Our year four pupils were all ship “shape and Bristol fashion” as they set of to London to visit one of the cities greatest landmarks. HMS Belfast.
Built by Messrs Harland & Wolff in 1936, HMS Belfast was launched by Anne Chamberlain, wife of the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, on St Patrick’s Day in 1938. After fitting out and builder’s trials, HMS Belfast was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 5 August 1939 under the command of Captain G A Scott DSO RN.
Designed for the protection of trade and offensive action she was immediately called into service patrolling the northern waters in efforts to impose a maritime blockade on Germany. However, disaster struck after only two months at sea when HMS Belfast hit a magnetic mine. There were few casualties but the damage to her hull was so severe she was out of action for three years.
After the Second World War HMS Belfast played an active role in the Korean War from 1950-1952 working with other Allied Forces to support the retreating American and South Korean troops. Her final years were spent performing peace-keeping duties until she was retired from service in 1963.
As early as 1967 the Imperial War Museum had been investigating the possibility of preserving a Second World War cruiser. This led to the formation of a trust, headed up by one of HMS Belfast’s former captains Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles. After some years the trust was successful and HMS Belfast was brought to London opening to the public on Trafalgar Day, 21 October 1971. Today she is the last remaining vessel of her type – one of the largest and most powerful light cruisers ever built.
The children had an amazing day exploring all nine decks of HMS Belfast to discover what life was like on board for the crew at war and at sea. The most significant surviving Second World War Royal Navy warship. We took some pictures om the day, which can be seen in the galery below.