Once the pride of the Navy, HMS Dreadnought now awaits her fate

When the seventh vessel to be christened HMS Dreadnought was launched by the Queen at Barrow in 1960, it was a momentous day for the Royal Navy and a major boost for the UK’s military capability at a time when the Cold War was heating up.

The vessel was the country’s first ever nuclear-powered submarine and represented the pinnacle of British military engineering in the immediate post-war era.

The very name Dreadnought carries such weight that the Royal Navy has chosen to name its new class of nuclear submarines after it, with the first expected to enter service in the early 2030s.

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MoD unable to dispose of nuclear submarines in Fife after decades
The nuclear submarine HMS Dreadnought is recommissioned at Rosyth naval base in September 1970. The vessel would be decommisioned 10 years later and now awaits its eventual scrapping at the same dockyard. Picture: TSPL
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The submarine was decommissioned in 1980 and has been laid up afloat at Rosyth Dockyard ever since. It has now spent double the time tied up in Fife than it did on active service.

Another six decommissioned nuclear submarines have since joined Dreadnought at the former naval base.

A total of £16 million was spent in a five-year period on 19 laid-up submarines at Roysth and Devonport on the south-coast of England.

Although all the vessels in Fife have been defuelled, they cannot be scrapped until their radioactive parts have been removed – a process that will take decades.

The Ministry of Defence announced in December 2016 it had finally began this gradual process, beginning with HMS Swiftsure, which has been laid up afloat at Rosyth since 1992.

The fate of the decommissioned submarines has been a source of frustration for the Navy and a matter of concern for ­politicians in West Fife, a place where ties with the service stretch are stronger than most, thanks to the presence of Rosyth Dockyard.

The MoD has stressed that all decommissioned submarines are subject to regular maintenance and checks by regulators.