LONDON.- HMS Belfast, the last remaining European big-gun warship, is staging an exciting new interactive exhibition charting the history of shipbuilding in the UK. LAUNCH! Shipbuilding Through the Ages opened on 29 January and runs for two years.
For 50 years, between 1870 and 1920, Britain’s shipbuilding industry was the largest in the world – with a workforce of hundreds of thousands producing up to 80 per cent of the world’s ships at the industry’s peak following the First World War.
HMS Belfast’s family-oriented exhibition will bring to life the science, engineering and social history of the shipbuilding industry in Great Britain using hands-on and computerised interactive displays and engaging film footage.
Visitors can see how the art of shipbuilding has evolved, from the wooden vessels built during the seventeenth century, to the iron ships of the nineteenth century, through to today’s high-tech ships. Through interactive displays, they can relive the sights and sounds of the very shipyard where HMS Belfast was built. They can chart the rapid growth of naval technology through the industrial revolution and find out what role shipping still plays in our global economy, transporting 95 per cent of our food and consumer goods.
The highlights of the exhibition include an interactive computer game supplied by The History Channel. This lets visitors build their own warship, complete with guns and crew, and then launch it at sea. They will also get the chance to lift and move genuine pneumatic tools and machinery used to make the wartime ships that helped bring victory to the Allies. Another highlight is a fully functional drag test tank, generously supported by Shell, allowing visitors to evaluate the hydrodynamic capabilities of different hull forms.
In addition, there is an evocative display focusing on the social impact of increased ship building production during the Second World War and in particular, the central role that women played during this period.
Brad King, Director of HMS Belfast, said: ‘Britain’s heritage as a nation of shipbuilders shaped our recent history as a leading Global power. We hope to educate and inspire visitors from all around the world with a reminder of its proud shipbuilding past and Britain’s maritime industry, still vital today.’
The exhibition is being run in association with sponsor The History Channel. Other sponsors include Shell and The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.
HMS Belfast is one of the world’s most famous ships. With a crew of almost a thousand, she served in the Second World War and Korea during her 32-year career at sea and is the first ship to be preserved for the nation since the days of Nelson’s Victory.
Moored on the Thames between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, HMS Belfast is a unique historical attraction which provides visitors with special access to the 613-foot ship’s nine decks.