Ovens was the first submarine in Australia to be preserved as a museum boat
Visit Submarine Ovens at visit.museum.wa.gov.au/maritime
During her 26-year life Ovens operated in the world’s three major oceans and travelled more than 410,000 nautical miles (759,320 km)
At the heart of the WA Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay, on Fremantle’s historic World War ll slipway, rests the authentic Cold War-era submarine HMAS Ovens. Although de-commissioned by the RAN in 1995 Ovens remains in a very real way, a “working” vessel.
Regular hour-long tours, mostly guided by former submariners, allow members of the public to experience at first-hand the cramped and spartan conditions aboard; climbing flights of scaffold stairs, down steeply inclined ladders and over bulkheads, maneuvering through the eerie confined spaces that regularly housed 63 crew, with the addition of up to 16 trainees on occasion. Tour participants are told intimate details about living and serving aboard the celebrated vessel, amidst complex controls, sensors, tactical equipment and torpedoes.
One of six Oberon Class submarines commissioned by the RAN, Ovens is over 90m long and weighs 1400 tons. It remains fully equipped but is now used exclusively for display purposes and tours. Ovens was the first submarine in Australia to be preserved as a museum boat.
The moving and popular exhibit serves as a living memorial to submariners and those who gave their lives while serving from Fremantle during World War II.
In 1970, Ovens visited ports in New Zealand and was used to train NZ Navy vessels in anti-submarine warfare.
In 1972, Ovens achieved a first when she was deployed to South East Asia to serve with the ANZUK force, the first RAN submarine to do so.
And in 1976 after refitting at Cockatoo dockyard in Sydney OVENS returned to sea fitted with ANBQG Micro Puffs passive-ranging sonar. This too was a first and marked a major milestone in the improvement of submarine Force operational capability. That year Ovens embarked on a five-and-a-half-month deployment in the Far East where she participated in the Kangaroo 2 multinational exercise, claiming successful “attacks” on 170,000 tonnes of shipping, including the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Returning to submarine base HMAS Platypus after the exercise, the submarine sailed into Sydney Harbour celebrating its own version of a “clean sweep” by lashing a broom to her attack periscope.
Like many of the class, HMAS OVENS followed the traditions of the Royal Navy submarine community and carried a totally unauthorised self-styled ‘Jolly Roger’ flag – a campaign/action ensign showing a record of attacks, battles, patrols, surveillance ops etc. A “highlight” for the peacetime warriors in OVENS came during an exercise in 1987, when the submarine became the first RAN submarine to fire an armed Mark 48 torpedo. This successfully sank her target, the de-commissioned Bathurst-class corvette HMAS Colac. When Ovens returned to port, her crew hoisted the Jolly Roger in celebration.
Notably, some two years later OVENS recorded another significant first when she fired the first live Harpoon missile and sank the target vessel.
During her 26-year life Ovens operated in the world’s three major oceans and travelled more than 410,000 nautical miles (759,320 km).