that has managed to put this project together for little more than £1million. Taking a badminton hall built in 1831 and converting it to a state of the art educational asset which embraces technology to explain and demonstrate cultural, heritage and arts subjects in a whole new way.'

Opening 3

Opening 1

Brian went on to thank all those who had contributed in so many different ways:

'First our thanks to our funding sponsors the Community Armed Forces, Argyll & Bute Council, the Coastal Communities Fund and the Libor Fund.
Brian went on to thank all those who had been involved in so many different ways in bringing the centre together:

Thanks also to our volunteers and advisors from The Submarine Association, particularly, Chris Leggett, Bob Seaward, Maurice Corrie, Nicos Scholarios and Chris Terris. 

To the amazing team of volunteers and helpers here in the centre particularly Clair, who amazingly almost singlehandedly painted the roof, and to the creative digital team Dave, Dominic and Simone.

Builders DCW, Robert Shaw and Jim Scullion; engineers Jeremy Young and Robert Dickie; and, architects , electricians, painters, audio/visual specialists, planners and gardeners.

Over the next 12 months, tens of thousands will visit this centre and will be drawn to the heart of Helensburgh to see and hear stories about the past and will leave having learned something new.  

Next week the under floor heating will be installed and this time next week the final floor will be poured.   In December we will be staging community stakeholders openings with neighbour residents, local schools, Helensburgh attractions, SA Members, The Towers members, media, contractors and volunteers.  

Today on 11/11 we remember all of those who paid the ultimate price for us, and promise to endeavour in this centre to remember each and every one of them.'

Finally, Brian then invited the Lord Lieutenant to officially open the centre following which the invited guests were entertained by the Military Wives Choir and to a piano recital by Tord Gustaven, concert pianist and composer, who had flown in from Norway, and who had been commissioned to compose a piece inspired by the HMS K13 submarine tragedy; and dedicated to the crew who were lost, and saved, that day.  HMS K13 sank in Gareloch, Argyll, Scotland, on 29 January 1917 just after noon, having signalled to HMS E50  that she was about to dive.  She had 80 people on board - 53 crew, 14 employees of the shipbuilders, five sub-contractors, five Admiralty officials, a River Clyde pilot, and the captain and engineering officer from the still-completing K14.   32 of those on board died and 48 were rescued.

Military Wives Choir  Pianist 2 

 Pianist 1



 HMS X51 'Stickleback' Naming Ceremony - Mrs F.E.P. Gregory wife of the late Vice Admiral Sir G.D.A. Gregory  KBE CB DSO*

 Stickle Back Naming Ceremony  Stickleback Newspaper Aericle


 HMS X51 'Stickleback' in service - one of four X class midget submarines launched in 1954/55 - Others: X52 'Shrimp', X53 'Sprat' and X54 'Minnow' 

 HMS Stickleback  
 HMS Stickleback 3




HMS Stickleback Arriving at Helensburgh  
X51 in SSC  

HMS X51 'Stickleback' arriving at the Scottish Submarine Centre, Helensburgh.....                            ..... and in place



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