Iconic Gosport tower is used by submariners for the final time

A TOWER where tens of thousands of submariners have been trained in emergency escapes has been used for the last time.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 12:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 2:07 pm

The Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT), found in Fort Blockhouse, has now closed its doors after more than 65 years of training exercises.

The tower is ascended to teach submariners how to escape from a stricken boat, with the 100ft climb simulating what it’s like to escape a sunken submarine.

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Submariners inside the Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) at Fort Blockhouse Gosport. Picture: LPhot Barry Swainsbury/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

It was built between 1949 and 1953, forming part of a revamp in submarine escape training inspired by Captain Phillip Ruck-Keene and driven by the loss of HMS Thetis on the eve of the Second World War and the sinking of HMS Truculent in January 1950.

Inside the tank, submariners must escape without the use of breathing apparatus.

Lieutenant Commander Gareth Griffiths, who is in charge of the submarine flotilla, said: ‘2020 marks the end of an era, so it’s a poignant moment for all of us.

‘We’re looking forward to carrying the lessons of our past many years into the future of submarine escape, rescue, abandonment and survival training.

Blue Peter Presenter Gethin Jones trains in the Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT). Picture: LA(Phot) Dave Griffiths

‘Our success is due, in no small part, to our commitment to one another and the unique perspective of being submariners.’

All of the UK’s submarine flotilla will be moving to HMNB Clyde in Faslane, so the navy says the tower is no longer needed.

But the building will not be demolished, as it will be preserved for the future as a listed building.

In 2008, fears were raised by navy divers that the site could close, but these concerns were quashed by the Royal Navy at the time.

Submariners outside the Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) at Fort Blockhouse, Gosport. Picture: LPhot Barry Swainsbury/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Pressurised training was suspended just two months later, before being officially stopped in 2012.

In the SETT’s existence, only one British boat – HMS Artemis – has been lost, but fortunately without any casualties.

During the peak of naval training in the 1960s and 70s, around 4,500 submariners made the daunting ascent each year.

The Duchess of Cornwall, Commodore-in-Chief, Royal Naval Medical Services during her visit to the submarine escape training tank (SETT) in September 2007. Picture: LA(PHOT) Jannine B Hartmann/PA Wire

It is believed that the tank has been used more than 150,000 times since it first opened on July 13, 1954.