On Saturday we did something we’ve never done before, we went on board a Royal Navy minesweeper. HMS Grimsby was visiting her adopted port for the weekend and was open to the public between 11am and 3pm. As that is only half an hour down the road from here, we thought we’d have a look.

At 11am it was lashing down with rain, but by noon it seemed to be brightening up, so we had an early lunch and set off around 1.30pm. By the time we were driving into Grimsby the sun was shining brightly, but there was a viciously cold wind.

We didn’t know exactly where we were going. A bit of ‘googling’ before hand had told us she was moored at no. 5 quay, royal dock. A trip on Google street-view had then given us the general direction, but surely there would be signs? There weren’t.

The docks seemed like a wasteland, even on a sunny day, with their abandoned buildings and semi-derelict warehouses. Luckily we found a man in a high-viz jacket giving directions to another driver. I called across to ask how to find HMS Grimsby, “Follow him” was the reply, so as the other car sped off we followed him. This ‘chase’ and the  setting in general, made me feel like an extra in ‘The Sweeney‘ or ‘The Professionals‘.

It wasn’t long before he led us to a car park, and just along the quay we could see HMS Grimsby, looking splendid in the bright sunshine.

Of course, being Britain there was a queue, and a very long queue at that, but it was still only 2pm, so nothing to worry about. Sadly there was. The queue was much longer than we first thought, and moving exceptionally slowly.

A young officer walked up and down the line of patient sightseers explaining that at 1500 hours the gangway would be closed, so some of us would be disappointed.

There followed a very long cold wait, and some mental arithmetic. Would we make it to the gangway in time? We felt at best it was ‘touch and go’. With about 20 minutes to go the couple behind us bailed out, not that it did us any good. Then with 10 minutes to go the couple if front bailed out too. A strange decision at that stage we thought.

With 5 minutes to go I glanced behind to see that there was only another couple behind us, and behind them 3 naval personnel. This looked promising, we wouldn’t make the gangway by 3pm, but we felt that we had made ‘the cut’.

We were right. We got on board and I got to fire an (unloaded) machine gun mounted on the side of the ship. We also got to go on the bridge and see all the radar and mine detecting equipment. So standing in a freezing queue for an hour had paid off.

Here are a few brief facts.

The original HMS Grimsby was actually a sloop and she was launched in July 1933. She saw action in the second World War and was sunk by enemy aircraft in May 1941, 40 miles north east of Tobruk.

The vessel we saw is a minesweeper, built in August 1998 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 25 September 1999. She returned to the UK in September 2011 following three year deployment to the Gulf.