The doors to the museum first opened to the public during May this year offering visitors the chance to see displays comprising of more than a couple of hundred large exhibits, that revitalises the colourful history of Estonia a country whose past has been influenced by Czarist Russia, the WW II and around 50 years of the Soviet occupation. The occupation lasted a total of 48 years, one year in 1940-41, then a further 47 years from 1944 until 1991.
With the help of modern multimedia, the Seaplane Harbour tells exciting stories about the Estonian maritime and military history promising a sea of excitement to the whole family.
The British built submarine Lembit is the centrepiece of the new museum. Launched in 1936 for the Estonian navy, Lembit served in the WWII under the Soviet flag. It remained afloat for 75 years and was decommissioned in 1979 making it 42 years in service from 1937-1979. She was perhaps the oldest submarine in the world still in use until she was hauled ashore last year.
The order for the building of the submarine was submitted in 1934 to the British shipbuilding company Vickers-Armstrongs. The vessel was completed and launched in England in 1936. On 9 July 1937 she arrived in Estonia.
Once in Estonia, the submarine continued operating in peacetime mode: the crew underwent in-service training and proper constant maintenance was ensured of the new and valuable equipment. In 1939 the vessel took part in Finnish military exercises that constituted one part of the secret cooperation between Estonia and Finland.
After the Soviet Union had occupied Estonia in 1940, Lembit served in the Red Banner Baltic Fleet of the USSR. During the WWII she conducted three successful attacks: one ship was torpedoed, one ship sank and one ship was damaged after hitting mines laid by the submarine. After the war she was used as a training vessel based in the town of Gorky on the Volga River. In 1979 the submarine returned to Tallinn. In 1985, it was opened to the general public after renovation as a branch of the Baltic Fleet Museum at Pirita Harbour.
In 1992, the submarine was taken over by the Estonian Maritime Museum and became vessel No 1 of the Estonian Navy. Lembit held the honour of being the oldest submarine in the world still in water, when it was hauled ashore on 21 May 2011.