HMS Belfast's forward aerial mast



The Edinburgh-class light cruisers HMS Belfast and HMS Edinburgh were ordered by the British Admiralty in 1936 and were a development of the Southampton-class light cruiser. The two vessels were built by the shipyard of Harland and Wolff in Belfast. The shipyard had earned its reputation building vessels for the White Star Line, including the Olympic-class trio of the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, built between 1908 and 1915.

The keel of the HMS Belfast was laid on 10th December 1936 and she was launched fifteen months later. Following fitting out at Harland and Wolff, the ship was readied for the war, which in military circles was considered an ominous reality. The shipyard installed all military hardware including the fitting of her engines, armour and armament HMS Belfast

Second World War

HMS Belfast was commissioned into the British Royal Navy on 5th August 1939 but no sooner than she'd entered service she sustained serious damage that would see her out of military service for nearly three years. On 21st November 1939 when HMS Belfast struck a mine and broke her back. In a testament to the strength of her construction and the excellent workmanship of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilders she returned to service in November 1942.

The HMS Belfast went on to serve the British Royal Navy with distinction. On 26th December 1943, along with the cruisers Norfolk and Sheffield, the HMS Belfast assisted the Duke of York to encounter, engage and sink the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst. Later on in the war, immediately prior to the D-day landings on 6th June 1944 the HMS Belfast was engaged in bombarding enemy coastal positions to assist the allied landings on the beaches of Normandy in northern France.

The Far East & Korea

After the end of hostilities in 1945 the HMS Belfast served in the Far East and then refitted in 1948 before returning to the Far East, later in 1951 and 1952 the HMS Belfast actively served in the Korean War before retiring from active service to perform ceremonial duties, representing Britain and the Commonwealth.


In January 1956 HMS Belfast underwent a modernisation programme at the Royal Naval base at Devonport. The programme lasted three years. The most notable changes externally were the new forward superstructure, enclosing the bridge, and new lattice masts. Her armaments were also upgraded, and internally her facilities were upgraded. She returned to service on 2 May 1959.

Retirement to London

On 24th August 1963, after having steamed half a million miles HMS Belfast was decommissioned and saved for the nation. On 14th October 1971 HMS Belfast arrived and anchored on the River Thames in London. She now resides opposite the Tower of London, an outpost of the Imperial War Museum.

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Virtual Tour

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