HMS Belfast

In-between all the up-to-date posts I'm sharing I'm still playing catch up on some that are hideously outstanding, this one about our visit to HMS Belfast being just one of those! Over the years I've admired this warship on the bank of the River Thames many times but never actually visited it. I finally got to put that right earlier in the year. Yes I did say some of these posts are way overdue!

Our afternoon in London first began though with lunch at Borough Market which was crazy busy as we went on a Saturday. We wanted to eat quite quickly and with this in mind and the fact it was very busy selected a burger place that looked good. Despite it being a swift eating decision I certainly wasn't disappointed with my burger, it hit the spot and satisfied my hunger for the afternoon.

From Borough Market we then made the short walk along the river to the entrance to HMS Belfast. HMS Belfast was launched in 1938 and remained in service until 1963, I'm not an expert but that seems like an amazingly long period. During her time in service she escorted Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union in 1943, took part in the Battle of North Cape in December 1943 and in June 1944 took part in Operation Overlord supporting the Normandy landings. Following this, in 1945 HMS Belfast was sent to join the British Pacific fleet just before the end of the Second World War seeing action against Japan. After World War Two she saw further action during the Korean war as well as a number of other subsequent commissions. Following the end of her service she was eventually saved from being scrapped in 1971 by the efforts of the HMS Belfast Trust and became a branch of the Imperial War Museum (somewhere I visited after many years on a visit home from Singapore a couple of years back) in 1978.

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When you've not visited an attraction before, especially if it's a house (or in this case a ship) there's always the question of how much will actually be accessible and whether you'll feel you're getting value for money. HMS Belfast doesn't disappoint here with access given to nine decks! I was quite surprised at how deep we kept on going if I'm honest, guess I never appreciated just how big a ship it was. This though gives you a complete picture of the whole workings of the ship right from the depths of the engine rooms to the top. A word of warning, if you aren't very mobile, not keen on steep ladders or confined spaces you may not be able to make it down to all the decks as some of the ladders are pretty steep and narrow.

As you'd expect there is loads of information on the ship giving you greater detail about the specific campaigns she was involved in. As well as a day-to-day narrative, nicely done with the use of models and some audio, giving you a picture of life on-board away from the battle front. As you get to explore so deep in the ship you really get a feel for all the separate sections and how important they were in keeping the ship running.

Ship's cat, a model obviously

Having explored every nook and cranny of the ship we went out on to the deck to enjoy the great views across the Thames. It was considerably warmer on that day than it currently is in Edinburgh. We were lucky too to time this part perfectly with Tower Bridge being raised (see my photo below) to allow a tall boat to pass through. If you look on their website this really is quite a sporadic event (obviously dependent on a boat being on the Thames needing it) so we were very lucky to have timed it so well.

With all that exploring we'd worked up an appetite again so our day finished up with dinner in a restaurant not too far away. HMS Belfast is definitely worth the visit, there is so much information and access to so much of the ship you can't fail to find something to interest you. I was surprised that I found the engine rooms and lower decks so interesting, the engineering within them was something to be admired. On top of that as well there's the chance to enjoy some good views up and down the Thames. Well worth the money.


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