HMS Belfast review (Jul 2011)
This is out-of-date! I have been here again since I wrote this review
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HMS Belfast is pretty good. It was pelting it down with rain when I went so I felt like I was rolling around in the North Sea. When you go in you have to hand you ticket over to a guy dressed up in a naval uniform, with the stripes and the hat and shiny shoes too, so I think he was a real Royal Navy guy. He had the posh officer voice too. There are loads of people like that all over the place. I saw one of them polishing a torpedo. Another one was checking the dials on the bridge. It gets hard to distinguish the real guys from the waxworks sometimes, because all the rooms are made up like they are still in use. You've got top quality waxworks sleeping in the hammocks and having a laugh, peeling potatoes down below, and checking the radar for Nazis, and then all of a sudden a real Royal Navy guy will walk past and you think they've come to life.
If you've ever seen the movie "Crimson Tide" then it's cramped like that. The corridors and cabins are two feet wide and six feet high. If you're over six feet tall then take a tip from me -- leave the high-heels at home because you wont make it. And if you've got dodgy legs then you might not be able to do the stairs either because they are like little metals rungs that go straight up -- vertically. They are so steep that you can't come down facing the front because your feet are too long... you'll go head over heels. You have to turn round and do it backwards, feet facing sideways. You could probably hook your elbows onto the railings and slide down, like they do in the movies, but I'd crack my head open if I tried that.
The whole place is like a maze, and you're free to go wherever you want. You get a little audio guide to start, but I gave up following the arrows. I started on the deck where the big guns are. If you got shot by one those then it would probably hurt quite a lot I would imagine, given that they are about thirty feet long. You can go below and see where they load up the shells too. They said if the ship got hit they'd flood the room to stop it exploding, burying the crew in twenty feet of water. Then you get led up to the bridge where all the wheels and levers are, and a few radar screens so you can see if London is being attacked. I thought about pressing some buttons but I chickened out -- I didn't know if those guns were still loaded.
They've got a little exhibition in the living bit which I thought was pretty good. It's just a load of models of the boat and pictures of the ship in action, but it's all been done dark and gloomy, and it's quite atmospheric with the sound of World War 2 tunes piped through the speakers.
If you go further down into the boat then you can see the engine rooms. You have to be super skinny to make your way through this bit because they are literally two inches from your face, above and below, both sides, tight around your body. You have to walk along a little gangway suspended halfway between the floor and ceiling to get anywhere.
At the end you can go into a little mess-hall style canteen for a pot of tea and watch old newsreels on the telly.
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