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20 April 2011

Pretend to be a sailor on HMS Belfast

Upon recovery from a rather debilitating hangover last Friday, your author was persuaded out of the house to finally tour HMS Belfast, the Second World War large light cruiser which is moored up a stones throw from Tower Bridge.

It was a good idea to go, because the ship is fascinating. Originally built in Belfast and launched in 1938, it remained key to the Royal Navy until 1963, famously protecting the Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union, but also taking part in Operation Overlord to support the Normandy landings, serving with the British Pacific Fleet, and taking part in combat action during the Korean War.

The HMS Belfast story is told through helpful guides, first hand accounts of those who served on it, and a chance to poke around the various cabins and engine rooms to try to understand what life was like aboard. We are told that it was a rather happy ship, where crew were more at ease with each other, and that it even had a special bridge to allow it to carry an Admiral, who could direct the entire fleet without getting in the way of the Captain.

The ship was saved from destruction and towed to London in 1971, where it opened as a museum on Trafalgar Day, 21 October. It was transferred to the Imperial War Museum in 1978, and they operate it to this day, currently charging visitors £13.50 to have a look round, which seems fair enough.

For more information, see http://hmsbelfast.iwm.org.uk/

1 comment:

  1. I had a chance to visit the HMS Belfast a few years ago and it was great! The way several of the ship's cabins and operation rooms have been reconstructed, complete with props, soundtrack and dramatized recordings, is just amazing. My son also enjoyed playing on the deck pretending to shoot down enemy planes using the swiveling cannons. Totally worth the time and the money.