HMS Belfast

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by captain kait on August 3, 2005

While I was walking on a pathway floating on the river, I realized that this was no ordinary museum. Moored in the Thames, it can easily be overlooked for bigger, grander landmarks like St. Paul's and Tower Bridge. When you come up close, however, this floating hunk of metal is quite impressive. The HMS Belfast is a battle cruiser from the Royal Navy that served in WWII and is now permanently open to the public to glimpse a bit of a sailor's life. I expected to see normal things - the deck, the weapons, etc. To my surprise and pleasure, we were allowed to tour what seemed to be a majority of the ship, seven or eight numbered areas in all, from the sleeping areas and kitchen to the navigation rooms, the boilers in the ship's bowels, and the captain's seat itself. Instead of just reading about the weapons, I hopped into one of the gun turrets and swung around the barrel, sighting some hefty targets. One interesting room is set up as a museum-within-a-museum, following the ship's service history.

We got to tour the ship ourselves, winding and crawling through the narrow passages. (There are also many many sets of steep, closed-in staircases, and once you head in one direction, it's not easy to turn around. The lower areas aren't ideal for those with mobility problems or space issues, but the upper areas also offer interesting features.) The day we visited, a weekday in mid-spring, there were few other visitors, which meant we were able to explore most of the ship by ourselves. In certain areas, we came across life-sized figures posed mid-action in their duties, but these seemed to detract from the adventure of prowling through seemingly endless tunnels and tiny passageways alone. It was somewhat confusing to try and follow the set-up progression of areas, and without signs it would be easy to get lost below decks. I was amazed, however, at the opportunity to see all this up close and learn through that contact. And of course, at the end of our trip, I stood at the bow of the ship, threw my arms out, and re-created that famous scene from Titanic. The buildings along the Thames may date the ship back half a century, but while on the HMS Belfast, it's easy to lose track of time. London is famous for it's (older) history, but this fun museum would be a great stop for families or any war history buff.

HMS Belfast
Morgan's Lane
London, England, SE1 2JH
+44 20 7940 6300

© LP 2000-2009