Weekend Tourists - HMS Belfast

16:43 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

After seeing many castles and palaces throughout the UK, we decided a few weekends ago to switch things and check out a different part of British history at the HMS Belfast, the iconic warship that sits in the Thames just across from the Tower of London.

We headed over later in the afternoon, thinking it would be a quick stop before we got back to our winter cleaning at the flat. Little did we know, but the place was enormous! The ship seems to be almost entirely open to the public, and is self-guided, meaning you feel like you have free reign of the place. The museum spans 4 floors of the ship, from the boiler room below to the control room up top.

We started off at the bottom, first checking out things below deck including the boiler room. Warning - there are lots and lots of narrow, steep staircases throughout. They'll warn you if it's a rainy day (like most days in London), but fair warning to anyone who is as clumsy as I am and has trouble putting one foot in front of the other. These rooms were full of gadgets and steering wheels and controls that I had no idea what they were. Luckily, the audio guide gave us some background on what we were seeing in just about every room.

Also lots of good tidbits from these
old informational signs from the ship

Next up, where the rooms that the crew used and lived in. From the toilets, to the laundry room (which is famous for an escapade where someone on board tried to smuggle in drugs), to the sick room, to the place they bought rations, it's just about all open to the public. It's also full of these weird, wax looking statues posed about in the randomest places. If you aren't careful, they can give you a fright as you turn your head and catch one 'looking' at you!

Whose real?
From here is where we got to see the real action. This included the turrets where the guns were fired - with two interactive experiences telling you more about the ships war history. The most important of its battles was the Battle of North Cape where it was involved in the sinking of Scharnhorst, a German ship, where only 36 of the nearly 2,000 people aboard the German ship diedLater, the ship also was part of the D-Day landings. All in all, the ship had a relatively short history, 1939 - 1962, when it was retired from service.

The final stop on our journey was the raised decks where the ship was led from. Here you could see where the Captain would look out from his post, sit in his chair and read the log from its battle days. The  operations room included not only games, where we were able to dominate a 6 year old in recovery of a lost plane via video game, but also the communications area where signalling groups still take office and let tourists try their hand at morse code.

After we left the ship to rejoin the rainy London crowds, we walked through a nearby shopping centre, which brought back to mind my first time to visit this part of London in 2005 with my grandparents. I reminisced, let Paul in on my past here, and soaked up a bit of deja vue from way back when.

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