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When the HMS Westminster came into West India Dock, I was offered a chance to go on board and meet the Captain and some of the crew . This seemed an opportunity too good to miss, so at the appropriate time I went on board and was escorted to the bridge.
Talking to some of the crew, it quickly became clear that the modern Royal Navy is expected to undertake a large number of tasks in an ever changing world from humanitarian rescues to seeing action in the many trouble spots.
HMS Westminster’s Commanding Officer Captain Hugh Beard
Although the HMS Westminster is 20 years old, the technology on the bridge is being regularly updated to maintain maximum effectiveness. However the bridge is dominated by the captain’s chair from where he directs operations, the Captain after explaining some of the ships capabilities rested in his chair to be surprised by the appearance of a Tall Ship sailing past. It turned out be the Stavros S Niarchos and waves were exchanged between the two crews.
Leading seaman Dave Kelvin ( still feeling the effects of running from Portsmouth to London for charity)
I was keen to find out how many Londoners were on board and was surprised to find out there was only three, it appears that although that ships are linked with a particular place, recruitment can bring crew from all over the UK.
Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineer) Lewis Bird, from Carshalton
However chatting with the Londoners, it was obvious that the links with the City were the source of a great deal of pride.
Lieutenant Lloyd Cardy, from Croydon
Although I have been on many ships that have visited West India Docks, the visit is usually restricted to the deck and occasionally the bridge. Therefore when I was offered a full tour of the ship I was curious to see ‘behind the scenes’ of the modern warship.
With a complement of 180 to 200 crew and the array of modern equipment and weapons even a quite large warship like the HMS Westminster feels quite cramped under the decks.
One of the first lessons a new sailor or a landlubber visitor learns is climbing down the steps between decks requires you to keep your wits about you, if not bumps and bruises will follow or ‘hatch rash’ as its known to the crew.
What quickly becomes clear is that the ship has to be a self contained ‘mini- city’ because if you are at sea for weeks at a time, you obviously have to take everything with you.
Other than direct action with the enemy , the great dangers on board are fire or water getting into the ship. The large array of systems regulating all aspects of the ship are manned 24/7 and any incident is acted upon immediately.
There is also constant training at sea both in battle readiness but also endless safety routines to be carried out.
But the life of the modern sailor is not all work , the galley provides a wide range of meals by a team of chefs.
And there is even a small shop if you fancy a bar of chocolate .
The ship usually carries an helicopter unless in port, but I was not sure why there is a red telephone box on the deck ?
As someone who gets seasick on the Woolwich Ferry, I don’t think I would have been attracted to a life on the ocean but it was fascinating to see some of the workings of a modern warship.
If you are interested and would like to visit the ship and see some of the sights for yourself, there is an open day on Saturday, tickets are free but must be obtained from Eventbrite here.
Many thanks to the Captain and the crew of the HMS Westminster for the information and the guided tour.
After all the recent activity with Tall Ships , West India Dock welcomes a very different type of ship with the arrival of the HMS Westminster . The Type 23 frigate will be moored in London for six days and undertake a number of engagements .
Built in the famous Swan Hunter yard in Tyne and Wear and launched in 1992, the 133-metre ship, last visited London in March 2013, since then the ship has had a seven month deployment to the Arabian Gulf, then returned to the UK in February 2014 when she underwent a maintenance period .
As the Royal Navy’s primary Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Frigate, Westminster has undergone tactical development trials with HMS Illustrious ; this was followed by ASW operation activation due to Russian submarine activity.
More recently, HMS Westminster has undertaken a training exercise with the Royal Navy Reserves.
One of its high profile engagements whilst in dock will be a parade through Westminster, the Lord Mayor of Westminster will allow the ship to exercise its right to the Freedom of the City, with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed as they parade through the streets. The parade will be led by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and the procession will form up at Horse Guards Parade at 8.45am. The parade will then march onto Horse Guards Road and onto the Mall through the centre of Admiralty Arch and around Parliament Square before arriving at Westminster Abbey for the march past at 9.40am.
On Saturday September 27 , HMS Westminster will be open to members of the public so that local people have an opportunity to experience life on board a warship. Open from 9am until 5pm – with last entry to the ship at 4pm – tickets are available on the hour between these times. Tickets are free but must be obtained in advance from www.hmswestminstertickets.eventbrite.co.uk.
One recent events that the HMS Westminster attended this summer was the Bournemouth Air Show, by a coincidence I was staying in Bournemouth for a few days and caught the first day of the show. here are a couple of photographs of the HMS Westminster in Bournemouth.