Repulse (S23)

Built By: Vickers (Barrow)
Build Group: SSBN Group 1
Fate: Decommissioned on August 28 in 1996

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HMS Repulse hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons on her launch day at Barrow on November 11 in 1967.

S23 was a Polaris ballistic missile submarine of the Resolution Class built for the Royal Navy and got stuck in the mud of Walney Channel. A group called the 'Committee of 100' were thought to be to blame for the incident after a dozen CND antinuclear protesters wedged themselves into the lock gates prior to launch. This delayed the launch by around 30 minutes leaving insufficient clearance water for Repulse to clear the mud.

The launch was carried out by Lady Joan Zuckerman who reached the shipyard despite attempts to prevent or delay her arrival. She was the wife of Sir Zolly Zuckerman, Chief Scientific Advisor to the government. Police arrested at least 40 demonstrators staging a sit-down protest across Barrow's Bridge Road. The Evening Mail reported:

Long haired students chanting 'we shall not be moved' were dragged by the ankles to the roadside by policemen, miniskirted girls struggled with several constables.

Despite this less than text book start the submarine went on to be the longest active survivor of the class remaining in service with the navy until decommissioning in 1996. The new submarine bore a price tag of 55m pound.

HMS Repulse was first commissioned on September 28 in 1968. A two-crew system of manning was used, known as Port and Starboard crews. The first commission commanding officers for Re pulse were Port crew, Commander JR Wadman and Starboard crew, Commander AJ Whetstone.

Although planned to be the third, Repulse became the second Polaris submarine to come into service. Repulse was preceded by HMS Resolution and then followed by Renown and Revenge. The history of Polaris shows that with 229 unbroken patrols, it was a huge success. Also with a mid-life update of Chevaline in 1982, it remained a credible deterrent throughout its operational life. The chapter came to an end in May 1996 when Repulse completed the final Polaris patrol and responsibility for the national deterrent passed to the Vanguard Class SSBN, equipped with Trident D5 missiles.

Repulse was finally decommissioned on August 28 in 1996.


08-05-1963 : Ordered from Vickers, Barrow
16-07-1965 : Laid Down
11-11-1967 : Launched
11-05-1968 : Began Sea Trials
28-09-1968 : Completed
16-06-1969 : Submarine Repulse sails on her first Polaris Patrol
28-08-1996 : Decommissioned


I served on Repulse Port Crew from 1979 to 1981 ( as a pressed man ) Very good and compact information. Information which I did not know. It would have taken a lot of research to learn this stuff. Thanks...
   AR Forte Fri, 23 Jul 2021
Served on Stbd crew from late 73 through to 88 with the exception of courses. I believe I was the first junior they had seen on board. I remember Tom Patrick (Chief Tiff) scratching his head and saying I couldn't keep night watches! Great boat. Lots of good memories.
   Alec Elliot Sun, 19 Jun 2022

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Resolution (S22)Renown (S26)