I’ve never been much of a girlie girl – I’m more likely to be researching beautiful churches rather than how good the shopping is in new places (in fact shopping has never been something I enjoy, except those afternoons where we stop for a tipple and don’t go back into the chaos) – but even I was slightly unsure about visiting HMS Belfast, the last surviving British WWII warship.
Moored permanently outside near Tower Bridge, aside from having one of the best views in London, the HMS Belfast is an amazing floating museum – a water based branch of the Imperial War Museum. (On a side note, my nephews stayed here on a school trip and I was much put out as we did such boring stuff as kids)
An affinity with water runs through my family – My Dad travelled the world with the New Zealand Navy before I was born. Marked permanently with equator tattoos and a penchant for dark rum, he’s a retired salty old sea dog, but his adventures had my imagination running rampant (never mind the fact that the HMS Belfast is dressed as it would have been in World War Two – New Zealand is a little behind the times, but not that badly…)
Instead of writing a serious post about what a fascinating snapshot of history the warship has had whilst protecting Allied shores (which it has, see the Imperial War Museum‘s page for some of the incredible stories) I thought instead to share the random thoughts I had whilst wandering through.
When completed, Belfast had an overall length of 613 feet 6 inches (187.0 m), a beam of 63 feet 4 inches (19.3 m) and a draught of 17 feet 3 inches (5.3 m). She was propelled by four three-drum oil-fired Admiralty water-tube boilers, turning Parsons geared steam turbines, driving four propeller shafts.She was capable of 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph) and carried 2,400 long tons (2,400 t) of fuel oil. This gave her a maximum range of 8,664 nautical miles (16,046 km; 9,970 mi) at 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Oh, and when you visit, wear trousers and sensible shoes. Leave the backpack at home. Seriously, you’ll thank me.
We trotted along the Southern riverbank, bought our tickets without any problems, collected the audio guide and stepped into a time portal of marine steel and rivets.
Home to a crew of up to 950 men, the nine decks of HMS Belfast Explore shares stories of life on
board this warship during Arctic convoys, D-Day and beyond. You can
sleeping in one of the tightly packed hammocks during duties in Arctic
waters, or being stationed deep in the bowels of the ship when she
opened fire in support of Allied troops on D-Day.
Their laundry staff inspired ikea’s open shelving display didn’t they?
Men in hammocks (usually with about 21inches between each one), men in hammocks, men in hammocks…
OMG IT’S A (fake) CAT IN A HAMMOCK!
Nb: Read the story of Able Sea-cat Simon – he was a weathered, whiskery old Sailor who broke my heart. He served gallantly aboard the HMS Amethyst – at times
under heavy fire in turbulent seas – during World War II. The cats were working felines, kept on board for rat catching and snoozing with the sailors.
Man the torpedoes! (Is it weird that I’ve started humming 99 bottles of beer on the wall?)
Aaaand this is the reason that my Dad won’t eat custard to this day – served gloopily with EVERY dessert…
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand there’s the Tower of London.
I wonder if we could get #ihavethisthingwithmarinemachinery shoefies trending on instagram?
Nb: British warships had perfectly sized steel seats for mooching on instagram. What do you mean they’re called something other than #instaseating?
Where’s Henry the hoover?
Someone got their scouting knot badge.
Officers quarters – I love what they’ve done with the place, especially the rope mat which most bloggers would die for to match their rustic chic homestyling.
Navigation Deck – Wait, have we stumbled upon a James Bond movie set, complete with bad-haircut bad guys?
Ahoy me hearties! Wait, sailors are practically modern-day pirates with better haircuts aren’t they?
So there we have it. A London Kiwi’s guide to a serious piece of Marine history.
Have you been? (Or have I put you off?)