Friday, 10 June 2011

Tribute to HMS Belfast: London Bridge


This post is dedicated to my two [late] Grandfathers, Arnold and William-John (Jack) both of whom fought in WW2 and my father, Brian, who sadly, recently passed away on 02.11.2010.

Dad, I know you visited HMS Belfast eight years ago on a trip to England. I was not with you then. But eventually I got to see her too...Today.

That's eight years too late and I wish we had been together, then, or now, either would have been great...

It can never be, but I do remember we watched the movie "Das Boot" in 1981 together.

That will have to be enough.

And thanks to John Wills, your anecdotes were wonderful today, and thanks to
St Margaret's Community Website for the narrative below.

H.M.S Belfast is a Second World War light cruiser preserved for the nation on the Thames at Tower Bridge. She is an eleven thousand ton, nine decked, four turreted lean, mean fighting machine.

In her war time ‘Dazzle’ camouflage, from the outside H.M.S Belfast looks exactly like what she is - an aggressive weapon of war that helped sink the German battle-cruiser ‘Scharnhorst’, protected the Arctic convoys, fired its massive guns at D. Day and saw action during the Korean War.

Step inside and you find yourself in a confusing warren of narrow corridors and companionways lined not only with all the accoutrement's of war but also with everything that you might expect to find in a small town - a dentist, a potato store, a butcher, a carpentry shop, a bakery, a chapel, a Welfare Office, a NAAFI selling long forgotten items like Capstan Full Strength cigarettes, Spangles and sherbet fountains and a Provision Room that supplied the sailors daily tot of rum

Expected to be disposed of as scrap, in 1967 efforts were initiated to preserve Belfast as a museum ship. A joint committee of the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the Ministry of Defence was established, and reported in June 1968 that preservation was practical. In 1971 the government decided against keeping the ship, prompting the formation of the private HMS Belfast Trust to campaign for her preservation. The Trust was successful in its efforts, and the government transferred the ship to the Trust in July 1971. Brought to London, she was moored on the River Thames near Tower Bridge in the Pool of London. Opened to the public in October 1971 Belfast became a branch of the Imperial War Museum in 1978. A popular tourist attraction, Belfast receives around a quarter of a million visitors per year. As a branch of a national museum, Belfast is supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, by admissions income, and by the museum’s commercial activities.

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