HMS Alliance – reanimating a submarine with sound

Over the winter, I swapped my studio for submarine HMS Alliance where I’ve been installing a new 50-channel sound piece.

HMS Alliance is a thing of wonder: the last surviving WWII-era submarine. Work on Alliance started in 1945, she was ready to go to sea in 1947 and was in service for three decades. Alliance patrolled the oceans and conducted cloak and dagger missions during the Cold War (no-one will officially say where, exactly, but I’ve heard the rumours). She’s now open as a museum and a memorial to other Royal Navy submarines lost at sea, including her sister, The Affray, which sank in 1951 with the loss of 75 lives.

HMS Alliance viewIf you step inside Alliance, you’ll see she still has almost all her original fixtures and fittings – from the periscope and diesel engines to the ship’s telegraph, the Q-tank valves, the underwater telephone, the galley, the heads (toilets and sinks) and the bunks where the 65 men on board took turns to sleep. Very little of this equipment is operating any more (although much of it is still in working order) so I was called in to reanimate the submarine with a naturalistic soundtrack, evoking the submarine’s past. HMS Alliance tours are conducted by a very knowledgeable and helpful band of volunteer guides who are also retired Royal Navy submariners. The sound piece had to work during guided tours and when the visitors are left to wander the submarine alone.

If you’d like to read more about the project do see my interview with the brilliant Leila Johnston in this month’s Hack Circus. Meanwhile, here’s a walkthrough the submarine on the eve of opening:

The lead designer on the project to reanimate HMS Alliance was Henry Lyndsay. Henry is a former Imperial War Museum designer who now works independently.