HMS Belfast – a Royal Navy cruiser in the ‘Pool of London’

HMS Belfast by Tower Bridge

Continuing the naval theme of the previous post on the Mary Rose, here is something far more recent!   A time capsule from World War II and a reminder of the debt we owe to servicemen – as well as a great adventure for kids.  Being in central London and with elevated views over the City make it one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.

In October 1971, HMS Belfast was berthed in the ‘Pool of London’ on the River Thames, just upstream of Tower Bridge.   Her new role was as a floating museum in commemoration of sailors from all branches of military service.

HMS Belfast is a cruiser class ship built at Harland and Wolff in Belfast in 1938.  She was the sister ship of HMS Edinburgh (lost at sea in 1942).   As a cruiser her primary role was as an escort and support to larger battleships;  using her speed (max 35 mph) and radius (max 7350 miles range) to quickly get to the trouble spots.

HMS Belfast with the City of London in the background
HMS Belfast with the City of London in the background

During World War II, the ship and her crew of 766 men, she saw action in the Arctic convoys (keeping supply lines open to Russia), the destruction of the German battleship; Scharnhorst, at the Battle of North Cape and the D-Day landings in 1945.   She also played a key role in the Korean War from 1950-52.

HMS Belfast silver ship's bell
The silver ship’s bell given by the people of Belfast in 1948

HMS was a flagship, meaning an Admiral would also be on-board to take charge of the fleet.   On board, you can visit both the Admiral’s Bridge and the separate Captain’s Bridge (the Compass Platform), along with many other areas of the ship; from the engine rooms, to kitchens to the hospital.  An awakening insight into life at sea on-board a vessel of the Royal Navy during World War 2.

HMS Belfast Compass Platform (Captain's Bridge)
The Compass Platform (Captain’s Bridge)

HMS Belfast is managed today by the Imperial War Museum.   It makes for a great visit that is of equal interest to young and old although, naturally, parts of the ship are not fully accessible to the elderly or disabled.

HMS Belfast carried four gun turrets, housing 6 inch guns
HMS Belfast carried four gun turrets, housing 6 inch guns
The view from the stern of HMS Belfast
The view from the stern of HMS Belfast
Recovery ward on-board HMS Belfast
Recovery ward on-board HMS Belfast

 

Cafe on-board HMS Belfast
Cafe on-board HMS Belfast

For more information please visit the official website:

https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast

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