HMS Belfast Day Out

Last week we were invited to an event held on the HMS Belfast, a museum war ship which is part of the Imperial War Museum, for a private tour and to sample some of the fun activities they are putting on over the summer for children across all their museums. We were also being treated to lunch in the brand new Upper Deck Bar which overlooks the ship and the Thames – as well as this we will be going to see the Horrible Histories exhibition next week too which we can’t wait for, it looks so much fun! Who could turn down this opportunity?!

I’ve been on the HMS Belfast once before as a child on one of the numerous site seeing London trips with my parents. I enjoyed it back then and was looking forward to it this time. My OH and I were taking all of our children to test out the experience and get some valuable feedback. They were all very excited I have to say.

It was a lovely day, this picture doesn’t do it justice but the sight of the ship on the glittering Thames was truly breathtaking. It’s docked by London Bridge and it’s enormous!

hms belfastThe HMS Belfast, my children on the bank of the Thames

Stepping onto the ship and going inside, you immediately get a real sense of history. The small doors, labyrinth style passageways and almost vertical steps taking you to different floors provide instant fun for children.

After our welcome speech we were treated to a private tour of the ship by one of it’s Captains who are all experts in the knowledge of the ships’ history. Our Captain was wonderful and it was a privilege to be taken all around the ship with him but you don’t have to splash out on a tour like this, standard tours are the most popular whereby you can wander around the ship in your own time with an audio guide which you are provided with free of charge. Kids incidentally go free!

You can find out more about admissions here.

I wondered how my children would feel about having a tour as I have two three year olds who could’ve started trying to run around at any minute, but they were transfixed on the Captain, listening intently to him. My teenager and daughter, I’m pleased to say, were also mesmerised, they acquired some new knowledge… just what you’d hope for!

HMS Belfast TourThe very engaging captain, a map of the war ship and my girl wandering through one of the ships many passageways

The tales from the war ship were so interesting. HMS Belfast was launched in 1939 from Belfast on St. Patricks Day. Not long after this she was out of action for three years after after hitting a magnetic mine but when she returned to service in 1942, she was still the biggest and most powerful ship in the Navy. On the D-Day landings HMS Belfast played a crucial part, firing the opening shots. Around 1955 she was deployed to Russia during the cold war as she was built to withstand the chemical weapons which they were using at that time.

Other stories that gripped me were:

  • British CID once flew out to the ship just before it reached American shores to seize drugs that had been found on board. If they hadn’t have done this and the drugs were found in America, the ship would have been impounded and not allowed to sail home.
  • They had cats on board to catch the many rats that managed to get on to the ship and eat their food!
  • The ship could clean 12 tons of water per hour.
  • The speed and fire power of the ship astounded the Americans and Koreans. They were semi-automatic and could fire eight rounds of bullets a minute from each gun and could reach a target EIGHT miles away!

There are many, many interesting tales and I could go on and on but I won’t spoil it for you!

HMS Belfast was finally decommissioned in 1965 before finally becoming a museum.

hms belfatAll the different rooms on the ship were fascinating. There was a kitchen, dentist, operation theatre, makeshift hospital, a chapel, a shop and many more. They had life size, human models in them too which made it all the more real for everyone looking around.

The Imperial War museum works hard on the conservation of the ship; in the fire arms room we saw an employee at work cleaning the huge guns. One of the guns is still in use today and is fired to mark special occasions.

hms belfast gunsMan doing some conservation work on the guns. What I liked too was throughout the different parts of the ship, in some cases, there were screens showing actual footage from times when the ship was in service and how a particular room was used, giving more insight to life on this magnificent vessel.

On the day we went on board I was wearing a short dress (it was a hot summers day) which wasn’t ideal for climbing up and down the steps/ladders on the ship! I would recommend wearing something a bit more appropriate when you go!

After our tour we came off the ship to have lunch in the Upper Deck Bar which is situated on the riverside. It is accessible to members of the public and you can just drop in, you don’t have to have a ticket to board the ship to eat or drink here. It’s rooftop location means the views of the ship and surrounding London landmarks are breathtaking.

It’s beautiful. It’s small and intimate and serves a selection of delicious, seasonal sandwiches as well as hot and cold drinks.

upper deck bar hms belfastLovely views, nice food and of course, a visit to the gift shop!

As this is all part of the ‘Secrets and Spies’ exhibition, and as a treat, my children were given little goodie bags… these secret spy glasses proved a hit!! You’d never recognise them 🙂

After lunch we went back on the ship to take part in one of the fun activities that’s going on over the summer. It’s a hands on event called Dazzle Camouflage. At sea in real life, during the wars, this was a concept to ‘camouflage’ a ship. Obviously you couldn’t camouflage a ship in the usual sense of the word so experts decided that drawing attention to it rather than hiding it was the way to go. The dazzling patterns they used were designed to make it difficult to estimate the target range and avoid making classes of ship instantly recognisable to the enemy!

The event takes place in the ships basement. You are given an outline of the HMS Belfast on a piece of paper which you then design a camouflage over it using felt tip pens. You can make as many designs as you have time for and they are then photographed to be made into a short animation which is uploaded to the HMS Belfast Facebook page to view! It really is great fun and I would highly recommend taking part.

Artists at work!

dazzle camouflageA couple of our ‘creations’!

After the events we spent the rest of the afternoon wondering around the outer upper decks. We soaked up the sun and atmosphere. I have to say it was a very enjoyable day out. Educational and fun. We couldn’t have asked for more.

hms belfast Having fun on the outer decks!


I was invited to this event for the purpose of writing up an honest review


  1. My goodness, we live minutes from HMS Belfast and I never knew it could be so much fun for children. Mine are 2.5 years old… would Belfast be suitable for them? Lovely photos…

    • Mummy Endeavours says

      Yes definitely they would have fun. Just roaming around is enjoyable because of the little nooks and crannies!! There are interactive parts too, but simply looking over the edge at the river will please your children!! 🙂

Please leave a comment... I try to reply to each and every one :)

%d bloggers like this: