Wow. Just wow. Last Saturday we headed down into Greenwich to join the queues waiting to go through security for a visit on HMS Defender. I'd spotted on Facebook that timed tickets could be pre-booked which seemed a better option than just turning up and queuing. I expected the Daring-class air-defence destroyer to be large - well it would be, wouldn't it? - but wasn't quite prepared for just how large.
As we boarded the boat to take us the short trip up river, the closer we got the larger she got! And yes, we were lucky enough to nab some seats right at the front of the boat! The next few pictures are taken through glass, but even so I thought they were worth sharing.
It's easy to see from these just how a huge ship blends in with its surroundings isn't it? Something you wouldn't have thought possible. And as we pulled up to the side of the ship - btw I should say now that I have no idea of the correct sailing terms to use, so please bear with me! - you really got to see just how large HMS Defender was.
I spent a lot of this visit looking up, even more so that usual. At 5ft 2" I spend quite a bit of time looking up, and I believe that people don't look up and see what's around them enough generally. But even so I was looking up, a lot!
We were welcomed aboard by crew members and throughout our whole visit it was a pleasure to talk with the crew, and for them to answer my totally newb questions, which for some of them I didn't understand the answer either, but luckily MOH's years in the ATC came in handy and he was able to translate. It was also nice to be able to thank them for what they do to protect our country.
Up on deck, we got a view of the Cutty Sark that we don't usually get. That glass domed roof is the Greenwich foot tunnel, where you'll know that many of our cycle adventures north of the river start.
We also got to see a missile - not live I presume! And this too was larger than I thought, but to be honest if you'd asked me how large I thought it'd be I'm not sure I'd have been able to tell you. Each of these cost £1 million pounds, that deserves another wow, so wow.
I do like a nice motto or mission statement, or what have you, and I was pleased to see that of HMS Defender's on their literature - and to be honest it's not a bad one to have is it?
"By Defence I Conquer - I will Defend the Realm"
The destroyer gave lots of quite square-ish angles too - by now we were at its rear and had walked through a large cargo hangar. There was lots to see throughout our whole visit, but I think being able to climb into and get up close to the helicopter was one of the highlights for me. And no, it wasn't just for kids to climb into - honest!
And with that, our visit was ended and we headed off toward the boat to ferry us back to shore. I did stop to admire the nameplate though, and it was a great last shot on board. Back on dry land and we headed towards Greenwich Market for lunch, as so many of our visits to Greenwich seem to end! But it's not a bad way to end - this time we had a jumbo Chilli Dog which was looked too messy to eat standing up, so we hurriedly rushed towards Greenwich Park in search of a bench! And remarkably neither of us spilt any of it down ourselves.
Some HMS Defender facts
- This is the eighth ship to bear the name HMS Defender
- She has seven sisters - Dauntless, Diamond, Duncan, Dragon and Daring, plus two as yet unnamed vessels. I've a hunch they may also start with a D...
- There are 191 crew on board
Thank you to all of the crew and people who made these visits possible - they really were fantastic.