HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast

It pays to check the Transport for London website if you’re planning on sightseeing. I found out the hard way, which resulted in confused passengers looking lost at the Tube map trying to figure out an alternative faster route. Generally, there is no faster route.  Walking takes just as long and in fact, will possibly tire you out sooner.

The good thing is that we tried out the Overland train from Richmond to London Waterloo.  The bad news is that we nearly got fined for using the Overland with our Oyster card.  Big, big No.  But we looked sufficiently lost and pathetic that the inspector allowed us to buy a ticket.  On top of that, she advised us on how to get our money back from the London Tube.  How good is that?!!!

Just a quick note on the Overland …. it is a very fast 20 minutes in London, sometimes less.  Only about 4 stops, compared to the hundred million on the Tube, plus the station changes.

We also had another great experience of English weather.  No sooner had we climbed on deck to the covered area of HMS Belfast, it started belting down with rain.  The winds picked up and it was freezing.  It rained for about 20 minutes and then it disappeared and it was all sunshine again – like it never happened.  Interesting.

HMS Belfast is a good tour to take children to.  Built in the 1930s, she served in the Second World War and also in the Korean War.  Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you much about the ship.  I’m (really) not into modern naval warfare, and I suffered from poor information retention on trip.  The boys on the other hand ….

For me, I just enjoyed the many interactive detail they provided.  Soldiers dressed up in uniforms from either the 1940s, or 1950s walked around the ship to answer your questions and lent an air of authenticity to the place.  It felt a bit like being on the set of Saving Private Ryan, MASH, or better yet, Call of Duty.  On board the ship, there is a display of all the equipment that commandos would have.  The great thing is that you can touch it.  They had flare guns, grenade launcher, their rations, radio etc.  What’s great is being able to touch it, dial the knobs and just getting a sense of weight of each item.  Commandos sure had to carry a lot on their back.  I’m sure there was more than 20kgs in their bags.  Better them than me.

Anyway, I think my son has been playing too much Call of Duty 5 as he was able to identify a Thomson rifle without difficulty.  Not sure whether to be proud of him, or to review his current collection of X-Box 360 games ….. ?

As you walk around the ship,  there are displays in each area with a mannequin etc showing how the room/area may have been used.  For me, it was a good insight into the working of the ship.  The officers’ mess seemed small and it still amazes me that 30 people can be crammed in a small area to eat, sleep, and relax in the one area.  Though this was luxury compared to sailers from the 1800s.

The audio tour is complimentary with your admission ticket (children under 16 are free), though I did not make full use of it, as I was minding 2 boys on this sightseeing tour, and they were speeding through each exhibit with velocity and disappearing round the corner. So I skipped many sections. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable exibit.

Definitely one for the boys – regardless of age.