More Bang for a Bob: the Decision to ‘Go Nuclear’ and its Impact on Chatham Dockyard

By Emma Haxhaj, published November 2005


Since 1908 Chatham Dockyard had specialised in the building of conventional submarines, but Britain becoming an independent nuclear power in 1957 heralded change. After abandonment of Blue Streak and Skybolt (both RAF operated), the Polaris project, together with nuclear-propulsion, increased the size and technology of submarines. Vickers-Armstrong became the lead building yard for these boats, and factors such as safety, navigational approaches and experience, militated against Chatham. The government’s decision to award the contracts to build the Polaris nuclear submarines to Vickers and Cammell Laird is explained in detail. While the dockyard became a refitting facility for hunter-killer submarines for some 20 years, successive reductions in the size of the Royal Navy and its bases led to Chatham dockyard’s closure in 1984.

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Filed under: Other (Twentieth C) | Other (location)
Subjects include: Harbours & Dockyards | Submarines

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