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A visit to HMS Belfast – in pictures

by RosieS on August 4, 2013

HMS Belfast, London

We’ve been regular visitors to the South Bank and the Tower of London since moving to Surrey, and we’ve enjoyed several boat trips on the Thames. We’ve often glanced across at HMS Belfast but never once did we realised you could actually go inside, until The Imperial War Museum invited us to visit.

We explored the ship with an extremely knowledgeable guide who was able to provide great detail about the ship’s history and share real life stories from sailors serving on the ship.

HMS Belfast

But if you can’t hire a guide it’s not a problem as all visitors are provided with a free hand-held personal audio guide, available in English (adult and family version), French, German and Spanish.

We heard about life during its service in the Second World War, it’s time stationed in the Artic, it’s time in Korea, the conditions in which the sailors lived and discovered more about the inner workings of the ship. It was all totally fascinating.

Onboard HMS Belfast

Starting in the laundry room, we went on to visit the kitchens, the bakery and officers’ mess.

The Laundry Room, HMS Belfast

The kitchens, HMS Belfast

The kitchens, HMS Belfast

Incredible to think that the ship accommodated as many as 950 sailors at one time, in what must have been extremely cramped conditions.

The kitchens, HMS Belfast

There’s also a gruesome-looking dental surgery, a chapel and sick room complete with a rather grey-looking mannequin. As well as a shop where sailors could buy supplies, and an interactive operations room which we plan to visit next time.

Dental Surgery, HMS Belfast

Sick room, HMS Belfast

A particular highlight was the Gun Turret, an experience that was made all the more real by the fact that there were staff in there cleaning the equipment at the time.

Inside the Gun Turret, HMS Belfast

The Gun Turret, HMS Belfast

Getting around the ship with younger children can be a little tricky. There are nine decks and plenty of ladders. But to get the most out of the visit and to fully appreciate the ship’s history, children would need to be a little older anyway. I’d say 6+.

Ladder on HMS Belfast

After an hour exploring the ship we were then treated to lunch in the new Upper Deck Park, which overlooks the ship and has stunning views of the Thames.

View from the Upper Deck Bar, HMS Belfast

We then took part in ‘Dazzle Camouflage’ – one of the events the ship regularly holds for families – and learnt about how HMS Belfast was camouflaged to prevent discovery.

We created our own camouflage, which will be added to a show reel featuring all those produced during the workshop.

Kids activity on HMS Belfast

For those interested in war, history or life at sea, or who would just like to experience something a little bit different, we highly recommend a visit to HMS Belfast. Fascinating, impressive, with lots to see, it’s a great way to spend a few hours.

We were offered free admission to HMS Belfast to celebrate the launch of the Imperial War Museum’s Horrible Histories Spies exhibition. For information about prices and opening times, visit the Imperial War Museum’s website.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anya from Older Single Mum and The Healer August 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Brilliant. Really interesting. We recently were gifted a membership to Portsmouth Dockyard (no longer out of your reach!) and were equally fascinated by the ships there – particularly Nelson’s actual one – Victory – where you can go on boards (and even get married I believe). Amazing photos :)

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Mums do travel August 5, 2013 at 12:18 am

This sounds really interesting. It’s great that you’re both getting to know London so well.

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Sarah Ebner August 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm

We went here a few years back and we thought it was great – genuinely interesting and different. I love how much there is to see in London. There really is something for everyone and for all ages.

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