A few days later, we decided to go to somewhere new. Not too far away is the Historic Dockyard at Chatham. On the banks of the River Medway, there has been a naval dockyard there since Tudor times (1540’s) – the yards were part of the assembly of the fleet that took on the Spanish Armada, later (mid 1700’s) built Admiral Nelson’s HMS Victory and then went on the build warships for the steam age and finally submarines for World War 2.
It’s only half and hour or so away and it was a beautiful day – perfect for exploring. There are lots of things to do there, including tours around a World War 2 Destroyer, Cold War submarine and a converted Victorian era steam warship. Perfect.First up – lunch – oh dear – I strongly suggest you take your own – I wasn’t that impressed and the kids pretty much turned their noses up – not the best start 😦 The staff bickering with each other was disappointing, but luckily, it really didn’t matter that much – we filled up on crisps and went to see what was on offer.
The first thing we did was book onto a tour round the submarine, HMS Ocelot – places are limited and it’s worth making sure you have a slot.
Next, we went onto HMS Cavalier – the WW2 Destroyer – it was awesome – it was pretty cramped – I can’t imagine serving on a ship like this – there’s no inch of space wasted. It’s also really surprisingly exposed – I can’t see it withstanding very big guns – the hull isn’t super thick – would have been very scary in a battle!
It was very cool! So many steep stairs up and down though – heaven knows how you’d do it in heavy seas. Well worth doing.
Next – HMS Ocelot – the Cold War submarine. The logs are still sealed under the official secrets act, so it’s no clear where this submarine sailed, but it’s likely that it spent considerable time in the Baltic, stalking the Russians.
Nothing can prepare you for how big submarines are on the outside vs how tiny they are on the inside!
I thought the Cavalier was small, this was nuts! There was no room for anything other than machinery and engines and a small galley. Living space was really whereever there was a small nook or cranny – even the captains cabin was no bigger than the average wardrobe and that was including his bed. Insane. Very very interesting. It was a walk through with not much commentary and it was all over a bit too quickly really – I would have loved a proper guided tour and some explanation about what things were.
Giant steam hammers and iron plate bending rollers were on display around the site – very impressive – they were huuuuge! Imagine these all firing away to build the Ironclads of the navy of the Victorian industrial revolution
We toured around the Lifeboat exhibition, including an old machinery store and a giant wooden covered slipway.
There were lots of other interesting things to see too. We didn’t even get to explore the ropery (where they still make proper traditional long ropes for ships in the old Victorian factory) or quite a few other exhibits – maybe another time.
We went into one of the galleries – there was an exhibition of artwork, a load of beautiful model ships and some hands on pipe bending in the old forges that had been restored – just brilliant and even the kids were impressed. We walked out pretty much at closing time and really got our money’s worth.
Thank you Chatham Docks – 10/10 for an excellent day (but sort your food out!)