WORK is under way to return historic submarine HMS Alliance to her former glory.
Workers drilled the first piles into the sea bed at Haslar Lake in Gosport yesterday to make way for a new access platform.
It marks the first phase of a £6.5m project to restore the vessel, which has been slowly rusting over the years.
A watertight enclosure will now be built around HMS Alliance at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the water below pumped out.
A platform will then be created under the submarine so restoration workers and visitors can access both sides for the first time.
Chairman of the museum, Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement, said: ‘It is really exciting to finally be able to start the actual physical work to save HMS Alliance.
‘It is so important that she is conserved and brought to life for future generations to have the opportunity to understand and learn about the silent service that has been in operation for over 100 years.
‘I started off as chairman of the appeal in October 2007 and it was a daunting task then.
‘The recession was another challenge but through fantastic support we raised a tremendous amount of money. We still have a little bit left to raise but I am certain we can do it. It’s important we preserve HMS Alliance for future generations.’
Earlier this year the appeal was given a major boost with a £3.4m donation from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Work to construct the enclosure around the submarine is expected to finish early next year.
The full restoration project is expected to be completed in time for the summer of 2013.
Until then, visitor access to the submarine will be halted for a few small periods during the museum’s quietest times of the year.
Jason Lowe, the Saving HMS Alliance project manager, said: ‘The first stage of works will involve constructing a permanent hard standing platform underneath Alliance.
‘This will then allow access to conserve the 1940s submarine’s outer metal casing which has suffered from severe corrosion.
‘It will also give visitors a whole new view of this important historic vessel.’
Eventually it is hoped there will be state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems to fill the boat’s decks with the sounds of clanking machinery and shouting submariners.
There will also be better access for disabled visitors.
Gosport’s mayor, Councillor Chris Carter, said: ‘It is a very important day for HMS Alliance.
‘HMS Alliance is important for the whole country because of its historical importance.
‘It is also very important for Gosport because it is a fantastic tourist attraction.
‘I’m sure it’s going to look brilliant.’