River Class
Note: drawing contains some parts and lower hull details taken from Shipbucket.com)

Ship Characteristics

Dimensions Length 325 ft
Beam 28 ft
Draft 13.0 ft
Displacement (Surfaced) 1,850 tons
Displacement (Submerged 2,723 tons
Performance Speed (surfaced) 22.5 knots
Speed (submerged) 10 knots
Armament Torpedoes 6 21 inch.


The Thames class were the last attempt by the Admiralty to produce submarines capable of maintaining a speed of 20 knots while surfaced. A design was drawn up in the late 1920s and three vessels were built by Vickers in Barrow, Thames in 1932, Severn and Clyde in 1935. Initially 20 were planned but changes in thinking and cost limited the building to just the three. The design compromised on diving depth to keep weight down and speed up. They had a safe diving depth of some 300 feet compared to the 500 feet attained by the Odin class. They were powered by two diesel engines delivering 8,000 bhp. Two Ricardo engines drove generators that supercharged the diesels up to 10,000 bhp. This gave them a surface speed of 22.5 knots.

During the Second World War they initially operated in the North Sea and Mediterranean undertaking a variety of missions includingd elivery of supplies to resistance movements in Europe. During 1945-46 they were "guppied" having their superstructures streamlined and their gun armament removed. This increased their underwater speed by four knots and made them significantly quieter. They were scheduled to be assigned to the Pacific in 1947 when The Big One ended World War Two. During the division of the Royal Navy post-war, the Australian Navy found their combination of high speed and long range attractive and put in a request for all three submarines. This was granted and all three transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1948.

Their initial duties were more as a training squadron than as a front-line submarine group. The three submarines were extensively involved in training a new generation of Australian submarine operators and also naval architects who studied them as a basis for Australia's first class of indigenously-built submarines. As such, the River class were worked hard and by the mid-1950s a combination of strenuous wartime work plus continuous peacetime duties had worn them out. Thames and Severn were scrapped in 1957 when the first two of the new O class boats were commissioned. In 1958 Clyde was the first ship to join the Royal Australian Navy museum and cultural center at Sydney where she remains, moored alongside HMAS Warspite, to this day.

Class Members

Number Name Ordered Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
R-1 Thames 1929 1931 1932 1932 Decommissioned and scrapped 1957
R-2 Severn 1931 1933 1934 1935 Decommissioned and scrapped 1957
R-3 Clyde 1932 1933 1934 1935 Decommissioned and preserved as museum ship
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