Friday, May 17, 2019


This blog is dedicated to my Dad, because he would have liked it!

We, as a family had visited London in the late 70’s which was a big thing in those days, as we were skint. He had wanted to see the HMS Belfast but with 2 daughters, and a wife, it was never going to be easy.  We were less than interested. Once we got there, it was closed. He never did get to see it before he died.

So, he could probably rhyme off all these facts and figures, plus name the crane that put it all into place and how much water the Belfast displaced and the weight of the chains when they launched her. Folk born in Govan tend to know these things off the top of their head. 

So the HMS Belfast was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, Belfast, Northern Ireland. She was commissioned on 5th August 1939, decommissioned on the 24th August 1963.

Harland and Wolff are of course, famous for building the Titanic, and the famous joke. She was ok when she left here.

HMS Belfast had a sister ship called HMS Edinburgh who saw a great deal of combat service, especially in the North Sea and the Artic Sea. She was sunk by torpedoes in1942

The motto of the Belfast was Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus which reads as ‘For so much, how shall we repay?’

She saw active service in the Arctic 1943, North Cape 1943, Normandy 1944 and then Korea 1950–52

She had an awful lot of guns that can hit a target 12 miles away easily. As well as anti-aircraft (16 of those) plus 6 torpedoes.  Obviously, the enemy boats would be just as well armed so she had a very thick main belt (4.5 inches of steel etc.) and other areas that gave her stability were just as thick, down to 2.5 inches in the bulkheads. 

In her early days she carried 2 supermarine Walruses. You should look them up; they were a kind of biplane water landing aircraft that the Belfast just hoisted out the water and plonked on the deck when they flew back from their reconnaissance. 

Her big story is the night she engaged the Scharnhorst. This story may be wrong in many ways but it contains the bits that struck home to me as I was listening to the story of the engagement in my ear. The crew were constantly chipping ice off the decks as if she took on too much ice she would have  turned turtle.  The British had just cracked the enigma code and knew that the Scharnhorst was in the waters off north of Norway.  Belfast went to engage, battling high seas during the night, although the guy in my ear said daylight made little difference. They were accompanied by the York and the Sheffield, over 24 hours later the York was hit and the Sheffield developed engine trouble and couldn’t sail at full steam so the Belfast was on her own.   At one point, the sky lit up with lights and terrific noise, so they knew they were under fire. The Sharnhorst had found them. They returned fire for an hour? Two hours? Then the Scharnhorst turned and tried to sail away. The Belfast went after her, for hour after hour, through the dark night and in heavy seas and then they engaged again. The Belfast managed to sink the Scharnhorst and stayed around to pick up the survivors, who then came on deck, and continued the journey, eating the same food, breathing the same air at their captors.  If they spoke English, did they speak to each other?  I bet there were a few conversations, man to man, taking about mums and the kids they had left at home.

In 1967, the Belfast was about to be scrapped but a joint committee of the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum, and the Ministry of Defence was established and they reported in June 1968 that her preservation was practical.

She opened to the public in October 1971 moored in the London pool right at the Tower of London. She’s a fascinating boat to visit.

A cheese roll was £5.99.

My Dad wouldn’t have paid that so neither did I.

Here's the pics...

The view from the Belfast.

The toilets and shower rooms after the refurb.

My mum used to work for the company that made this....

And this...

This is a pump. It's about the size of a small human. Made that way to fit through the narrow tunnels onboard.

Being a fully functioning warship and supply vessel,  she had her own machine room...

and mail room...

And  place of worship where they held quizzes. The rec room was next door and had a record player so they had a music  round in the quiz-  if they had new records!

And the sailors had their own dentist

this is where they cooked the meals. They ate a vast amount of food.
And the Belfast carried supplies for other boats.

Alan telling the two cooks how to make haggis.
For the first few years of her life, each patrol/section cooked for themselves.
Later, they had professional cooks onboard.

Four beds in the hospital

A small operating theatre where the dentist acted as anaesthetist. 

The locker room had beds slung above the lockers.

The rec room had beds slung above the tables.

No beds here, a tad dangerous.

She had very powerful guns now famously aimed at a service station on the M25, Scratchwood.
Just to show how far she can fire if needed.

Alan trying to figure out if he could reach the houses of Parliament and what buttons to press.

They could fire 6 a minute. Each!

This was the radar reader.

Behind these glass panels  men logged positions of friend and foe.
They wrote backwards so it was visible to the radar readers and operators on the other side.

Posh bunk!

Hammocks everywhere!

Caro 17 05 2019


  1. yeah he would have liked it.. and subjected us to all kinds of talk of turbines, propellers and differentials. What did you think of the wee planes, they were rather nifty!

    1. Would love to have flown one. Only flew float planes a few times, but not one that landed on the fuselage. My mother flew in a Short Sunderland flying boat from South Africa to Egypt just after WWII - Lake Victoria, the Nile, etc. I've always been envious.

  2. "Haggling over Haggis," the perfect title for the book I see coming here....

    For some reason the photos reminded me of the way I felt the first time I visited the "War Rooms" close by Parliament. I couldn't believe how small the rooms were for a place that played so large in the war. Thanks for the visit...

  3. What I've never been able to get my mind around is how far the big guns could shoot. Twelve miles! And how did they know when to press the trigger in rolling seas? In heavy swells you could shoot yourself in the rudder or lob shells like a mortar.