As the German battle ship crusier, Scharnhorst, entered the sights of HMS Belfast on Boxing Day 1943, the Gun crew on the mighty ship raised the central gun and caused the floor to shake by rattling off a shot under the orders of the Captain and Gunnery Officer.
Now, in a concept informed by letters sent by those who took part and the memories of Royal Navy veterans, the technological whizzes at the newly-restored London museum-in-a-ship are inviting visitors to experience the emotions of the events of the Battle of North Cape in an immersive resurrection of the Quarterdeck.
The Gun Turret Experience has been built within one of the original Triple Gun Turrets in a permanent feature awash with lights, images, sound, smoke effects, movement and even the smells of the cramped former command centre.
“We are immersing people in the sights and sounds of a naval battle,” explains Phil Reed, the Director of the Belfast, calling it an “exhilarating” time capsule.
“We hope visitors will leave with not only a greater knowledge of the Second World War, but also a deeper understanding of its impact. It really enhances the ship’s historic surroundings.”
This is also something of a partner in oceanic combat to the Operations Room, an interactive space deploying simulated radar and an interactive plotting table, recreating the Pony Express operation of 51 years ago in a section which opened in April.
The immense collections of owners the Imperial War Museum provide the material for both rooms.
- Gun Turret Experience: A Sailor's Journey, 1943 is included in normal admission to HMS Belfast. Suitable for children aged seven and over.