The HMS Belfast
by Kavitha Rao
Now that you know how Britain's wartime prime minister lived and worked, perhaps you would like to see how ordinary sailors lived and fought. You don't have to go far, because an authentic World War II warship is moored only a few minutes from the Churchill Museum. The HMS Belfast is also part of the Imperial War Museum, and permanently stationed in the Thames close to London Bridge. It is Europe's only surviving big-gun armoured warship, and has played key roles in several crucial battles. The Belfast was commissioned into the Royal Navy in August 1939. Soon afterwards, she was damaged by a German mine, and spent three years being repaired. In 1942, she was deployed in the Atlantic, where she played a crucial role in the battle of North Cape, and helped in sinking the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst. In June 1944, HMS Belfast was one of the first ships to lead the navy in the battle of Normandy, supporting the Allied landings on D-Day. She also played a pivotal role in the Korean War, where she was nicknamed "that straight shooting ship."
The tour of HMS Belfast takes nearly two hours, and you can see every corner of this massive ship, from the captain's bridge on top to the massive boiler rooms below. Along the way, you can see the gun turrets, the mess decks, the sick bay, the galley operation rooms and even the punishment cells used for imprisoning German prisoners of war. There are models, photographs, audiovisual and sound effects to take you back to the thrilling days of wartime Britain. There's also a marvellous and educational children's tour.
- HMS Belfast
- Morgan's Lane, Tooley Street, London SE1 2JH
Kavitha Rao is a freelance writer who has lived and worked in Mumbai, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo. She currently lives in London, and doesn't think she will ever tire of it. Her articles on culture, travel, literature and lifestyles have appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Asiaweek, the South China Morning Post and the Far Eastern Economic Review, among others.
Article © 2006 Kavitha Rao