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Prince Charles visits HMS Belfast

London SE1 website team

The Prince of Wales came to the Pool of London on Wednesday to visit a charity based on board HMS Belfast which helps ex-forces personnel settle into civilian life.

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Today is also the 66th birthday of the ship, which was launched on St Patrick's Day 1938.

The White Ensign Association was founded by the Royal Navy and the City of London in 1958.

It was set up to offer free financial advice to all serving and retired personnel of the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the former Queen Alexandra's Naval Nursing service, the Women's Royal Naval Service and their respective Reserves.

In 1957 Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the then First Sea Lord, and Admiral Sir Charles Lamb, the Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel, raised concerns for the future of several thousand servicemen whose jobs were to be axed under defence cuts following the end of the Korean War.

Lord Mountbatten decided that financial expertise should be sought from the City of London to ensure the best possible advice could be offered to those leaving the Naval Service.

The plan quickly received support from banks, institutions, companies and individuals.

Today the association still retains links with the City of London, and operates within the 1986 Financial Services Act.

It moved to its present floating headquarters on board HMS Belfast in the Pool of London at the end of the 1960s.

The prince was also shown round the ship's museum, which has interactive displays about its role in the navy from its launch on St Patrick's Day 1938 until the 1960s.

The Prince was not tempted to try on a "mask" of a typical navy officer but did use an old fashioned handset to listen to accounted tales of life at sea on HMS Belfast.

After doing so, he joked: "I hate those new fangled telephones. Every time you pick them up they slide off the table."

A crowd quickly formed on the riverside as the Prince disembarked from The Ship and got into a waiting car.

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