Belfast is a cruiser of the second Town class. The Town class had originated in 1933 as the Admiralty's response to the Imperial Japanese Navy's Mogami-class cruiser, an 11,200-ton cruiser mounting fifteen 6-inch guns with a top speed exceeding 35 knots. She was launched on Saint Patrick's Day, 17 March 1938, by Anne Chamberlain, the wife of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The launch was filmed by Pathe News. On 31 August 1939 Belfast was transferred to the 18th Cruiser Squadron. Germany invaded Poland the following day, and Britain and France declared war on 3 September. Based at Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands, 18th Cruiser Squadron was part of the British effort to impose a naval blockade on Germany. On 1 October 1939 Belfast left Scapa Flow for a patrol in the North Sea, and on 9 October intercepted a German liner, the 13,615-ton Cap Norte, 50 miles (80 km) north-west of the Faroe Islands. Disguised as a neutral Swedish vessel, the SS Ancona, Cap Norte was attempting to return to Germany from Brazil; her passengers included German reservists. Two other vessels were captured that day, and all were steamed back to Scapa by prize crews from Belfast. Under the Admiralty's prize rules, Belfast's crew later received prize money. On 26 December 1943, Belfast participated in the Battle of North Cape. This battle, which occurred during the Arctic night, involved two strong Royal Navy formations; the first, Force One, comprised the cruisers Norfolk, Sheffield and Belfast (the 10th Cruiser Squadron) with three destroyers, and the second, Force Two, comprised the battleship Duke of York and the cruiser Jamaica with four destroyers. On 25 December 1943, Christmas Day, Nazi Germany's Scharnhorst-class battleship Scharnhorst left port in northern Norway to attack Convoy JW55B, which was bound for Russia. The next day Force One encountered Scharnhorst, prevented her from attacking the convoy, and forced her to turn for home after being damaged by the British cruisers. As Scharnhorst did so, she was intercepted by Force Two and sunk by the combined formations. Belfast played an important role in the battle; as flagship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron she was among the first to encounter Scharnhorst, and coordinated the squadron's defence of the convoy.
For the invasion of Normandy Belfast was made headquarters ship of Bombardment Force E flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton, and was to support landings by British and Canadian forces in the Gold and Juno Beach sectors. On 2 June Belfast left the River Clyde for her bombardment areas. That morning Prime Minister Winston Churchill had announced his intention to go to sea with the fleet and witness the invasion from HMS Belfast. This was opposed by the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the First Sea Lord, Sir Andrew Cunningham. An intervention by the King eventually prevented Churchill from going. As flagship of the 5th Cruiser Squadron, Belfast was the Far Eastern Station's headquarters ship during the April 1949 Amethyst Incident, in which a British sloop, HMS Amethyst was trapped in the Yangtze River by the communist People's Liberation Army. Belfast remained in Hong Kong during 1949, sailing for Singapore on 18 January 1950. The Imperial War Museum's guidebook to HMS Belfast divides the ship into three broad sections. The first of these, 'Life on board the ship', focuses on the experience of serving at sea. Restored compartments, some populated with dressed figures, illustrate the crew's living conditions and the ship's various facilities such as the sick bay, galley, laundry, chapel, mess decks and NAAFI. Since 2002 school and youth groups have been able to stay onboard Belfast overnight, sleeping in bunks on a restored 1950s mess deck. The second section, 'The inner workings', below the waterline and protected by the ship's armoured belt, contains core mechanical, electrical and communication systems. As well as the engine and boiler rooms, other compartments include the transmitting station (housing the ship's Admiralty Fire Control Table, a mechanical computer), the forward steering position and one of Belfast 's six-inch shell rooms and magazines. The third section, 'Action stations', includes the upper deck and forward superstructure with the ship's armament, fire control, and command facilities. Areas open to the public include the operations room, Admiral's bridge and gun direction platform. Below decks is NOT wheelchair accessible. An audio guide highlight tour of HMS Belfast provides insight into this historic ship. Hear battle stories from the Second World War and beyond – the convoys in icy arctic conditions, the bombardment of German defences on D-Day and the 404 days spent patrolling waters during the Korean War. Audio guides are free for every visitor (available in English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Russian and Spanish).
Location :The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2JH
Opening Times: Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Private Tours Available.
Tickets : Adults £14.50, Children £7.25.
Concessions £11.60, Carer Free
Tel: 020 7940 6300