HMS Belfast – GB2RN

IMG_20160322_101315I’m just back from visiting the UK with my daughter, Lara, who will be applying to universities there this Autumn. In a two week tour, we put 1800 miles on our rental car. I had some chance to play radio along the way, but our itinerary was so packed that I’m just now putting the details on the blog. Let’s start with the visit to the HMS Belfast, which is anchored on the Thames between Tower and London Bridges.

After a long career serving in various theaters, particularly WWII and the Korean War, the ship became part of the Imperial War Museum when it was decommissioned. Aside from intrinsic historical interest, I wanted to visit the Belfast because I knew that its radio room is regularly staffed by UK amateurs, who keep the ship on the air under the special call “GB2RN”. Who could resist a chance to send out a call from “Great Britain 2 Royal Navy?”

The ship is in the heart of London, so no problem getting to it. There is a recommended donation of 16£ to visit the ship, but no additional cost for multilingual audio guides keyed to each area of the ship. Several decks are accessible and are roped off such that self-guided tours proceed mostly in one direction. I would say it is a fair value since it takes a couple hours to really go through the ship, plus the donation supports restoration and maintenance of the ship.

The radio room is up a few decks and contains mostly modern gear, which was in use when I popped in. I asked if I could take the paddles for a few minutes to put out a call, and was warmly greeted. In addition to operating, I signed the visiting ham log and leafed through pages that went back at least fifteen years and included hams from all over the planet.

I didn’t rack up any exotic DX, but it was a fun experience.

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