Thursday 21 October 2021

HMS Belfast - 50 Years on the River Thames



HMS Belfast in the Pool of London, 14 October 1971
HMS Belfast in the Pool of London, 14 October 1971.
‘I saw the Belfast when she was being towed into the Pool of London. I thought at that time, a very big part of my life has come back again.' Ron Yardley, HMS Belfast (Korean War, 1950-52)
HMS Belfast is the most significant surviving Second World War Royal Navy warship and 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of her mooring on the River Thames. She is now a famous London landmark and open to visit. 

On 21 October 1971, 50 years ago today, HMS Belfast was opened to the public as a museum. She had spent 25 years in active service – from the Arctic Convoys, through D-Day, the Cold War, the Korean War and beyond. 

Today, you can come on board and explore all nine decks of history for yourself – from the Engine Rooms in the bowels of the ship right up to the Flag Deck at the very top.

Discover what life was like for the 950-strong crew with refreshed displays and exhibition spaces, crew members’ stories, and new multi-sensory and interactive experiences. 
HMS Belfast COBI Brick Set
The perfect gift for the entry level or enthusiast builder – construct HMS Belfast at home. 

This official IWM COBI construction block model is covered with high-quality prints replicating equipment, and has moving on-board guns, rotating artillery towers, rudders and propellers – all capturing the details of this iconic warship.   
HMS Belfast was launched on St Patrick's Day 1938. Between 1942 and 1944, the ship played a crucial role in support of the Arctic convoys, most notably at the Battle of North Cape which resulted in the sinking of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst.

Today, you can explore the Arctic Messdeck, and learn about the freezing conditions of the Arctic Circle. 

On 6 June 1944, HMS Belfast supported the D-Day landings - the largest amphibious invasion in history - even firing some of the first shots. She then spent five weeks helping ground troops land on the beaches of Normandy as part of Operation Neptune. 

You can now step inside one of the 6-inch gun turrets, in the brand-new D-Day Experience to discover an immersive sound installation depicting 05.27, 6 June 1944, when HMS Belfast first opened fire on D-Day.

Then, try our new interactive experience and see if you can steer HMS Belfast to her destination in time for D-Day at the Lower Steering Position. 

Between 1950 and 1952, HMS Belfast played an active role in the Korean War. She spent more than 400 days on patrol, firing more shells than she did in the whole of the Second World War.

On board, hear from Surgeon Lieutenant Tony Rowan, who treated patients in the Sick Bay during this period. 

HMS Belfast’s final years were spent performing peace-keeping duties until she was retired from service in 1963. She was eventually saved from the scrapyard and is now conserved by Imperial War Museums for future generations. 

Climb on board London’s Warship Experience today. Book your visit and discover more about this iconic warship and her 83-year history.
As an IWM member, get free entry to HMS Belfast all year round. Then continue the Second World War story with unlimited free entry to Churchill War Rooms and IWM Duxford too. 

IWM members help preserve our historically important sites, including HMS Belfast, for generations to come. Join today from just £5 a month.