First, a bit of history...
Built by the Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland between December 1936 and August 1939, HMS Belfast was one of ten Town-class light cruisers commissioned into the Royal Navy between 1937 and 1939. She was commissioned on 5 August 1939, just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, and was soon participating in the naval blockade of Nazi Germany. However, on 21 November, Belfast struck a German magnetic mine while sailing out of the Firth of Forth, the explosion warping the ship's keel and causing extensive damage that required two years of repair work. With her damage repaired and now sporting improved firepower, radar, and armour, HMS Belfast re-entered service in November 1942 and saw action escorting Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union throughout 1943. In December 1943, Belfast assisted in the sinking of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst during the Battle of North Cape. In June 1944, Belfast supported the Allied landings in Normandy (Operation Overlord) and, in June 1945, was sent to join the British Pacific Fleet in the war against Japan, arriving in the Far East shortly before the end of hostilities. In the post-war period, HMS Belfast participated in naval combat operations in 1950-1952 during the Korean War and underwent an extensive modernisation between 1956 and 1959. In 1963, HMS Belfast was decommissioned and placed in reserve, after which efforts to preserve her eventually led to her conversion into a museum ship in the Pool of London, opening to the public on Trafalgar Day (21 October) 1971. Transferred to the Imperial War Museum in 1978, HMS Belfast has become a popular tourist attraction, garnering over 250,000 visits per year and supported financially through a combination of admissions revenue, commercial activities, and funding from the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
HMS Belfast key specifications:
Length: 613 feet 6 inches overall
Beam: 63 feet 4 inches
Displacement: 11,550 tons
Powerplant: 4 x Admiralty oil-fired three-drum boilers, 4 x Parsons single reduction geared steam tubines producing 80,000 shaft horsepower
Top speed: 32 knots (59 km/h)
Maximum range: 8,664 nautical miles (16,046 km) at 13 knots (24 km/h)
Main armament: twelve 6-inch Mk XXIII guns in four triple turrets
And now, here is HMS Belfast, as visited on 22 April 2018...
Below: The front and reverse sides of the HMS Belfast visitor guide provided with payment of admission.
|Looking forward along the port side of HMS Belfast on a sunny Sunday morning. The wooden platforms alongside the ship are called 'dolphins' and are used to keep Belfast properly oriented during the rise and fall of the tides in the River Thames.|
|The ship's Laundry.|
|The Shipwrights' Workshop. Shipwrights were responsible for maintaining the ship's structure, as well as carpentry. Work ranged from repairing the steel hull to maintaining the ship's heads (toilets).|
|The Mail Room, into which letters and parcels for the ship's crew arrived from fleet headquarters ashore, where all mail was received and sorted before being forwarded on to individual ships.|
|The Sound Reproduction Equipment Room, installed aboard HMS Belfast during her 1956-59 refit. It was from this room that music and radio programmes could be played over the ship's Main Broadcast System to entertain the sailors.|
|The Ship's Company Galley, installed as part of the 1956-59 refit. It was here that up to 26 cooks prepared more than 2,000 meals per day for the crew. Here, a cook fillets fish for fish and chips. A giant tray of peas is on the right.|
|Two more galley staff peel potatoes and slice onions.|
|The Forward Boiler Room. Entry to the boiler room was via an airlock, which prevented sudden changes in air pressure occurring, which could cause the boilers to 'flash back' and incinerate anyone in front of them.|
|HMS Belfast's dental clinic. A ship the size of Belfast, with nearly 800 men aboard, warranted its own dental officer, who also served as the anesthetist for surgical operations conducted by the ship's medical officer.|
|HMS Belfast's well-equipped Sickbay was managed by the ship's surgeon commander and two surgeon lieutenants.|
Beds in the Sickbay, for ill crewmen. Smaller warships lacking advanced medical facilities would also send their sick or injured crewmen to larger vessels, like Belfast, for surgical procedures and other more complicated treatment.
|The Sailmakers' Workshop, where the ship's craftsmen made and repaired rope and canvass equipment, such as hammocks, awnings, and signal flags.|
|A tableau depicting off duty sailors relaxing in their messdeck, playing games, reading, and writing letters home.|
|The punishment cells, located in the bows of the ship. The captain had the authority to sentence offenders to periods of up to 14 days imprisonment for such offences as sleeping on duty, drunkeness, and being absent without leave.|
A closer view of the shell hoist in the 'B' turret shell room. During bombardment operations to support the Normandy landings in June-July 1944, HMS Belfast's guns fired over 4,000 6-inch shells at targets on land.
|Looking aft from HMS Belfast's bows. The guns of the ship's 'A' and 'B' turrets are aimed high. When the ship's crew was at action stations, gun crews slept in the turrets so that they could go into action as soon as called upon.|
|A spare anchor sits on the bow should HMS Belfast lose one of its two principal anchors. This anchor was manufactured by W.L. Byers & Co. Ltd of Sunderland.|
|A builder's plaque, presented by Harland & Wolff Shipbuilders & Engineers on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the launching of HMS Belfast in 2014.|
|Some of the vintage 1950s equipment found in HMS Belfast's Operations Room, the 'brains' of the ship.|
|Looking west out over HMS Belfast's forward turrets and bows from the windows of the Compass Platform.|
A final look at HMS Belfast, floating proudly on the River Thames.