HMS Belfast (C35)

HMS Belfast (C35)

HMS "Belfast" is one of the two ships forming the final sub-class of the Royal Navy's Town-class cruisers, the other being HMS "Edinburgh". "Belfast" is now a museum ship in London.

Early history

The Town class cruisers were constrained to less than 10,000 tons by the Washington Naval Treaty. The original design included quadruple 6-inch gun mountings, but, due to problems with construction, improved versions of the triple mountings fitted to the earlier ships of the class were fitted instead. These were lighter than those planned, and the weight saved was used to improve the ship's armour and anti-aircraft defences.

"Belfast" was launched on St Patrick's Day in 1938 at Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast by Anne Chamberlain, the wife of the then Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. The budgeted overall cost of the ship was £2,141,514, of which £75,000 was for the guns and £66,500 for aircraft. She was commissioned in August 1939 under the command of Captain G A Scott DSO and assigned to the 18th Cruiser Squadron.

econd World War

At the start of the Second World War the 18th Cruiser Squadron was part of the British effort to impose a naval blockade on Germany. As part of this squadron, "Belfast" intercepted the German liner "Cap Norte" on 9 October 1939 as the liner was trying to return to Germany disguised as a neutral ship.

At around 1:00 a.m. on 21 November 1939 she was seriously damaged as she left the Firth of Forth, with twenty-one men injured, by a magnetic mine laid on 4 November by the German submarine "U-21" under the command of Kapitänleutnant Fritz Frauenheim [ [] ] . The mine broke the keel and wrecked the hull and machinery to such an extent that repairs at Devonport took nearly three years.

She returned to service in the Home Fleet in November 1942 under the command of Captain Frederick Parham. Improvements had been made to the ship during repairs, notably bulged amidships to improve her longitudinal strength and stability, and fitting the latest radar and fire control; her displacement had risen from 11,175 to 11,553 tons, making her Britain's heaviest cruiser.

She was made flagship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, under Rear-Admiral Robert Burnett, in which capacity she provided cover for Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union. On 26 December 1943, in what became the Battle of North Cape, the cruiser squadron, consisting of "Norfolk", "Belfast" and "Sheffield", encountered the German Gneisenau class battlecruiser "Scharnhorst", and with the battleship HMS "Duke of York" subsequently sank her.

"Belfast" was part of the escort force in Operation Tungsten in March 1944, a large carrier-launched airstrike against the "Tirpitz", at that stage the last surviving German heavy warship, moored at Altafjord in northern Norway. "Tirpitz" was hit by fifteen bombs and severely damaged, but not destroyed.In June 1944 she took part in the bombardment of enemy positions at the beginning of Operation Neptune, the landing phase of the D-Day landings, as flagship of bombardment Force E. Part of the Eastern Naval Task Force, with responsibility for supporting the British and Canadian assaults on Gold and Juno beaches, "Belfast" was one of the first ships to fire on German positions at 5:30 a.m. on 6 June 1944.

"Belfast" was almost continuously in action for the next five weeks, firing thousands of rounds from her 6– and 4–inch batteries in support of troops until the battlefront moved out of range inland. Her final salvo in the European war was fired on 8 July during Operation Charnwood, the battle to capture Caen, when she engaged German positions together with the battleship HMS "Rodney" and the monitor "HMS Roberts".

Two days later she returned to Devonport for a short refit for service in the Far East, and joined Operation Zipper, which was intended to expel the Japanese from Malaya but turned into a relief operation following the Japanese surrender.

During the last days of the war in Europe she was spotted in the North Sea by a German submarine without noticing the enemy vessel. The German commander decided not to fire, as the war was almost over.Fact|date=February 2007


"Belfast" served in the Korean War, supporting United Nations land forces by naval bombardment. In July 1952 she was hit by a Communist battery, killing one man and wounding four."Belfast" was modernized between January 1956 and May 1959. During this refit all the AA guns (4 inch and 40 mm) were removed and replaced by more modern weapons of the same calibre. All the gunnery control equipment and radars fitted during wartime were also replaced. Finally the original bridge was rebuilt and enclosed to face the new constraints of NBC warfare and the original raked tripod masts were replaced by lattice masts. These alterations were very similar to the bridge structure and masting fitted on the new "Tiger" class cruisers.

Between 1959-62 the ship operated in the Far East on exercises and "showed the flag". In December 1961 she provided the British guard of honour at Dar-es-Salaam during the Tanganyika independence ceremony.

The ship left Singapore on 26 March 1962 for the UK where she made a final visit to Belfast and after an exercise in Mediterranean was paid off on 24 August 1963. Following a campaign led by Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles DSO OBE CM, a former captain of the ship, she was brought to London to become a museum ship and was first opened to the public on Trafalgar Day, 21 October 1971.

The ship is currently painted in a camouflage scheme officially known as "Admiralty Disruptive Camouflage Type 25". In the real timeline, HMS "Belfast" carried that paint scheme from November 1942 to July 1944. The anachronism is augmented by the fact that HMS "Belfast" in 1942-1944 had a distinctly different appearance from today, her silhouette and equipment having been vastly modified during her extended refit from January 1956 to May 1959.

During 2007 the ship was visited by 256,556 paying visitors a fall of 5% on 2006. [cite web |url= |title=Visits made in 2007 |accessdate=2008-03-21 |format= |work=Association of Leading Visitor Attractions ]

Image gallery

Appearances in popular culture

* HMS "Belfast" is used in Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel "Neverwhere" as the temporary location of "the market" for London Below, an underground community of magical and unique people and creatures.
* Sebastian Foucan leapt from the bridge to the gun turret of the ship while free running for the 2003 documentary Jump London.
* "Belfast" has appeared briefly in several films. Harry Potter and his friends fly past her in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", and she can be seen in an aerial shot of the Thames in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
* A video clip for Depeche Mode's song People Are People shows video footage of HMS "Belfast" in war scenes [ [ It's Called A Heart Interview] ] , the band members also appear aboard the ship itself [ [ People Are People] ] .
* The Pogues album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash was launched on HMS "Belfast" in August 1985.
*"Belfast" was featured on The History Channel's "Heavy Metal" series in 2003. She was also described and seen in Chris Barrie's "Massive Engines" documentary series.


*"The Cruiser Belfast" / Ross Watton (2003) ISBN 0851779565 The Ballad of HMS Belfast by Ciaran Carson

External links

* [ HMS "Belfast" on the Imperial War Museum website]
* [ HNSA Web Page: HMS Belfast]
* [ Royal Naval Amateur Radio Society] (RNARS) — operates the radio rooms and amateur radio station onboard
* [,-0.081389&spn=0.000753,0.002623&t=k Aerial view of HMS "Belfast" from Google Local]

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