“Up Spirits” came the cry on HMS Belfast at 11am every day from thirsty crew ready for their daily tot of rum. We learned from the audio tour that shockingly in 1970 the practice of knocking back 40% proof whilst handling dangerous machinery including weaponry was ended #outcry!
HMS Belfast sits proudly on the Thames surrounded by some of London’s most iconic landmarks, amongst them the Shard, Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Views from the deck of HMS Belfast – The Shard, Tower Bridge, Tower of London
The ship is famous for its active service in World War 2 and beyond. HMS Belfast London is now part of the Imperial War Museum’s range of attractions. Before visiting be aware that touring the ship involves climbing up and down a maze of steep ladders. Kids must be 120cm tall to use the ladders and I don’t recommend it for little ones or anyone who can’t climb up and down independently.Collect an audio tour on your way in, we did the kids one and it was perfectly designed with just the right amount of information and a few tales designed to appeal to the gross out factor so beloved by kids. Make sure you listen in the galley! 2000 meals a day were produced here and some of them had some disgustingly unwanted ingredients.
My great grandfather was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy during World War Two and HMS Belfast for me was a fascinating insight to his life at sea and a great opportunity to discuss this piece of family history with my own children.
Your tour starts in the gun turret where you gain a brief overview of one of HMS Belfast’s most famous operations in the Northern Cape and experience something of what it was like to be in the gun turret when the shells fired. From there no area of the ship is left unexplored. Deep in the heart of the ship the huge engine rooms and boiler rooms with their staggering amount of dials, switches and vast machinery unveil the complexity of powering this mammoth seafarer. The living quarters, hospital, workshops, kitchens and mess quarters are set up as dioramas with dummies and sound effects, hammocks hanging from every available place.
Popular with my kids was the opportunity to sit on the Captain’s chair and look put onto the guns. Below decks the shell room allows you to get up close to where the ammunition was hoisted to the turrets. There is also an exhibition onboard telling you more about the ship’s engagements during World War Two.
HMS Belfast is a real part of Britain’s wartime legacy that you experience via the sights, sounds and stories of the ship and its crew. From the decks to the dentist it’s a fascinating part of British naval history and well worth a visit. Up Spirits!
If you like ship-visiting check out my review of Greenwich and the Cutty Sark here.
If you are in New York City and want to see ships, a submarine, concorde and a space shuttle, check out my review of the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum here.
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Don’t forget your kids can get in free to HMS Belfast with a Blue Peter Badge see here for details.
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