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is a selection of historic ships I've visited. I haven't been paid or otherwise induced to include them, honestly. Some
will be easier to visit than others. Look out for open days and 'goodwill' visits by tall ships and the warships
of various nations, as well as finding out about the preserved 'static' ships.
HMS TRINCOMALEE, Hartlepool
A beautiful piece of restoration, HMS
Trincomalee is displayed in the water in the contemporary setting of the the historic dockyard at Hartlepool. It may
be a little off the beaten track for those who live in the South East, but PLEASE don't let that put you off, because
this ship could hardly be presented in a better way: enough information but not too much interpretation. She represents the
typical Napoleonic era frigate, even if built a couple of years after the Battle of Waterloo. She was used in films
such as Master and Commander, and you will come away with a far better understanding of what such ships were like for those
who served in them. Not just knowledge but feeling. Okay, no real rats, no seasickness, no stench of unwashed bodies (unless
the tourists are to blame!), black powder or bilgewater, nor fear of the lash, but the guides bring the ship to
The dockyard, too, is worth a visit, refreshments are good and resonably priced, and the interactive
website is excellent. For the modest annual subscription of £20 you can become a Friend of the ship, and that is a good
way of helping to keep her in the state and the location to which, since her restoration, she has become accustomed.
This is the second oldest warship afloat in the world and the oldest in Europe, and even more remarkable (thank you, Malabar
teak, the Indian craftsmen, and the Hon East India Company who built her at Bombay for the Royal Navy) is the fact that this
'wooden wall' is 65% original.
I visited the ship in 2010 when the vessels of the Tall Ships Race were in Hartlepool, which made it
an even more memorable and atmospheric weekend.
Saturday 19th October 2013: Trafalgar Night Dinner aboard
Trincomalee. This event takes place annually and anyone can attend - though tickets are limited by the size of the Gun Deck
and, probably, the fire safety regulations! Really good food, a chance to see a lot of the ship. Anyone over 5ft 6ins
tall should beware of the deck height. Loyal toast drunk sitting down, but you toast Nelson's Immortal Memory on your
feet. Note how close Lt. Cdr Mark Hammon's head is to the deck beam and the hammock hooks, even though he is just sitting
down. If you can't make the 2014 dinner then why not get married on the ship?
If you need an overnight room with a view - in this
case of Trincomalee, stern-on, in her dock, and the paddle steamer HM Wingfield Castle broadside on - this is the view
we had from our room in the Premier Inn at Hartlepool. The image was actually taken outside, because our ground-floor window
had restricted opening for security reasons, but that's what we woke up to...
ITS AMERIGO VESPUCCI
|ITS Amerigo Vespucci
|Not in the least dwarfed by her surroundings
|View from the deck at dusk
|Amerigo Vespucci leaving London's Canary Wharf
|The Italian Navy's magnificent training ship gets a little help to leave London. August 2013
can you say about the beauty of this magnificent ship, the pride of the Italian Navy? I had the great pleasure of being invited
to a reception on board in August 2013, so as well as seeing her among the office blocks of Canary Wharf had the
chance to appreciate her quality from the inside, so to speak, as well as the warm Italian hospitality of her crew. Built
of steel in the style of a late 18th Century ship of the line, she's broad and imposing when you see her bow-on, but incredibly
elegant in profile. She's 101 metres from the tip of her bowsprit to her stern, and her mainmast soars 54 metres above
her beautiful teak deck. When she pays goodwill visits, she is often open to the public. Seeing her passing out of the dock
basin makes you realise what Trincomalee would look like if she were allowed to put to sea (which, for legal/health and safety
reasons, she can't because, unlike Vespucci, she hasn't got, and cannot have, auxiliary power).
HMS WARRIOR 1860
|Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
|HMS Warrior from off the port bow
|Reproduction engines convey the feel of power
|A view of part of the huge gun deck
Revolutionary in her day as the first iron-hulled,
armoured ship, the frigate is still a fine sight in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. She's really an armoured,
floating box with a bow and a stern: that central citadel made her impregnable, though she was never put to
the test. You can go all over the ship, right down to the stokehold - there's hardly anywhere closed to the public.
One tip: there is very little signage and explanation. This means you need a good knowledge
of ships of this type, a guidebook or a good look at the website if you are really going to appreciate what you see. The
man who paid for her restoration wanted her to be displayed in original condition (we draw a veil over the repro engines
etc, which, in any case, look splendid) and he specified no signs or information displays on board. He even
objected to Fire Exit signs, but without those the ship could never have been opened to the public.
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U-995, Second World War German submarine, Kiel
U-995 is typical of a Second World
War German U-boat, being a Type VIIC. After the war she was given to Norway and so escaped the scuttling programme. When the
Norwegians had finished with her, they offered her back to Germany and she now sits on the Kielerfoerde at Laboe, on the opposite
side of the water to Kiel, in the shadow of the naval memorial. The memorial is a rather grandiose affair, but far, far more
moving is the memorial, on the same side of the water, to the German submariners of both world wars.
I was very
fortunate in that in 2006 I was given a tour of U-997 by Volkmar Koenig who had served as a midshipman in 1941 aboard U-99,
commanded by the famous ace Otto Kretschmer. He had invited me to Kiel when he heard i was researching WW2 submariners'
experiences for my book "Submarine". U-995 is well preserved, and very cramped - so you can easily imagine how
liitlr room there would have been when she sailed full of stores and crew. She is the only full-size German
U-boat of that period left intact in Europe - U-534 has been sliced up for display at Birkenhead, which
makes U-995 very, very special.
|2007 Commemoration of German submarine centenary
|Representatives of many navies attended thethe event
|The German Submariners memorial, Moltenort, Kiel
|Each plaque lists the dead from an individual boat.
|Not exactly a spacious, fitted kitchen!