Today was an exceptionally good day. Ten days ago I just happened to be watching Twitter when a tweet came in, talking about HMS Bulwark and giving a link. I clicked the link and discovered about the open day. I immediately booked tickets for 12 o’clock on the designated Saturday. The designated Saturday was today.
HMS Bulwark is the flagship of the fleet. She is also very big and takes up an awful lot of the Thames when she’s parked up just west of Greenwich. HMS Bulwark is not a destroyer or an aircraft carrier or a submarine. HMS Bulwark is a Landing Platform Dock. She is used to deploy tanks, landing craft, Royal Marines, all manner of firepower whenever the British people require it. Because she has a sort of giant dock inside her, she doesn’t have to actually land anywhere, she just opens her doors, like a cross channel ferry discouraging a load of tourists in their cars.
She is usually the first one in a possible war zone, her Ops room bristling with intent, strategy and loud voices. But most of all, she is very big.
She sits high above the water, dwarfing everything else. And we walked around her today. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our guide, a Scottish sailor, showed us (a small group) around the various parts of the ship, pointing out things as we went, indicating where we needed to duck or watch our steps. He was very good…though a little over cautious.
We had no problem taking photographs. In fact, they actively encouraged it. Such a change! (Of course I took lots of photos with my camera but, alas, at the flat I only have my tablet and, therefore can only show the two photos I took with my phone. Still, once I get back to my laptop, I’ll be able to put them on Flickr.)
We had a lovely scramble through a Sea King helicopter that was sitting on the landing deck. I never realised how cramped they are. Even the gap to get into the pilot’s seat was miniscule.
This chopper is capable of transporting 14 troops or, if needed, move a land rover…though not at the same time. It only has another year of duty before it is sent to where ever old choppers go at the end of their useful lives. It will then be replaced by one of the new Lynx helicopters. Mind you, it seems there is no limit to the chopppers that Bulkwark can accommodate. Even the big Chinooks.
We had a seriously marvellous day which started with brunch at Carluccio’s and ended with dinner at the Lotus. While both of these were exceptional events, they paled into insignificance when confronted with the time we spent on the ship.
But not only that…we also visited the Painted Hall and the Chapel, both of which Mirinda hadn’t seen before. She loved them both.
In fact there were only two things we found disagreeable with the day. Firstly the stupid DLR which decided to stop running beyond Island Gardens, forcing us to walk back to the flat and, secondly, the really annoying children in the Lotus. What is it with parents that have no idea how their children should behave in a restaurant, taking their annoying children to restaurants? Ridiculous.
Anyway, they were minor quibbles when taken in the context of the entire day. Which was brilliant.