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HMS Belfast is the only surviving example of a Royal Navy big gun armoured warship. Commissioned on 5th August 1939, HMS Belfast played an important role in both World War II and the Korean War. After sailing an estimated half a million miles, HMS Belfast was decommissioned on 14th October 1971. The ship is now administered by the Imperial War Museum and permanently moored between London Bridge and Tower Bridge near Morgan’s Lane. She is open to visitors on a daily basis, giving them the opportunity to explore the ships nine decks, and to experience a little of what life must have been like on a Royal Navy warship of this period, and to learn of the role the ship played during her military life.

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast 1

HMS Belfast, along with its sister ship the HMS Edinburgh, are Edinburgh-class light cruisers which were developed from the Southampton-class light cruiser. Built in Belfast by Harland & Wolff, the Belfast was fitted out with both armour and armaments in preparation for a war with Germany that was becoming ever more a reality. Soon after entering service with the Royal Navy, the Belfast was struck by a mine and received major structural damage and would not see service again for another three years. In December 1943 the Belfast, along with the Norfolk and Sheffield, assisted the Duke of York in an engagement with the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst, which ended with the sinking of the German warship. Later the Belfast assisted the D-day landings by shelling enemy positions prior to the landing of allied troops. After the end of World War II, the Belfast served in the Far East. In 1948 the ship underwent a refit, and then returned to the Far East where she played an active role in the Korean War. At the end of the war in Korea, HMS Belfast represented Britain and the Commonwealth, which included carrying out a number of ceremonial duties. In 1956 HMS Belfast underwent a programme of modernisation, which included a new forward structure, the enclosing of the bridge, and an armaments upgrade. This resulted in a return to service in 1959.

HMS Belfast 2

While at sea, the HMS Belfast became home to approximately 950 sailors, and the aim is to show how life on board functioned. The practicalities of sustaining a crew of this size during long periods at sea and still respond to the demands of being on a war footing are considerable. So along with seeing the armaments, control centres, and the beating heart of the ship, the engine room, the visitor is given the opportunity to discover how these 950 sailors managed to eat, sleep, and remain healthy while on board, as well as their roles as part of a functioning warship.

HMS Belfast 3

On the upper decks are located the Bridge and cabins that were used by the senior officers when the ship was in action. Visit the operations room to get a taste of what it would be like during a battle. Radio signals would have passed through the Bridge Wireless office which could contain up to 14 signalers. Decks below the waterline include the Engine Room where the power to drive the ship was generated.  At full power, the Belfast’s engines produced the same power as approximately 1,000 family cars. Also below the waterline is the most heavily protected part of the ship, the Shell Room. Visitors can look through hatches to see the Magazines and Handling Rooms, and will learn of the devastating consequences if this area of the ship received a hit.

HMS Belfast 4

As well being one of London’s top historical tourist attractions, HMS Belfast with its superb views along the Thames to such places as The Tower of London, and Tower Bridge, has developed into a popular destination for all sorts of public, private and business functions. The introduction of an Upper Deck bar as well as a café and the obligatory shop outdoor only adds to the user experience. This unique venue is also registered to hold weddings.