Kent isn’t the first place thats springs to mind when you think of decommissioned soviet military hardware. but this 1,950 ton relic of the cold war lies moored in the river medway, supposedly undergoing restoration.
This had been on my list for a while, with it being 1/4 of these on display in the entire world, its a piece of history. I stumbled upon it while looking up interesting places to check out a year or so ago, but just hadn’t got round to trying it. After a quick check to see it was actually still there, I convinced some mates and we headed down.
We arrived at the sub and attempted to work out how to cross the river. The dinghy we brought with us didn’t seem quite up to the task of carrying multiple people and so I went looking for alternatives. it was already 10pm at this point, so we didn’t really have much chance of buying another boat, but after a short while searching I found a solution and we attempted to cross the river. other than the boat starting to sink while we were half way across, it was a surprisingly uneventful, and we made it to the sub without too much going wrong.
Upon arriving at the sub, it became immediately clear that boarding would be the next challenge, we had been stupid enough to not check the tides and even more stupid to not wait for the tides to go back out, and as such the low water level made it more difficult to board the sub. After a bit of team work, (a few of us pulling ropes to pull the boat closer to the sub and another climbing up and fastening it in place) we all manage to board, and spent a good hour attempting to find a way inside. Other than years old signs of attempted access, we didn’t find much to suggest where an entry would be, the official access seemed very locked and due to our lack of submarine knowledge, it seemed pretty confusing to figure out how else to pass the hatches.
It was at this point we realised that although we were pretty far out (pretty much half way across the river) we were still annoyingly visible from the shore and someone had spotted us and taken issue with our mode of transport ( I wont go in to too much detail). Because of this, we all decided to call it a night, headed back to shore, and vowed to try again another night.
1 WEEK LATER -
It was fucking freezing and after the events of the week before, (getting to the shore soaking wet from a leaking boat) we knew we had to get a better boat. after this was sorted, we all met up in north London and hopped in the car back down to kent. After a quick stop to laugh at the fact there is actually some sort of amusement park called digger land, we were back to our antics, inflating the boat in the road hoping no one decided to ask what we were doing. this took longer than expected, and somehow no one found it suspicious. now for the hard part…
we were getting the boat over a fence to the river, inconveniently situated next to a pub. There was a guy sat on the bench, in what appeared to be a drunk haze, and we thought we could pull it off without attracting his attention. we thought we had managed it, then off he went…
“Oi you got a permit for that boat”
“Naa we’re just taking pictures man”
“You know you’re not allowed to do this at night right…”
After a brief conversation over the fence trying to convince him, he clocked on to what we were actually trying to do, and thought we were absolutely stupid…
“Who do you think you are the f*****g SAS??”
After he made it clear he wasn’t going to call the authorities, we decided to ignore him.
We spent the next 30 minutes trying to carry the kayak through the mud to the water (we were even more stupid to make the same mistake twice, and forgot to check the tides again). This was annoyingly difficult, made even harder by the drunk guy, still screaming insults at us through the fence.
We made it to the water, and rowed off towards our target, much to the dismay of our new friend who was now stumbling down the street, can of Stella still in hand, clearly pissed we hadn’t fallen into the arctic water. the journey across was way more chilled than the first time, as was finding a way in which proved much more successful…
Inside was incredible, the whole place feels like history and although the interior is probably reconstructed given its use in films over the years, its amazing to see.
Annoyingly the lights were off, and due to concern about accidentally flicking the wrong switch, we decided to explore in the darkness.
The torpedo chamber was our first stop, the soviet logos flickering in the torch light. onwards from there it was onto the sleeping quarters and other points of interest.
Corridor through the sleeping quarters and a news paper on the table in what looks to be a recreation room. (If anyone can translate what it says email me)
Personal items in individual bed rooms, 99% sure these aren’t original, but a nice touch either way.
Some sort of radio room (I have no idea what this stuff does to be honest i’m just guessing).
More miscellaneous switches and dials. Imagining the place while it was active is crazy. up to 77 people used to be inside here at a depth of up to 280m. It felt cramped enough with 3 of us on board, the tight spaces, small rooms and endless walls of switches, the idea of a full crew of 70 odd people being on board travelling up to 30,000 nautical miles is surreal.
Every single corner of this place was interesting, Russian writing all over the place, old technology, strange dials, it felt like stepping into a movie.
The air in here was disgusting, after an hour we all felt ready to leave, and made our way back out and over to the boat.
After we made it back to the shore my friend who waited in the car told us that a police car had been driving slowly up and down the road closest to the submarine. Cautious about what may happen if we were seen, we didn’t hang around and quickly deflated and drove off back into the night.