Just over a week ago I corrected a personal failure, never having visited HMS Belfast when I worked in London in the 1970’s, nor on the hundreds of visits to London since then.
After a luchtime event, a friend and I, took a river taxi to the World War II warship, and enjoyed every minute of our visit, such that, my friend and I, were, I’m sure, the last to leave.
We ventured down into the Engine Room, and further down into the Boiler Room. We marvelled at what it was like for the sailors, when underway, and when at action stations, who negotiated the walkways, steps, numerous trip hazards, and chances to bang one’s head.
There were plenty of reminders of the actions she was involved in. She is moored in a great location, just up river from Tower Bridge, and opposite the skyscrapers of the City of London. The views of these and the river traffic added to the pleasure of the visit.
As we’re a maritime nation it’s surely right that we value our maritime heritage. We all know of some of our historic ships, HMS Victory, Cutty Sark, HMS Belfast, and the SS Great Britain.
National Historic Ships UK is the organisation that oversees our maritime heritage. It’s a government funded, independent organisation that gives objective advice to UK governments, local authorities, funding bodies, and the historic ships sector on all matters relating to historic vessels in the UK.
Part of National Historic Ships UK is the National Register of Historic Vessels, which is a database of over 1300 significant vessels. Within the database is a list of some 200 or more vessels on the National Historic Fleet.
The prompt for this short article was our visit, earlier this year, to the Isle of Grain in the Thames estuary, and the surrounding area. We stopped for lunch at the excellent Ship and Trades in Chatham Maritime, and afterwards saw the partially restored Medway Queen paddle steamer moored at Gillingham Quay. She’s in the National Historic Fleet.