Everyone involved in both engineering and television production knows that project time and costs are difficult to control, the Salvage Squad Team from Channel 4 were given just three months to restore one of the few remaining German Second World War ‘Biber’ one-man submarines to full working order. This is when ERIKS EMS demonstrated how it could release the pressure by renovating a 60 year old motor in just 48 hours!
After the war the midget submarine was put on display at HMS Ganges, and then in recent years, has formed part of the collection at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport. The museum consulted Ian Clark Restoration with a view to renovating the submarine, and an agreement was reached in July where Mr. Clark would oversee a restoration project that would involve the Salvage Squad team and the Navy’s contracted ship repairer, Fleet Support Ltd (FSL).
ERIKS to the rescue
FSL had an agreement with ERIKS EMS for motor repairs and rewinds due to close proximity to its Gosport branch and ERIKS’ comprehensive repair capabilities, resulting in the submarine’s 500v DC motor being handed over to ERIKS for evaluation. During the submarine’s life, it had spent many years unprotected outside, so when ERIKS were asked to test and overhaul the unit within the 48 hours allocated for filming, the pressure was on.
The motor arrived on site where it was dismantled and the armature and field frame coils were steam cleaned for filming that morning.
Claire Barratt, Industrial Archaeologist and member of the Salvage Squad, arrived later that day to test the motor’s conductivity under the guidance of an ERIKS engineer before an assessment could be made as to the extent of the job in hand.
Despite being 60 years old, the motor’s results showed that it would be able take the power from the boat’s batteries without the armature or field coils being rewound or any new components having to be made. ERIKS then set to work removing moisture residue through a stoving process and restoring its insulation value via varnish immersion.
While the motor armature and field coils were being treated, ready for assembly and testing the next day, the brushgear was dismantled, re-insulated and coated with anti-tracking paint and new carbon brushes were supplied and fitted. Following the successful rotation tests on the Tuesday morning, the motor was transported back to FSL in order to keep the submarine’s final assembly on target for the launch deadline.
"Biber" in history
With guidance from Heinz Hubler, a German war veteran and ex-Biber pilot, the submarine was successfully launched under the control of Tom Heron, a member of the Navy's LR5 submersible rescue team. The Biber submarine is simple in comparison to a state-of-the-art LR5 and was easy to control during the successful launch. However, the original pilots would enter enemy harbours controlling two 1½ tonne torpedoes, using a window that was prone to freezing up and a periscope that did not allow the user to see behind the boat!
Following the launch, the submarine will be displayed at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport alongside the impressive HMS Alliance and the Navy’s first submarine Holland 1.
This project showcased ERIKS' Maintenance services and how even repairing a 60 year old motor back to working condition was no problem for ERIKS! To find out more about what ERIKS Marine Services can do, order a copy of our Marine brochure