I found this submarine depth gauge many years ago now, completely by chance, at a boat jumble in Beaulieu in The New Forest. It was in a bit of a state, buried under a lot of other stuff and I had wandered past it a few times without paying it too much attention, but by the end of the day as the crowds thinned out, I stopped for a chat with the stall holder and ended up buying this and a red emergency lighting lamp from him.
Now, everyone needs a red emergency lighting lamp, don't they? ... But this? This was probably one of the more unusual items I've picked up over the years and I really had no idea what I was going to do with it. I was fresh out of submarines and I could measure the depth of the garden pond just by putting on some wellies and standing in it. So, I put it away and forgot about it.
Fast forward a few years and the depth gauge resurfaced again (no pun intended) amidst the upcycling activity which has been the beginnings of Old Rope Salvage.
It was still in a bit of a state, but I could see that it was made of aluminium and I thought that it could probably be cleaned up into something. Also, I liked the look of it.
Usually, when I find or choose unusual items for up cycling I am drawn to the shape or the look of the thing, rather than to the actual item itself. Often, it doesn't matter what it is, or what it used to be, only what it could potentially become. This was a little bit different in that the depth gauge itself, although I didn't know anything about it at the time, was clearly an item of interest and of history, and I knew from the outset that I wanted to keep it much as it is. Its shape strongly suggested that it could become a really cool clock, and once I had that in my mind, it was really impossible to imagine it as anything else, so I cleaned it up with much care and attention, repaired the scratches and other damage, polished it and repainted the case.
Next, I removed its internal workings and cut out a small section of the back casing so I could add a clock mechanism, and finally I modified the original 24v lightbulbs with 1.5v LEDs which now give off a subtle red light around the inside rim.
It is my hope that the finished clock shows a sympathetic restoration of the depth gauge as well as an interesting up cycled clock. I deliberately left on all the old casing connections and the original maker's plate to retain its original authenticity, likewise I have not altered the face in any way. I think it's a pretty nice job.
It's currently hanging on the wall in our unofficial gallery and growing emporium in Crafthole, and is available to buy at £845.00. It is exceptionally heavy so do get in touch if you are interested so we can arrange shipping, delivery or collection, or if you would like to come and check it out.
For those of you who might be interested in a little bit of history on this unusual piece, keep reading ...
*NOW SOLD* - Thank you for all kind enquiries.
I'm no expert on submarines, so it took a little bit of detective work to find out anything about this particular depth gauge. (Whatever did we do before the internet?)
We believe it comes from an Oberon Class Submarine (e.g. HMS Otus now a museum piece in Germany) of which there appears to have been maybe 13 in the Royal Navy. Of the subs we were able to find information on, a few are now museum pieces and the rest have been scrapped. As we no longer have any diesel submarines left, it seems safe to say that all the Oberon class have long since been decommissioned.
It is impossible to say for sure exactly which of these submarines the depth gauge comes from, but there are 3 which are likely contenders: HMS Opportune, HMS Oracle and HMS Otter were all broken up at Pounds Scrapyard in Portsmouth, and considering that I found the gauge in The New Forest, it is maybe not to much of an assumption to believe it came from one of those. If anyone out there has any more info or thoughts, you are most welcome to share them in the comments.
Whatever its history though, it is indeed a very rare item and one which I was lucky to discover and have the opportunity to salvage and breathe new life into.
Old Rope Salvage