Veteran submariner Michael Pittkeathly has been honoured by the Queen for his role in creating a fascinating museum piece by breathing new life into a retired Royal Naval submarine.
The former Royal Naval warrant officer is due to receive the MBE from the Queen for services to the former Cold War submarine Courageous in Plymouth. Courageous is one of the few nuclear-powered submarines open to the public in the world, now berthed at HM Naval Base, Devonport, and attracting hundreds of visitors a month.
Having served on board Courageous himself during the years when submarines were key tools of covert surveillance between the West and the USSR, Pitt.K, as he is known to friends and colleagues, was the ideal person to transform the exhibit.
Pitt.K said: “I was proud to serve in submarines most of my career and in particular in Courageous for four years as a leading hand learning my trade during the Cold war between the West and the Soviets.
“When Courageous first opened to the public it was in a sad state as an exhibit and not really fit for purpose. So some members of the local Submarine Association volunteered to take guided tours renovate the inside as only former submariners could.
“We knew what it should look like as a working submarine and how to adapt it to make it as interesting to visitors as possible.’’
The primary aim was to demystify submarines and in particular their power plant, the nuclear reactor, which arouses suspicion and fear.
Pitt.K said: “Understandably most people are fascinated in submarines as they are out of reach and out of sight. And they worry about nuclear reactors. We have managed to soften the image of those large black by humanising the inside – showing visitors where sailors lived and worked and what they ate and how they relaxed. People can see that the crew lived for months in a submarine run safely by nuclear power far under the sea.
“Visitors’ comments are always of amazement and they go home with increased respect for submariners and for the sophisticated workings of a submarine.’’
He thanked his colleagues Alan Jones, Darby Allen, Sid White, Nige Thornber, Andy Capps, Ted King and John Soper: “ This project could only have been the success it is with the work of a team and I therefore, owe this honour to them, they all deserve it.’’
The Naval Heritage Centre and Courageous submarine is accessed via Granby Way in Devonport. Admission is free, although donations to help maintain the exhibitions are welcome. There is plenty of free parking and refreshments will be available at all events. If you require more information please visit our website www.devonportnhc.wordpress.com, call 01752 552326 or email DevonportNavalHeritage@gmail.com.
The next Naval Heritage Centre Open Day is part of the Armed Forces Day weekend celebrations. It will be open on Sunday 30th June from 10am – 5pm. Visitors are welcome to join staff in sharing, exploring and conserving the character and history of Devonport Naval Base and Dockyard in historic South Yard.