Monday, 24 October 2016

HMS Belfast

The Queen’s Walk

London Bridge City SE1 2JH

Friday 21 October 2016
Today Linda was busy with domestic things, so we were delighted to have Roger join Nicholas, Christopher, Andrew and me aboard HMS Belfast. (For naval purists, I shall mention now that I can't seem to make the heading italicise or indeed bold the ship's name as would be correct) I am very grateful to Roger for taking the pictures.

Being with a 5 year old and a 7 year old slightly affects one's experience of the ship.  Plenty of space to run, and we enjoyed trying and failing to lift the huge links of the anchor cable at the bow. There was also some interest in the crane that used to lift the Walrus seaplanes back onto the ship after reconnaissance flights. But the fascinating film of the catapult launch of the aircraft was not for them, so the party could not enjoy it!

There was an 'experience' in one of the after gun turrets, but a small space filled with smoke was 'a bit scary' and did not detain us long. On the other hand, the ladders made the whole ship into an extended climbing frame.

We visited the signalling deck, and then climbed through the command area, the Admiral's Bridge and the Operations Bridge, where sitting in the high seats of the Captain and the Executive Officer was allowed. Information about the Battle of the North Cape did not engage the attention long.  

The Admiral and Captain had comfortable 'sea cabins' since their main quarters, beneath the Quarterdeck, had ceased to be satisfactory when the ship was no longer steered and fought from the stern

It's a natural progression to see the crew's quarters, where the hammocks are slung in every available space, including the capstan flat, and the space available is less than 50cm per man.  The ship's cat had disproportionate space, we thought.  The hammocks swing above the mess tables, where people are playing cards, or uckers (ludo to you and me) or writing letters, or reading, while others try tp sleep.
We passed the rum ration being served, with a careful eye kept on the list of men who had forfeited their right through misdeeds: a lesser punishment than the cells right up at the bow, where the noise of the sea and the exaggerated motion of the ship must have seemed a bit 'cruel and unusual'.

The boys were too excited by the ladders down to the shell rooms to linger in the 1950s living areas, with the excellent recreations of  dentist (aagh), surgery, galleys, meat and potato stores and so on.

Instead, we plunged down into the heart of the extra strengthened decks, where shells and cordite charges were stored for the huge guns above.  One of the main purposes of these great cruisers was to serve as gun platforms for bombarding land (as HMS Belfast did both off Normandy in 1944 and off Korea in the 1950s) It's extraordinary to think that this function is obsolete now, taken over by air power.

By the time we reached the steering and control rooms, safely below the waterline, the attention was flagging a bit, and the visits to the Boiler and engine rooms were much briefer than the adults of the party would have liked.  We shall come back, probably without the younger generation, or perhaps when they have doubled their ages.  This magnificent ship is so clearly explained and interesting that it will be worth it.

I suggest that it is also the Museum with absolutely the best views of this eastern end of the city and its river.

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