The HMS Belfast served Great Britain for two decades. Nowadays it's a tourist attraction in central London. We took a tour.
HMS Belfast served her
country for 24 years, including firing on the beaches before the D-Day
invasion, helping sink the German battleship Tirpitz, and more. It's now a museum ship. For
the full story, check out: Take a tour of the HMS Belfast.
walk across the gangplank from the South Bank of the river Thames gives you a good sense of the size. It’s a light
cruiser, so it’s a lot smaller than other WWII vessels you can tour.
One of the first things you see when you board the Belfast is the solid silver ship's bell.
the length of the ship, Tower Bridge downriver.
ship docked alongside the Belfast on one
of my tour days was the German cruise ship Berlin.
If that’s not a sign of time and the world moving on, I don’t know what is.
the front turret. The shells are lifted from far below (which we’ll see later).
most museum ships, many passageways are filled with other exhibits. Here, a
replica of one of the torpedoes the Belfast
laundry room from the 1950s refit. Before then the crew washed their laundry in buckets.
that’s a cat. These soulless killing machines were kept on board to do what they
did best: kill things. Specifically, mice.
There was an art exhibit called "The Tourists" going on when I was there. It
was some kind of take on Mardi Gras. It was freaky.
From this room music was piped through the ship.
need to be able to repair themselves, to an extent, while on tour. Here you can
see the shipwright’s room.
Recovery cots dead ahead, operating room to the right.
escape the need for a dentist at sea.
is something so cool, and sort of menacing, about exposed and massive switches
quite sizeable galley. It continues back farther about three rooms this size.
anyone? Soup, everyone.
a biscuit? Yep, it’s a bakery.
The mechanical computers here calculated where to aim the guns.
Different from what you'd expect, the main steering wheel is actually inside the ship. No windows.
This gyro compass always points north, to aid navigation in high seas.
This washroom is close to the engine room, so hot water didn't have to get piped around the ship (much).
The forward engine room. On the right is one of the huge fans to feed the boilers.
A rare open space in the engine room. The boilers are on the right.
Imagine, there were many men who knew where every one of these pipes went and what it carried.
Pre-heated fuel oil got atomized here, to get sent through those tiny holes...
...to the furnace to make steam. The steam was used for a variety of things, including turning generators for electric power.
Up to seven of the "oil fuel registers" were used on each boiler.
Three separate controls: one for ahead, one for astern and one for efficient cruising.
I saw this awesomeness on the far side of the engine room. Any guesses?
This is one of the huge reduction gears connected to the propeller shaft.
These gorgeous analog dials gave the engineers everything they needed to keep the engines running.
I thought they did a great job stocking the canteen with cans and goods that would have been found while the ship was in service.
A still. No joke, British sailors got rations of grog.
There were few crew quarters on the Belfast. Sailors instead had hammocks stretched above areas that had other uses.
Not a lot of daily variety.
Deep inside the ship is the armory.
Ignore the creepy sailor mannequin. The shells would be loaded into elevators and raised into the turrets.
The gear here, along with antennas outside, allowed the Belfast to communicate with other vessels, the shore and so on.
The officers got far better accommodations, with little things like "beds" and "a window."
Radar would have been cutting-edge naval technology in the Second World War, but of course the Belfast saw service afterwards and was kept up to date.
I didn't detect any enemy aircraft. I might have been reading it wrong.
Here an incredibly lifelike mannequin worked to figure out what caused a blue screen of death. I guess Win98 was terrible in the '60s too.
The bridge (or compass platform, as it was called), was exposed prior to the 1950s refit.
Rumor has it the guns are fixed on a gas station on the M25, the motorway that rings London.
A variety of small boats were stored here, along with a Supermarine Walrus.
If you're headed to the Tower of London, or Tower Bridge, you can't miss the Belfast, and if you're a fan of WWII ships, you shouldn't.
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