|Ship Class||Town-class Light Cruiser|
|Builder||Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom|
|Laid Down||10 Dec 1936|
|Launched||17 Mar 1938|
|Commissioned||5 Aug 1939|
|Decommissioned||24 Aug 1963|
|Displacement||11553 tons standard|
|Machinery||Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers, four steam powered Parsons single reduction geared turbines, four shafts|
|Power Output||80000 SHP|
|Armament||1939: 4x3x6in, 4x2x4in QF Mk XVI, 6x2x2pdr AA, 2x4x0.5in AA, 2x3x21in torpedo tubes. 1959: 4x3x6in, 4x2x4in QF Mk XVI, 6x2x40mm AA|
|Aircraft||Two Supermarine Walrus Aircraft (removed in the later part of WW2)|
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
In 1936, the British Royal Navy attempted to acquire two enlarged and improved versions of the Southampton class light cruisers. The two cruisers would have a main armament of sixteen six-inch guns in four turrets and weigh in at 10,000 tons, which the Washington Naval Treaty would allow. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to manufacture the main armament so the British Admiralty settled for a main armament of twelve 6-in guns in four turrets. This had the benefit of freeing up room for more armor and anti-aircraft protection. The Royal Navy would build two ships under the specifications and named them Belfast and Edinburgh, with their sub-class bearing the name of the latter.
Completed on March 17, 1938 and joining the fleet on August 5, 1939, HMS Belfast joined the 18th cruiser squadron. Total costs for her operation was 2,141,514 British pounds and includes 75,000 pounds for the guns and 66,500 pounds for the aircraft. Her commander was Captain G A Scott DSO RN.
In September World War II, HMS Belfast saw action as part of the maritime blockade Britain imposed on Germany. On October 9, 1939, Belfast successfully seized the German liner SS Cap Norte as she attempted to return to Germany in the disguise of a neutral vessel. As the Cap Norte was the largest enemy merchantman capture thus far and under admiralty law, the crew of the Belfast received a substantial monetary compensation.
Retaliation came quickly on November 21, 1939 for as Belfast left the Firth of Forth, she ran into a German magnetic mine that the German submarine U-21 left behind. Although the crew had no fatalities and twenty-one injured, HMS Belfast suffered heavy damage to her hull and machinery. Putting in to Davenport for repairs, the cruiser would not return to the war for three years.
After repairs, which increased her weight to 11,500 tons, HMS Belfast returned to service as flagship of the 10th cruiser squadron in November 1942. Under the command of Rear-Admiral Robert Burnett, Belfast provided close range heavy cover for convoys transporting supplies and equipment to the Soviet Union. Alongside the Germans, the Belfast had to deal with the harsh weather of the Arctic Ocean. In between convoy duties, she participated in offensive sweeps with British battleships and aircraft carriers.
On the day after Christmas in 1943, HMS Belfast participated in the Battle of the North Cape as she and other British warships, including the battleship HMS Duke of York, engaged and sank the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst as the German warship was hunting for the Arctic convoys.
After participating as an escort for a British carrier strike against the German battleship Tirpitz in March of 1944, HMS Belfast would head back to England. On June 6, 1944 and as the flagship of bombardment force E as part of the Eastern Naval Task Force, Belfast participated in the D-Day landings. Providing gunfire support to British and Canadian forces hitting the Gold and Juno beaches, Belfast was one of the first ships to begin the opening bombardment at 5:30am.
Remaining in the area for five weeks, HMS Belfast provided impressive gunfire support to British and Canadian forces as they fought their way inland near the city of Caen. After providing supporting fire for Operation Charnwood, Belfast returned to England for a short refit and rest before heading to the Far East. When she arrived in the Pacific, HMS Belfast was to have participated in operations to drive the Japanese out of Malaya but the Japanese surrender made that point moot. She still found service in the Pacific as a transport ship for thousands of prisoners from Japanese prison camps and as a peacekeeping patrol ship during the Chinese Civil War.
Five years later, HMS Belfast participated in the Korean War when she provided gunfire support for United Nations land-based forces. She began providing gunfire starting eleven days after the invasion began and would be doing so for a total of 404 days. Belfast received damage on July 29, 1952 when Communist shore-based artillery hit her with a shell, killing one sailor and wounding four.
After refits that lasted from January 1956 to January 1959, HMS Belfast would participate mainly in naval exercises for three more years before the Royal Navy removed her from active service in 1962.
Due to efforts of the Imperial War Museum, which began in 1967, HMS Belfast did not end up in the scrap heap and ended up as a museum ship in October 1971. Her location is near London's Tower Bridge.
Sources: Imperial War Museum HMS Belfast, HMS Belfast article on Wikipedia.
HMS Belfast Operational Timeline
|5 Aug 1939||Belfast was commissioned into service.|
|24 Aug 1963||Belfast was decommissioned from service.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945