Cold War era submarine

PAIU2007.077.07 Sonar in the Cold War era submarine PAIU2007.077.07

A re-created control room and sailors’ mess of an Oberon Class submarine. The Cold War was not a traditional conflict, it was an era of suspicion and covert operations. Submarines were used to observe enemy locations and listen for clues.


Life onboard one of these submarines was cramped and completely lacked privacy for the men. Water onboard the submarine was precious and limited, men would only shower roughly once a week, the routine was, water on, water off, step out, soap on, step in, water on, rinse off, step out and dry. Submarines also had a constant smell of diesel and sweat.

 Oberon class submarine HMAS Otway.301371


Men would sit on their bunks to eat, with a small table between each bunk. Kitchens, like other areas on a submarine, are small and cramped with limited space to cook.

 The cook of the submarine HMAS Thorough preparing a meal in the tiny galley, 1958.304807


Sailors were issued overalls, which they would wear during the day, but also leave on when retiring to their bunks to sleep. This was because if there was an emergency, they were ready and dressed. 

 An Oberon Class submarine crew member checks gauges in the engine room. He is wearing ear protectors to shield him from the noise of the engine, 1967.NAVY13910


The Oberon class submarines were British built and were in service from the 1960s through to the mid-1990s. Australian submarines were at the forefront of technology, they were used during the Cold War because they were silent and ‘invisible’, submarines could watch, listen and gather information without being detected. The Oberon class submarine was powered by a diesel-electric engine.  

 Oberon Class submarine crew members in the control room. The officer of the watch (left, wearing glasses) watches as another crew member (centre) operates the one man control (OMC). A lieutenant (right) is looking through the forward attack periscope. 1967.NAVY13912